George Barna and the New Apostolic Reformation
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 04:33:05 PM EST
[Update: after writing this piece, I subsequently discovered that George Barna was listed, in 2002 in the official WLI catalog, as being on the Wagner Leadership Institute's Board of Regents. This places Barna in one of the more significant leadership groups in C. Peter Wagner's evolving New Apostolic Reformation]

Given the secretive nature of the movement, documenting the involvement of public figures in C. Peter Wagner's New Apostolic Reformation can be a time-consuming project. Over the last two years I've been piecing together evangelical pollster and author George Barna's considerable involvement in the NAR. Now, as with many such projects long in the gestation, it's become suddenly politically relevant - because Barna is one of three New Apostolic Reformation figures in Newt Gingrich's recently created Faith Leaders Coalition.

Last week, Talk To Action contributor Rachel Tabachnick confirmed with the Gingrich campaign on Thursday, January 26th, that apostle and top NAR leader Dutch Sheets has endorsed Gingrich and joined the Faith Leaders Coalition, also co-directed by pastor Jim Garlow.

The involvement of these three makes the New Apostolic Reformation by far the dominant sectarian faction in the Gingrich Faith Leaders Coalition - an astounding fact in light of the ideologically and theologically controversial nature of the NAR, within evangelicalism both in America but also worldwide.

George Barna and the New Apostolic Reformation

In a March 19, 2010 post on his personal website, George Barna complained about the propagation on the Internet of inaccurate information. One example Barna provided was a comment I had made, on a Religion Dispatches story published in February 2010:

"George Barna taught for years at C. Peter Wagner's Wagner Leadership Institute, and his writing appears in "Evangelism and Church Growth: Reference Library" published by Regal books, with contributions from the following notable authors: Elmer L. Towns, George Barna, C. Peter Wagner, Ted Haggard, Ed Silvoso, Jack W. Hayford, and Larry Stockstill. "
In his post, Barna claimed to have only taught a single course for the Wagner Leadership Institute, many years ago. He wrote, "I taught a course there once, about 15 years ago, and I think it last two or three days; it may only have seemed like years to those who had to take my class. (Note: I was never invited back.)"

However, George Barna was on the original faculty list of WLI and is still listed as a WLI faculty member, up into the present. If Barna's account is correct then WLI, it would seem, has inexplicably kept him on its faculty list, in error, for over a decade. Mere laziness? It would seem not - over the course of WLI's existence, the names of numerous teachers previously listed as WLI faculty have been removed and the names of new faculty members have been added.

[image, below: screen shot from home page of the Wagner Leadership Institute, 2000, which lists George Barna as a WLI faculty member. Also note John Arnott, John Maxwell, and Ted Haggard]

But this is only a part of a wider pattern, in George Barna's involvement with the New Apostolic Reformation movement.

It is worth noting that George Barna's involvement with Peter Wagner's movement traces back to the mid-1990s, at which time the apostolic and prophetic movement, soon to be launched as the NAR after the turn of the new millennium, was far more controversial (among evangelicals, at least) than it even is now.

One of prolific author Barna's many projects was the co-authorship, with Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr., a member of the elite Wagner-founded Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders, of the 2004 Regal / Gospel Light book High Impact African American Churches. Wagner contributed an enthusiastic plug for the book, writing,

"For years, most Christian leaders have admired the amazing and  profound religious and social impact of black churches in our cities. Now my friends, George Barna and Harry Jackson, have focused a brilliant floodlight on African-American churches, allowing us to see clearly how they have gone about doing it. High-Impact African-American Churches is important reading!"

Barna has also co-authored two books with evangelical leader Bill Dallas who, following his felony conviction and imprisonment for real estate embezzlement, has embarked on a second career as a church networking specialist - plugged into a major New Apostolic Reformation funding channel.  

Dallas' Church Communications Network project received hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist Ken Eldred, who has also bankrolled Dallas' new nonprofit venture, United in Purpose, with at least $1,000,000 in funding.

In his 2008 book Dominion: How Kingdom Action Can Change The World, C. Peter Wagner describes Ken Eldred, who has used his substantial business fortune to launch several nonprofit foundations capitalized with at least $50,000,000 (and possibly even $100,000,000), as a "marketplace apostle" who has provided "what might prove to be our most viable guidelines for a new strategy of social transformation."

990 tax forms filed with the IRS by Eldred's foundations show they have been a major funding source for videographer George Otis Jr.'s video series "Transformations", which has played a major role in disseminating the New Apostolic Reformation's distinctive Spiritual Warfare / Spiritual Mapping ideas worldwide.

George Barna makes an appearance in Otis, Jr.'s third Transformations production, the 2003 video The Quickening: Entering into the Firestorm of God's Grace.

Otis, Jr.'s Transformations videos depict the creation of mini-utopias, in cities, towns, and whole geographic areas, which is accomplished when charismatic Christians band together to drive out demon spirits, and people accused of witchcraft and sorcery, from their local areas.

Barna also has been a speaker at events sponsored by Bill Dallas' United In Purpose / Champion The Vote (the later is voter registration project of UIP), which have featured Newt Gingrich and leading Christian nationalist  history revisionist David Barton - who in his own right has an extensive track record of working with apostles and prophets in Wagner's NAR.

Along with Barton, George Barna shows up on the original Board of Reference of what is perhaps the signature public event of the New Apostolic Reformation, Lou Engle's The Call [Barna was listed on the Reference Board of The Call International - along with Purpose Drive Life author Rick Warren].

Given The Call leader Lou Engle's virulent rhetoric against legal abortion and same-sex marriage, Barna's endorsement is notable, especially in light of C. Peter Wagner's statement in his book Radical Holiness For Radical Living:

"Today's best known church researcher is George Barna. He is a committed Christian, but his task is that of a sociologist, not of a moralizer.

As an ancillary note, many of Barna's (numerous) books have been printed under the Regal / Gospel Light imprint, which is one of the preferred publishing houses for books by New Apostolic Reformation leadership. For example, Barna's 1997 book Leaders on Leadership, which contains profiles of NAR leaders C. Peter Wagner and Jack Hayford, featured ads for books by Wagner, Dutch Sheets, Cindy Jacobs, and Ed Silvoso.

Barna's 1999 Regal / Gospel Light published by Habits of Highly Effective Churches earned Peter Wagner's effusive endorsement. Wrote Wagner,

"Few individuals have gained more insight about the true nature of today's churches than George Barna. This book is not another survey of what all churches do, but rather it is focused on the most essential differences between the great churches and the good ones. Habits of Highly Effective Churches is a blockbuster! You will not want to miss it!"



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Good info. But what do we do with this? I just wish you would focus like a laser.

by Jaypride on Thu Feb 02, 2012 at 02:40:38 PM EST
Here's what it illuminates:

George Barna, head of the Barna Group, does research that's taken very seriously by the secular world. His partisan ties to the NAR have been, prior to my drawing out these connections, unknown.

But the NAR is a movement not always known for its honesty, and Barna's ties to the movement raise troubling questions, given that Wagner's NAR seeks to dominate all significant sectors of society. What role does Barna's polling research play in that project, if any? I'm quite curious.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 12:59:54 PM EST
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