The apostles and prophets movement emphasizes what they see as ministries from Ephesians 4:11, and its adherents' teaching has caught on quickly. A pastor near my seminary now signs his name "Apostle ___ ," and asks others to address him as such. The group also hosts lessons in being a prophet, where students pair off and take turns prophesying blessings for each other.
Piedra says that the "religious space of 'prophets and apostles' is dominated by an anachronistic Protestant shamanism, made up of individuals (actores) who pretend to save the world through an animist manipulation of evil spirits."
Under the umbrella of spiritual warfare has grown a body of clergy specializing in discerning hidden forces. These preachers focus more on the fear of spirits than on the hope that Christ gives. They are also "experts" on curses and all sorts of practices like geographic cornering and blowing and whistling to subject evil spirits. This is quite the opposite of the defeat of Satan!
Like Argentine Methodist theologian José Míguez Bonino, Piedra holds that there is a weak historical connection between Latin American Protestantism and the Protestant tradition, as there is little or no emphasis on sola gratia, sola Scriptura, or justification by faith alone. Sadly, the apostles and prophets are not teaching the central message of the gospel, but a gospel of prosperity.
Television is a powerful influence on Latin American theology. The TV channel Enlace (owned by the Trinity Broadcasting Network) has become "a true magisterium" beyond denominational beliefs and practices. It is available in most Latin American countries. Most evangelicals turn it on several times a week. No matter what topic Enlace is dealing with, the message boils down to making "pacts" with God, wherein a person must demonstrate the seriousness of his prayer request by sending money along with it. Pastors with little or no training imitate Enlace preachers, and the effect intensifies.
Many Enlace-style churches have reduced the message of the gospel to economic prosperity. Based on belief in evil spirits' hidden conspiracies that can only be averted by economic pacts—a contemporary version of indulgences—some of these churches end up in clear continuity with the surrounding culture of amulets, or magical ways of quickly obtaining wealth and happiness. The celebrities who represent this kind of overnight wealth are Mafia members and druglords. The final product, says Piedra, is religious consumerism.
Respected Latin American theologian René Padilla says the new massive churches formed by these theological forces may directly or indirectly come from the Reformation. Nevertheless, he argues, these churches have adopted the "mass empire" culture, as they use business strategies and marketing techniques to reach their numerical goals, offering material prosperity, making people feel good, and emphasizing entertainment.
They reduce their biblical message, if they have one, to a minimum, and their view of discipleship is extremely limited. For these reasons, Padilla holds that these non-Catholic churches are an expression of evangelical popular religiosity. He calls it a form of Protestantism
closely related to a light culture of postmodern times. With those characteristics, it is hard to imagine how these big churches could be of any significant influence in preaching the message of the kingdom of God and the practice of justice in our continent. Christian ethics have been replaced by magic, Christ has no humanity.