"The pastor stopped in the middle of a sermon and said, “God is telling someone here that if you don’t stop doing that thing, He’s going to kill you.” Imagine how everyone must have felt that day – “Is it me?”
Andrew was submerged and drowning in every kind of N.A.R. practice one can imagine, and his congregation was abused at the hands of his "apostle." In this series, I want to take readers beyond the textbook What is the New Apostolic Reformation Movement explanation, into the personal experiences from those who have been there, and what happened when God opened their eyes to the truth.
This is Andrew’s story in his own words:
My journey in the Christian faith began at high school at the age of 16. My school was visited by a team of evangelists. Based on what they taught, they must have been Pentecostals. They spoke of miracles, healing, and salvation based on a combination of faith and human decision. The short version of this episode is that I “became a Christian” after having prayed “the sinner’s prayer”.
I was invited to attend an Anglican church in my hometown, which ran a separate Bible study for “Charismatics.” In this extra-church group I was exposed to the practices of tongue-speaking, believing for healings and miracles, and unusual ways of praying and praising God, including seeking mystical kinds of emotional experiences.
Some months later, a turf war broke out between that group and an Assemblies of God church in the neighboring town, over who exactly had introduced me to Christianity and therefore, where I ought to be worshiping. The AOG won out because my school friend who attended there, had been the one to set the Christian example to me in the first place and had invited me to the meeting where I first heard the Gospel. So off I went to the Pentecostals.
A couple of years later, after I had left school, I drifted away from the church and went off to work in another state. I got hooked in by street evangelists to attending a ‘church,’ which had its roots in the Latter Rain movement. When I say roots, I mean it was a first generation direct descendant of the Latter Rain Movement that started in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1948. Of course I didn’t recognise it as NAR at the time, as the term did not exist.
This so-called church preached signs and wonders, spiritual warfare, modern-day apostleship & the ‘five-fold’ ministries, blind allegiance to the eldership, decisional salvation, ‘sign’ or ‘ascension’ gifts (prophecy, tongues, words of knowledge, miracles, healing etc.), heretical ‘Bride of Christ’ teaching (in which they were the Bride of Christ, naturally), the ‘Ephesian Pattern’ and probably others I have thankfully long forgotten.
After becoming steeped in those heresies for a couple of years, I moved to another state, and was hooked up with one of their planted ‘churches’ there, where all of the above heresies were well entrenched and practiced. This is where I started unraveling after thirteen years of spiritual and emotional abuse at the hands of the self-appointed ‘apostle’ who was a self-confessed modern replica of the Apostle Paul (sarcasm intended).
I left, and drifted aimlessly for the next 23 years, living like the worldly sinner that I actually was.
There are a few things I’d like to say about the Latter Rain ‘churches’ I attended:
- I consider them to be dangerous cults. They are still in operation today
- I was never comfortable with how people were treated, as some of the following points illustrate
- The ‘pastor’ was a complete control freak, and in my opinion a demonized person
- No sound theology whatsoever – everything was hillbilly style home-cooked nonsense (and that is probably disrespectful to decent hillbillies – apologies for that)
- Independently searching the Scriptures, and especially reading respected theologians, was strongly discouraged. Only the approved curriculum was to be studied
- Incessant and unbiblical delving into the personal and private affairs of the congregation
- Overbearing emphasis on ‘the man is the head of the home’ in an authoritarian, unloving way. I saw marriages break up because of this. At one home meeting, the group leader forced a woman to wash her husband’s feet in front of everyone. This was not a voluntary act of humility or love. It was an enforced act of humiliation for the wife, who apparently was having some trouble ‘submitting to her husband’. That marriage failed not too long afterwards. I spoke privately to the group leader about how I thought this was improper, and he said “you don’t know what’s going on”. He was right: I didn’t know, and nothing was explained to the group – we just had to sit there horrified with our mouths shut and cop it.
- Unbiblical ‘church discipline’ not in line with Matthew 18 - i.e. public shaming and kicking people out of fellowship without due process
- Obsessive concern with tithing and badgering from the pulpit about it whenever the coffers got low
- Bunker mentality – we are right and everyone else is therefore wrong
- Constant public verbal bashing of other churches, pastors, teachings and so on
- Speaking ill of congregants during church leadership meetings – ‘airing dirty laundry’
- Continual parade of heretical teachers from other churches given access to the pulpit, and no correction or clarification provided later to their odd-ball teachings. One ‘pastor’ stopped in the middle of a sermon and said “God is telling someone here that if you don’t stop doing that thing, He’s going to kill you”. Imagine how everyone must have felt that day – “Is it me?”
- Regular endorsement of authors that I now know to be teaching false doctrine and the doctrines of demons.
Fast forward to 2014: I had begun to investigate the prosperity gospel, which is no gospel at all. It is just a bunch of people with itching ears who have accumulated for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, having turned away from listening to the truth and wandered off into myths - see 2 Timothy4:3-4. Over the years I had become increasingly irritated by teachings which my gut told me were false, but having no firm theology myself with which to combat them.
Now here is the thing: I started listening to John Macarthur, Paul Washer, R.C. Sproul and many other teachers of Reformed Theology, and discovered to my horror that, according 1 John 3:4-10 I wasn’t even a Christian! I was just somebody who had prayed the sinner’s prayer at the age of 16, and carried on living like a pig in mud.
I thank God that by His grace I have been saved, and that is not due to anything at all on my part - it is His gracious, merciful gift – see Ephesians 2:8-9. As John Macarthur rightly points out, we played no part in our first birth, neither do we play any part in our second birth. As totally depraved, spiritually dead individuals, we have no power, nor any inclination to contribute anything to our own salvation – see John 3:8, Ephesians 2:1-6. After 41 years of being a fake Christian, I unexpectedly was granted the privilege of salvation through no merit or works of my own doing, but through God’s sovereign election, by the penal substitutionary sacrifice of Christ in my place.
End Note: I find it interesting that, during the times I attended Charismatic and Pentecostal ‘churches’, through a combination of peer pressure, parrot learning and gullibility, I actually spoke the unintelligible gibberish non-language known as ‘tongues’. I was not even a Christian, so what does that say about the validity of that ‘gift’?
I hope this brief account of a long painful journey helps others to leave whatever ‘christian’ cult they are in, be it NAR, prosperity, word of faith or otherwise, and cry out to God in repentance from sins, asking for forgiveness and salvation which is the true spiritual healing promised in Isaiah 53:5.
Other beliefs and Practices I experienced:
- Territorial spirits - they believe that particular demonic spirits have control of specific geographic areas. This is based on an unwarranted extrapolation of Daniel 10:13, and is a denial of God's sovereignty and power.
- Generational curses - persons struggling under various kinds of afflictions in life are told they are probably under a family curse. This is based on a perverted interpretation of Exodus 34:6-7. For a proper understanding of God's disposition towards the righteous and the unrighteous, see Ezekiel 18:1-4.
- Talk of curses generally was quite common. Satan was made out to be almost as powerful as God, and we were to live in constant vigilance and fear. This is also an attack on God's sovereignty and power and promotes Satan to a level of power and authority that he does not have.
- Dreams & visions were very popular. The 'pastor' told of a dream he had in which there was a titanic struggle going on between God and Satan. This of course denies the absolute sovereignty and power of The Lord.
- The 'pastor' told of an experience he had in which he was out jogging, and was suddenly thrown to the ground and went through some kind of divine visitation not unlike that of the Apostle Paul's conversion experience. There were no witnesses to this event (unlike Paul's), and we were supposed to just accept the story. This was to be further validation of his 'Pauline' calling.
- The 'pastor' and elders were constantly monitoring and interfering in people's lives, running around trying to fix things, putting band-aids on situations and so on, as if God 'needed' them and was incapable of intervening Himself.
- Anyone at all who could demonstrate the slightest shred of biblical understanding or could pretend to have words of knowledge or prophecies, could just walk up to the microphone, or call it out loud from the floor, and nothing was ever questioned or corrected. Mostly it would be affirmed, no matter how crazy it sounded.
- Handkerchiefs would be anointed with oil and taken and placed on the sick for prayer and healing
- One Easter Sunday, chocolate was served in lieu of bread for communion.
- Just for laughs, I recently did a search on the pastor's name in YouTube, and found a video in which he was preaching somewhere in Africa. I could only take about 2 or 3 minutes of it before feeling nauseous, but in it he said "I love coming to this church. The musicians and the sound system are so sensitive to the Holy Spirit" - What? A sound system can be sensitive to the Holy Spirit?
Author’s Note: You can read the entire series of NAR testimonies here. If you would like to send me your story about your NAR church experience and what happened when your eyes were opened, you can email me here. I will be changing your first name to keep you anonymous.