Networking the Church: Part 6
“To begin with, there are no pastors of the churches of Charlotte, rather there are pastors of the church of Charlotte . . . .
“So in the plural ministry each pastor is an elder of the church of his city. Together they form the presbytery, the assembly elders of the city. We are wrong when we appoint elders within our separate congregations. We cannot have elders within each congregation.”
–Juan Carlos Ortiz, Call to Discipleship (Logos International, 1975), pp. 96-97.
There is a myth of “local control” in the house/cell church movement. The return to the original New Testament “wineskin” of house churches has widespread appeal among those who are zealous about abandoning the bureaucratic ecclesiastical models that have increasingly characterized denominations for the past 150 years.
But there is often a “bait and switch” going on. The house church model, which is indeed rooted in the New Testament, is subtly replaced by the cell networking model. The cellular model LINKS the house churches together into a NETWORK. The house churches then become part of the “downline” — as in multi-level marketing structures. Church planting is redefined, too. Rather than planting small churches with the goal of turning them loose when they can stand on their own in a few years, the cellular structure keeps the small churches tied to the mother church. This pyramid network structure creates a source of ready cash for the mother churches, as these baby churches are required to tithe upwards. And it becomes a mechanism for control — particularly when it is dominated by the apostolic structure.
A key doctrine of the cellular/apostolic church movement is the concept of city-wide churches. This was first openly articulated by Juan Carlos Ortiz. His book Call to Discipleship is credited with popularizing the shepherding movement in the 1970s. This movement has been described by Al Dager in his book Vengeance Is Ours (Sword, 1990) as a “broad-based ecumenical outreach designed to conform the entire Church to an authoritarian structure with the purpose of achieving dominion over the temporal world system.” (p. 80)
This early cellular experimentation model was characterized by “heavy-shepherding” — abusing the flock by crushing dictates, using mind control, subordinating the sheep to the will of a master-controller shepherd (apostle or prophet). The New Apostolic Reformation has rushed to distance itself from the brutal excesses of this movement. C. Peter Wagner devotes a chapter to this topic in Torres’ book The Restoration of the Apostles and Prophets that we have been citing in this series. But the fact remains that there are few safeguards to protect sheep from the type of apostle and prophet described in the previous two Herescope posts.
Below are some striking examples of the goal of networking cellular churches (small groups, house churches, cells, etc.) into city-wide churches. The structure can be best explained by this model:
l l l l l
Cells SmallGroup Cells HouseChurch Cells CityChurches Cells
Ralph Neighbour wrote an early “Guidebook for Cell Group Churches” entitled Where Do We Go From Here? (Touch Publications). He explained the city-wide structure:
“The house groups were not independent from one another. They networked together from the first hour of their existence. This city-wide federation shows that the ‘house churches’ combined to form a ‘local church.’ (1977, p. 44)
“Each cell has a servant-leader. For every five cells, there is a pastoral figure (often called a ‘Zone Servant’) to counsel and guide the ministries. For every 25 cells and five Zone Servants, there must be a person to shepherd this flock of two to three hundred (often called a ‘Zone pastor’). Working with the entire city-wide local church, men who are recognized as equippers provide guidance, teaching, and equipping to all of the cells, called the ‘Ministry Team.'” (1977, p. 45-46) [emphases added]
Another early model was that of the Kansas City Fellowship. This group went on to become influential in the launching of the New Apostolic Reformation. (See Joel’s Army.)
“Grace Ministries represents a ministry team of men committed to seeing the church fully restored to the glory described in God’s word. . . . We believe many leaders will establish teams in their own cities that will be used of God to further the Lord’s hidden but unfolding agenda to establish ‘unified city churches.’ GM desires to be found laboring humbly and lovingly to provide a portion of ministry and encouragement to serve under other ministry teams as they establish God’s purpose in their cities.”
“Kansas City Fellowship is merely one small part of the church of the Lord Jesus of Kansas City comprised of approximately 3,000 believers. We have a vision for being with one fellowship with one eldership, one financial structure, one vision and one strategy–however this one fellowship may be comprised of as many as 50-100 congregations. This seems like a lot of congregations to function as one fellowship, but when we recognize that there are over 1000 congregations in the Kansas City area then we begin to have a different perspective.”
“Single presbyteries will form over cities and localities. These will be made up of pastors and leaders from all backgrounds. Their unity and harmony in purpose, as well as that of the various congregations, will become a marvel to the world.” [Rick Joyner prophecy]
(Above quotes excerpted from Michael Sullivant, “What Is Grace Ministries?” and “A Commitment to the City Church,” Grace Ministries Report, Fall 1989.) [All emphases added]
Apostolic SPHERES for Dominion
In order to justify this networking cell model, new doctrines were created. One such doctrine assigns territories of the world or “spheres” to apostles and prophets where they can exercise dominion. Below are some key examples of this heresy found in David Cannistraci’s 1996 book The Gift of Apostle (Regal):
“To separate in this case [referring to Paul and Barnabas, Acts 13:2, ed.] means to set off by a boundary. The idea is to draw clear boundary lines to establish a definite territory within which the apostle is meant to operate with full authority. The apostle has a spiritual dominion and territory delineated by God. We are reminded that we should not cross the boundary lines that surround apostleship, or go too far with ambitious intrusion into any ministry to which we are not called. It also means to appoint to an office or position of authority, just as an ambassador is appointed by a head of state.” (p. 69-70)
“The sphere of authority in combination with relational authority may lead us to another aspect of the apostle’s authority that of regional or territorial apostleship. Roland Allen suggests that the apostles targeted entire regions… We believe that the Holy Spirit works among apostles to divide regions among them so that geographical areas (such as continents) can be uniformly penetrated….” (pp. 153-4)
This territorial apostolic/cell heresy is connected to the new spiritual warfare doctrines, popularizied by George Otis and C. Peter Wagner, and practices that attempt to rid regions or territories of demonic strongholds. It can also be connected to the spiritual and data-collecting activities of “global mapping”:
“If Satan has established territorial spirits to run the global battle against the Church, as many today believe, is it not possible that God also has established territorial apostles to help counteract their destructive activity? (Cannistraci, p. 154)
This regional apostolic authority isn’t just geographical, however. C. Peter Wagner and others have been working on assigning apostles to “spheres” of authority and dominion outside of the church as part of a mandate to build the Kingdom in secular society. The concept of “spheres” was articulated by John Rowell in a description of the “New Apostolic Reformation and the Faith and Work Movement”:
” . . . I Cor. 9:1 and II Cor. 10:8-16 make it clear that those who minister with apostolic authority do so only within a God-given sphere of influence. In I Cor. 9:1-2, Paul’s authority is questioned by opposing ‘false apostles’ and he appeals to the undeniable fruit of his work in Corinth to defend his anointing and authority. In I Cor. 9:2 Paul plainly states, ‘If to others I am not an apostle (and doubtless to many he was not), at least I am to you (and you can’t deny it!), for you are the seal of my apostleship’. In Corinth, Paul is clearly within his ‘sphere of influence.’ In fact he was recognized as having broad authority to take the gospel to the known Gentile world (Gal. 2:7-9). In II Cor. 10:8-16 Paul is careful to guard against ‘overextending’ his influence (see v. 14) by boasting beyond the measure of his anointing (v. 13). Again, proof of his being within his proper limits is the incontrovertible evidence that he planted the church in Corinth – his authority certainly reached to that local assembly! In these nine verses, the word ‘sphere‘ (province or rule from the Greek ‘kanon’) is used three times; the word ‘measure’ is used five times. . . .” [emphasis added]
This is particularly interesting because the use of the term “sphere” is inextricably connected to the idea of a dominionist mandate. In the 1980s the Coalition on Revival (COR), described by Al Dager as a “melting pot for Charismatic Dominionists and Reconstructionists” (p. 235) published “Sphere Documents” placing a “dominionist interpretation of the Great Commission” (p. 236). Secular society was divided by COR into “spheres” in which Christians were to engage in political activity, take “domionion” and “advance the Kingdom.” These COR and NAR leaders remain networked to this day. In the Reformed/Reconstructionist camp the “spheres” agenda is cloaked by the rhetoric of re-establishing America as a “Christian nation,” or networking for a Christian “worldview.” In the New Apostolic Reformation, however, the agenda is much more open.
Here is a recent (3/7/07) “prophecy” posted on the Elijah List, the main organ for apostolic/prophetic generals to communicate to their troops. The agenda for establishing regional governance is connected to the heresy of building the Kingdom of God on Earth, i.e., restoring Earth to a pre-Fall paradise type state. From Ryan Wyatt of Abiding Glory Ministries:
“REGIONAL HABITATIONS BEING ESTABLISHED
“‘God is raising up bases to steward a sustained atmosphere of the Glory of God.’
“I believe that one of the major focuses and strategies of God in this season is to establish strong apostolic regional bases in every region of the world. In fact, I believe that the only way we are going to establish and advance the Kingdom of God is by seeing the prophetic ‘earthed’ out in regional bases where the saints are not just “trained” to do the stuff, but are actually ‘doing’ the stuff.
“When I say apostolic regional bases, I am not talking about conference centers. I have news for you, conferences alone will ‘never’ build the Kingdom of God. Conferences are good tools to gather a region, but they will never go deep enough to raise up and train an army.
“I believe that God is blurring the lines between para-church and local church. The Greek word for Church simply means the ‘called-out ones.’ I love the ‘local church’ and believe that the Church is God’s Body on this earth and God’s agent to expand the Kingdom of God. However, I believe that the local church needs to recover the Ephesians 4:11 mandate to equip the saints for the work of ministry. In functionality, these bases will serve as a home church for many, but they will be built on the foundation of being an Ephesians 4:11 equipping base.
“God is raising up these bases to steward a sustained atmosphere of the Glory of God. These bases will serve as a place where the prophetic can be ‘earthed.’ In John 1:14, the ‘Word,’ or the prophetic, became flesh, or became earthed, and dwelt among us and we beheld His Glory. Jesus was a living, breathing, habitation of God. Everywhere He went, the Kingdom of Heaven came with Him. These bases will serve as ‘little Romes’ or little ‘Garden of Edens’ where the prophetic is earthed and digested by the saints of God and then manifested through their everyday lives with grace and power!
“It is truly time for the saints of God to rise up, grow into maturity, and take whole regions for the Glory of God!” [emphasis in original]
“The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood they hunt every man his brother with a net.” (Micah 7:2)