By Esther Schreiber, a former member of the NAR and a guest contributor.
The majority of believers within the body of Christ have one thing in common: they have never heard of the NAR! Considering that one of its most senior leaders (Peter Wagner) claimed it was the fastest growing sector within Christendom, this is indeed strange. However, in an age where human knowledge is growing exponentially and new things are being discovered every day, our ignorance or lack of awareness of something one day, is no proof of its non-existence; only that we have not yet discovered it, perceived what is under our very noses, or recognised something for what it is.
Why Christians Are Ignorant of the NAR
One reason for this lack of awareness is that within Christendom there are two basic approaches to "doing" faith and theology.
One approach is from the group of believers who were either born again or grew up in a family or community where good biblical standards and sound hermeneutics are wisely applied. Their church does not cherry-pick scriptures or emphasize experience and feelings over the written Word of God. Such people can much more readily distinguish what is wrong in the Charismatic churches. They don’t need to be convinced that something is wrong, they can tell as soon as it is brought up to their attention.
The other approach is from the group that is unfortunate enough to have been exposed to, or absorbed, false doctrine, and thus, is either a willing part of, or unknowingly participating in this. I speak from personal experience, because I once belonged to the second group. For decades, I was taught a tainted, false gospel. I knew, Jesus died for me, but I thought He did it so that I can have a good life. When in His mercy God opened my eyes, I couldn’t fathom the depth of deception that I saw taking place.
Ever since I escaped from the NAR, I have been asking myself this question: How could we be so deceived? How could we not have seen the error in those teachings?
Why did we not see through such things as the prosperity gospel for example? Every believer who knows his Bible should clearly see that Jesus never promised earthly riches or encouraged us to desire them; on the contrary:
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light." (Matt. 6:19-22)
We can certainly expect that God will take care of our needs. (Matthew 6:25), but beyond this we are told that:
"Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs." (1Tm. 6:8-10)
Surely the answer is, that it is our own itching ears (2.Timothy 4:3) that are at fault; that we want to hear that we have the God-given right to prosperity and an easy life. It is a human character trait to love encouragement and attention and dislike criticism and liability.
This is a trap every one of us be careful to avoid: -that of feeding our own ego. It is in fact the original trap Satan laid out to ensnare mankind: “Eat this fruit and you will be like God”.
Millions upon millions of Christians have been entangled in it, and every year there are more, because the false gospel of the NAR keeps stealthily advancing, even into Bible believing churches -unless they maintain constant vigilance.
How is this possible?
People are drawn in because the NAR does use Bible scriptures (albeit out of context), addresses every day needs and certainly offers an undeniable spiritual experience. However, the focus then slowly shifts from repentance and salvation to healing and prosperity; and ultimately, the NAR gospel evolves around us instead of the work of redemption by Jesus on the cross.
And besides, how can that warm, fuzzy feeling, that peace that totally fills me as a believer while I worship in my Charismatic church, not be of God? I myself have felt that overwhelming feeling more than once. I was convinced that it was “the anointing” of God; and the more “anointing” we feel during a worship service, the better -right? It is all about experience, and sometimes it’s even more than that; especially when NAR leaders come to visit, it can progress to uncontrollably laughing, shaking and convulsing.
The problem is: Satan disguises himself as an angel of light; He can easily give people what they crave! Who doesn’t want to feel something, to “have more of God’s power” and to “feel the spirit”? We all long for God’s presence and for a glimpse of what is to come, but God warns us many times in His Word to be wary of tapping into the supernatural.
We should be aware that many people of the second group within the NAR would actually reject certain excesses that are obviously unholy like the barking and animal sounds during the Toronto Blessing -but they would not want to be convinced that the feelings they are experiencing might not be from God.
There is a thing called cognitive dissonance that many within the NAR encounter: things just don’t add up. The belief system does not match up with reality. Unfortunately, just as in cult groups, many of these instances are brushed off or swept under the carpet.
Here are a few examples:
My friend’s aunt was so sick, the whole family decided to gather to say their last goodbye. My friend was convinced that she would only have to apply three steps taught by Word of Faith teacher Kenneth Hagin and her aunt would live and not die. So she went down on her knees and prayed for the healing of her aunt. Then she confessed that her aunt is healed in Jesus name and she acted upon her prayer, believing that her faith would have the power to heal her aunt. Acting out her faith, she did not go to her aunt but instead stayed at home. The next morning she got a phone call. Her aunt had died. My friend was devastated. She had acted upon her faith, she had done everything Hagin had claimed was biblical, but it did not work! Situations like this do a lot of harm to the believers. So let’s just call this what it actually is: spiritual abuse. My friend nearly lost her faith in God through it, though eventually she was convinced that there was "just not enough faith on her part".
Often times people have moments of insight, like when they hear someone speaking in tongues and wondering why it sounds like gibberish. Heidi “Shakababa” Baker is well known for that kind of utterance. Does the Holy Spirit utter gibberish? Of course not! But, this issue is brushed aside with the argument that some people are just praying in the flesh. Weird prophecies? Strange sounds? People who claim they have been healed but turn out to be not so? Things Pastors preach that don’t line up with the Word of God? All done in the flesh? Hold on! In the end they do claim it is the Holy Spirit at work.
But there are those instances of cognitive dissonance that can not be explained away. One time a religious Jewish friend of mine (who I thought I could convince that I am right because we have these supernatural experiences) told me, that religious Jewish people have visions of heavens too! They have dreams, -they have all these things that people in the NAR think they own. How could that be? People within the NAR would argue, that convulsing in a church is from God, while convulsing in a Hindu temple is from the Devil (even though it both looks and sounds exactly the same). Would that apply to visions of heaven as well? It doesn't make sense, unless all of these visions are derived from the same source, -the Deceiver.
However, there are even more things that can not so easily be dismissed:
Let’s take Hillsong as an example. When Hillsong’s leader Brian Houston said “We – the Muslims and the Christians – we actually serve the same God” there was a huge backlash.
That is not always the case. There was no backlash when Hillsong’s New York’s pastor Carl Lentz said to Oprah that you don’t have to be a Christian to have a relationship with God and called Jesus a “road marker”; or when he did not speak up against abortion. It can not be brushed aside any more when things are more than obvious.
Carl Lentz proudly wears designer clothes by self proclaimed Satanist Rick Owens. You can see him in the picture below.
He has no problem making a show with Jesus dressed up as the Statue of Liberty. Or letting women dance on stage only wrapped in a bath towel: but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Hillsong London raised eyebrows within Charismatic circles when half naked singers performed on stage and when their Easter performance had every appearance of a voodoo ritual. In their recent Christmas show, Hillsong Australia had no qualms about displaying a singer dressed as a goddess. And Hillsong London had no problem including Buddha but excluding Jesus from their Christmas performance.
How can they produce beautiful worship music but also produce bad fruits like that? Does Jesus not say we will know them by their fruits? A bad tree can only produce bad fruits and as we shall see, the tree is rotten through and through.
Few people know that Hillsong’s founder Frank Houston was a convicted serial paedophile. When Frank confessed his crimes to his son Brian Houston in 1999, Brian failed to alert police, -as one of Frank’s rape victims, Brett Sengstock, reports. Another victim said that Brian refused to pay any compensation money but instead blamed him for “seducing his father”.
Even people within the NAR can not close their eyes when confronted with evidence that is otherwise conveniently swept under the rug because “the body of Christ should not be confused” or because “we should not touch the Lord’s anointed”.
What ever happened to Ephesians 5,11? Are we not commanded to not take part in things that do not bring forth good fruit and instead required to expose them?
Increasing numbers of Christians are waking up and refusing to be intimidated by the nonsensical teaching that exposing sin and abuse in ministers is somehow "touching the Lord's anointed". Not only has this verse been ripped out of all context but it has been used as a cover for the atrocities of senior ministers. A culture of fear exists in leadership circles when people are prevented from speaking their mind or daring to criticize the leader, -as a recent incident in Germany’s biggest Charismatic church in Stuttgart illustrates. Four executive board members had to leave the church after their Pastor Peter Wenz, leader of the Gospel Center church in this city, had refused to listen to them. The allegations were serious, and in an open statement, the board members talk about a culture of fear within the management and among the eldership, where criticism was unwelcome and many decisions were singlehandedly and highhandedly revised by the Pastor. Wenz would often say “I am the Lord’s anointed” and openly threaten those that criticized him with God’s wrath. When one of the four leaving board members died, many saw that as a confirmation of Divine displeasure. It needs to be stated however, that this person had suffered from cancer for many years and was in his final stages. Nevertheless, people within the NAR actually see this as a confirmation of God’s appointing and anointing, and close their eyes to all that is wrong in the leadership circle; whereas people outside would simply see that he died naturally from cancer irrespective of the situation.
In the end, it is God who opens up people’s hearts and their eyes to the truth. We can only pray for them and point out those things that don’t add up.