Is it too late to save this church from the New Apostolic Reformation?

Holly Pivec continues to provide strong evidence about the very dangerous New Apostolic Reformation – a movement that apparently doesn’t exist according to Dr. Michael Brown, despite his participation and ‘apostleship’ within its hallowed ranks as acknowledged by fellow NAR ‘apostles’.

In her most recent article, Holly asks questions about the future ‘transition’ of a church, Christian Life Center, in Santa Cruz, California. Holly states:

“At stake is whether this Assemblies of God church will abandon its historic Pentecostal teachings and become swept up in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) or not. More specifically, will it begin to follow the controversial teachings of the apostle Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, California, and other “apostles” in NAR? This fast-growing and divisive movement has already taken over many churches across the nation and throughout the world. The members of Christian Life Center will soon decide whether their church will be among the casualties.”

With a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola, Holly Pivec is an evangelical researcher of cults, sects, and new religious groups, such as the ‘New Apostolic Reformation’ movement. She was the former managing editor of Biola University’s magazine, Biola Magazine, and a former contributing writer to the Christian Research Journal.


Christian Life Center, Santa Cruz, California.

Holly writes:

In just five days, on Sunday, September 29, the members of Christian Life Center in Santa Cruz, California, will cast a vote determining the fate of their lead pastor and the future of their church.

At stake is whether this Assemblies of God church will abandon its historic Pentecostal teachings and become swept up in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) or not. More specifically, will it begin to follow the controversial teachings of the apostle Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, California, and other “apostles” in NAR? This fast-growing and divisive movement has already taken over many churches across the nation and throughout the world. The members of Christian Life Center will soon decide whether their church will be among the casualties.

The ballot will ask for a vote of “confidence” or “no confidence” in the church’s lead pastor, Jeremy Anderson, who has brought in many of the teachings of Bill Johnson and NAR.

Controversial Teachings

Anderson was hired by the church in December 2018. Immediately after taking the reins, he set about making changes.

It started with the teachings. During his sermons, Jeremy Anderson began to introduce many of the extreme teachings of Bill Johnson. For example, he taught that it is always God’s will to heal a person of a sickness or disease — there are no exceptions.[1] And he taught that every Christian can learn to prophesy and work miracles.[2] In line with this particular teaching, Jeremy Anderson announced, in June 2019, his plan to launch a “school of ministry” at the church.[3] This school, like other NARsupernatural schools of ministry across the nation, would likely be modeled after Bill Johnson’s Bethel Supernatural School of Ministry and train students to prophesy, heal the sick, and raise the dead.

The new pastor and his wife, Debora Anderson, also began to preach from the Passion Translation, a highly disputed version of the Bible produced by the NAR apostle Brian Simmons and endorsed by Bill Johnson.[4]

A Surprise Announcement

The most contentious of all Jeremy Anderson’s changes was his surprise announcement from the pulpit on May 23, 2019. At about six minutes into the sermon, titled “Movements of God,” he revealed his intention to transition the church’s leadership from a “pastor/teacher” model to an “apostolic/prophetic” model.

Why did this announcement cause a commotion? To some church members, it appeared that Jeremy Anderson intended to elevate his own status at the church from that of “pastor” to that of “apostle.” This concerned them because an apostle — as understood in NAR — has extraordinary authority to govern a church singlehandedly. In contrast, a pastor — in an Assemblies of God church, as well as in most other Protestant churches — typically governs together with a board of elders or other designated group. In other words, Jeremy Anderson’s announcement was viewed by some members as a power play. And taken together with the other teachings he has brought into the church, it appeared to be proof he intended to bring the church into the New Apostolic Reformation.

In His Own Words

These church members are right to be concerned about Jeremy Anderson’s intentions. When he announced the planned transition to the new leadership model, he highly recommended that church members learn more about apostolic leadership – and what exactly it entails – by reading what he referred to as a “great book”: The Apostolic Ministry, by Rick Joyner. Rick Joyner, it must be noted, is an influential NAR apostle. In this book, recommended by Jeremy Anderson, Joyner presents many provocative teachings about the authority and role of apostles in the church today. Among those teachings is the claim that, without the present-day apostles of the New Apostolic Reformation, the church is like a sports team that doesn’t have a coach (page 11). The only way the church can grow to spiritual maturity and fulfill God’s will on earth is for it to embrace the NAR apostles. (It is interesting to note that to be one of these apostles, according to Joyner, an individual is required to have “literally, visibly seen the resurrected Christ” (page 78). Does Anderson, who lauds Joyner’s teachings, believe himself to be such an apostle?)

Some members may also recall that, six months prior to his being called as the church’s pastor, Jeremy Anderson gave a message at the church in which he made a case for the present-day office of apostle, an office the Assemblies of God does not recognize in local church government.[5] In other words, Assemblies of God churches do not recognize governing apostles. But NAR does. In fact, the governing office of apostle (working together with the office of prophet) is the core teaching of NAR. So, there seemed to be signs of NAR influence on Jeremy Anderson’s teachings from the beginning.

Damage Control

Jeremy Anderson’s announcement about a new “apostolic/prophetic” leadership caused such a stir among members that he cancelled the adult Sunday School class on September 8, 2019. Instead, he held a Q-and-A session to address concerns about his leadership and clear up any misunderstandings.[6]

Early in the session, he said, “I’m not asking to be called ‘apostle’ nor is that my claim to be an apostle.” He passed out a position paper published by the General Presbytery of the Assemblies of God, explaining the denomination’s official stance on apostles and prophets. In short, the paper states that the denomination does not recognize a present-day governing office of apostle. Rather it sees that office as having been limited to a select group of individuals who had actually seen the risen Lord and been personally commissioned by him (a group including Jesus’ twelve apostles and Paul).

However, the denomination does recognize an ongoing ministry function of apostles – the function of bringing the gospel to the unevangelized, similar to that of pioneering missionaries and church planters. This function is something very different than the NAR view of apostles as holding a formal office in church government.

Jeremy Anderson did not go into all those details in explaining the Assemblies of God position. But he seemed to suggest that it was the Assemblies of God understanding of the term apostle, not something else, he intended when he announced a transition in the church leadership. He also referenced an Assemblies God position paper, titled Divine Healing, indicating that his own teachings paralleled the denomination’s official position on that topic. As for Bill Johnson’s influence on his teachings, he said of Johnson, “He’s helped me understand what it is to live a supernatural lifestyle.” Yet he acknowledged that Johnson is a “polarizing” figure. And he said that, even though Johnson’s books and other teaching materials had helped him personally, he doesn’t believe it is necessary for the church to utilize them — since members had concerns about them.

Despite verbal assurances that his theology lines up with Assemblies of God doctrine, many members were clearly unconvinced. During the meeting, which became heated, some members demanded to know why he had not revealed his agenda, prior to being hired by the church, to bring in the teachings and practices of Bill Johnson and NAR. Some spoke up in defense of Anderson, saying they had never heard him preach anything unbiblical and that the church needed to submit to his leadership.

Following the Q-and-A session, the elders voted for his resignation. But he declined to resign and wants the members to decide instead. Prior to the elders’ vote for his resignation, he invoked the authority the church bylaws give him, as lead pastor, to call for a special meeting of the entire church body and a vote of confidence/ no confidence in his leadership.

He publicly addressed his call for the vote before delivering his most recent sermon on Sunday (September 22).[7] He did not mention that the elder board had voted for his resignation. Instead he said, “There are some amongst the church that have asked if I would consider stepping down for various reasons.” He also said, “I called this [vote] because my heart is to just end, what I would call, campaigning against us. I just, honestly, I love our church family… My heart is love and unity in the body.”

He said he would not be “politicizing” or “campaigning,” between then and the vote, on his own behalf. And he urged church members, in the week leading up to the special meeting, “to cease the continuous conversations and campaigning” about the upcoming vote — and instead pray to hear from God regarding His direction for the vote.

A district officer from the Assemblies of God will be present to oversee the vote (which is required by the bylaws).

A Voice of Opposition

One member who has been an outspoken critic of Jeremy Anderson is Jessika Wilson, a 35-year-old mother who agreed to speak with me for the purposes of this article. Wilson reports that she and her mother, Karen PerryWilson, surrendered their jobs at the church after facing pressure from Jeremy Anderson to go along with the new direction. This is Jessika’s account of what happened.

Until a month ago (August 2019), Jessika and Karen worked together as the Kids Ministry Directors at Christian Life Center. Jessika grew up in the church of about 100 members, and she has attended there for more than 30 years. In 2012, she and her mother were asked by the former lead pastor to direct the children’s program. They loved their role. When that pastor resigned in 2018, his successor, Jeremy Anderson, asked Jessika and Karen to stay on as directors, much to their delight. But little did they — or other members of the church — know all that would transpire within the brief span of nine months following Jeremy Anderson’s appointment as pastor.

According to Jessika, she and her mother were the last staff members left standing, after the two other staff members (a pastor and facilities manager) handed in their resignations.

“He still claims he didn’t fire people,” Jessika said. “But he pushed people out and brought in his friends to replace them.”

Jessika and Karen knew their own employment at the church was nearing its end after they voiced concerns to Jeremy Anderson about his teachings.

Jessika was especially concerned about Jeremy Anderson’s obvious devotion to Bill Johnson. During two different meetings with him, Jessika says, he referred to Johnson as his “spiritual father.” His loyalty to Johnson went too far, she thought, when he instructed her to read a specific book to the children at the church. This book, co-authored by Johnson, is titled Here Comes Heaven!: A Kid’s Guide to God’s Supernatural Power. She was handed the book just moments before she was expected to read it. She started to read it aloud – with all the children seated in front of her, eagerly listening — but couldn’t continue. She was appalled by its teachings and misuse of Scripture.

“I could only read three pages before I had to put down the book,” she has said. “There was no way I was going to read it to the kids.”

Later, she bought her own copy and read the entire book. She knew she had made the right decision earlier, to stop reading it to the children.

The Writing on the Wall

When Jessika told Jeremy Anderson that she had a problem with the Bill Johnson book, things did not go well. This was during a staff meeting at his house. She also told Anderson that some people at the church had been questioning his theology. He got upset, she says, and demanded to know if she and her mother were “aligned” with him.

This question — whether they were “aligned” with him — disturbed her. She said no one at the church had ever asked her that before. But it was a question he would ask her and her mother repeatedly in the weeks ahead. I should pause here to explain the significance of this terminology within the New Apostolic Reformation. Being in “alignment with” — or in submission to — the movement’s leaders is a key teaching; it is a certain clue that something is amiss. But was Jeremy using “alignment” in this NAR, domineering sense of the word, as in demanding that all Christians “align” themselves under the authority of an apostle? Or was he merely expressing a reasonable expectation that members of his staff would be, largely, on board with his leadership decisions?

In answer to Jeremy Anderson, Jessika and Karen acknowledged that they were not aligned with the direction he was taking their church, doctrinally. When the meeting ended, he was clearly agitated, according to Jessika. He did not walk them to the door; his wife did.

Two weeks later, Jeremy Anderson called another meeting with Jessika, Karen, and two members of the elder board. Jessika and Karen assumed Jeremy Anderson intended to fire them. During the meeting, he gave reasons – Jessika called them “excuses” – for why the mother-daughter team should not continue in their current positions. One reason he gave is that they only worked at the church part time and had other jobs. So, it was difficult to find times when they were available for staff meetings.

He also informed Jessika and Karen that he planned to replace the children’s ministry curriculum then in use at the church with curriculum produced by Bethel Church (where Bill Johnson is pastor). After asking, again, if they were aligned with him – and not receiving an affirmative answer – he told the elders he did not see how Jessika and Karen’s employment at the church could possibly continue.

But the elders appreciated Jessika and Karen’s longtime service in the children’s program and wanted them to continue in their role, according to Jessika. They urged them and Jeremy Anderson to work out their differences. Yet it was obvious to Jessika and Karen that Jeremy Anderson no longer wanted them there. They could see the writing on the wall. By that time, Jessika said, he had already been having staff meetings and not inviting them.

“Why would we prolong the inevitable?” Jessika asked. A week later, they turned in their resignations. August 25, 2019, was their last day on staff.

Still, they asked Jeremy Anderson if they could stay on as volunteers with the children. By serving in a volunteer capacity, they hoped they could continue working with the children and stay connected with their church family. Yet he told them no: they could not serve as volunteers.

“He, basically, said that our services weren’t needed anymore,” Jessika said.

Their positions have since been filled by a new staff member. This is Jessika Wilson’s account of what took place.

A Tipping Point

But there’s more. Jessika Wilson reports that Jeremy Anderson told her and her mother that, typically, former church staff members do not continue attending the same church when they leave their positions.

“I think he was just hoping we’d all go away quietly,” she said. But Jessika said she will not leave.

“I was baptized there. My son was baptized there. That is my home and church family,” she told me. Instead she hopes to use whatever influence she still has at the church — including her vote as a member — to save her church from NAR.

But she’s praying that it’s not too late. Many long-time members, she says, who have disagreed with Jeremy Anderson’s changes, have already left the church. And many people new to the church, support Jeremy Anderson’s leadership vision. Jessika believes the church has neared a tipping point; it could go in a NAR direction. And she, along with other concerned members, view Jeremy Anderson’s most recent action – his refusal of the elder board’s call for him to resign and his demand for a church-wide vote of “confidence”/”no confidence” — as another power play.

So, what will the members decide on September 29? All Jeremy Anderson needs is a majority vote – or more than half of the votes – to stay on as pastor. (However, if he receives fewer than two-thirds of the votes, another vote may still be held at a future date, if I understand the church bylaws correctly. At that time, he would need to receive two-thirds of the votes to continue his tenure as the church’s pastor.)

But one thing is clear: a vote of confidence in Jeremy Anderson will be, in effect, a vote for the church to go the way of NAR. And a vote of no confidence will be a stand against this growing organized effort to subvert churches and bring them into alignment with NAR.

After the vote on Sunday, I will post an update.

——

* In the wake of the recent controversy at the church, many of Jeremy Anderson’s sermons have been removed from the church website. Some members of the church, including Jessika Wilson, believe Jeremy Anderson had the sermons removed due to the criticisms over his teachings (though they can still be found on Apple Podcasts). I have also linked to downloaded files of most of his sermons referenced in this article.

Source: Holly Pivec, ‘Spirit of Error’ blog, http://www.spiritoferror.org/2019/09/is-it-too-late-to-save-this-church-from-nar/8494?fbclid=IwAR3-nTjS7AfE_Or84Ud403ePq6MUXc_I-O0K1N9PsW5T1NsVzpo-_BRXpuQ. Published September 24, 2019. (Accessed September 26, 2019.)

Additional CWC articles from Holly Pivec.

CWC Resources on the New Apostolic Reformation.


Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Galatians 4:16

Email all comments and questions to c3churchwatch@hotmail.com

 



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