A newly formed “apostolic network” of self-appointed super-apostles meets clandestinely in Florida to divvy up the nation into apostolic regions, or apostolates, and appoint certain member apostles as the arch-apostles over those territories.
For several years I have been receiving the email messages from Andrew Strom. I have also read his writings in which he addresses various prophetic as well as apostolic related issues. We also had one extended phone conversation, I believe in 2007, in which we touched briefly upon a number of issues of common concern. While I cannot say that I know everything about his theological/doctrinal positions, beliefs, and motives, and thus am in no way endorsing the totality of his ministry, in general, I agree with much of what he has written regarding the error and errancies associated with the nascent prophetic and apostolic movements and the need for reform within them.
I presume, based on his own expressed beliefs, that Andrew would not attribute the term “prophet” to himself, but my personal assessment of his ministry is that it has a definite and identifiable prophetic aspect to it. Based on his writings, he is of the cotorie today who believe that terms describing a person’s function in the church, such as the fivefold ministry functions, should not be used at all, despite the undeniable fact that they are scriptural appellations. Personally, I do not agree with that position for a number of reasons, all of which I believe are Biblical, that I won’t go into here. I will say that if that notion were true, the Apostle Paul violated it in every epistle he wrote save one, because he identified himself as an apostle in every one of those letters except one. However, where I do agree with Strom is that I do not believe that those terms are terms of entitlement as they are apparently viewed by many leaders in the Pentecostal/Neo-Pentecostal church, especially those who have ascended to the top of the pyramid in the babylonic system that claims to constitute its governance.
In previous writings, Andrew Strom has criticized and decried both the prophetic and apostolic movements. In particular, he has written critically of the “Kansas City Prophets” and their involvement in the prophetic movement, from an “insider’s” perspective. A couple of years ago, he published a book expressing why he left the prophetic movement, citing numerous specific reasons he believes the movement went astray. Additionally, Strom has been sharply critical of the “super-apostles,” as well as the chief principals involved with the various so-called “revivals” of the 1990s and the latest Lakeland “outpouring.”
Today I received the latest of Andrew’s messages in which he issues a prophetic warning to the small cadre of self-appointed “super-apostles” associated with the elitist by-invitation-only International Coalition of Apostles, founded by C. Peter Wagner and now led by John P. Kelly, the “Convening Apostle.” Mind you, this is by no means the first time Andrew has addressed matters relative to this exclusive clique of church leaders. The archives of his messages on his website contain other messages that provide further context and background to this latest message. What he is saying on this and related matters is generally consistent with what I believe is God’s view and attitude on these issues.
In 1996 I published a book on the topic of authoritarian abuse taking place in the Neo-Pentecostal church, Charismatic Captivation. I have always believed, and still believe today, that the message of that book was not mine, but God’s. The back cover specifically says that it is a prophetic warning from God to all ecclesiastical pharaohs to “Let My People Go!” Over the years I have sent the book to many well-known leaders. I believe it would be accurate to say that every well-known Neo-Pentecostal leader in America has either read or seen the book, or seen it and the scores of articles adapted from the book posted on the Internet. After 14 years, almost without exception, every Charismatic minister I talk to, has at least heard about or seen something of the message of the book. However, lest one totally mis-take my motivation in alluding to the book, I hasten to say that this book has produced virtually nothing positive with respect to my ministry. Rather, the result has been thorough ostracization and blackballing that is by no means imaginary but very real. Nevertheless, I stand by the book and its message, including the aspect in which I prophesy that the day will come when God will bring judgment upon all those leaders who fail to heed the biblical and prophetic warnings He issues against hyper-authoritarianism and arrogant ascendency by leaders who claim to have rulership rights over the Sheep of God’s Flock.
Despite what I have written and preached regarding these matters over the years, which has been substantial, really I have done my best to maintain a degree of restraint. I have done my best to walk in and extend love, grace, and mercy to those who are on the other side of this issue. I will continue to do my best in that respect. However, I have now come to the place, that I can no longer restrain and constrain speaking out on this topic, if I am to be obedient to God. Whenever there is a conflict between concord with man and concord with God, an obedient servant of God really has no choice but to obey God. I feel that is the place and position I find myself in now. Ironically, perhaps, just in the last few days I received a request by one minister to address this topic on a radio program, which I rebuffed to some degree. I now view that request as a confirmation from God concerning what He is saying to me, and that the time has come to speak the truth without restraint.
So, in the days and weeks ahead, for what it’s worth, I will be having more to say about these matters and what I believe God is saying about them. Let me say that I believe the Body of Christ is about to find out that God has a lot more prophets and apostles that He has trained, prepared, and is raising up to be His surrogate spokesmen, than the elite few endorsed and promoted by what has clearly proven to be a corrupt and flesh-driven so-called prophetic and apostolic movements that emerged in the 1980s and 90s respectively and since unfolded.
Let me be clear, you can put me down at the top of the list of those who wholeheartedly embrace the concept of the restoration of the prophetic and apostolic offices to their rightful place of function within the Church that Jesus is building. My websites and blogs contain scores of articles proclaiming my beliefs in that respect. Indeed, starting in the mid-80s I have conducted several hundred prophetic seminars in which I taught on this very topic citing a plethora of scripture as proof-text for the premise that these two ministry offices are just as vitally active today as are the other three minstry offices that are commonly accepted virtually without controversy as being valid and operable today, i.e., evangelist, pastor, and teacher offices. With Scripture only as our foundation, it is irrefutable that cessation theories alleging that the charismata as well as the apostolic and prophetic offices ceased from being valid and operable in the church that crept into the church in the previous two centuries are completely unfounded and false.
Back in the early 90s I compiled all my teachings on this topic into a prophetic manual that became the textbook for an entire course I developed on the prophetic that has been used by a number of Bible colleges in their curriculum. I say all this, again, to emphasis the fact that I totally espouse the concept of the restoration of the apostolic and prophetic offices and that they remain to be the foundational offices of the genuine Church Jesus is building, regardless of the many man-made “churches” and denominations that reject the premise.
However, as much as I believe in the continuing efficacy and effects of all the Fivefold Ministry Offices, I also am extremely concerned with the ever-increasing misconceptions, extremes, false teaching, and abuses that are constantly arising concerning these two ministry offices and their restoration. What concerns me even more is what can be done to alert believers concerning these aberrancies and the spiritual perils inherent in them, which include not only deception but ultimately apostasy.
One of the things I am constantly trying to point out in my articles and books on the topic of authoritarian abuses that have been so prevalent in the Neo-Pentecostal movements is that I am by no means the only voice within the Neo-Pentecostal realm challenging these matters, but that rather numerous more known and regarded leaders in the ecclesiastical universe have been outspoken critics and opponents as well. As I point out in Charismatic Captivation, in the 1970s, at the zenith of the Shepherding Movement, the teachings and tactics being proliferated by the leaders of that movement provoked a controversy that eventually erupted into a public firestorm of rebuttal, rebuke, and remonstration of those leaders and their “strange teachings.” Among those leading the confligration against the movement and its movers were such highly-visible voices as Pat Robertson, CBN Founder/President; Dennis Bennett, an Episcopal Priest attributed as a main progenitor of the Charismatic Movement; Dr. Ken Sumrall, leader of a large network of Charismatic ministers; Thomas F. Zimmerman, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God; David duPlessis, aka “Mr. Pentecost;” the entire upper eschelon of the Word of Faith camp, including Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Jerry Sevelle, Norvel Hayes, et al.; John Osteen, founder of Lakewood Church and father of Joel Osteen; Judson Cornwall and Charles Trombley, both respected Charismatic Theologians; Ralph Mahoney, Founder and President of MAP; and many others.
Pat Robertson was so indignant concerning these teachings and the teachers behind them that he issued a public rebuke of Bob Mumford in an open letter in June of 1975 that he discussed on the 700 Club, pronouncing the errant teachings “witchcraft,” ordered that all tapes of 700 Club episodes in which the five progenitors appeared be destroyed, and uttered a stinging rebuke saying that the only difference between this cult and its leaders and Jonestown and its leader was the “Kool-Aid.” Even the venerated Charismatic evangelist, Kathryn Kuhlman, who normally avoided any semblence of public criticism of other ministers and advocated same for all believers, refused to appear on the platform with Mumford at a momentous convocation on the Holy Spirit held in Jerusalem in 1975. FGBMFI Founder, Demos Shakarian pronounced the five chief leaders of the movement personna non-grata.
The overall result of the public opposition of these leaders and the movement they founded was that “the Discipleship/Shepherding philosophies, doctrines, and practices” were “unequivocally repudiated and proven to be utterly false, and their originators have long since been discredited and fallen into disrepute.” [Click here to read more about the controversy.] Nevertheless, as I reiterated over and over in Charismatic Captivation, the doctrines propagated during that movement were infused into the very fabric, foundation, and functions of the Charismatic Movement and remain to be occultly rudimentary to the Charismatic movement and the governmental models of a large percentage of Neo-Pentecostal churches and networks, including the now many apostolic and prophetic networks that have formed out of the prophetic and apostolic movements.
Among the most recent and known of that ilk are such networks as the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA), founded and led by C. Peter Wagner, which purports to be the premier and preeminent arch-apostles of the “New Apostolic Reformation” — a “movement” Wagner also essentially claims to have founded and initiated. Wagner is on the record as unabashedly and categorically stating that the NAR, and thus the ICA, is an extension and continuation of the “New Order of the Latter Rain Movement” promulgated by “oneness” Pentecostals that began in the late 1940s that continues to draw massive numbers of adherents worldwide. The distinguishing and as it turned out divisive doctrine emerging out of this movement was the aberrant “Manifested Sons of God” teaching championed by the main leaders of the movement such as brothers George and Ernie Hawtin and William Branham. Today primarily there is little public mention of this fallacious doctrine, per se, at least, deliberate mention, though from time to time some of the old guard let go of an occasional “slip of the tongue” such as Paul Cain’s in an Orlando meeting a couple of years ago, who was a controversial “child-prodigy” preacher during the movement in the 50s. Mostly today the “Manifested Sons of God” teaching has morphed into the preteristic dominionist “Kingdom Now Theology” championed by the likes of the now late Earl Paulk and the thousands of ministers he “fathered” and constituted his extended spiritual “offspring,” and is rarely cited by name.
While I cannot delve deeply into the matter here, I will note that any discussion of the genesis of the Shepherding teachings of necessity, in fact, must include The New Order of the Latter Rain teaching because it is from there that they all actually emanated. Moveover, the majority of the main Shepherding Movement principals were adherents of that movement and teaching. Indeed, “oneness” (Jesus-only) doctrine, also known in theological terms as “modalism” or “unitarianism,” is the bedrock of the “Manifested Sons of God” or “Kingdom Now” doctrine, as well as the more recent version of the teaching, i.e., the Shepherding doctrines.
Criticism and controversy regarding these hyper-authoritarian teachings and tactics, while rare, does emerge every now and then. Surprisingly, even J. Lee Grady, the editor of Charisma Magazine, which was undeniably one of the chief organs advocating and promoting the Shepherding Movement and its leaders during its hayday, has from time to time made some pithy albeit somewhat oblique allusions to the error of these hyper-authoritarian doctrines and practices and their continued espousal and operation by the networks and church leaders claiming to be the apostles who God is putting in charge of the Church:
In the 1980s and ‘90s we charismatics emphasized the need for apostles and prophets. I cheered this movement because I believe we should reclaim every spiritual gift in the New Testament that has been avoided or neglected.
We need true apostles and prophets because they keep the church moving forward in our global assignment and provide heavenly direction and strategy. Yet apostles and prophets have been controversial, not only because some people reject them on theological grounds but because some self-proclaimed apostles and hyper-mystical prophets have abused and misused their gifts and authority. Today some of these people have slipped over the edge of orthodoxy—and have taken segments of the church off the cliff with them.
Some have promoted the concept that apostles are spiritual supermen who wield rigid, hierarchical control over churches and leaders, resulting in authoritarianism and abuse. Others have perverted the apostolic model to create a financial “downline” that brings loads of money to a few at the top of the food chain—ignoring the fact that the Bible says apostles should be models of humility who serve from the bottom. And some prophets have traded in their originally pure message to promote bizarre doctrines and cryptic predictions that often prove to be hokum.
Is it possible that while we were celebrating the super apostles and building fan clubs for the prophets we were ignoring the primacy of our evangelistic calling?
Despite all the public controversy, as I lament in Charismatic Captivation, most Charismatic or Neo-Pentecostal believers today claim to know little to nothing about it — something which continues to amaze me — that believers could be that naive and uninformed. The unfortunate effect of that naivete inures to the advantage of the ever-increasing number of unscrupulous Neo-Pentecostal leaders who are able to dupe their followers into virtually unreserved submission to their dominating and controlling governance despite the fact that such subservience to human leaders is not only Scripturally-prohibited, but is identified as outright idolatry, spiritual adultery, and apostasy.
We are at a critical time in our nation and the Church (and the two are inextricably related). Indeed there is a definite and irrefutable parallel going on right now in church polity and the political arena of our nation — both are under seige by a few elite who have somehow “climb(ed) up,” as Jesus called it (Jn. 10:1), to positions of great power and influence in their respective arenas, who have designs for governmental hegemony over their respective arenas. What this sort of seizing of governmental power by an elite few is known as is an “oligarchy,” and I warned about oligarchical rule being the hidden agenda and clandestine plan of our current President and his political cohorts in an article I published prior to the 2008 election. I urge readers to read that article to see the obvious parallels between what is now happening in our nation under the leadership of the current administration, which is hell-bent on transforming America from a republic to a socialistic nanny state using the unconstitutional Health-Care Reform Plan just voted into law by the corrupt Democratic Party yesterday and what is happening in the Church with the self-proclaimed/-appointed cadre of super-apostles who are poised to hijack the Church of which the Chief Apostle Jesus Christ is the sole Heaven-recognized Head. In the end, I am confident neither plan in either arena will stand, but it is the spiritual casualties and the spiritual devastation from which the Church will have to recover that concerns me greatly.
As Grady points out later in the above cited article, “God’s Kingdom is not a hierarchy.” Indeed, because God’s Kingdom is not a hierarchy, neither is the governmental structure of the Church, because the model for the governmental structure of the Church is the government of Heaven. “The government shall be upon His shoulders” (Is. 9:6). When and only when apostles and prophets are simulating the life, attitudes, and ministry of Jesus, operating in communion with Him, His Word, His Will, and His Ways, are the apostles and prophets the shoulders of Jesus upon which His government here on the Earth and in His Church is manifest.
Sadly, though I realize it sounds radical to say, I really believe there will be many of those claiming super-apostleship today who will be among those when Jesus returns who will vociferously and confidently proclaim to Jesus, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” To whom the Lord will reply, “I never knew (lit., approved) you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.”
We need God — HIMSELF, as well as His Word, Will, and Ways — more now than ever in human history. Thus, I believe it is self-evident that the who and what comprising the systems that got us here are not the horse we want to ride in the monumental battles ahead.
With that originally unintendedly lengthy preface, here is the article from Andrew Strom. While Strom admits his admonition was prompted by a second-hand report, and offers no indication whether he investigated the matter to verify the report’s accuracy, or made inquiry to obtain any clarifications the principals may want to offer, nevertheless, I feel the validity of the underlying prevalent issue, namely that of apostolic hegemony, remains. It is for that reason I am posting this article.
[Note: Andrew references the Lakeland Outpouring and Todd Bentley in his article. Click here to read what I wrote about same in 2008.]
WARNING to THE “APOSTLES”
An Open Letter to Peter Wagner, Dutch Sheets & Other “Apostles”.
I recently received a report of a new “Apostolic Network” headed up by Dutch Sheets which held a gathering in Florida last week to “carve up” territories for it’s ‘apostles’, etc. I need to put in writing what I believe the Lord would say to these men.
But first I need to remind us all of something. On June 23rd, 2008, a group of “apostles and prophets” under Peter Wagner’s headship stood on a stage in Lakeland at the Todd Bentley revival – to lay on hands and commission him, etc. But it was far more than that. Peter Wagner called it an “apostolic alignment.” He made the following statement before all the TV cameras and all the people:
“I take the apostolic authority that God has given me and I decree to Todd Bentley:
-Your power will increase.
-Your authority will increase.
-Your favor will increase.
-Your influence will increase.
-Your revelation will increase.
I also decree that:
-A new supernatural strength will flow through this ministry.
-A new life force will penetrate this move of God…”
Onlookers might have thought that Wagner was ‘prophesying’ the above statements. But actually what he felt he was doing was “decreeing” these things over Todd – since he was the ‘head apostle’. In a letter the following day, Wagner called this a “groundbreaking event” and stated that, “We are now in a place in what I see as the Second Apostolic Age…” (In other words, a “new era” of real apostles).
So how did that work out for you, Peter? Well, literally within weeks we found out that many of the “miracles” at Lakeland had no foundation, and then Todd Bentley’s wife separated from him apparently over an affair he was having — and the entire ‘revival’ fell to pieces in the worst way possible. That’s how it worked out.
All the big Charismatic leaders that had stood on that stage hardly knew what to do with themselves — they were so embarrassed. And none more so than Peter Wagner — after making an “Apostolic decree” like that. –Probably the most colossal disaster of his life.
So who pulled the rug out from under your “apostolic alignment”, Peter? I need to tell you that there are two responsible parties. One is ‘yourself’ – clearly. And the second is GOD – because He is now pitted against you and your so-called “apostles”. He is the one who did this to you.
You and your friends have presumed to an office and a place over the Body that is simply not yours, and God is in the process of taking you ‘apostles’ down – and all your “networks” with you.
Dutch Sheets – can I ask you please, what gives you the right to carve up the Body of Christ in North America and parcel it out like McDonalds franchises to all your buddies so they can be ‘apostles’ over their own “territory”? Do you have any idea what you are playing with? Don’t you know that if your buddies are not real New Testament Apostles then all they are doing is painting huge targets on themselves and begging for the judgment of God? How dare you treat the Body of Christ like a piece of Real Estate that you can carve up for your own aggrandizement?
Because of men like you, God is about to judge the leadership of the church. Do they call themselves an “apostle”? Well, God is going to put them to the test. If they are not the real thing, they make themselves His ‘enemy’ because they are blocking His real Reformation. Every self-proclaimed “apostle and prophet” is about to be put to the test. Oh, you call your group an “Apostolic Council of Elders” or something similar? Expect God to come calling, and if you are not the real thing, expect Him to take you down. The Lord God is coming to take back His church with great violence. And you guys are standing directly in His way.
I’ve heard that one of these big “apostles” in Canada once told his network that their “apostle-ness” would be judged by the ‘noses and nickels’ that they represented. (In other words, their “numbers” and their reaping of money). Hmmmm. If I didn’t know better, I would call those the words of a hireling and a wolf.
As Lee Grady wrote about this ‘Apostle-Mania’:
“In some circles apostles demanded total allegiance from the leaders who were “under” them. Some required a policy of “tithing up,” creating a monstrous organizational structure similar to a spiritual Amway. So-called apostles with huge “downlines” made exorbitant amounts of money. One leader even offered pastors the opportunity to become “spiritual sons” by contributing $1,000 a month to his ministry.”
And yet here is what the TRUE apostle Paul wrote: “I think that God has set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death… we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace… we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things…” (1 Cor 4:9-13).
Now THAT is true apostleship. Tell me, Mr. Modern Apostle, do you match up to the New Testament apostles? If not, what on earth do you think God is going to do to you if you claim that title falsely?
I believe that many true Apostles, when they do arise, will simply REFUSE to carry such titles in any way. They will “minimize” themselves, not exalt themselves. That is the heart of a true leader of God.
In closing, let me again warn those who have titled themselves “apostle” or ‘prophet’ in the modern church. God is coming to “clean house” and if you are not the real deal, expect Him to start with you. It is as simple as that. You need to repent urgently of your utter presumption. You have been warned.
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God bless you all.