The ‘Prophets’ and ‘Apostles’ Leading the Quiet Revolution in American Religion

A Christian movement characterized by multi-level marketing, Pentecostal signs and wonders, and post-millennial optimism.

Interview by Bob Smietana| August 3, 2017, Christianity Today

A quiet revolution is taking place in America religion, say Brad Christerson and Richard Flory, authors of The Rise of Network Christianity: How Independent Leaders Are Changing the Religious Landscape.

Largely behind the scenes, a group of mostly self-proclaimed “apostles,” leading ministries from North Carolina to Southern California, has attracted millions of followers with promises of direct access to God through signs and wonders.

Their movement, which Christerson and Flory called “Independent Network Charismatic” or “INC” Christianity, has become one of the fastest-growing faith groups in the United States. Apostles like Bill Johnson, Mike Bickle, Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce, and Ché Ahn claim millions of followers. They’re also aided by an army of fellow ministers who fall under their “spiritual covering.”

Many of these apostles run megachurches, including Bethel Church in Redding California, HRock Church in Pasadena, and the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. But their real power lies in their innovative approach to selling faith. They’ve combined multi-level marketing, Pentecostal signs and wonders, and post-millennial optimism to connect directly with millions of spiritual customers. That allows them to reap millions in donations, conference fees, and book and DVD sales. And because these INC apostles claim to get direction straight from God, they operate with almost no oversight.

Nashville-based religion writer Bob Smietana spoke with Christerson (professor of sociology at Biola University) and Flory (senior director of research and evaluation at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California) about the appeal—and danger—of these burgeoning movements.

What’s the difference between INC Christians and the prosperity gospel movement or megachurch networks like the Association of Related Churches (ARC)?

Christerson: Probably the closest kinship would be prosperity gospel movement. But it’s a little different in that the INC movement has a network that cooperates more often. My sense of the prosperity gospel is that it consists of individual entrepreneurs, TV preachers, and megachurch leaders, but there’s not as much cooperation.

Also, the theology is different. The prosperity gospel would focus more on the individual’s health and wealth. This group is unique in that they really think God has put these apostles on earth to basically transform the world. It’s a sort of trickle-down Christianity, where these apostles are at the top of the mountain, exercising this power from the top down. That’s how the kingdom of God comes in.

Ironically, this group isn’t really focused on building up big congregations. Their ideas are spreading through other means, like high-profile conferences and the media products that they are selling.

Flory: These apostles are able to access a lot more money, because they are operating with a pay-for-service model, rather than relying on people’s donations and their goodwill. Congregations bend over backwards to keep people happy and keep the butts in the seats; people don’t have to pay unless they feel like it. But this is a completely different financial model, and it tends to generate much more money.

How do the people in this group identify themselves? Are they Pentecostals? Charismatics? INC Christians?

Christerson: They would use the word prophetic or apostolic—or they would align themselves with one of the apostles. They would say, “I am a follower of Bill Johnson,” or Mike Bickle, or Cindy Jacobs. People would tell us, “he’s my apostle” or “he’s my prophet.” The other term we hear a lot is “spiritual covering”: There’s this idea that you are under spiritual covering of your specific apostle or prophet. A related term is “impartation.” The apostles basically impart their power to you. If you are under them, the power that they have straight from God trickles down to you.

They consciously avoid any kind of formal organization or denomination. They see the strength of weak ties—it allows them room to experiment and to work with all kinds of different people. They can focus on putting together these big events—they don’t have to support a staff or donate to a seminary. They can just go straight to the marketing activities.

How do you become an apostle? What’s the process?

Christerson: It’s all sort of self-appointed. Leaders in the moment would say that people are recognized as apostles because of the influence that they have—not only over your own congregation but over other leaders. But there’s definitely a good deal of self-appointing going on. Peter Wagner, a leader in the New Apostolic Reformation movement, referred to himself as a “super apostle,” because he was influential with a bunch of other apostles.

Ironically, this group isn’t really focused on building up big congregations. Their ideas are spreading through other means, like high-profile conferences and the media products that they are selling.

It’s easy to see the advantages for leaders—it’s great to be the guy at the top of the pyramid since they get all the cash and no one tells them what to do. But it also seems like lay people really like this model. What do they get out of it?

Christerson: For the young people, they’re searching for meaning, and they’re also looking for adventure and excitement. These kinds of churches appeal to them in ways that traditional congregations just can’t. They are not merely trying to learn how to know God, live a godly life, or share their faith with other people. They really believe they are participating in this cosmic spiritual battle to transform the world. They are involved in this battle for whole cities and nations.

And then you have the appeal of direct access to God—getting direct downloads from God. God is going to talk to me and tell me what to do. Or my leader is getting direct downloads. For many people, that’s more exciting than a 45-minute sermon examining the Greek terms from Paul’s writings.

INC movements don’t have same “priesthood of all believers” theology as the Protestant Reformers, because power is still flowing down from particular apostles, and then others can access it. There is definitely a hierarchy. But since they are not building institutions, there is a lot of freedom for people to experiment with the tools they get from these apostles. So that opens up a lot of opportunities for people to lead, innovate, and create their own way of doing Christianity. That participatory aspect is a major part of the appeal.

Rather than traditional worship services, many megachurches say they have “experiences.” What kind of experiences are INC churches trying to create?

Christerson: The traditional megachurch uses music and exciting preaching from great communicators. But we found that wasn’t the case with these INC-lings. They are actually not very exciting preachers. That really surprised us. For them, it’s all about encountering these supernatural manifestations. That’s the exciting experience.

It’s very spontaneous. We went to a conference where a number of apostles were speaking and Bill Johnson was doing a Bible teaching. He had probably talked 20 or 30 minutes, and you could feel the restlessness in the room. He said, “I know you are just waiting for me to stop preaching because you want the power. But just hang with me here.” People weren’t there to listen to him. What they wanted was for him to lay hands on them.

After he finished, people came up to the stage, and they were being slain in the spirit. People were falling down and getting healed. That’s what they are there for. They don’t want to sit and watch other people. They want to access the power themselves to make a difference in the world.

Flory: The desire for this kind of experience is broader than just this group. It works out in interesting ways among these INC Christians, but we see it across different religious groups that we have studied at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture. Particularly among evangelicals, we’re seeing a more experiential, embodied way of understanding religion.

It’s remarkable how effectively INC personalities can get their message out without owning a television studio or buying airtime. How do they manage?

Flory: INC leaders have leveraged digital technology to get their message out—smartphones in particular, where you can get anything you want as long as you have some kind of digital connection. That just expands the world exponentially for these people.

Christerson: It’s also basically free to put your product out there. IHOP is particularly good at doing that. They say their website—in terms of viewed video content—is one of the top 50 websites in the world.

Between the internet and the conferences, they have figured out ways to leverage that big, exhilarating, hyped-up experience you get in a stadium venue. That’s where their networking comes into play. They can bring in four or five apostles, and then their followers flock to see them. People have these significant experiences that juice them up to contact the apostles over the internet. If they can go to a conference two or three times a year to get a new jolt, that becomes the new rhythm, as opposed the weekly rhythm of church life.

Let’s talk about the “7 mountains” theology, which is popular in these circles. On some levels, it sounds like theocracy. Christians are in charge of every part of life: the “mountains” of business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family, and religion. On the other hand, it sounds like there’s no actual plan—aside from putting these Christians in charge. So what’s going on?

Christerson: They really believe that God is behind it all, that he is appointing people into these high positions, and that they will know what to do when they get there. They will be listening to God, and he will use them to supernaturally make America or the world into the kingdom of God. Some of the people that they claim are in these high position—like Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, and Rick Perry—are part of the Trump administration. But they are not Pentecostals, and they have nothing to do with these groups. The movement just latches on to them and claims God is using Trump to bring in the kingdom.

Some INC people describe Trump as a King Cyrus figure—he’s not one of us, but God is using him to defeat our enemies and restore our nation. If Trump collapses or gets impeached, they will not look very good. Some of them have staked their reputation on Trump’s performance, but not all of them.

They don’t have policy goals, other than anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage sentiments. They don’t have an idea of what it takes to reduce poverty or curb international conflict. None of that is even on their radar.

It’s a very different approach than other religious groups take. If it’s the Catholic Church, the religious right, or the religious left, they actually have a strategy. They have think-tanks and organizations, and they’re involved at different levels with political parties. This is nothing like that.

Flory: In some ways, it’s a really romantic vision. For most of the 20th century, most Pentecostals and evangelicals were pre-millennial—they imagined that God’s reign would appear in full only after the second coming of Christ. But the INC movement is explicitly post-millennial. In their minds, God’s kingdom can come to earth before Christ returns—and, by the way, it will be in America. There is this interesting combination of America first, Americans as God’s chosen people, and a romantic vision of God working it out through the people he chooses.

Do INC leaders engage in any self-reflection about the dangers of holding major power without oversight?

Christerson: I haven’t seen a lot of self-awareness on their part. They think they are an instrument of God—and that’s all they need. There’s a suspicion of any kind of accountability structures, because these limit the power of God working through individuals. When you have a church board and an elder board that hires a pastor, then that pastor can’t do the things that God is telling him to do—because he has to go to the board to get everything approved. The real danger, they would say, is when institutions become more powerful than the individuals that God calls.

But they do seem different than the prosperity gospel preachers, in that wealth isn’t flaunted.

Christerson: Peter Wagner talked about the differences between the two groups. He said that the prosperity gospel thought that money was a blessing for the sake of blessing. For his own New Apostolic Reformed movement, the prosperity comes from God in order to transform the world for God.

Interestingly, INC leaders think that the business world is the key to all of this—because wealth is more powerful than all other forms of power. They anticipate this huge transfer of wealth to believers. But they see this wealth as an instrument for bringing about God’s kingdom on earth.

For prosperity preacher, it’s more that God is going to bless me individually to show me favor and to show that he is God. We didn’t get that from the INC leaders. They dress casually and don’t drive expansive cars or fly in their own planes.

Many INC apostles are very successful. So why have they stayed out of the spotlight, at least in the broader culture?

Christerson: One reason this movement hasn’t gotten a lot of press is that the leaders don’t seek it out. They have their own networks for disseminating information and getting attention. They are not sending our press releases. For example, they had this Asuza Now conference at the Los Angeles Coliseum, and it drew 50,000 people on a rainy day—if not for the bad weather, the crowd probably would have been even bigger. And it didn’t even make the Los Angeles Times. Fifty thousand people show up for an apostle’s conference at the LA Coliseum, and nobody covered it. That was mind-boggling to me.

They don’t seem to be on anybody’s radar, in part because they are not promoting themselves through normal institutional channels.

And yet they do seem like friendly people, at least in public. And they seem to lack the kind of ostentatiousness that turns people off from prosperity gospel preachers or televangelists.

Christerson: They are super down-to-earth. And there isn’t the angry edge we’ve seen from certain religious-right activists or the more traditional pre-millennial dispensationalists who want to fight evil. For these guys, God’s taking over the world, and they are just riding the wave.

Source CT Article

Other NAR related links:

The Six Hallmarks of a NAR Church

The New Apostolic Reformation (Many Articles and Links) by Sandy Simpson

Interview with Sandy Simpson (with outline and additional links) on Echo Zoe Radio

The New Apostolic Reformation (Multiple Articles) by 4 Truth Ministry

List of Direct Quotes from C. Peter Wagner by The Zedekiah List

The New Apostolic Reformation by Apologetics Index

The Roots and Fruits of the New Apostolic Reformation by Bob Dewaay

The Changing of the Apostolic Guard: 13 Names to Watch by Holly Pivec

The Apostles Who Don’t Do Anything by Grace to You

Interview With Caryl Matrisciana: New Apostolic Reformation by Amy Spreeman

Dominionism and The NAR by Berean Research

Apostles and Prophets are the Foundation of the Church by Bob Dewaay

The New Apostolic Church Movement by Let Us Reason

What Is The New Apostolic Reformation? by Got Questions

Do Miracles, Signs and Wonders Create Faith? by Robert Liichow

Christianity Today Should Correct Heidi Baker NAR Story by Talk To Action

Debunking the Seven Mountains Mandate and the NAR by Chris Rosebrough

What’s Wrong With the Passion (NAR)”Translation” Bible?

The New Apostolic End Times Scripture by Steven Kozar

C. Peter Wagner’s Apostolic Movement on Issues, Etc.

The Apostolic and Prophetic Movement by Keith Gibson

Why I Must Speak Out Against the NAR and Bethel Church by Tony Miano

The Latter Rain Movement on Issues, Etc.

The History of the Renewal Movement: Interview with Lyndon Unger on Echoe Zoe Radio (with links and notes)

The NAR: A Warning About Latter Day Apostles by Orrel Steinkamp

What Is Dominionism? by Apprising

I Refuse to Believe Bob Jones-I’m Staying Home by Steven Kozar

What Is The NAR? by Asleep No More

C. Peter Wagner Spins the NAR by Herescope

The NAR-You Will Know Them by Their Nuts by Church Watch Central

HAW and WOF NARpostles by Church Watch Central

The New Order of the Latter Rain by Spirit Watch

Quick Thoughts: What is the Seven Mountain Mandate? by Lyndon Unger

“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”

— Galatians 1:6-9

Timely Thoughts?

A few days ago there was a Facebook post by a man I know that said, in part:

“When hate filled violence of ANY sort is considered justified, we are in serious trouble. When public leaders at any level don’t condemn ALL violence, the trouble is even worse. It’s called ‘inviting’ anarchy to rule the nation. Folk’s, it’s happening.”

One commenter posted this:

“Sad, but very true. Do you see hope or despair on the horizon?”

This was the reply to that comment:

“I see both in the pages of scripture. Lawlessness will wax worse and worse, but Christ will continue to save his people from their sins of that they can be lights in ever increasing darkness.”

What are your thoughts?

The Bible , the Constitution, and the Law Regarding Immigration Bans

I came across a really good article that discussed the the Bible, the Constitution, and the law regarding the President’s temporary ban on immigration from certain countries. Below is the Biblical argument supporting such a ban from that article.

Trump’s Directive: Biblical, Constitutional, and Legal

By: Bryan Fischer

The cacophony from the political and religious left over Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban has been not only clanging but irrational and unhinged. Most of them seem on the verge of some kind of mental or emotional breakdown. 

Trump’s travel restrictions halt the refugee program for a time until better vetting procedures can be implemented and halt immigration for a time from countries which are noted hotbeds of Islamic unrest. 

To the degree that there is anything rational about the frenzied opposition to Trump’s directive, it is the accusation that it is un-Christian, unconstitutional, and illegal. Such opposition is wrong on all three counts. 

First, the charge that an immigration ban is unbiblical. Because of the immediate and implacable hostility of the people of Ammon and Moab when Israel came out of Egypt, God himself forbade the nation of Israel to accept any immigrants from either of these people groups to “the tenth generation” (Deuteronomy 23:3). Since a biblical generation is 40 years, this was in essence a permanent ban. 

So the benchmark established by God is this: if a people group manifests an unremitting hostility to another nation, that nation has the moral right to forbid entrance to immigrants from that people group in the interests of its own security and peace. Was God saying that every Ammonite and Moabite was evil beyond redemption? No, but since it was virtually impossible to tell which Ammonites or Moabites Israel needed to worry about and which ones they didn’t, God’s directive was to be careful with them all. 

Immigration exceptions were made for those who were properly and satisfactorily vetted. Ruth, for instance, was a Moabite but was not only allowed to enter Israel but to become a part of the line that led to the Savior of the world. 

It should be noted that Ruth was embraced as an immigrant because of her willingness to reject the religious practices of her native land and completely assimilate to her newly adopted homeland. “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:17). 

Second, to the charge that Trump’s directive is unconstitutional. This assertion is categorically and resoundingly false. The Constitution grants to Congress unilateral and unquestioned authority to set whatever immigration restrictions it wishes, according to Article I, Section 9. According to that section of the Constitution, Congress is free to limit “migration” to persons that “it shall think proper to admit.” 

There is, you will note, not even a prohibition against the use of a “religious” test, which is nothing more than an ideological test. First Amendment guarantees apply only to legal American residents, not to people who have never set foot in the United States. 

If Congress thinks it is not “proper to admit” individuals whose religion orders them to “slay the idolaters wherever you find them” (Surah 9:5), it is perfectly free to do so. We have denied immigration to Communists since 1952 on the grounds that communist ideology is incompatible with American values. So is the ideology of Islam. 

There is absolutely no constitutional right whatsoever to immigrate to the United States. The U.S., like every other sovereign nation in the world, has the moral right to reserve immigration to those who will be an asset and refuse it to those who won’t. 

Congress restricted immigration to the Chinese for 10 years in the late 19th century in order to preserve demographic balance. In the 1920s, Congress established quotas based on national origin to preserve the diverse but harmonious unity we enjoyed. 

Third, as to the charge that Trump’s directive is illegal. As Andy McCarthy reminds us, 

Federal immigration law also includes Section 1182(f) which states: “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate” (emphasis added).

This is the very section of the law that Trump cited in his directive. He applied it specifically to seven countries of particular jihadi unrest and danger: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. These are countries which have already been designated by the Obama administration as “countries of concern.” 

It’s worthy of note that this is NOT exactly a “Muslim ban,” since the directive does not apply to 87% of the Muslim world. Even some countries which ought to be on the list (Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) aren’t. 

It should not be forgotten for a moment that President Obama himself banned immigration from Iraq for six months in 2011 for national security reasons. Where were the howls of outrage about religious liberty and Islamophobia back then? And let’s remember that Democrat president Jimmy Carter completely banned immigration from Iran in 1980 during the hostage crisis. Where was the screeching then about the Constitution? The silence of the left was deafening on both occasions. 

McCarthy sums it up this way: “[T]here is no doubt that the executive order temporarily banning entry from specified Muslim-majority countries is both well within President Trump’s constitutional authority and consistent with statutory law.” 

So Trump’s directive is biblical, constitutional, legal, and designed to protect America’s security. There is nothing here for American citizens and patriots to dislike and everything to approve.

Nothing more needs to be said by yours truly.

Dr. Michael Horton Has a REALLY Good Point

Previously I posted a link to the article below. Based on some feedback I have received from someone recently, coupled with the fact that I know a lot of professing Christians who have bought into the ‘false religion’ of the WoF movement. I did myself a long time ago, but thankfully the written word brought me out of it. Without further comment, here is the entire article:

Evangelicals should be deeply troubled by Donald Trump’s attempt to mainstream heresy

– Michael Horton

This opinion piece is by Michael Horton, a theology professor at Westminster Seminary California.

Donald Trump’s upcoming inauguration will include Paula White and possibly other members of his inner circle, Darrell Scott, “Apostle” Wayne T. Jackson and Mark Burns. They’re all televangelists who hail from the “prosperity gospel” camp. They advocate a brand of Pentecostal Christianity known as Word of Faith.

Inaugurations are always curious rituals of American civil religion. It would not be surprising to see a non-Christian religious leader participating. But what’s problematic for me as an evangelical is how Trump’s ceremony is helping to mainstream this heretical movement.

The prosperity gospel — the idea that God dispenses material wealth and health based on what we “decree” — is not just fluff. It’s also not just another branch of Pentecostalism, a tradition that emphasizes the continuation of the gifts of healing, prophecy and tongues. It’s another religion.

In terms of religion, this inauguration exhibits the confluence of two major currents of indigenous American spirituality.

One stream is represented by Norman Vincent Peale’s longtime bestseller “The Power of Positive Thinking” (1952). The famous Manhattan pastor is Trump’s tenuous connection to Christianity, having heard the preacher frequently in his youth. For Peale and his protege, the late Robert Schuller of Crystal Cathedral fame, the gospel of Christ’s death for human sin and resurrection for justification and everlasting life was transformed into a “feel-good” therapy. Self-esteem was the true salvation.

Another stream is represented by the most famous TV preachers, especially those associated with the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, T. D. Jakes, Joel Osteen and Paula White are the stars of this movement, known as Word of Faith.

The headwater for both streams is New Thought, formulated especially by Phineas Quimby, a late 19th-century mesmerist whose mind-cures attracted Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science. The basic idea of his “gnostic medicine” was that we’re sick only because we think bad thoughts. Illness and death are an illusion.

Harvard’s William James took note of the phenomenon in his 1902 classic, “The Varieties of Religious Experience.” He described it as “an optimistic scheme of life” rooted in Emerson and “spiritism,” suggesting that even “Hinduism has contributed a strain.” “But the most characteristic feature of the mind-cure movement is an inspiration much more direct,” he surmised. “The leaders in this faith have had an intuitive belief in the all-saving power of healthy-minded attitudes as such …”

The Word of Faith movement was largely the brainchild of E.W. Kenyon (1867-1948), who blended Quimby’s Emersonian transcendentalism with his more evangelical “Victorious Life” beliefs. “I know that I am healed,” he wrote, “because [God] said that I am healed and it makes no difference what the symptoms may be in my body.” Kenyon shaped many of the distinctive Word of Faith teachings, including the central idea of “positive confession.” “What I confess, I possess,” he said — in other words, “name it, claim it.”

As a student of Kenyon, Kenneth Hagin, revered as “granddaddy” in Word of Faith circles, gave the faith-healing movement its theological core. It included odd teachings about us all being “little gods.” Those who are born again, Hagin said, “are as much the incarnation [of God] as Jesus of Nazareth.” “You don’t have a God living in you,” says Hagin’s student Kenneth Copeland. “You are one.” Creflo Dollar adds, “[The] only human part of you is the flesh you’re wearing.”

The positive-thinking movement appealed to urbane movers-and-shakers. Peale and Schuller were counselors to CEOs and U.S. presidents. Word of Faith has been more popular among rural sections of the Bible Belt, where faith healers have had a long and successful history. But in the 1980s, the two streams blended publicly, with Copeland, Hinn and Schuller showing up regularly together on TBN.

In the 1950s, American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr described Peale’s message as a false gospel: “The basic sin of this cult is its egocentricity,” he said. “It puts ‘self’ instead of the cross at the center of the picture.” The Word of Faith teachings, conveyed from Quimby via Kenyon and Hagin, are similarly centered on not making God a supporting actor in our life movie.

Televangelist White has a lot in common with Trump, besides being fans of Osteen. Both are in their third marriage and have endured decades of moral and financial scandal. According to family values spokesman James Dobson, another Trump adviser, White “personally led [Trump] to Christ.”

Like her mentor, T. D. Jakes, White adheres closely to the Word of Faith teachings. Besides throwing out doctrines like the Trinity and confusing ourselves with God, the movement teaches that Jesus went to the cross not to bring forgiveness of our sins but to get us out of financial debt, not to reconcile us to God but to give us the power to claim our prosperity, not to remove the curse of death, injustice and bondage to ourselves but to give us our best life now. White says emphatically that Jesus is “not the only begotten Son of God,” just the first. We’re all divine and have the power to speak worlds into existence.

So if you’re still a wreck, that’s your fault. Negative thinking. You’re the creator, so why not be a successful one? White puts it this way in a television TBN program: “There is creative power in your mouth right now. God spoke and created the universe; you have creative power to speak life and death! If you believe God, you can create anything in your life.”

Of course, to be a “little god,” you have to do your part, often involving a financial commitment. It’s what they call “seed faith.” White even gives her viewers the words to tell themselves: “So I’m going to activate my miracle by my obedience right now. I’m going to get up and go to the phone.” When you do that, she says, and “put a demand on the anointing,” you’re “going to make God get off His ivory throne.” “Don’t you miss this moment! If you miss your moment, you miss your miracle!” When Jesus raised Lazarus, according to the old King James Version, “his face was bound with a napkin.” It’s taken from John 11:44, so for everyone who sends $1144 (get it?), White said, she would send a napkin she blessed.

Some representatives, like Osteen, offer an easy-listening version that seems as harmless as a fortune cookie. It’s when he tries to interpret the Bible that he gets into trouble, as in his latest book, “The Power of I Am.” “Romans 4 says to ‘call the things that are not as though they were,’” he says, but the biblical passage is actually referring to God.

But it’s not really about God. In fact, one gets the impression that God isn’t necessary at all in the system. God set up these spiritual laws and if you know the secrets, you’re in charge of your destiny. You “release wealth,” as they often put it, by commanding it to come to you. “Anyone who tells you to deny yourself is from Satan,” White told a television TBN audience in 2007. Oops. It was Jesus who said “anyone who would come after me” must “deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

Most evangelical pastors I know would shake their heads at all of this. Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore tweeted, “Paula White is a charlatan and recognized as a heretic by every orthodox Christian, of whatever tribe.” Yet increasingly one wonders whether modified versions of the prosperity gospel — religion as personal therapy for our best life now — has become more mainstream than we realize.

Thanks to the First Amendment, Christian orthodoxy has never been a test for public office. But it is striking that Trump has surrounded himself with cadre of prosperity evangelists who cheerfully attack basic Christian doctrines. The focus of this unity is a gospel that is about as diametrically opposed to the biblical one as you can imagine.

Since “evangelical” comes from the word “gospel,” that should make more of a difference to those who wear the label than it does at the moment. The prosperity gospel may be our nation’s new civil religion. It doesn’t offend anyone (but picky Christians). It tells us everything we want to hear and nothing that we need to hear most.

Michael Horton is author of “Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story.” He blogs at whitehorseinn.org.

“This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!”

This is a good article from US Chronicle:

“This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!” : College President Writes Scathing Letter About Students Wanting To Play The Victim And Blame Others

The President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University gave a lecture to students they’ll never forget.  Recently a student complained about a sermon that made him feel guilty and blamed the school for making students feel uncomfortable.  This is not uncommon.  Many universities now are so afraid of offending even one student, that political correctness has run amuck.  However, this University is based on religion and so one would expect that discipline, good character and personal accountability would be a big part of the curriculum.

Everett Piper, who is the President of the school, wrote a letter to the students admonishing them that playing the victim, blaming others and not admitting mistakes is not a way to live a productive and meaningful life.  Here is the letter titled “This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!”

This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!

This past week, I actually had a student come forward after a university chapel service and complain because he felt “victimized” by a sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13. It appears this young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love. In his mind, the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.

I’m not making this up. Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic. Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims. Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them “feel bad” about themselves, is a “hater,” a “bigot,” an “oppressor,” and a “victimizer.”

I have a message for this young man and all others who care to listen. That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience. An altar call is supposed to make you feel bad. It is supposed to make you feel guilty. The goal of many a good sermon is to get you to confess your sins—not coddle you in your selfishness. The primary objective of the Church and the Christian faith is your confession, not your self-actualization.

So here’s my advice:

If you want the chaplain to tell you you’re a victim rather than tell you that you need virtue, this may not be the university you’re looking for. If you want to complain about a sermon that makes you feel less than loving for not showing love, this might be the wrong place.

If you’re more interested in playing the “hater” card than you are in confessing your own hate; if you want to arrogantly lecture, rather than humbly learn; if you don’t want to feel guilt in your soul when you are guilty of sin; if you want to be enabled rather than confronted, there are many universities across the land (in Missouri and elsewhere) that will give you exactly what you want, but Oklahoma Wesleyan isn’t one of them.

At OKWU, we teach you to be selfless rather than self-centered. We are more interested in you practicing personal forgiveness than political revenge. We want you to model interpersonal reconciliation rather than foment personal conflict. We believe the content of your character is more important than the color of your skin. We don’t believe that you have been victimized every time you feel guilty and we don’t issue “trigger warnings” before altar calls.

Oklahoma Wesleyan is not a “safe place”, but rather, a place to learn: to learn that life isn’t about you, but about others; that the bad feeling you have while listening to a sermon is called guilt; that the way to address it is to repent of everything that’s wrong with you rather than blame others for everything that’s wrong with them. This is a place where you will quickly learn that you need to grow up.

This is not a day care. This is a university.

source okwu.edu

All you have to do is look around at the expensive phones, video games, clothes, computers and anything else high tech to see how spoiled kids are.  Just because parents have the money to purchase anything their child’s heart desires, does not mean they should give it to them.  A child may want to play with a sharp knife from the kitchen but despite their crying, you aren’t going to let them have it.  You know they will hurt themselves.

All these expensive things they want may seem harmless now.  But wait until they get older and want bigger and more expensive things.  Things the parents can’t afford or will go into massive debt to buy.  The child who has now grown into a young adult is befuddled that the world is not a receptacle for anything they want.

What some parents don’t understand is it’s not that the gift is wrong or bad (although sometimes it is), it’s the lesson of teaching them something valuable.  That life is not always fair.  You don’t always get what you want.  And most of the time, you need to work for what you want.  Work in itself teaches us teamwork, verbal and written communication skills, being responsible, following rules and knowing how to behave in different environments.  It also motivates us to purchase meaningful things like a car, insurance, a home, or raise a family.

Parents need to remember that they will not always be there to catch their children when they stumble and fall.  It is great to be encouraging but they also need to learn to pick themselves up and keep going.  However will a child find their dreams if there is always someone there to prevent them from learning the lessons.

Source : okwu.edu

Source : Washington Post

Source : NBC News

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What came to mind reading it was the number of ‘churches’ who no longer mention sin or repentance so the ‘seekers’ in the seats won’t feel guilty! – Dan

This World Is Crazy and It’s Not Getting Better

I don’t know if we are getting ‘dumber and dumber’ or just know more of the ‘dumbness’ that’s always been there, thanks to social media.

Anybody with a big mouth can rant all over Facebook, with or without any brain activity having taken place, about ANYTHING. Pick a topic and you’ll find the lack of intelligent and logical thought of full display. It usually manifests as information taken out of context, or before all the facts are in before ranting about one’s pet peeve or worshipping/championing one’s favorite idol.

We who profess Christ aren’t quite as bad, but we have our moments. Internet trolls camp out on our blogs talking endlessly about how they deny God and how believers can’t really think for themselves, but have to rely on a God who doesn’t exist. And they go on and on and on if we let them.

I think we become their enablers when we keep trying to ‘prove’ God exists. Atheists hate God by their very nature, while they DO know he exists, and when we use a bit of logic they say we aren’t capable of truly rational thought. When we keep using reason and logic it just fuels the fire, so to speak.  Is something a bit fuzzy here?

When we tell the atheist what God says about him we’re accused of personally insulting him. So we apologize for making him feel bad and go back to trying to ‘attract’ him to the God he hates. The atheist is more certain than ever that we are believing nonsense and, like the energizer bunny, goes on and on and on.

What’s wrong with us? My current reasoning is this:

There are basically two approaches to sharing God, Jesus, and the gospel:

1. We can try and attract people to Jesus by getting them to like us and our church to prep them to fall in love with the eminently likable Jesus, who is all about love, all the time, and nothing else.

2. We can, with a burden in our hearts for the souls of lost men, share the problem we all have(sin), God’s judgment against it, and God’s remedy (the death of His Son as our substitute).

When we mix the two it reinforces the atheist’s conviction that we aren’t rational thinkers. We can appear to be unsettled in our convictions or confused about our beliefs.

Something that puzzles me is how believers will ‘Amen’ the latter approach privately, and almost always use the former when they interact with atheist trolls. Why is that? I can only speculate.

Personally speaking, I confess to having used both approaches. When I was a young believer, fresh with the realization of God’s manifest love in saving this sinner, I wanted to share that love with everyone I met. Now that I am older and know what the Bible really says about fallen men, my approach has changed. Some call it the presuppositional approach to evangelism.

The danger of presuppositionalism is omitting the ‘love’ of God from the discussion and/or just telling the atheist what the Bible says about him too early in the conversation. Perhaps the approaches can be described as either 1) ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you. . .’ or 2) ‘God loves you, BUT. . .’

I’ve learned (at least I think I have) that knowing and believing what the Bible says about the ‘natural’ man doesn’t mean I should tell every atheist how the Bible describes him. Rather, that knowledge should be humming in my brain and should drive HOW I share Christ with him.

Can I tell the atheist what the Bible says a out him? Certainly, but at the right time and in the right way.

So how do we know when the time is right? Maybe we can’t, but God can. So we pray before, during, and after our evangelistic encounters.We proclaim the simple truth about God, man, sin, and the remedy for sin, trusting God to do the saving. He doesn’t need our ‘help’, just our faithfulness to the gospel.

Code Orange Revival ‘Expectations’

Chris Rosebrough over at Fighting for the Faith calls the annual Code Orange Revival at Steven (COR) Furtick’s Elevation Church the “Heresy Olympics”. Not only does he review ‘sermons’ delivered at the auspicious event, he provides audio clips of advertisements and ‘man on the street’ interviews concerning the assumed expectations of the event promoters at Elevation Church and some of the attendees.

  • During the ‘pre-game’ show for night one, ‘Code Orange’ was defined as an eruption similar to volcanic activity – an ‘eruption’ of faith – 10 days and nights of celebrating and believing God for ‘breakthroughs’ for Elevation Church and for individuals.
  • In a short interview with someone who had travelled from London, when asked what she was expecting God to do in her life, a lady said she expected to get a new passion to go into her patients’ lives (she is a paramedic in London), so God could shine through her in her work as a paramedic.
  • Holly Furtick said she was looking forward to God speaking to her personally and she loved to watch God speaking personally to those around her. She also loved hearing stories from those who travelled to attend COR. She again emphasized ‘breakthroughs’.
  • The last point shared by Chris Rosebrough from the ‘pre-game’ show (2 minutes before ‘show’ time) again reinforced the ‘breakthrough’ theme, coming into God’s presence, and God doing something specific in every life. The announcer said “we’re going to have a lot of fun; we’re going to have a lot of guests here”.

Chris Rosebrough described the above ‘breakthrough’ rhetoric as the theology of’ triumphalism’, or ‘self glory’, and I for one agree with him.

Also part of the ‘pre-game festivities’ attendees/listeners are informed of all the ways they can participate with their giving, since it is important that we trust God in all areas of our lives, including our finances. Giving is ‘worship’ and folks can give online, on an App, and via texting, all of which will result in God’s blessings for the one giving.

Following the account of the ‘pregame’ festivities, there was a recap of Steven Furtick’s (contestant #1 in the 2016 Heresy Olympics) sermon, allegedly received by direct revelation from the Holy Spirit. Needless to say, during the sermon, Mr. Furtick correctly described Code Orange as ‘our’ revival, since it certainly isn’t God’s.

You can find Chris Rosebrough’s comments and critique of the Code Orange Revival here. You can find an interesting ‘Code Orange Bible Challenge’ here, as well as a recap of COR night one in the ‘Rhythm of Heresy’ podcast here. Stay tuned to Fighting for the Faith for other COR recaps and commentary.