Pragmatic Methodology versus Practical Theology
a comment on "Finding Your Spiritual Gifts" by C. Peter Wagner
Journey Into Wholeness or Journey Into Worldliness? - Part 2
by Sandy Simpson, 1/18/10

In this second article on the "Spiritual Formation" ideas being taught under the name of "40 Days of Reflection & Growth" at Trevecca Nazarene University, I am going to start out by talking about pragmatism versus Biblical practical theology.  The Emerging Church (EC) and New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) have many things in common, which has been proved again and again by the cooperation and even mentorship across the lines of EC and NAR.  These types of "Ladies Home Journal" surveys that are supposed to teach you something about yourself are used by both groups and very much from the same model set forth by modern psychology.  When dealing with worldly issues and even those of emotional and mental development, surveys can sometimes be of some help, though more often they are not really much help at all.  This is because surveys do not really help people spiritually.  The Bible provides the highest and best help for all areas of life.  But this reliance on human therapeutic methodology is very evident in both the spiritual formation materials at Trevecca and in materials flowing forth from the C. Peter Wagner NAR.  For the purposes of anonymity I am not going to name names but I have firsthand knowledge of the C. Peter Wagner survey put out under the name of "Finding Your Spiritual Gifts" by C. Peter Wagner.  This survey was used in a recent ACSI teacher's conference.  Teachers signed up for extra curricular classes which would provide them credit in their teaching credentials.  The name of the class where this survey was presented was called "Creativity: It All Begins With An Idea".  The teachers, thinking they would be presented with ideas on creativity in the classroom, ended up having to take the above survey if they wanted to get credit for the course.  What the survey had to do with the subject is beyond me.  To me it was very disingenuous to ride in on one horse, switch horses in the middle of the stream, and end up leaving people drowning in Third Wave/Latter Rain false ideas.  Be that as it may, this was only a small part of the problem.

The first question I had was this: how can a survey help you "find your spiritual gifts"?  The answer: it cannot.  All the questions were framed in such as way that they were almost all focused on self.  Before we get too far into this analysis I need to give you the correct Biblical way to find your spiritual gifts so you can compare the positive picture with the negative.

It is clear that spiritual gifts are given to serve OTHERS.  We are to eagerly desire spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:1 & 12) but the Holy Spirit distributes gifts according to the will of God (Heb. 2:4). To find out how God wants to use you, you need to get busy (1) witnessing the Gospel (2) discipling others (3) helping others with physical needs (4) and working hard in the context of the Church, desiring to bless others and encourage them.  When you do this, without spending your time focusing on what your spiritual gifts might be, God will show you what He wants you to do and empower you to do it.  It may have NOTHING to do with your natural gifts, in fact in my experience it often does not, contrary to what Rick Warren teaches in his "Purpose Driven" books.  Out of your service to Him and obedience to His Word and the Holy Spirit, your teacher, the Lord can and will do miraculous things, many times in ways you did not expect.  He may give you a lifelong gift. He may give you temporary gifts.  The point, though, is not to go around bragging about your gift but to use it to serve others.  When you go around telling people what your gift(s) are, in my opinion, you lose any reward you might have coming.  Paul was a true foundational apostle, but he was also clear that he was a fellow servant (Eph. 3:7, Tit. 1:1) and a simple humble man who could do nothing in his own strength (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul was also given the gift of foundational apostleship by the Lord Himself.  He did not take a survey to find out he had the gift of apostleship.

So to focus people who call themselves followers of Christ on themselves like some Reader's Digest poll, is actually counterproductive to finding how God wants to use you and empower you.  This survey was also given largely to women, yet one of the gifts you could find out you had according to their scoring system, was being an apostle.  There were no female foundational apostles in the Bible.

Probably the most egregious part of the survey is that, when you grade it, you can come up with the answer that you are an apostle.  Not just any apostle, but one who is foundational to the Church.

Z. Apostle.  The gift of apostle is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to assume and to exercise divinely imparted authority in order to establish the foundational government of an assigned sphere of ministry within the Church.  An apostle hears from the Holy Spirit and sets things in order accordingly for the Church's health, growth, maturity and outreach.  (Note: "Church" refers to the believers who gather weekly and also to the believers scattered in the workplace.)
Anyone with any Biblical knowledge will already see problems with this statement.  When Wagner states that his type of "apostle" has "imparted authority" he means literally an impartation received by himself or one of his "apostles" to make a person an apostle or prophet.
Wagner Leadership Institute (WLI) trains and equips men and women for leadership positions in local churches, translocal ministries, and the workplace.  WLI’s goal is to equip leaders in necessary skills for effective ministry. As a WLI affiliate, the Issachar School offers a unique approach to ministry training.  Our goal is that you gain revelation of God’s purposes and a prophetic sensitivity to His timing, along with the impartation of effective ministry skills. (The Issachar School, New Student Handbook, 12/16/09,

The prophetic spirit is transferable and can be imparted.  (National School Of The Prophets - Mobilizing The Prophetic Office, John Eckhardt, Friday, 5/12/00, 7:00 p.m. - Session 12)

There is no such thing in the Bible.  God Himself is the one who makes true apostle and prophets, so the type of apostles Wagner is making are false ones, just as he is a false one.  Read "False Apostles!".  When he states that they "establish the foundational government" he is talking about foundational apostles today.
Apostles and prophets the foundation of the Church and, um, I identify as James an apostle as my function as a horizontal apostle to bring together the people of the body of Christ not only can I do it, I love to do it. Yesterday I was the apostle with a group of about 15-20 prophets we met all day long, and these prophets many of whom are going to be speakers in this conference come under my guidance, coordination and leadership as an apostle. They each have apostles in their own networks but I mean they are under spiritually.  But I’m the one that brings them together and when I bring them together things happen. (C. Peter Wagner, National School of the Prophets - Mobilizing the Prophetic Office, Colorado Springs, CO, May 11, 2002, Tape #1)

In the brochure that I received, advertising C. Peter Wagner's conference in Brisbane, the following was written: "The New Apostolic Reformation is an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit that is changing the shape of Christianity globally. It is truly a new day! The Church is changing. New names! New methods! New worship expressions! The Lord is establishing the foundations of the Church for the new millennium. This foundation is built upon apostles and prophets. Apostles execute and establish God's plan on the earth. The time to convene a conference of the different apostolic prophetic streams across this nation is now! This conference will cause the Body to understand God's 'new' order for this coming era. We look forward to having you with us in Brisbane in Feb 2000."  It was signed by Peter Wagner and Ben Gray. (Brochure For Brisbane 2000, as cited in Jumping On The Bandwagon - Australian Christian Churches Seduced by the Beat of a Different Drummer?, Hughie Seaborn, 1999,

The Government of God’s kingdom will be established through the apostolic and prophetic authorities in cities and nations. (At the World Congress Of Prophets, C. Peter Wagner Presiding, Prophetic Gathering Share In Ministry Together Concerning 2000, by Jim W. Goll,

"We have to understand that the church has a God-designed government.  The church has a God-designed government.  We now live, this is 2004, we now live in the second apostolic age.   The second apostolic age began in the year 2001, ok?  And in this whole first chapter in this book I argue my point, I think rather… I hope it’s convincingly, that 2001 marks, is the year that marks the second apostolic age, which means for years the government of the church had not been in place since about, you know, the first century or so.  It doesn’t mean weren’t apostles and prophets, because the government of the… the foundation of the church according to Ephesians 2:20 is apostles and prophets, Jesus being the chief cornerstone.  It doesn’t mean there weren’t apostles and prophets, it means the body of Christ hadn’t recognized them and released them for the office that they had so that they’d function as apostles and prophets in the foundation of the church.  But we now have that, I believe we’ve reached our critical mass in the year 2001." (C. Peter Wagner, Arise Prophetic Conference, Gateway Church, San Jose, CA, 10-10-2004)

The Biblical criteria to be a foundational apostle proves that there are no longer ANY foundational apostles alive today.  The gift of foundational Apostleship is no longer our concern as no one today fits the criteria to be a foundational apostle.  The teachings of the foundational Apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20) are what the Church is built upon, Christ being the chief Cornerstone and Foundation (1 Cor. 3:10-11).  The Apostles were those who saw the Lord while He was on earth before he ascended into heaven (1 Cor. 9:1) and the Lord did true signs, wonders and miracles through them to authenticate their ministries (2 Cor. 12:12). They wrote Scriptures (Matthew, John, Peter, Paul, etc.). They were persecuted and all but one (John) were martyred for the Faith (1 Cor. 4:9 and the Pre Nicene Fathers writings). Finally, Paul said that he was the last, in sequence, of the original foundational Apostles (1 Cor. 15:7-8).  We are to use the Word of God, through Jesus Christ, taught to us by the Apostles and prophets, as the basis for our Christian life (2 Peter 3:2, Jude 17). There is no one today who can meet the biblical criteria to be a foundational Apostle.  There are "apostles" in the Church today, "sent out" ones, messengers, mainly church planting missionaries, but they are not foundational to the Church.  So this survey and Latter Rain false teaching is completely erroneous and not the Biblical criteria for the Lord to call and appoint a true apostle.

When he states that this type of apostle "hears from the Holy Spirit" he is not talking about the Holy Spirit using the written Word to speak but primarily of direct audible messages from God and prophecies of his "prophets".

While in a trance on the afternoon of July 26, 2008, Bob heard the audible voice of God say ... There is a coming forth of the NEW BREED! They are not old and they are not young. They will come forth in the Spirit of Holiness. ... The Spirit of Holiness coming forth is the divine nature of Christ. ... The new breed shall be of the divine nature and will be a friend with God. ... The Spirit of holiness coming forth will have resurrection power in it and this power will bring the obedience of what Christ called us to. ... Most of the people Bob saw were between the ages of 25 and 40. They will be the first of the new breed which others will immediately begin to follow and they will not fall back. (Bob Jones: Two Encounters: "God Bless America" and "The New Breed Coming Forth", The ElijahList, August 28, 2008)
"Let me tell you something. The Holy Spirit has already told me He is about to show up. And you know, oh, I gotta tell you this quickly, just before we go. I had a word of prophecy from Ruth Heflin, you know who Ruth Heflin is? Ruth prophesied over me back in the seventies and everything she said has happened. She just sent me a word through my wife and said the Lord spoke to her audibly and said that He is going to appear physically in one of our crusades in the next few months. Yeah, she - I'm telling ya - she said, the Lord spoke to her audibly and said, 'Tell Benny I'm going to appear physically on the platform in his meetings'. Lord, do it in Phoenix Arizona in the name of Jesus! And in Kenya too, Lord, please, Lord, in fact, do it in every crusade. In Jesus' name." (Benny Hinn, March 29th, 2000)
Mike Bickle himself heard an audible voice speak to him, while on a trip in Cairo, Egypt.  The voice told him, "I am inviting you to raise up a work that will touch the ends of the earth.  I have invited many people to do this thing and many people have said yes, but very few have done my will. (Audio Tape, "The Prophetic History of Grace Ministries", Mike Bickle, 9/82)
Mike Bickle is one of the main prophets of the NAR under Wagner and part of the International Coalition of Apostles.

That he distinguishes believers who meet together from believers "scattered in the workplace" shows he is basically saying there are those who have forsaken meeting together and yet they are all part of the "Church".

Heb 10:25  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Sounds like Wagner includes those who do not want to meet with other believers as part of his plan to bring unity to all the churches.

Sampler of questions from the survey

Some of the questions on Wagner's survey indicate that he is promoting another form of "Christianity" that really has no basis in the Biblical model for the Church.

"I have spoken directly to evil spirits, and they have obeyed me."
Is deliverance from evil spirits dependent on a Christian speaking to demons or his/her relationship to Jesus Christ?  Reference the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:14-16)
"I can "see" the Spirit of God resting on certain people from time to time."
This is not a Biblical practice but one wrested from the occult and New Age.  Pagan religions often see auras around people, etc.  But then so do some so-called Christians these days.
Stevens taught that the Holy Spirit would direct us through various physical sensations in our bodies. He often experienced these sorts of signs himself. For instance, a headache meant spiritual assault or witchcraft was coming against you. Stevens also taught how to interpret the color of people’s aura’s in order to discern their spirit. Red in a person’s aura meant they were rebellious, for instance. (The Church of the Living Word, also known as ‘the Walk’, lead by John Robert Stevens which morphed into the Vineyard under John Wimber)

Wagner, after quoting Rom 10:14, qualifies Paul’s theology with his own: "There are exceptions, however, even today. Those of us who try to keep track of what God is doing in the world agree with each other that never before have we seen or even heard of so many conversions through divine intervention…particularly among Muslims." The author further explains that Jesus or an angel has appeared to others, and some have experienced God through auras of light, voices, dreams, or daytime visions. Bibles have supernaturally appeared in mosques or Muslim homes. On one occasion, a Muslim was physically transported by supernatural power from her home to a church where she received Christ (C. Peter Wagner, Confronting the Powers (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1996, p. 186).

A number of the questions in this survey were very self-serving.
"I have prayed for others and instantaneous physical healing has often occurred."
"Other people have been instantly delivered from demonic oppression when I prayed."
Again the point is not what you can do but what God can do.  Putting the emphasis on "I have prayed" is not the proper emphasis and would never lead a person to find out about a true Divine spiritual gifts.  We are to humble ourselves before the Lord (1 Pet. 3:8) and recognize that when we are weak and unable He is strong and able (2 Cor. 12:10).  It is God Who does miracles and He who distributes gifts (Heb. 2:4).
"Others have told me that I am a person of unusual vision, and I agree."
This is exactly the methodology of Wagner and associates in the NAR/Prophetic Movement.  They puff people up but telling them how great their are in order to suck them into the movement.  I once had a "prophet" tell me I would raise people from the dead physically in Micronesia.  I knew right away that it was a false prophecy because God would not need to tell me that in advance.  But Satan can use that kind of information to bring out the sin of the pride of life.  Why would any true believer repeat something like the above unless they were puffed up with pride over it?
"When I pray, God frequently speaks to me, and I recognize His voice."
This is talking about an audible voice, not the Holy Spirit using the written Word to teach people or to speak to His Church.  The problem with the false prophets of the NAR is that they have mistaken what they think is the voice of God and is actually either their own inner voice or that of demons.  They would know this if they would test the spirits (1 John 4:1).  But they ignore the clear teaching of the Word and when false prophecies come forth they still think they are "hearing" God's voice.  They believe their "prophets" can be wrong a good percentage of the time and still be true prophets.  But the Bible is clear that a prophet who lies in the name of the Lord is to be avoided and we are not to fear what they have predicted (De. 18:22).  False prophets, who are actually spiritists being driven by another spirit (2 Cor. 11:4), were to be taken out and stoned in the Old Testament (Le. 20:27).  Therefore under the New Covenant we are to mark and avoid them (Rom. 16:17).

It is interesting to me that C. Peter Wagner and his associates are trying to lead others to some form "discernment" when they ought to be asking themselves the questions they ask others.

"I can tell whether a person speaking in tongues is genuine."
"During worship, I can often tell if there is a spiritual force attempting to hinder our connection with God."
"I can recognize whether a person's teaching or actions are form God, from Satan, or of human origin."
I have seen Latter Rain/Third Wave/NAR meetings and 99.99% of the "tongues" being spoken are taught and learned babble.  In their meetings people are being "slain in the spirit" and lay on the ground writhing, laughing, groaning, acting like animals, being "drunk" and other things that have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit.  One deacon in a meeting I attended was clearly demonized but when I asked about it the leaders of the counterfeit revival said "Oh, the Holy Spirit is all over that person".  You can hear that refrain all over the place in NAR churches, yet this deacon ended up drowning a couple of weeks later.  He could not swim but he went out in the ocean and died, having been driven there by another spirit.  I have many other accounts I could give you, but suffice it to say that those in the NAR don't have one clue as to the difference between what is of God, man or the devil.  They have just kneaded it all together into one big leavened loaf with zero discernment.  The last question is the question they need to ask themselves.  I am sure the Holy Spirit has tried to tell them that the myriad of false teachings and false prophecies they are promoting around the world are wrong, but they close their ears to the written Word and to the Holy Spirit.

Pragmatism married to the Catholic Church

The next chapter in the "spiritual formation" course at Trevecca is called "A 40 Day Journey through Lent" (  What is "Lent"?  It is a Roman Catholic (RCC) calendar holiday.  Why is a Protestant university telling their youth to celebrate this with the RCC?  Because these same people who are teaching EC ideas are also locked together with the RCC in "ministry" and ideas such as contemplative prayer.  Read this excerpt from many articles on the pagan origins of Lent.

 Why We Do Not Celebrate Lent

Later in this message, we will take a look at the Bible passages dealing with what is called Palm Sunday. But, before I do that, I want to shed some light on why we do not celebrate Lent. While the basic answer is simple – there is no reference to Lent in the Bible, I will share with you some more specific reasons.

The Pagan History of Lent

The word lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten which means spring, which was derived from the Anglo-Saxon word lenctentid (pronounced LENG-ten-teed), which means the time of lengthening and flowering. The entire spring season was called Lenctentid. The ancient Anglo-Saxons (and other pagans) celebrated the return of spring with rioteous fertility festivals commemorating their goddess of fertility and of springtime, Eastre. In fact, the word Easter is derived from the Scandinavian Ostara and the Teutonic Ostern or Eastre, both pagan goddesses. The complete month of April was called Eostur-monath with the entire month was dedicated to Eostre. The pagan religion taught that Eostre was one responsible for changing a bird into a rabbit, this then is how the rabbit became an Easter symbol. Rabbits symbolize the fertility of springtime. It should be noted that the rabbit's capacity of abundant production of young is especially great at this time of year. I should also tell you that most ancient races, including the Anglo-Saxons, included spring festivals to celebrate the rebirth life, using the Egg was a symbol of fertility, life and re-birth. This is old Latin proverb catches this idea -- Omne vivum ex ovo. This means "all life comes from an egg".

One final note, the Lenten season’s length has varied throughout history, however 40 days, not including Sunday, were finally settled upon and established by Roman Catholic Canon Law said to commemorate the 40 days Jesus Christ was tempted by Satan in the wilderness.

So, how did such pagan things as Lent and Easter (I am not referring to the blessed Resurrection of Jesus Christ) come into the church? Alexander Hislop gives us the answer -- "To conciliate the Pagans to nominal Christianity, Rome, pursuing its usual policy, took measures to get the Christian and Pagan festivals amalgamated, and, by a complicated but skillful adjustment of the calendar, it was found no difficult matter, in general, to get Paganism and Christianity—now far sunk in idolatry—in this as in so many other things, to shake hands" (The Two Babylons). (Lent & Palm Sunday, Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D., Sermon Delivered 04/04/04,

Let's look at this new fascination with "Lent" by non Catholics.
If you grew up, as I did, thinking of Lent as the Time of the Frozen Fish Sticks, you can't help but be surprised by the expanding enthusiasm for the pre-Easter season of penitence and fasting. Lent, it seems, isn't just for Catholics anymore. Over the last few years, more Protestant churches have begun daubing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in Western Christianity (March 1 this year). Fasting, long familiar to Catholics as a Lenten fact of life, is increasingly popular with evangelical Christians striving for spiritual awakening. A few mainline Protestant churches even conduct foot-washing services on Maundy Thursday—the traditional commemoration of Jesus' washing the feet of his disciples—that takes place on the Thursday before Easter. Which seems like a sign that Protestants may be starting to beat Catholics at their own game.

The showy practices typical of Lent—fasting and vigils, ashes and incense—once helped define the split of the Reformation. When they broke away in the 16th and 17th centuries, most Protestant churches left behind anything that smacked of Catholic practice. (Though a few "high-church" denominations—Episcopalians, for example—remained partial to ashes and other staples of Catholic ritual.) So, what's at work when Protestants and Catholics find common cause in fasting and foot-washing? While no one's ready to declare an end to 500 years of ecumenical disagreement, the widening appeal of Lent reflects the interest among believers of all kinds in traditional ways of worship. (Get Lent, Protestants do the sober season, by Andrew Santella for SLATE, Posted Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006, at 12:22 PM ET,

Now EC adherents are going back to semi pagan practices of the RCC in order to "strive for spiritual awakening".  How does a person get spiritually awakened by putting ashes on their foreheads?  The correct Biblical definition of "spiritual awakening" would be when a person is born again.  At that point they begin to grow as the Holy Spirit teaches them using the written Word.  They cannot go through another "spiritual awakening" and even if these RCC practices could do something they cannot cause a person to be born again or to grow to maturity in Christ.  To be born again a person must hear the Gospel and believe it (Eph. 1:13).  You also cannot be spiritually "formed" by going back to the RCC practice of Lent.  Fasting and foot washing are fine, though not ordinances of the Church like baptism and communion, but they are not what forms Christians spiritually.  That is done through the reading and hearing of the written Word done in context exegetically used by the Holy Spirit.  Fasting is good for the body and can get rid of distractions so that we can focus on the Lord.  But we are not supposed to be going into a trance but rather be in prayer and in Bible study while doing so.  Foot washing is fine but it is a symbol of what God does for us everyday, that is that He cleanses us from sin when we repent of it.  We then help others to come to the Lord for the dirt they get on their feet from the world, the flesh and the devil.  But this is not something that can make a person born again, in fact Jesus made that distinction for Peter.
John 13:5-10  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped round him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus replied, "You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand." "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!" Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you."
We cannot do the real spiritual work of helping people avoid and confess sin by doing foot washing.  The principles for carrying out this duty in the Church are given in the Word.  The sign of foot washing is a reminder of what we need to be doing, not the thing itself.  Water baptism is a testimony of what has already happened in the spiritual, the baptism of the Spirit.  But water baptism does not save.  So to state that you can be spiritually formed by practicing Lent is not only incorrect, it is a dangerous liaison with an apostate RCC.