Hundred of thousands of evangelical Christians have gathered at TheCall prayer rallies organized by Lou Engle, a major leader in the political movement called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), the subject of a new article by PRA Fellow Rachel Tabachnick. Engle claims that there has been a “shift in the heavens and that God has thrown a window open,” so that we “have entered a season of time in a massive [spiritual] war.”
What are this war’s goals? To reverse moral degeneracy; to reconcile races, ethnicities, and generations; to bring glory to God and pave the way for Jesus’s return–and perhaps more immediately, to end abortion and strip away LGBTQ rights, both in the United States and countries abroad such as Uganda.
In other words, by certain measures, the massive religious revolution foreseen by NAR leaders, such as Engle, looks a lot like the agenda of the larger Christian Right. Strip away the outward expression of support for cosmopolitanism, diversity, and gender equality, which Tabachnick notes, and you’ll find largely the same brand of bigotry.
Yet the NAR is new in many ways, particularly in matters of theological interpretation, religious practice, and the reorganization of evangelical churches–which has earned them enemies among more traditional evangelicals, as well on the secular Left.
NAR connects a vast network of evangelical churches and ministries, which Tabachnick describes as embracing “charismatic beliefs about faith-healing, speaking in tongues, and prophecy,” and having an “obsession with the spirit world and with demonology.” (This includes the belief that homosexuality is caused by demons.) C. Peter Wagner, a major figure in the NAR movement credited with naming it, describes these postdemoninational churches as comprising a “Third Wave” of Pentecostalism–and the members of this Third Wave far outnumber those of the prior two.
It’s not just the content of the churches’ worship services, or their expanding relationships with each other, that is notably different and alarming. Evangelical congregations are typically governed democratically, with pastors chosen by a congregational vote or by elected deacons or elders. NAR-affiliated ministries, on the other hand, transfer power to NAR “apostles” or “prophets,” whose authority comes direct from God. As such, “failing to submit to this authority means inviting demonic attack. Submitting becomes a measure of one’s faith.” In one instance, church bylaws were rewritten to give Ted Haggard, the now-disgraced former president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), control over 65 percent of the church’s budget.
Partially by design, information about the NAR–and thus, knowledge of the full scope of its influence–is difficult to find. It often operates under other names, such as the Transformations movement or the Seven Mountain movement. Tabachnick’s research has uncovered a wealth of data on NAR history and its ongoing activities, making her recently published article a valuable resource in understanding this quickly growing movement.