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False Movements

A Guide to False Movements

Unfortunately, evangelicalism has been influenced by quite a few false movements over the years. We say the movements are “false” because many false teachers and false teachings are associated with them. They are “movements” because they have been embraced by large numbers of people.

False Movements/False Teachings Within Evangelicalism

On this page you will find some of the most recent and dangerous false movements: Word-Faith, Church-Growth, Signs & Wonders, New Apostolic Reformation, and Emergent Church. There is a brief introduction of each false movement and then links to the false teachers/teachings within that false movement.

Word-Faith Movement

The Word-Faith Movement has its deepest roots in both the Latter Rain Movement (which came out of the Assemblies of God in 1948) and the ministry/teachings of William Branham and E.W. Kenyon. In many ways, its’ basic philosophy is most easily defined as a “mind science” type cult. By that we mean it teaches there are universal laws which God has put into place. Those laws are available and useful to anyone who wishes to “tap into” them. Man thus supposedly takes and plays the role of God who has supposedly created and subjected even himself to those same laws. This is idolatry!

Some of the specific false teachings in the Word-Faith Movement are seen in the following:

Over-Realized Eschatological Kingdom – We can supposedly have the fullness of God’s future kingdom in our present situation without Jesus Christ Himself. The initial “dominion” teachings have evolved into this familiar defined system: Kingdom Now Theology

Extra-Spiritual Class of Remnant Believers – Only those initiated with these “believers” get to experience the benefits of that present kingdom.

1. Manifest Sons of God
2. New Breed
3. Joel’s Army

Gnostic Belief Structure – Only those baptized by the fire/spirit have the spiritual anointing and wisdom and insight to participate in this movement because they are the ones to really see what the Bible is saying. A “gnosis” or special knowing is necessary. (Not strictly equated with 1st -3rd century Gnosticism, but there are certain similarities).

1. Revelation Knowledge
2. Positive Confession
3. Name-It and Claim-It
4. Prosperity Theology

Super-Spiritual Class of Leaders – Only those with “extra-special anointing” get to be the leaders of this new apostolic breed. (Just like Adam and Jesus were “special”).

1. Adam as God-Incarnate
2. Born-Again Jesus
3. Super-Apostles/God’s Anointed Leadership

Dualistic Theology – They have a belief structure which undercuts the sovereign nature of the God of the Scriptures. This leads to placing the adherents into an on-going false spiritual struggle between the God of the Bible and Satan with the “believer” critically involved in the “present middle” with and for the actual success of the former against the later. We see this especially played out in their false spiritual warfare teachings. Their gnostic belief structure takes them to this dualistic thinking as well.

If you are a part of this pseudo-Christian cult, get out as fast as you can. Repent and trust the Lord Jesus Christ of the Holy Scriptures as your Lord and Savior. Maybe you already have done that and have inadvertently been caught up in this Word-Faith Movement. Repent. Ask God for wisdom on what to do and how to expose the false doctrines and help others out of this movement.

Initial Leaders of the Word-Faith Movement: William Branham, E.W. Kenyon, Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts

Popular Leaders of the Word-Faith Movement: Morris Cerullo, Kenneth & Gloria Copeland, Paul & Jan Crouch, Creflo Dollar, Jesse Duplantis, John Hagee, Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, Bishop Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer, Mike Murdock, Frederick Price, R.W. Shambach

Church-Growth Movement

The Church-Growth Movement has at least three distinguishing unbiblical malfunctions:

1. Its pragmatic approach to the work of the ministry. The bottom line for the “success” of a particular ministry or spiritual growth is – “Does it work?” By work, we mean, does it “bring in people” and not, is it the “work of God” i.e. is it faithful to Scripture. Because the pragmatism takes precedence, any “means” of doing ministry becomes valid. The problem becomes “unto what are we appealing” in those who are “unsaved” with some of the “gimmick” approaches to “outreach” and “growth.” It is extremely easy to appeal to the “unregenerate” nature of a non-Christian. It is EASY!!! It will almost always garnish “success.” But, is it true Christ-like growth? No. Unholy techniques do not produce holy people. The reality is this pragmatism goes beyond the normal “wise decision making” stewardships that God gives to us and instead employs whatever “means” to gain defined “outward” results.

2. Success measured by non-Biblical and worldly benchmarks. The pastor becomes more like a CEO than a shepherd of God’s flock. Growth based in a business model and felt-needs of the people become idols. The church member is no longer a servant/worshiper of the real Lord Jesus Christ in accordance with Scripture and is treated as a consumer with church as their entertainment.

3. The conjoining with the “world” for intended outreach to that world is simply a follow-through dynamic of the false premises in 1 & 2. This is why people like “Bono” can be invited to Willow Creek Church’s Annual Leadership Conference in the summer of 2006. Let’s reach-out and learn about leadership from the world, just like Jesus taught us??? In this context, the socialization of the church with the world takes on an illegitimate role, negating the clarity of Scriptural commands to be salt and light into the culture.

The end result of embracing the Church-Growth Movement is quite obviously: Worldliness, Delusion and Ecumenism that will ultimately translate into The Harlot Church of Revelation 17. Unfortunately, more and more churches are embracing the various aspects of the Church Growth Movement and this spells disaster for true gospel growth.

Founding Father of the Church-Growth movement: Dr. Donald McGavran, missiologist and founding Dean of the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary

Initial Leaders and Pastors:

  • C. Peter Wagner, Professor, Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Robert Schuller, The Crystal Cathedral
  • Bill Hybels, Willow Creek Church

There are many teachers and leaders and a multitude of organizations which have embraced the church-growth movement. They most likely fall under the category of leadership that is provided by:

The Signs & Wonders Movement

Those who did not live through the days of the Signs & Wonders Movement probably are at a loss as to what became of it. The term “signs and wonders” has been used by a plethora of charismatic groups. But that which is labeled as the “Movement” was initiated by John Wimber, and C. Peter Wagner, professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. John Wimber, ordained as a Quaker, was initially involved in the Calvary Chapel movement, but left for the Vineyard Churches. He was asked to teach at Fuller by C. Peter Wagner, Founding Director of the Department of Church Growth at Fuller. The class, MC510, “Signs and Wonders and Church Growth” was taught by them from 1982-1985. Wimber did world wide seminars on the subject matter during the 80’s and 90’s. (I happened to attend one of his seminars in Columbus, Ohio) Wimber died in 1997 and C. Peter Wagner died in 2016.

Most people who have been born since 1980 probably don’t realize the lasting effect that the movement has had upon many churches and denominations. Some of the theology of the movement was addressed by many leaders within the church at the time and that theology was outwardly rejected by many. But it would seem many have changed course and even now embrace methodologies and emphases that were prominent in the movement.

Wimber embraced “inner-healing” type of teaching and prayers with an emphasis on the laying on of hands. The worship and desire for God to “move” provided the basis of the “signs and wonders” so it was very much a phenomenon and experience-based movement. The keyboards, drums and guitar were very much a part of the experience of worship and “bringing” God into the present situation. Wimber was very much a seeker of signs and gifts of the Holy Spirit, and he set the stage for what we now see in many, many churches in terms of worship and “power” evangelism and “power” ministry/presence.  Jack Deere became the leading theologian of the movement and still teaches his charismatic theology.

It is probably no longer useful to call this a movement and yet its teachings, methodologies, and emphases continue to bear their influence in modern day evangelicalism. This is especially true in relation to gifts of the Spirit, the “presence” of the Spirit, and much modern worship.

New Apostolic Reformation

There is a common name in referencing the Church Growth Movement (CGM) and the Signs & Wonders Movement (S&W). That name is C. Peter Wagner. He gives the leadership to the New Apostolic Reformation. Much of the bad theology and extra-biblical methodology of both the CGM and S&W movements is incorporated into the NAR. It has several elements of the Latter Rain/Word-Faith Movement as well, especially in reference to the teachings on spiritual warfare. It especially emphasizes the authority of new apostles and prophets in establishing the “Kingdom of God” upon the earth. By that we mean the “taking over” of all areas of life in this fallen evil world through various spiritual techniques.

There are seven spheres of influence that are to be controlled in this “dominion theology.” The idea is that Christians are to take back dominion over the earth from the devil (with God’s help of course.) The seven spheres are: Education, Religion, Family, Business, Government/Military, Arts/Entertainment, and the Media.

But the Kingdom of God is neither a technique nor a changing of the guard mandate. It is a person, Jesus Christ the King, who has brought salvation to His people and will bring His Kingdom when He comes on the clouds of heaven at the end of this present evil age. It is His present and personal reign and rule over and within the lives of His own as they obey His precepts in the power of the Holy Spirit. He is now the sovereign Lord, at the right hand of God His Father. He is never any more or less in charge!

As for the church, it is to obey specific commands given to it in the Word in relationship to these “spheres” of influence. There is no Biblical mandate to “take over” these spheres in their entirety. It is to pray about all situations we find ourselves within and maintain a clear conscience and a clear witness into this present evil age. This will be different for differing situations believers find themselves in all over the world. Humility, prayer, and steadfastness in a true and faithful witness to Jesus Christ found here!

Until His return, we preach the gospel, make disciples, and bear good fruit/works in accordance with the gospel. There are no overt apostolic commands in the Word like those addressed as truth in this kind of “dominion theology” thinking. There is no mandate that says the church has embraced this agenda and reached its’ appointed goal when these outward spheres of influence have been “conquered” (so to speak) and we can safely say we have done our kingdom duty.

Because this movement will impose itself upon churches and institutions, we may well experience its’ influence whether we like it or not. It is quite militant.

*To learn more about the New Apostolic Reformation, you can listen to Chris Rosebrough’s podcast interviewing Holly Pivec, New Apostolic Reformation 101. The book mentioned in this interview is A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement.

 *You can also read The New Apostolic Reformation: A Second Pentecost? by Orrel Steinkamp

Emergent Church

This movement gets its name from the idea that a new church should emerge on the scene with changes in a post-modern culture. It sought as a primary goal to be conversational and relevant to that culture. It is somewhat diverse and in some ways, it is a reaction to the “techniques” of the church-growth movement. It was/is missional in its approach to ministry and would much rather having a small group meeting on a porch somewhere than find itself in a formal church setting.

False Movements

The Emergent (Emerging) Church started as a response/reaction to the institutionalization and pragmatism of “evangelicalism” at the end of the last millennium and the beginning of the new. It was fairly quickly exposed, by those outside of it, as a new kind of post-modern liberalism with a faulty emphasis on a kind of liberation/kingdom theology as advanced by men like Brian McLaren in “The Secret Message of Jesus.” The lack of influence has not diminished, nor will the leaders fade away, even though it has purposely failed to “define” itself internally. That lack of definition, for the emergent, is a badge of honor. For the emergent, “clarity” is, evidently, the unpardonable sin.

It should be noted that “Emergent” is actually an organization.

A list of those involved or associated with those in this movement either currently or historically would include:

N.T. Wright and Henri Nouwen, Erwin McManus, Donald Miller, Phyllis Tickle, Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren, Shane Clairborne, Tony Jones, Diana Butler Bass, Alan Jones, Carl McColman, Doug Pagitt, Jay Bakker, Richard Rohr, Leonard Sweet, Jim Wallis, Rob Bell, Dan Kimball, Spencer Burke

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