The Last Reformation movement, started by Torben Søndergaard in Denmark in 2011, has gained popularity in recent years. However, there are concerns about whether some of its teachings and practices align with Scripture. This approximately 9000 word article will analyze the main components of the Last Reformation movement from a biblical perspective.
The Last Reformation focuses heavily on returning to the ministry methods of Jesus and the apostles described in the book of Acts. This includes an emphasis on healing, deliverance, water baptism, and making disciples through relational evangelism.
Healing and Deliverance Ministries
A core component of the Last Reformation is operating in the gifts of healing and deliverance. The movement believes that all Christians should be healing the sick regularly as part of evangelism, just as Jesus and the disciples did. Teachers in the movement often point to verses such as Matthew 10:8, where Jesus commissions his disciples saying “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”
There are many examples in the gospels and Acts of Jesus and the disciples healing people of various infirmities and casting out demons. Jesus gave his followers authority over sickness and demons and commanded them to use these gifts (Luke 9:1-2). The apostles continued healing and deliverance ministries after Jesus ascended to heaven. Peter healed a lame beggar (Acts 3:1-10), Paul healed a demon-possessed girl (Acts 16:16-18), and many miracles were done through the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 5:12-16).
Therefore, the desire to see healing and deliverance as part of Christian ministry does have biblical precedent. Scripture encourages believers to earnestly desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1) and not be lacking in any gift (1 Corinthians 1:7). An expectation and pursuit of the miraculous is biblical.
However, the Last Reformation’s healing and deliverance practices also raise some concerns. There is little emphasis on gifts being distributed by the Holy Spirit according to God’s will (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). Healing is sometimes presented as a formula that any Christian can enact if they have enough faith. But Scripture does not guarantee that every Christian can heal or work miracles as some in the Last Reformation imply. Paul speaks of gifts of healing being distributed to some believers, but not all (1 Corinthians 12:9,28-30). Miraculous gifts are given by God’s grace, according to His will, not man’s will or effort.
Additionally, a recurring criticism of the Last Reformation public healing events is that they often appear chaotic or even manipulative. There are instances of leaders seemingly pushing people over, shouting commands at demons, making unverifiable and exaggerated claims of healings, and so on. These kinds of practices do not seem to align with the pattern of Jesus, who healed people with love, compassion and gentleness, without fanfare or hype.
While desiring the gifts of healing and deliverance is good, balance is needed. The enthusiastic pursuit of miracles should be tempered with wisdom, order, and discernment (1 Corinthians 14:33,40). Overall, the Last Reformation would benefit from a more nuanced, grace-centered approach that recognizes miraculous gifts are distributed by God’s wisdom, not automatically available to all believers who pursue them.
Another core emphasis of the Last Reformation is the practice of water baptism, specifically through full immersion. Teachers in the movement believe baptism was always carried out immediately when a person chose to follow Christ in the NT. Baptism is seen as essential to salvation and an integral part of the conversion experience.
There is clear biblical support for the practice of water baptism by immersion. Jesus himself was baptized by John the Baptist by full immersion in water (Matthew 3:13-17). Jesus also commanded his disciples to baptize new believers as part of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). There are many examples in Acts of new Christians being baptized immediately after choosing to believe in Jesus (Acts 2:41, 8:12, 9:18, 10:47-48, 16:15). Full immersion was the norm, as evidenced by the description that Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch “went down into the water” for baptism (Acts 8:38).
So the Last Reformation’s emphasis on immediate full-immersion baptism following conversion does align with NT patterns. However, their stance that baptism is required for salvation is more debatable. Verses like Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21 and Mark 16:16 are sometimes used to argue baptism is necessary for salvation or the forgiveness of sins. But there are also verses suggesting salvation comes prior to and apart from water baptism, through faith alone (John 3:16, Romans 10:9, Ephesians 2:8-9). There is scriptural evidence on both sides of this issue. Most evangelical theologians contend that while baptism is an important act of obedience for believers, it is not a prerequisite to being justified before God. So while baptism closely followed conversion in the NT, it may be best to avoid dogmatism on whether it’s integrally linked to salvation.
In summary, while the Last Reformation’s zeal for immediate baptism by immersion has biblical support, their stance on its necessity for salvation is doubtful from a Protestant/evangelical theological perspective. There is room for interpretation and debate on this issue.
The Last Reformation urges every Christian to make disciples, not just participate in outreach programs and events. Teachers train believers how to share their faith relationally and lead people from encounter to repentance, faith, baptism, and a new life following Christ. Everyday evangelism through normal life connections is heavily emphasized.
This focus aligns with Jesus’ disciple-making strategy. Rather than hold mass evangelistic crusades, Jesus poured into 12 disciples through personal time, teaching, and mission. Jesus’ Great Commission was to “go and make disciples” from all nations (Matthew 28:19). The early church grew primarily through ordinary believers sharing the gospel relationally with family, friends and colleagues. Paul’s example was to preach the gospel from “house to house” (Acts 20:20).
The Last Reformation’s relational approach to making disciples is certainly grounded in Scripture. Cultivating an everyday lifestyle of gently sharing and living out the faith with those around us is biblical. However, critics note that the movement can become overzealous with trying to witness, sometimes even confronting strangers in public or putting pressure on new converts to evangelize. There is a fine line between maintaining evangelistic fervor and respecting people’s pace and privacy. Healthy disciple-making includes befriending people, building trust over time, and sensitively prompting consideration of the gospel message when appropriate. While desiring to make disciples is good, balance, patience and wisdom are equally virtuous.
In summary, the Last Reformation’s focus on activating all Christians in relational evangelism and disciple-making aligns with NT principles. However, perhaps greater prudence could be exercised regarding the zeal and methods with which this is sometimes put into practice.
The Last Reformation has a decentralized organizational structure. There is no central headquarters, president, board, or membership roster. Søndergaard leads by influence rather than formal authority. Teachings are spread through a grassroots network of small house churches led by lay people. His team equips others to plant new house churches through training schools and online resources. Everything is designed to rapidly reproduce disciples and simple church communities globally.
This decentralized, multiplicative approach to growing the church has merit. While having a structured leadership hierarchy has benefits, it is prone to institutionalization and clerical dependence. An organic, shared-leadership model releases every believer to operate in their gifts and callings under Christ’s headship. It embodies Paul’s description of the church as a body of interdependent parts rather than a single organization (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4). There is certainly wisdom in structures that empower disciples to multiply disciples and churches to multiply churches.
At the same time, complete decentralization has weaknesses. Accountability and protection against false teaching can decrease. Without any network-wide standards, house church practices and beliefs can easily drift. Key decisions impacting many churches still require point leaders to direct. So a hybrid model that provides some core alignment while maximizing autonomy may be optimal. Most NT churches do appear to have functioned with a level of connectionalism under the loose oversight of apostolic teams (Acts 15:1-35, Titus 1:5, Revelation 2-3). Totally independent house churches seem relatively rare in Scripture.
In summary, the largely decentralized approach of the Last Reformation facilitates growth but needs processes for accountability. Some minimal network cohesion could help manage doctrine and guard against excess. The NT pattern tends toward connectionalism rather than full autonomy of all churches.
No Paid Clergy
The Last Reformation rejects the concept of paid, professional clergy. Their house churches are led by unpaid lay people who support themselves financially through secular work. Søndergaard’s team funds their ministry through donations, not salaries from the churches they serve. Tithing to support church staff is discouraged.
This approach finds limited support in the NT model. In the first century church every person was considered a minister; there was no clergy-laity divide as developed over time. The NT nowhere explicitly states churches had paid pastoral staff comparable to modern senior pastors. Paul chose not to ask for payment from all the churches he served (1 Corinthians 9:12). He worked as a tentmaker to provide for himself in ministry.
However, the NT does indicate ministers were supported financially at times. Jesus told his disciples not to take money on their first training mission but said “the worker deserves his wages” when sending them out officially (Luke 10:7). Paul reinforced this, saying he had the right to refrain from working to earn a living so he could “reap a material harvest from you” (1 Corinthians 9:14). He taught the Galatians that those being taught should share their finances “with those who teach” (Galatians 6:6). So the early church seemed to embrace both unpaid and supported ministry. Giving was voluntary, not compulsory like a tithe.
In summary, the Last Reformation’s use of unpaid clergy has biblical precedent but is not definitively the only model. While paid clergy has shortcomings, so does requiring church leaders to be bi-vocational. There are reasonable arguments on both sides. Neither option should be dogmatically promoted as the only legitimate or effective model.
Simple Church Gatherings
House churches in the Last Reformation model are very simple and participatory by design. There is no programmed worship service led by a pastor. Gatherings involve everyone eating a communal meal, discussing the Bible, praying for each other, sharing testimonies, and planning evangelism. Spontaneity and flexibility are embraced rather than tightly controlled liturgy.
This simplicity aligns with early church gatherings in homes described in the NT (Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19). There were no formal order of services; meetings were less structured and more familial. There was participation by many rather than performances by a few. Meals and Christian fellowship played a prominent role (Acts 2:46). From a biblical standpoint, the informal, relational nature of house church gatherings makes good sense.
However, completely spontaneous meetings also have drawbacks. Without any planning, key elements like communion or corporate prayer can be neglected. Some loose structure and direction helps groups be intentional about worship, discipleship, outreach, and meeting felt needs. The first century church did develop patterns and practices for their assemblies over time under apostolic guidance. So achieving a balance between formality and informality is ideal. Additionally, larger weekend gatherings may still be helpful alongside house church life for celebration, teaching by gifted leaders, and connection with the wider body.
In summary, the Last Reformation’s simple participatory meetings have biblical merit but could benefit from having some thoughtful organization. Blending the flexibility of house church with helpful liturgical elements from traditional congregations may be a wise path.
Gifts and Offices
The Last Reformation emphasizes that every Christian can and should minister according to their gifts rather than just receiving ministry from professionals. All are encouraged to evangelize, preach, lead worship, baptize new believers, plant churches, and more regardless of age, gender, education or ecclesial credentials. Traditional office titles like pastor, evangelist or bishop are avoided.
This aligns with the NT perspective that every Christian is gifted by the Holy Spirit to contribute to the church in meaningful ways (1 Corinthians 12:7). The first century church did not have the division between clergy and laity that developed later. Women functioned as leaders, teachers and prophets (Acts 18:26, 21:9, Romans 16:1-7). Church gatherings involved “each one” contributing with various gifts like teaching, prophecy and tongues (1 Corinthians 14:26). There was greater participation and less spectating than typical now.
At the same time, the NT does identify different leadership functions like apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers (Ephesians 4:11). Paul gives qualifications for elders/overseers and instructs Titus to appoint them (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9). So while every member was active, there was an emergence of recognized servant leaders according to gifting. The body models in the NT have diversity and structure, not just equality (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31). There is wisdom in embracing both – affirming all to minister according to their gifts as well as respecting God-established authority.
In summary, the Last Reformation helpfully seeks to activate every person’s spiritual gifts but could articulate a more nuanced view of leadership and authority that acknowledges the diversity of forms and functions seen in the NT.
The Last Reformation movement promotes a subculture with a bold, countercultural ethos. There is a call to devotion without compromise and living by kingdom values rather than earthly norms. This includes abandoning comfort and security to sacrificially serve God and make disciples. The emphasis is on wholehearted obedience leading to radical transformation.
This resonates with Jesus’ calls to costly discipleship. He told his followers to leave everything behind to follow him (Luke 5:27-28, 14:33). He said disciples must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and give up all they have (Luke 9:23, 14:33). Jesus made welcoming children and the vulnerable a priority over social conventions (Luke 18:15-17). The book of Acts records believers selling possessions, abandoning occupations, and facing persecution to dedicate themselves to Christ (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-35, 8:1-4, 9:23-25). So embracing Jesus’ kingdom over earthly norms is fundamentally biblical.
However, balance is also a virtue. Nowhere does the NT model monastic communities; believers mostly remained embedded in society. While materialism should be avoided, providing for one’s needs and family is embraced (1 Timothy 5:8). Wisdom, not legalism, should govern lifestyle choices (Colossians 2:16-23). And sacrifice must be Spirit-led rather than forced by guilt; giving is to be cheerful not compulsive (2 Corinthians 9:7).
In summary, the countercultural ethos the Last Reformation seeks to engender has biblical roots. But guardrails of wisdom and sustainable balance are needed to avoid reactionary excess and burnout. Devotion can become too zealous without tempering prudence.
Holy Spirit Emphasis
The Last Reformation urges Christians to passionately seek and rely on the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. This includes pursing spiritual gifts, continually praying and hearing God’s voice, and following the Spirit’s promptings. There is an expectation of supernatural encounters. The Christian life is presented as a Spirit-led adventure rather than just dutiful religion.
This aligns with the believer’s intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit described in the NT. Jesus said his followers would be guided into all truth by the Spirit (John 16:13). The early church experienced miracles, visions, prophecies and divine leading through the Spirit’s enabling (Acts 2:4, 8:29, 10:19). Paul instructs Christians to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). Yielding to the Spirit is portrayed as the key to living the vibrant Christian life (Romans 8:5-6, Galatians 5:16-18).
However, as with the other Last Reformation emphases, balance is needed to temper reactions that could emerge. Being led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14) must be balanced with testing expressions carefully (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21). Following promptings should be done in submission to Scripture’s authority, not over it. Walking in supernatural power requires humility and wisdom or it easily devolves into fanaticism. As the saying goes, “Don’t let your zeal exceed your knowledge.” The Holy Spirit and the Word work in harmony (John 14:26), so room for critical thinking is vital.
In summary, the call to wholehearted reliance on the Spirit’s guidance and power is fundamentally biblical. But Last Reformation adherents need strong foundations in Scriptural truth and spiritual discernment to evaluate promptings and experiences. Without those guardrails, well-intentioned zeal can morph into extremism. The desire for spiritual vitality must be tempered by wisdom and maturity.
In assessing the key components of the Last Reformation movement, there are both strengths and weaknesses when analyzed against Scripture. The desire to return to the ministry practices of Jesus and the apostles is commendable and in line with the NT pattern in many ways. However, taken to extremes without wisdom and balance, these same emphases can also produce issues. No church or movement perfectly recaptures the original, first-century faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). There is a need for ongoing reformation according to the Scriptures across all traditions and streams, including the Last Reformation. The good can be affirmed while the excesses refined for this movement to fully align with the biblical model.