Churchwatchcentral is notorious for making things up. Their main writers, all anonymously called churchwatcher, have a tendency to take unrelated facts and mould them into a mish-mash of mediocre conspiracy theories.
Following a discussion between Dr Michael Brown and Holly Pivec and Doug Geivett, the latter two being co-authors of a book on the fake NAR, churchwatcher makes the following opening assumption…
After being trounced in a discussion with Holly Pivec and Prof. Doug Geivett, Michael Brown went into damage control in a recent radio show, engaging in ad hominem attack and anecdotal pushback. In the midst of the trashing of his critics, Brown asked an interesting question.
He opened with the bold claim that he believed in the ongoing fivefold ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers today. He then posed a rhetorical question – does this confession means he is part of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).
This was just the beginning of a very long article so filled with speculative claims, revisionism, and opinionated half-truths that it could only be considered a rehashing of recent Church history that blatantly bludgeons and forces the reader into the churchwatchcentral cessationist corner.
There are several inconsistencies in this preambling ambit.
First of all Dr Brown was never trounced. That is subjective opinion based on bias. The churchwatchcentral sleight-of-hand narrative in action. Dr Brown has not gone into ‘damage control’. That is something churchwatcher likes to throw around when someone issues a statement qualifying their position. They are past-masters at stirring up a storm in a tea-cup.
Dr Brown doesn’t do ad hominem. He is renowned for his calm demeanour in discussions. I don’t get the impression that Dr Brown is particularly phased by opposition or loses any sleep. He knows who he is in Christ, basically. He is well grounded. He is comfortably able to oversee the conversation on his own sites, and to be courteous when engaging in a debate with others.
How to twist a point of view
Then, following Dr Brown’s rhetorical question, there is the corresponding assumption being made by churchwatcher.
Dr Brown asks if believing in the ongoing fivefold ministry makes a person part of NAR. What is churchwatcher’s response to this? Can you guess?
That is a great question. Does believing in the 5 Fold ministry make you a part of the NAR? The answer to the question is simple:
By Michael Brown claiming he believes in the fivefold ministry, Brown is confessing that he is part of the NAR and is pushing on Christians their new apostolic paradigm.
This of course is plainly bonkers. Let’s read that claim by churchwatcher again. ‘Does believing in the fivefold ministry make you part of the NAR? The answer to the question is simple: YES!’
There is no appeal to scripture as a basis for churchwatcher’s claims. He doesn’t open up to scripture and show why the ascension gifts have ended, which was surely a starting point he should have made. Neither does he prove anywhere that those who believe that the ascension gifts are still valid have anything whatsoever to do with his version of the NAR. Maybe they simply take the Word of God at face value.
The very obvious place to go is to Ephesians 4:7-21, which talks about what Brown calls the fivefold ministry in depth. Let churchwatcher show us why the ascension gifts are no longer required as part of God’s plan to develop the Church, and lay out his reasons for reaching this assumption using biblical means, not speculation.
Churchwatcher, however, doesn’t go there, choosing, instead, to imaginatively recreate the development of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements of the early and late twentieth century, and to then fuse it with his own false version of the NAR, which, he has always claimed, began with a minor movement called the New Order of the Latter Rain [NOLR]. This is patently wrong.
He needs to refer to this movement because it is always his aim to separate between the NOLR and Pentecostalism. To achieve this, churchwatcher labours horribly at redefining the charismatic move, the Pentecostal movements and his contrived version of the NAR. It is painful to watch.
Let scripture be the arbitrator
Churchwatcher’s is not only a silly assumption, it’s also just about as unbiblical as you can get. The very scripture believes in what is termed the fivefold ministry. Read it for yourself.
Ephesians 4:7-13 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…
The scripture goes on to define the work of the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor and the teacher in the training and equipping of the saints. Has that need for the development of the Church ended? No. Certainly not. Why then would the gifts have ended? Did Jesus change His mind about how the Body would be trained, equipped and learn to grow up in Christ?
I prefer to call these gifts the ascension gifts of Christ, because it was prophesied and fulfilled in Christ that He would send these gifts to the Church to assist with the development of the Church.
There is no scripture that removes these gifts from the Church. They are gifts given to the Church to help develop the Church. These gifts are given by Christ Himself, and were first instituted on the day He ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father.
The evidence that He sent these gifts was His ascension. It is fulfilment of prophecy. It is a direct quote from the amazing Psalm 68.
Psalm 68:18-19 You have ascended on high,
You have led captivity captive;
You have received gifts among men,
Even from the rebellious,
That the Lord God might dwell there.
Blessed be the Lord,
Who daily loads us with benefits,
The God of our salvation!
The implication in the prophecy is that He would descend so the He can ascend. He descended into the lower parts of the earth to lead captivity captive and give gifts to men. This is clearly talking about Christ. He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.
Acts 1:9-11 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
His ascension, before witnesses, is the starting point for the development of the Church through the ascension gifts as He deploys them in the Body. The apostles who watched Him ascend were already apostles, called when He still walked the earth. Clearly, then, there would be other apostles as well as prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers following His ascension.
The false dogma of the cessationists
Simply reading scripture and believing it is all that is required of the genuine follower of Christ, but the cessationists, on whose false teaching churchwatcher bases his claims here, would have the fivefold ministry taken away from the Church, even though there is no scripture that either predicts it nor confirms it. None.
Cessationists would deny that there is any necessity for Christ’s gifts to continue. The gifts and manifestations of the Spirit, and Christ’s ascension gifts, they say, have ended.
When has this ended? Show us scripture and verse. There is none. There is no evidence anywhere in scripture that Christ has ended this.
How, then, can churchwatcher, in his base ignorance, claim that if a person who believes scripture believes in the ascension gifts, or, as he puts it, the fivefold ministry, he or she must, therefore, be of the NAR? Was Paul, who wrote the Epistle to Ephesians, of the NAR, then? Is Christ of the NAR because He believes in the ascension gifts He gives?
It was the Roman Catholic Church that essentially removed the ascension gifts from the Church during their apostasy. They developed the false apostolic succession that they claimed to have been handed down from the original apostles, but not in the way that Christ’s ascension gifts are supposed to operate.
Theirs is a powerless apostolic succession – handed down from priest to priest, trained in tradition not Biblical truth. Christ’s is the only true ascension gifting that comes directly through Him in His deity and as the Son of God, the mediator between men and God, and not by a flawed, earthly, Christless intermediary.
Christ is building His Church, His way
As far as I can make out, Dr Michael Brown is reiterating scripture when he speaks of fivefold ministry. He is pointing out what Paul recorded of Christ’s ascension into the heavens, where He remains to this day, until the time when He comes again for His Church.
Between His ascension and His second advent the Church will be built by Him according to His pattern and by His oversight in the Holy Ghost. There is no need to change scripture. The cessationist theology that removes three parts of the ascension gifts, leaving only the pastor and teacher, and, perhaps for some, begrudgingly, the evangelist, is a corruption of scripture.
None of this has anything to do with the NAR conspiracy theory, which was entirely made up by churchwatcher to further his discordant aims.
There are many who hold to the ascension gifts as scriptural who have nothing to do with any kind of NAR connection. I would include myself in this as a Pentecostal.
The problem with the original churchwatcher, who may or may not be still around on the site, is that he has been so far led astray by the wrangling of his polemicist compadres that he has lost sight of what he set out to do long ago.
If he would only stick to scripture and not Reformed dogma he might slip back into the fold, but, until he does, he will remain a commentator with a false view of scripture, faith, the Church, and the gospel.
We can only hope and pray.