Counterfeit Kingdom – Book Review

In their excellent new book, Counterfeit Kingdom: The Dangers of New Revelation, New Prophets, and New Age Practices in the Church (B&H, 2022), Holly Pivec and R. Douglas Geivett discuss the beliefs and practices of a fast-growing, international movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). Heavily-influenced by Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton of Bethel Church in Redding, California, NAR is an evangelistic campaign that uses high energy tactics, flattery, false promises, and emotion-driven music to spread their false teachings and gain followers.

Counterfeit Kingdom cautions readers about the dangerous teachings and practices of leaders who are textbook examples of the false prophets that Jesus and the authors of Scripture warned about (Matthew 7:15; 24:11; Mark 13:22; 2 Peter 2:1). These leaders present themselves as sheep — committed Christians who read, follow, and teach the Scripture — and yet, when the discerning student gets closer, she realizes she has encountered a wolf in sheep’s clothing. By then, much damage has often already been done. 

Many problematic teachings of NAR are brought to light in Counterfeit Kingdom. For example, NAR leaders claim every Christian can and must develop the supernatural gifts of healing and prophecy. Scripture is twisted to align with NAR agendas, and passages like 1 Corinthians 12:11, which says the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts as he decides and not as we demand them, are ignored. As long as students are submitted to the authority of the “modern-day apostles” leading the NAR movement and who claim the same authority as Jesus’s apostles, they will be able to command angels and demons, perform miracles on demand, and establish God’s kingdom on earth. 

Counterfeit Kingdom also exposes unbiblical behaviors among the NAR, many of which cross over into the New Age and the occult. For example, at Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM), students learn to read people’s minds, communicate with the dead, predict people’s future using a “Christianized” version of tarot cards, and masquerade as psychics to win converts without offending people with the name of Jesus. Pivec and Geivett point out that these — and other, more bizarre practices — are not merely the behaviors of a fringe cult. More than 13,000 students have graduated from BSSM, only to take these practices back to their homes, churches, and influential ministries around the world.  

As one might expect, NAR teachers have also bought into the prosperity gospel, the teaching that it is God’s will and plan for all his children to drive fancy cars, have great success in their careers, have perfect health, live in expensive homes, and fill those homes with all the materialistic desires of their hearts. They believe worldly success is one of the ways God desires to make himself known and to draw people to himself. Of course, this flies in the face of all that we see throughout the New Testament, both in the lives of Jesus and his apostles and in their clear teachings (John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 12:6-10). 

These, and many more unbiblical teachings, are infiltrating churches and drawing in unsuspecting converts. Pivec and Geivett do a phenomenal job of raising the issues, evaluating them from a biblical perspective, and equipping people to recognize NAR-influenced, false teaching when they see it.  

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the NAR movement for me personally as I read Counterfeit Kingdom was the connection that several popular contemporary music labels have to the dangerous movement. For example, Bethel Music, which produces worship music used in evangelical churches all over the country (and the world), is a product of Bethel Church, which is a primary source of these heretical teachings and dangerous behaviors. Christian pastors across the globe are paying money to use Bethel Music, not knowing it arises from a distorted and unbiblical philosophy and that their money is being used to further perpetuate the lies. Other popular labels that come out of or are heavily influenced by this movement include Hillsong Music, Jesus Culture, Gateway Worship, and Elevation Worship. These labels account for a large portion of the contemporary music played by churches and purchased by Christians today, and yet, they are the product of a deceptive movement that uses biblical language to spread unbiblical ideas.

Beyond the few examples I’ve given, Counterfeit Kingdom discusses many more false teachings and concerning behaviors of the NAR, as well as how these contrast with the biblical teachings. The book also contains excellent sections on NAR control tactics used to keep their followers from questioning their teachings, signs of counterfeit revival, how to judge when miracles are genuine, testimonies of parents who have lost their children to NAR, and guidelines for deception-proofing your children. 

For many reasons, this may be the most important book of the year. I cannot recommend it highly enough. To those who have not yet read it, I encourage you to get a copy and start reading it. To those who have read it, I encourage you to pray about who you can give it to as a gift. The teachings of the NAR are dangerous and are spreading like wildfire. Their leaders are wolves disguised in sheep’s clothing, and whether you know it yet or not, they are coming after you and your children. But there is hope. Counterfeit Kingdom is a clear, accessible, comprehensive inoculation to the madness. It equips readers to recognize the deception, resist the lies, and help others to do the same. 

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