(LARB) James KA Smith on INC Christianity: How to Find God (on YouTube)

What [Chuck] Smith, [John] Wimber, and [Pater] Wagner shared was an aversion to hierarchical authority and a penchant to set up their own shops whenever they encountered resistance. All of them moved from more traditional denominational affiliations to looser nondenominational “fellowships,” eventually setting up their own independent ministries such as the Wagner Leadership Institute, which is “perhaps the largest and best-organized promoter of INC teachings.” This pattern will be repeated and sacralized in INC Christianity. The demand for autonomy will be baptized as “religious entrepreneurship.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that leaders in this movement would also retrieve the title of “apostle.” Most traditional forms of Christianity understand the office of apostle as restricted to the first century of the Church. Apostles are those who, having witnessed the resurrected Christ in person, were then sent (the Greek root from which we get the word means a “sent one”) with a unique authority. But Wagner, for example, has described the INC movement as a “New Apostolic Reformation.” And the network is really one of leaders who claim the title “apostle” by virtue of supernatural manifestations in their ministries, and thereby seek the allegiance of followers. In turn, these apostles provide “spiritual covering” for other leaders and practitioners. To claim to be an apostle is to claim some kind of unquestioned authority and power.

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