“The hardest part about leaving a NAR church is that you are broken and enslaved BUT YOU DO NOT KNOW IT – because every time you turn around, someone is preaching ‘Jesus.’ And nobody wants to leave Jesus.”
The Jesus Danette worshipped as a child was a counterfeit. She has allowed me to include her story in this series about a movement called the New Apostolic Reformation, or NAR for short. In this series, I want to take readers beyond the textbook What is the New Apostolic Reformation Movement explanation, into the personal experiences from those who have been there, and what happened when God opened their eyes to the truth.
Here is Danette’s story, in her own words:
This is the NAR from a child’s point of view.
It has taken me a long time to write this – it is not easy for me to go back and examine my experiences objectively – but perhaps my story will help someone – specifically mothers and fathers who stay in NAR churches because they want to maintain the relationships they have formed with other families, or perhaps because the church has a “good” children’s program.
I would simply say that you are not doing your children a favor by keeping them in this type of church. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of anything more egregious. I am convinced that subjecting children to the NAR is the same as offending one of the little ones who believe in our Lord Jesus Christ. Better for them that a millstone was hanged about their neck, and that they were drowned in the depth of the sea.
I was born in 1970, and as a baby was “dedicated” in a very large, urban “non-denominational” church that had somewhere around 1,500 members. This church also had a parochial school (K-12), which for a long time, only allowed tithing members’ children. Later they opened the school to other Christian denominations. I was raised in this school.
The church itself was founded by a woman, and run by herself and her children. The parishioners referred to her as “Mom,” and her children were referred to as “Brother” and “Sister.” There was great emphasis on being well dressed and well behaved. Members were forbidden to drink, smoke, dance, or gamble. Even our communion was grape juice.
The church boasted of being a part of the “Latter Rain” movement. I did not understand what that meant, but there was great pride attached to this – along with a feeling of exclusivity. To me this meant we were a very modern church, and that other churches (especially Catholics), were backward, behind the times, and probably weren’t even Christian.
I was catechized at 12 years of age. This meant going through a nine-month class with a very thick book written by “Sister Mary.” All students were baptized (full immersion), into water, and with “fire,” meaning all students had to speak in tongues to be confirmed.
(Note: One of “Sister Mary’s” students was Benny Hinn. In her later years she would say that he really “went off the rails”. Hmmmmm.)
I was required to memorize a lot of Scripture, but not given any instruction as to the meaning of the verses. I remember when I learned Psalm 23 in Kindergarten, and wondered, if God was my Shepherd, why wouldn’t I want him?
Altar calls were common, whether for miraculous healing or words of prophecy. People would walk to the front for prayer, and these were very emotional experiences accompanied by tongues and tears.
As a pre-teen/teen, there would be “Holy Spirit Rallies” where the Holy Spirit would “fall” accompanied by lots of speaking in tongues, weeping, wailing, and prayers over one another. (Note: my church did not condone “slaying in the spirit” or “holy laughter,” because the church for some reason thought it wasn’t very dignified. Hmmmmm.)
We sang songs from a hymn book – and I remember many hymns, but I also remember not having hymnals anymore – and more contemporary songs were employed. This was obviously before Hillsong and the like – but it’s when Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith were just getting started. The song service would start off with everyone singing the same song and then there would be a point when everyone would start singing his or her own songs.
Many years after leaving the church, I remember asking my mom about the impetus for this. She recalled that to get everyone to do this, the minister had placed “plants” in the congregation; people who were instructed before the service to engage in this type of freestyle worship, so that others, seeing them, would join in uninhibited.
After this type of singing would die down, there would be moments of silence for people to shout out a prophecy. It was usually the same few people from the congregation, although sometimes a minister would speak a word.
Music was very important. There was a large musical family that was a part of the church and they held a lot of sway. Apparently, the mother and father had been professional entertainers and had taught all their children how to sing and perform. The highlight of the church service was usually the musical performances led by their charismatic son, Peter. He led the youth choir and various offshoots of smaller musical ensembles.
Peter was also a womanizer and a pedophile. I do not know the number of women and children he abused over the years, but I know I wasn’t the only one. When I was older and had a conversation about Peter with the lead pastor, he basically said something to the effect that “we are all sinners and that Peter needs God’s love and forgiveness just like the rest of us.” There was some sort of publicized scandal involving a young woman that forced the leadership to make Peter step down – but he was still allowed to maintain one of his singing ensembles.
Now that I look back, most of the people in leadership positions – whether they ran a department or a specific ministry, were all very weak people plagued with a variety of sins and demons of their own. It was important for the leadership to have these types of people working for them so that the workers would be submissive to their leadership authority.
Over the years I was taught a cornucopia of false doctrine; whether it was explicit or implicit I cannot tell.
Here are just a few things I came to know as “truth”:
1 – Worship is what takes place at the beginning of the service and before the offering and the sermon. The more emotionally engaged you are in the worship, the more God is pleased, for He “inhabits the praises of his people.”
2 – Worship is the most important aspect of your relationship with God. Secular music is of the devil and therefore should never be listened to. Contemporary Christian music should be in your ears and on your lips continually.
(Note: It has only been over the past few years that I stopped listening to “Christian Music” – WHAT A RELIEF!)
3 – The most important thing you can do with your life is to give your time and money to the church. To not be involved or volunteer in some capacity was to be less of a Christian. And the more money you gave, the more blessings you would receive.
(I have learned from my mom that when the church first started, the leader would target and befriend the people in the congregation who had money. The church grew and flourished because it was underwritten by a few generous donors, and the rest was sustained by the 10% tithe expected from its members.)
4 – You can only know God by how you feel, and to have a relationship with God you must do things that please Him. If you sin, God will be mad at you and he will not bless you. Bad things will happen to you if you sin.
5 – God speaks to individuals, usually in an inaudible voice, and gives you words of wisdom and direction for every area of your life. He uses “signs” to tell you if you are doing things that please Him. (Note: this was my undoing – because when I was tempted to sin or make a bad decision – I would look for a sign – and I believed it was from God – EVEN IF IT AFFIRMED MY MISTAKES AND MY SIN!)
6 – Image is everything. It is imperative that you avoid the very appearance of evil. The way you dress and talk and conduct yourself in front of others is the only way people will come to know Christ. If you want to be a good witness, you must live a holy life.
7 – However, if you really want to be a witness to others – you must have a good testimony. Thieves, drug dealers, and those generally saved from heinous sins are much more convincing and better witnesses of Christ’s love and forgiveness.
8 – The Holy Spirit was everything. To grow and obtain God’s blessing – you had to go “deeper” into the Spirit.
I often say now that I grew up learning the Bible upside down and backwards. As far as I knew, the Bible was all about me (not about the promise and person of Jesus Christ), and what I had to do to please God. I remember one of the blasphemous songs I learned as a child – it was our anthem really – called, “I Am a Promise” by Bill Gaither.
What my life looked like when I became an adult:
I was extremely arrogant and full of pride, convinced that I knew God better than other people; that I was, in general, a better person because of the inside track I had on God and the Holy Spirit. I was completely unteachable.
I was lonely because I used people. I was only friends with people whom I thought would bring me an advantage socially or provide some sort of advancement with my work.
I was WONDERFUL at hiding my sins. I became an expert at lying to myself and to others.
Even though I longed to be married, I was involved in several illicit relationships – some adulterous, some abusive.
My “dream destiny” to become a successful and influential person in my field of choice never materialized.
I never thought in a million bazillion years that my testimony would end up being that I was saved from my own “Christianity.”
I finally left this church when I was 26 years old. All my “friends” turned their back on me – and most people (thanks to rumors started by Peter), thought I was on drugs. About three or four years later I started attending a Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. To admit to others that I was attending a Lutheran church was very difficult, because Lutheranism was considered old-fashioned and backwards. It was like telling people I had given up my Corvette to drive a broken-down horse and buggy.
Suffice to say it has been a very long road. By God’s Great Mercy, Patience and Kindness I am walking in the One True Faith. Only recently, within the past few years (and specifically because of the ministry of Pirate Christian Radio), I can put a name to all of this. The Lutheran doctrine has become crystal clear and I now see plainly how deceived I was. I truly cannot get enough of the Good News of the Gospel.
I am sad to say that some of my extended family members still attend my former church. Most of the children I grew up with have scattered to the wind – either not attending church at all or they hide out in one of the Big-Box churches in our area. The friends who remain maintain their pride in their own spirituality and their ability to “keep the Law.”
I am also very grateful that God has led all members of my immediate family away from the church of my youth. My father died a strong Lutheran and my mother firmly stands on Grace Alone, by Faith Alone, in Christ Alone.
I have been married for 10 years to a wonderful, caring man and together we have two beautiful children. My greatest joy and challenge is to serve them and disciple them in Christ.
The hardest part about leaving a NAR church is that you are broken and enslaved BUT YOU DO NOT KNOW IT – because every time you turn around someone is preaching “Jesus.” And nobody wants to leave Jesus.
But look at it this way: there are a lot of Spanish people named Jesus walking around the world today. You would have no problem walking away from a Spanish guy named Jesus if he was a jerk and a bully and a liar. This is the Jesus of the NAR church. Just walk away.
There is another Jesus, too; the Jesus written about in the Holy Bible – Crucified and Risen to redeem us from our sins. Get to know THAT Jesus and, as my pastor says, you will have all the gifts that only He can give; grace, mercy, peace, hope, joy and the promise of His presence.
Author’s Note: You can read the entire series of NAR testimonies here. If you would like to send me your story about your NAR church experience and what happened when your eyes were opened, you can email me here. I will be changing your first name to keep you anonymous.