Why We are Choosing to No Longer Sing Certain Songs
Over these past several months, I have been in conversation with our Music team, along with the Elders of the church I serve as pastor. These conversations have revolved around the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) theology, which has been made popular by Bethel Music and other music groups such as Hillsong Worship, Elevation Worship and Jesus Culture just to name a few. This new charismatic movement has been around for years but it was officially named by Peter C. Wagner in 1996. The reason why these conversations were had was because of some concerns one of the members of the music team had after learning more about what this movement actually believes. I will be honest with you, I have always had my concerns with the lyrics of some Bethel songs, but I just chalked it up as immature Christians writing their songs. Reason why I thought they were immature is because most of the artists connected with Bethel Music are in their 20’s and 30’s. I remember when I was right out of college and seminary and how immature I was as a follower of Jesus and my sermons at that time were weak Biblically. But over the last 20 years of teaching and studying the Bible, my understanding of the Bible has grown drastically. I read my own story into these song writers’ story and thought that they would outgrow their bad theology as they studied God’s Word more. But over the past several months, reading more about the New Apostolic Reformation, and learning more about Bethel Church of Redding, CA, I have come to realize that the bad theology in Bethel songs was not because of immature Christians, but were there on purpose because of their wrong Biblical beliefs.
For some of you, this may be the first time you may be hearing about this movement. For others, you may have heard of the New Apostolic Movement, but may not fully understand what they believe. Let me take this opportunity to introduce you to two questionable teachings of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). This is just the tip of the iceberg. I would encourage you to do your own research about the NAR movement.
The first questionable teaching is how they interpret Ephesians 4:11-13. These verses say:
“11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
These verses tell us that Jesus gave the church some specific positions or offices to equip the believers and to build up the church. These positions are listed in the following order: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The NAR movement says that this order is important. In fact, they will say that if a believer in Jesus really wants to receive true spiritual blessings from God, they need to sit under an apostle, not a pastor because a pastor is the low man on the spiritual totem pole. Whereas an apostle is the highest person and, according to the NAR movement, when an apostle and a prophet team up, they receive direct revelations from God himself.
Why is their understanding of Ephesians 4:11-13 wrong? For starters, these positions or offices that Jesus gave the church are not listed in hierarchical order. They are different offices that Paul lists, but one office is not more important than the other. Paul makes this clear throughout all his letters, especially when it comes to his spiritual gifts argument in 1 Corinthians 12-14. One gift is not better than another gift. We all are part of the Body of Christ working together.
Another reason why the NAR movement is wrong in their understanding of Ephesians 4:11-13 is because of their claim of being able to receive direct revelations from God. This teaching contradicts what the early church taught including the apostles John and Paul. One of the things that the early church dealt with was people adding to the Gospel of Jesus. As the Apostles went town after town telling people about Jesus’ death and resurrection, some false teachers would follow behind the Apostles telling the new believers that they didn’t tell them the whole Gospel of Jesus. These false teachers claimed to have a special knowledge from God and that these believers needed to not just believe in the Gospel of Jesus that the Apostles taught them, but also believe in this special knowledge that they received. The Apostle John writes the letter of 1 John to combat this teaching and Paul says in Galatians 1:6-10,
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
I can understand why these early believers may have fallen into this trap of listening to these false teachers because these early believers did not have the Bible, God’s Truth, to test what these false teachers were saying, but why do we, as followers of Jesus, entertain the notion that we need to listen to these people who claim to receive direct revelations from God, when we have God’s Word? Don’t misunderstand me. I believe that the Holy Spirit leads us and guides us in our daily lives, but why do we look to people to tell us what God wants us to do, when we should be going to God directly, by way of the Scriptures, and allowing Him to show us His will for our lives. The Bible is the foundation that we need to build our lives upon. It is through daily reading and studying of the Bible that we know right from wrong, that we know God’s will, that the Holy Spirit transforms our lives as our minds get renewed (Romans 12:1), and that we can identify the lies of Satan. I don’t think we fully understand just how important God’s Word really is to our lives as followers of Jesus.
Another questionable teaching the NAR movement has is their understanding of prayer. They practice what are called prayer declarations. As they come to God in prayer, they declare God will do certain things for them. As a person learns more about how they use these “prayer declarations,” they really try to manipulate God into doing what they believe God should do for them (i.e., healings, miracles, financial blessings, raising people from the dead physically, not just spiritually). God becomes their “genie in the bottle,” doing what they command. But what does the NAR movement teach if God doesn’t do what they declare? They teach that the person praying didn’t have enough faith, or there were not enough people declaring God would do it. Whatever happened to the Biblical understanding of prayer and the Biblical understanding of who God is? God is sovereign, King over all. We cannot manipulate God to do what we desire. Yes, we are suppose to come to God in prayer and we see in Revelation 8:4 that our prayers are pleasing to God. But we are supposed to come to God in humility, casting our cares and our concerns down at His feet, asking Him to work according to His will, not ours. Praying to God by using prayer declarations, is paganism, not Biblical Christianity.
There are many other questionable teachings about the NAR movement that I could highlight, but these two will suffice for now. The New Apostolic Movement is dangerous and because of the popularity of music groups like Bethel Music, Hillsong Worship, Jesus Culture, and Elevation Worship your average church in America is starting to teach NAR theology and many of them are unaware. It is because of this eye-opening journey that God has taken me, along with the members of the Music team, that we are having conversations about the songs we are using for congregational singing. The Music team has determined that their number one goal is to pick songs that teach Biblically accurate theology; ones that help people understand who God is and how God has worked in the past, and how He continues to work now and forever more.
But why do I believe having these discussions are important? Luke 17:1-3 says,
Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. 2 It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 So watch yourselves.”
As a pastor/teacher, I am responsible for the people Jesus entrusts to me, to help them grow in their relationship with Him. Part of that responsibility is to warn people about Biblically inaccurate teachings. My disagreement with what the NAR movement teaches is more than just a secondary theological issue disagreement (i.e., when the rapture of the church will happen, spiritual gifts active today or not, etc.) The NAR movement actually twist the Scriptures, and they teach dangerously wrong theology. I cannot stand by as I watch people be lead astray. Again, we must build our lives upon the truth of God’s Word. Only then will we be able to stand firm against the lies and the false teachings that Satan has infiltrated the Church with.