Apologetics Index

C. Peter Wagner

C. Peter Wagner (August 15, 1930-October 21, 2016) was a professor of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Mission. He coined the term Third Wave.

A theologian, missiologist, missionary, writer, teacher, and church growth specialist, Wagner was the founder of Global Harvest Ministries, and co-founder of the World Prayer Center.

He promoted Kingdom Now theology, as well as countless other extra-Biblical and un-Biblical teachings on, for instance, faith healing, prayer, and spiritual warfare.

[A] global movement of evangelicals has developed over the past decade that seeks to free cities and neighborhoods from social scourges even as it “takes them for God.”

Through “spiritual warfare” and an in-depth research effort called “spiritual mapping,” they aim to bring people to Christ and, in their words, “break spiritual strongholds” holding communities in their grip, whether they be vices, “false religions,” or “territorial spirits.”

The more aggressive, potentially confrontational aspects of these practices raise concerns within and beyond the evangelical community.

C. Peter Wagner, head of Global Harvest Ministries in Colorado Springs, Colo., is in the vanguard of the movement. He defines three levels of spiritual warfare: “Ground-level” involves casting demons out of individuals; “occult-level warfare” involves more organized “powers of darkness” [They target here New Age thought, Tibetan Buddhism, Freemasonry, etc.]; and “strategic-level warfare” directly “confronts ‘territorial spirits’ assigned by Satan to coordinate activities over a geographical area.”

Spiritual warfare has been practiced most vigorously in other countries – particularly in Latin America and Africa – where the idea of demons has greater parlance. But its influence is growing in the United States, along with spiritual mapping.

Even as conferences on the subject attract larger numbers, these practices serve as a source of controversy. Among evangelicals, some question how much of a biblical basis there is, and just how far such prayer should go.
– Source: Targeting cities with ‘spiritual mapping,’ prayer, Jane Lampman, Christian Science Monitor, Sep. 23, 1999. Archived by the Internet Archive. Last accessed, Jan. 22, 2009

New Apostolic Reformation

Wagners most recent excursion into aberrant and heretical expressions of Christianity was the promotion of apostles and the so-called New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) — a movement which asserts that God is restoring the lost offices of church governance, namely the offices of Prophet and Apostle.

Leading figures in NAR suggest that these prophets and apostles alone have the power and authority to execute God’s plans and purposes on earth. They believe they are laying the foundation for a global church, governed by them.

At the website of Global Harvest Ministries, Wagner was described as follows:

Peter Wagner is the President of the Global Harvest Ministries and Chancellor of the Wagner Leadership Institute. Established in 1998, the Institute equips men and women for leadership positions in churches and translocal ministries. It is designed especially, but not exclusively, to meet the needs of leaders who have become a part of the New Apostolic reformation. Missions have been a watermark of Peter’s career. From 1956 to 1971, he and his wife Doris served as missionaries in Bolivia under the South American Mission and Andes Evangelical Mission (now SIM International).

In 1971, Peter Wagner became a Professor of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Missions. During his 30-year tenure at Fuller ending in 2001, he had the privilege to teach students from nearly every country in the world.

To advance the role of missions in church growth, Peter Wagner has served on several mission oriented ministries, committees, and organizations. His memberships include: Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (1974-1989); American Society of Missiology; Society for Scientific Study of Religion; Association of Professors of Mission; Evangelical Missiological Society; American Society for Church Growth (founding president); and the American Lausanne Committee.

For about two decades, Peter Wagner has been associated with several global movements of the Holy Spirit. This exciting journey began back in 1982, when he and John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, co-instructed the course “Signs, Wonders and Church Growth” at Fuller Seminary. His outspoken advocacy of praying for the sick, spiritual mapping, identificational repentance, the ministry and role of apostles and prophets in the church today, and demonic deliverance have identified Peter as a pioneer in the arena of spiritual warfare. One of his most significant contributions so far has been his relentless effort to promote strategic and effective prayer.

During the decade of the 1990s Wagner assumed a leadership role in what became known as the New Apostolic Reformation. He became the Presiding Apostle of the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA) and also founded a more intimate group for apostolic alignment, Eagles Vision Apostolic Team (EVAT). In the 2000s, he began to move strongly in promoting the Dominion Mandate for social transformation, adopting the template of the Seven Mountains or the 7-M Mandate for practical implementation.
– Source: C. Peter Wagner, Global Harvest Ministries. Last accessed, Jan. 22, 2009

In his introduction of the book, The New Apostolic Churches (Regal Books, 1998. C. Peter Wagner, editor), Wagner wrote:

During my decades as a scholar, God has seen fit to focus my research energies on certain aspects of church growth for certain periods of time. As I have done that, I have tried to use what I have learned to develop new courses for my students at Fuller Theological Seminary, and many of the lessons eventually become books.

My mentor church growth research was Donald A. McGavran, the founder of the whole field of church growth. He is now with the Lord, but for years I have had the singular privilege of carrying the title Donald A. McGavran Professor of Church Growth. One of the most basic lessons I learned from McGavran was that the best way to discover what makes churches grow is to study growing churches. As a result, my first season of research, spanning the 1970s and into the 1980s, was spent doing exactly that. In retrospect, I now look at this as researching the technical principles of church growth.

During that time, I began to notice something I obviously did not have the mental equipment to understand or to assimilate into my analysis of church growth. I noticed that the churches worldwide that seemed to grow the most rapidly were, for the most part, those that outwardly featured the immediate present-day supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit.

My mentor for helping me make a paradigm shift into what I now call spiritual principles of church growth was John Wimber, founder of the Association of Vineyard Churches and Vineyard Ministries International, to whom this book is dedicated. This began my second season of research, focusing first of all on the relationship between supernatural signs and wonders and church growth, then on prayer and spiritual warfare. This began in the early 1980s and continued to the mid-1990s.

My third season of research is now focusing on the New Apostolic Reformation, the subject of this book. I am very excited because the new apostolic churches, better than any I have previously studied, combine, on the highest level, solid technical principles of church with solid spiritual principles of church growth.
– Source: The New Apostolic Churches C. Peter Wagner. Archived by the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine. Last accessed Jan. 22, 2009

Horizontal Apostle

According to his Global Harvest Ministries website, Wagner “functions as a horizontal apostle within a sphere of recognized apostles.”

If the term “horizontal apostle” doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because Wagner made up the term.

In an article titled, Understanding How Apostles Minister in Different Spheres, Wagner wrote:

Toward a useful terminology.  The current apostolic movement is so new, and it is developing at such a dizzying speed, that a considerable amount of confusion has arisen. Who is an apostle? Are all apostles the same? How do bona fide apostles minister? I believe that the answers to these and other similar questions will emerge through a phenomenological approach. This is the methodology that I have used to arrive at a continually-developing set of conclusions. Terminology that accurately describes current apostolic phenomena will greatly help dispel the confusion. Here is a terminology that seems to me to be helpful, at least at this moment:

Vertical Apostles
  • Ecclesiastical apostles.
    Apostles who are given authority over a sphere which includes a number of churches, presumably in an apostolic network headed up by the apostle.
  • Functional apostles.
    Apostles who are given authority over those who have an ongoing ministry in a certain specific sphere of service which has defined boundaries of participation.
  • Apostolic Team Members.
    Apostles whose apostolic ministry functions in conjunction with an apostle who is seen as the leader of a team of one or more other peer-level vertical apostles. They may be assigned specific spheres by the leading apostle. These are more than administrators or assistants or armor-bearers.
  • Congregational apostles.
    Apostles functioning as senior pastors of dynamic, growing churches of more than 700-800.
Horizontal Apostles
  • Convening apostles.
    Apostles who have authority to call together on a regular basis peer-level leaders who minister in a defined field.
  • Ambassadorial apostles. Apostles who have itinerant, frequently international, ministries of catalyzing and nurturing apostolic movements on a broad scale.
  • Mobilizing apostles. 
    Apostles who have the authority to take leadership in bringing together qualified leaders in the body of Christ for a specific cause or project.
  • Territorial apostles.  Apostles who have been given authority for leading a certain segment of the body of Christ in a given territorial sphere such as a city or state.

Marketplace Apostles
It seems clear that some marketplace apostles would be vertical (perhaps within a large company) while others would be horizontal (bringing together peer-level marketplace apostles). The more we work with marketplace apostles, the more clarity will come in due time.

Please note: Dr.Wagner functions as a horizontal apostle within a sphere of recognized apostles. As such, Dr.Wagner does not provide apostolic ‘covering’ or accountability as a vertical apostle.
– Source: Understanding How Apostles Minister in Different Spheres, Global Harvest Ministries. Last accessed Jan. 22, 2009

Again, you won’t find this in your Bible. It was simply made up.

Wagner Leadership Institute

It should be clear by now that Wagner did not shy away from making bold, though unfounded statements claims. For instance, at the website of his Wagner Leadership Institute, he promised, “Students obtain a living, functioning impartation and activation from the Holy Spirit to walk in their divine destiny”:

Wagner Leadership Institute is an international network of apostolic training centers established to equip the saints for kingdom ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Founded in 1998 by C. Peter Wagner, WLI reflects a new paradigm for unique training in practical ministry. Students learn in a creative, revelatory atmosphere of teaching, impartation and activation with opportunity for hands-on practical application and ministry. WLI provides the highest level of training and spiritual impartation through a successful faculty of internationally known leaders who walk and minister powerfully out of the five-fold ascension gifts. Students obtain a living, functioning impartation and activation from the Holy Spirit to walk in their divine destiny.
– Source: About Wagner Leadership Institute Last accessed, Jan. 22, 2009

C. Peter Wagner and Todd Bentley

Whether he called himself a ‘horizontal apostle’ or a ‘presiding apostle’ — as he did at the website of his International Coalition of Apostles, Wagner’s assumed spiritual authority got dented after his commissioning of Todd Bentley as an evangelist:

California pastors Ché Ahn and Bill Johnson, along with Canadian pastor John Arnott, laid hands on the 32-year-old Bentley while Peter Wagner, leader of the International Coalition of Apostles, read a statement about the need for apostolic alignment.

Wagner said to Bentley on the platform: “This commissioning represents a powerful spiritual transaction taking place in the invisible world. With this in mind, I take the apostolic authority that God has given me and I decree to Todd Bentley, your power will increase, your authority will increase, your favor will increase, your influence will increase, your revelation will increase.

“I also decree that a new supernatural strength will flow through this ministry. A new life force will penetrate this move of God. Government will be established to set things in their proper order. God will pour out a higher level of discernment to distinguish truth from error. New relationships will surface to open the gates to the future.”
– Source: Leaders Commission Todd Bentley at “Lakeland Outpouring’, Charisma, June 24, 2008

Apostolic alignment? You’re right, it’s not in the Bible. Just another phrase thought up by those involved in this fantasy game of ‘apostles and prophets.’

Yet with all their alleged spiritual insight, talks with Jesus, visits from angels, dreams and vision, and declarations, decrees, and revelations, none of the ‘apostles’ and ‘prophets’ involved in Bentley’s commissioning knew that just two weeks later Bentley would file for divorce from his wife, and that — during the so-called Lakeland Revival, Bentley had “entered into an unhealthy relationship on an emotional level with a female member of his staff.” It was later revealed that Bentley was romantically involved with her, and that during the ‘revival’ Bentley had been drunk a few times.

Apostlic alignment? Looks like someone needs to keep an eye on those who consider themselves to be ‘presiding’ or ‘horizontal’ apostles.

C. Peter Wagner and Global Spheres, Inc.

Most recently he was the vice president (or, in his own words, “Apostolic Ambassador”) of Global Spheres, Inc. — which he described as “a new wineskin for apostolic assignment.” “Apostle” Chuck Pierce, president of Globale Spheres, Inc. (GSI), believes this new wineskin “represents the apostolic role of the leaders who would change, mold and advance God’s Kingdom plan in the earth in the next decade.”

Pierce says:

One of the main areas of development during the last decade has been the maturing of the new wineskin that represents the apostolic role of the leaders who would change, mold and advance God’s Kingdom plan in the earth in the next decade.[…]

After seeking the mind of the Lord, I knew that what we were attempting to do was create a new wineskin. We established Global Spheres, Inc., a Texas based corporation, to develop new spheres of authority, new relationships, and a new structure for the harvest that is ripening. This is a time that the creativity in God’s leaders must be drawn forth in a new way so that we prosper in the midst of changing, chaotic, worldly wineskins. Peter, Doris and I knew that the Daniels, Esthers, Deborahs, Hannahs, Josephs, Pauls, Lydias, Peters, and Johns for this age were to rise up, come together, and move into the formation of His Kingdom plan in the earth. We knew we needed a wineskin that would allow individuals from any number of backgrounds to align! This wineskin would need to include spheres for missions, teaching, deliverance, wealth transfer, apostleship, government, education, arts and entertainment, family, media, science and technical development, to name a few. […]

… I serve as President of Global Spheres, Inc., and Peter serves as Vice President and Doris as a Board Member. However, anyone invited to join Global Spheres, Inc. will be aligning with all three of us, and not any of us individually. This will create a new Apostolic-Prophetic-Evangelistic-Deliverance Governmental Structure that will be ready to be used in the nations. This will be wineskin for the transformational thrust to “turn the world upside down in this era.”
– Source: About Global Spheres, Inc.

So basically, if we are to believe Chuck Pierce and C. Peter Wagner, the Lord saw fit to have these self-appointed “apostles” incorporate a “Governmental Structure” for what they see as “God’s Kindom plan in the earth.”

GSI’s Prospectus says

Chuck Pierce is widely recognized as a prophet, but he is an apostle as well. Peter Wagner has a substantial track record as an apostle and also a teacher. This means that those who choose to identify with Global Spheres thus become aligned with apostle, prophet, and teacher, numbers one, two, and three in the divine order for the government of the church as seen in 1 Corinthians 12:28 quoted above. GSI is not a church or a substitute for a church. It is not designed to provide pastoral care to members of the body of Christ in general. All believers should be under the care of a pastor, hopefully a pastor who has secured proper apostolic alignment. GSI is an apostolic network which provides proper apostolic alignment to leaders. These leaders include apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers as well as others such as intercessors, deliverance ministers, missionaries, and the like.
– Source: A Prospectus

Wait a second. Did he say we can be “aligned” (by invitation only, according to the Prospectus) with “apostle, prophet, and teacher, numbers one, two, and three in the divine order for the government of the church”?

This goes beyond mere fantasy. This ventures into the realm of blasphemy and heresy.

Learn more about the New Apostolic Reformation

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First published (or major update) on Saturday, October 22, 2016.
Last updated on October 24, 2016.

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