Wandering Stars: The Paganism of Bethel, Hillsong, and the NAR pt 1

Editors Note: Jeremy Sanders returns to walk through some of the pagan practices of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and how it is seeping into your church. This authors views are his own and do not represent those of his employer or anyone else associated with him.

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:3-4

            With the modern church focused on ecumenicalism, social issues, and “dialogue”, it is easy to gloss over the words of Jude as unrealistic in today’s society. Sadly, false teachers abound in the modern church, perhaps even to a greater extent than in Jude’s day. Not only do we continue seeing different false doctrines emerge from the cesspool of the seeker-sensitive, social justice, emotions-based crowd, we are also seeing past heretical doctrines recycled with a modern twist. To the shame of many church leaders and the church as a whole, many of these false doctrines are being tolerated, supported, and even outright propagated by churches who claim to follow Christ. Instead of being discerning and contending earnestly for the faith, churches and pastors have allowed false teachers to creep into the church. Instead of sounding the alarm, pastors have sounded the music of many ungodly groups who push false doctrine and a false gospel with their message. And the most widespread of these groups is the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), whose affiliates Hillsong, Bethel, Jesus Culture, Elevation Worship, and other Word of Faith/ Prosperity Gospel groups, have infiltrated thousands of churches around the world through their music and songs. These have ensnared tens of thousands of well-meaning, but ignorant/ deceived Christians who are unaware of the heretical nature of these groups. Along with the Social Justice/Social Gospel movement, the charismatic movement led by Bethel, Hillsong, and the NAR is one of the two most dangerous influences within the modern church. It is time to take the blinders off, the enemy has already crept into the church.
            Lest the reader automatically ceases reading this article due to taking offense, the NAR does a good job masking their false doctrine, for this is how they ensnare those ignorant of their practices. If you or your church sings music from Hillsong or Bethel, this article is not meant as an attack, for many are unaware of these group’s teachings, which are not only bizarre but also heretical and even trending into the occult. This article will detail the major false beliefs of these groups, as well as provide evidence to support the serious claims made against these organizations. Anyone claiming to be a Christian must examine these claims carefully if he is to “earnestly contend for the faith”.  If you are truly submitted to Christ, you can no longer ignore these false doctrines, because by doing so, God will hold you accountable for your actions. “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” James 4:17 (See also Luke 12:47-48). 

Let me be clear; Hillsong, Bethel, Elevation Worship, and the NAR are not true churches, they are heretical groups that are leading people down the wide road to hell. They promote false doctrine, preach a different gospel, bring dishonor to God’s name, and even dabble in the occult/ demonic practices. No Christian should have ANYTHING to do with these organizations. 1st Thessalonians 5:21-22 tells us “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.” We are to test all doctrine that comes our way, and reject it completely if it is evil. The Greek word εἶδος is translated as “appearances”, and means any form or kind of evil. We are to completely abstain from it, not let parts in because we like the lyrics or beat to a particular song. Any Christian that does not abstain from NAR material is promoting heretical/demonic doctrine and will be held accountable before God for such action. There is no getting around this fact, and to claim otherwise is to deny the serious nature of this issue.

In this series of articles, we will endeavor to examine the three points critical to understanding the dangers of these organizations. First, we will examine a broad range of false/heretical/occultic(demonic) teachings promoted by Bethel, Hillsong, International House of Prayer (IHOP), Kansas City Prophets, the Word of Faith movement, etc. which we will commonly refer to as the NAR (Not every Word of Faith/ prosperity gospel/ mainstream charismatic movement falls under the NAR, but given their similarities in doctrine, we will refer to them generally as the NAR for simplicity’s sake). Second, we will demonstrate why these teachings are unbiblical. Third, we will examine how Christians should respond to these doctrines and why churches must sever all ties with these organizations. By the end of the article, true believers in Christ should be equipped to “contend for the faith” and combat the false doctrines currently infiltrating the church. Hopefully, if your church is currently under the influence of these organizations, you will be able to demonstrate to your church leadership and congregation why it is crucial to sever all ties with these groups.

Two quick side notes before we dig into the first point concerning the false/heretical teachings of these organizations. Side note one, I do not throw around the word heretical lightly, and my use of the word indicates the serious and perverse nature of these so-called churches. The majority of the people in these churches and certainly the leadership, are not redeemed. They are lost, and currently walking the road to hell, as their fruit demonstrates. For Biblical support of this statement, please see the three articles entitled “By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them”. By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them Pt 1 – In His Image

            Side note two, I am not calling every church that has played music from Hillsong, Bethel, or other such groups heretical. These churches may have presented a heretical gospel in their music unknowingly, but they themselves are not heretical. Furthermore, I make a distinction between the heretical NAR and the more traditional charismatic/ Pentecostal churches, who confine their teaching to speaking in tongues and other such practices. This distinction does not mean that these churches are presenting sound doctrine, far from it. Speaking in tongues as defined and practiced in the more traditional charismatic churches is not Biblical, and we will examine this point in greater detail. However, I am not saying that if you go to such traditional charismatic churches that you are not a Christian. I am saying that you are at best deceived into practicing an ungodly practice. At worst, you are opening yourself up to demonic influences.

Furthermore, if you attend such a church, please know that you are part of the fringe of the charismatic movement. What once was mainstream is now the fringe, and what once was the fringe is now the mainstream in the form of Bethel, Hillsong, and the like. This is easily born out by the number of people involved with either of the two factions. Even within traditional evangelic churches, the prosperity gospel is now taught in 4 out of 10 churches (Prosperity Gospel Taught to 4 in 10 Evangelical Churchgoer…… | News & Reporting | Christianity Today). The NAR now vastly outnumbers traditional charismatic churches worldwide, and it is not even close. Later, we will examine why such a dramatic flip has occurred, and why the charismatic movement is predestined for such a trend. So, for our more conservative charismatic friends, please do not think I am questioning your salvation, I am not. However, please know, I am disputing the godliness of your doctrines, because these beliefs run counter to Scripture and eventually come to fruition in the rotten fruit of the NAR.

I. Wandering Stars: The false doctrines and heretical teachings of the NAR

“These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” Jude 1:12-13

A. An Ecumenical Spirit:

When looking at the teachings and doctrines of these organizations, it is important to remember that the NAR, its acolytes Bethel, Hillsong, Elevation Worship, and other Word of Faith/ Prosperity Gospel organizations, are all interrelated. Hillsong does events with Bethel, Bethel does events with Joel Osteen, Hillsong does events with Kenneth Copland, etc. This fact is extremely important because while Bethel is the most open and frankly perverse in its teaching, they are in league with and supported by Hillsong, Elevation Worship, etc. They all are part of the NAR and preach a similar false gospel. Indeed, these groups even work with Charismatic Catholics, indicating a lack of doctrinal depth and demonstrating the ecumenicalism currently undermining the true Gospel. Below are a few links that demonstrate these alliances.

Praise | Joel & Victoria Osteen and Bethel Music | 11/20/18 – Watch TBN – Trinity Broadcasting Network (Joel Osteen doing a program with Bethel)

‘WORSHIP RELIEF’: Joel Osteen, Hillsong, Bethel Join Forces for Houston Hurricane Victims | CBN News (Joel Osteen, Bethel, and Hillsong preaching/singing together)

Brian Houston (bethel.tv) (The founder of Hillsong Preaching at Bethel Church)

The Renewed Mind | Bill Johnson | Hillsong Conference – Sydney 2019 – Bing video (Bethel founder preaching at Hillsong)

A Message from Brian & Bobbie Houston, Global Pastors of Hillsong Church. – Kenneth Copeland Ministries Australia (kcm.org.au) (Hillsong commending Word of Faith/Prosperity teacher Kenneth Copland)

Catholic Hillsong. Churchwatch Central – Bing video (Hillsong collaborating with Catholics)

B. Historical Origins of the NAR:

So, what exactly is the New Apostolic Reformation? What is are the historical roots of the movement? Is it orthodox? (not as in Eastern Orthodox, but orthodox as in part of traditional, Biblical Christianity) When did it begin?

The NAR can trace its roots back to the rise of Pentecostalism during the late 1800s and early 1900s in America and Great Britain. These in turn can trace some roots back to Wesleyan holiness movements. The most influential member of the movement was Charles Fox Parham, who founded the Bethel Bible College in Topeka Kansas in 1900. He taught doctrines such as speaking in tongues, divine healing, social justice, and ecumenicalism, all of which have made their way into the modern NAR movement. Parham was also accused of homosexuality and other sexual perversions.

Another patriarch of Pentecostalism is Smith Wigglesworth, a British preacher who lived from 1859-1947. He also taught speaking in tongues, healing gifts, and other common charismatic teachings. He practiced some truly bizarre doctrines, such as punching those with stomach ailments repeatedly to drive the ailment away, while claiming he was led to do so by the holy spirit. He also created a story where he supposedly threw a sick baby against and wall and then kicked the child as if it were a soccer ball, after which the baby was supposedly healed. Of course, this is sheer lunacy and lies from Wigglesworth. When the people were not healed, he accused them of lacking faith, a common tactic still used by Word of Faith teachers today. Wigglesworth was also accused of, and admitted to, sexual misconduct with two different women. Both he and Parham are held in great respect by the NAR, and often given fawning devotion in grotesque and even occultic ways, which we will demonstrate later.

The NAR itself was formed by Peter Wagner in 1996, who taught that the apostolic and prophetic gifts had somehow been reinstated in 2001. He taught the standard doctrines propagated by Wigglesworth/ Parham, and also popularized “Dominion theology”, which states that Christians must gain control of the “seven mountains of culture” to usher in the return of Christ. One of the reasons he developed the NAR is that Wagner was part of the pragmatic/ seeker-sensitive movement whose roots also date back to the late 1800s. Due to his pragmatic outlook, which views numbers as the best measure of a church’s success, Wagner embraced the charismatic movement as a means of attracting crowds to the church. Doctrine and the Gospel were watered down for the sake of greater numbers. Adherents to NAR beliefs include Bethel church/ music, Hillsong, Todd White, Kenneth Copeland, Elevation Church, and other such Word of Faith/ Prosperity gospel teachers. You will notice, all of these organizations are extremely “successful” by the world’s standards, and as noted earlier, these mainstream charismatic “churches” are the largest growth in “Christianity” across the globe. They all preach a shallow message, light on Biblical doctrine, but heavy on self-help, seeker-sensitive, fun messages that place the focus on man’s experience and not on God. It is impossible to divorce the seeker-sensitive movement from the charismatic movement, as they are inseparably linked. For this reason, when the evangelic church began to likewise adopt seeker-sensitive messages, many charismatic/Word of Faith teachings crept into the church at the same time. This point is extremely important and is one reason why Bethel/Hillsong/Elevation music is so prominent in many Evangelical churches. Once Biblical doctrine was deemphasized for the sake of attracting larger crowds, the natural result was the adoption of other false doctrines because the church had abandoned its spiritual roots. As seen in Psalm 1:4, the ungodly are like the chaff that has no root, blown this way and that by every wind of false doctrine that comes their way.

You will notice that unlike orthodox Christianity, which dates back through men such as Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards, Calvin, Tertullian, the early church fathers, and the apostles the NAR cannot claim such spiritual heritage. Nor can it claim to Biblical doctrine. What it can lay claim to as its heritage are the heresies of Mormonism, Arminianism, Popery, and Arianism.  Like the wandering star described by Jude, the movement has no true roots, but flies across the universe adrift from Biblical standards, pulled that way and that by whatever gravitational field it happens to cross. That alone should be cause enough to examine the movement in greater detail.  

Do you know what’s going to happen when you die? Are you completely sure? If you aren’t, please read this or listen to this. You can know where you will spend eternity. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us, we’d love to talk to you.

Part 2 will run next week.

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