An Apostolic Understanding – Part Thirty

Blog for December 12, 2017

Then word ‘apostle’ refers to a very specific calling from God. “Apostle” is not a title you give to someone to honour them. It is a job description for a specific call and role assigned to specific people called to that position. “Apostle” is not a title you give to honour or recognize them. It is a call given by Jesus on a person’s life. That person is a gift from Jesus to the Church universal (Ephesians 4:11).

However, the apostle does have a specific place or places that they are called to minister. And, they must be careful to remain within that geographical region. The calling of an apostle does carry a high level of authority.

In some areas of the Church they are called ambassadors. However, this is biblically incorrect as all born again believers are ambassadors for the Kingdom and for Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:20).

The word apostle simply means “the sent one.” And, when the apostle is functioning in an area and in a local church then the people become apostolic – they are sent out into their community and neighbourhoods to share Jesus with others. The Church then can obey “go into the all the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). This is known as the Great Commission or the marching orders and mandate on the Church.

Because we have the non-biblical role of ‘local pastor’ leading almost all churches then we have become ‘pastoral’ and not ‘apostolic’. We are minding the sheep and praying for each other and making sure everyone within the church is loved and cared for. God never designed a pastoral church led by a local pastor- He has always wanted an apostolic church lead by apostles with people being sent out (apostolic) to plant the seeds of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Apostles because of their call have the authority to say things like:
“This goes there”
“This is out of order”
“Here is your next step”
“You are going to be in a mess if you don’t deal with this”
“This person is not an elder – they are really a deacon”
“This person has no leadership call upon their life and so should not be on the team”
“There are some major cracks in your church’s spiritual foundation that need repair”

Incredibly, when churches pay attention to what an apostle says, they grow and prosper. Otherwise, they simply slowly die until they close and disappear without anyone even noticing. The apostle knows how to set things in order – God’s order for that local church and region. And, when things are placed in order they work as they were meant to work within the fellowship and assembly of the local church. When a church submits itself to an apostle’s gift (done relationally and not hierarchically – see below), it begins to prosper and grow in incredible ways.

But, some Christians don’t like the idea of apostolic authority. The mention of apostolic authority fills them with fear and mistrust. Some have been wounded by authority figures in the past and don’t want to submit to any authority. Others are simply rebellious. Some don’t have a biblical understanding of authority. Some desire to be ‘lone rangers.’

Some believers mistakenly picture apostolic authority as a hierarchy. But apostolic authority is not a hierarchy. When you talk about apostolic authority, some people demand an organizational chart in order to see where they are in the hierarchy so that they can pin down ‘who gets to control whom,’ and where they stand in the pecking order. But that is not God’s picture of apostolic authority.

How did we get such a negative view of spiritual authority? In the 4th century, Emperor Constantine restructured the church after the pattern of Imperial Rome. It was a system based on control. His church buildings were ornate basilicas, patterned after the imperial throne room.

Constantine gave church leaders thrones to sit on. There was a throne at the front of every basilica. Church offices became positions of political power and a hierarchy was established; the bigger your church the bigger your throne. Ambition was encouraged. Each step gained more power and influence until you made it to the top. When you got to the top, you were the Pope, the ruler of the religious empire – the Holy Roman Empire.

The Protestant Reformation really did not change much in this regard. A typical Protestant church still looks a lot like a throne room. The leaders often have chairs on the platform that look like thrones. And there’s a constant power struggle. Everyone still wants a bigger church, more authority and power, and thus they want to be “Pope”.

This is not how the church is suppose to operate. In Mark 10 Jesus said, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42b-45)

So, those who are called into the fivefold ministry – including the apostle – is there to serve the local and regional churches and not rule over them. They do this relationally and not through some organizational flow chart. The apostles were servants of the Church who laid down their lives for that Church.

In Acts 20:19-24 Paul described his apostleship as “serving the Lord with tears and trials … teaching publicly and from house to house … not considering my life important, that I may complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me!”

In 2 Timothy 4:6 he says, “My life is being poured out like drink offering!”

This is true spiritual authority. The authority of an apostle is not confirmed by their title or place on a flow chart, but by the fact that they serve and pour out their lives for God’s people.

For a good look at a related topic – “Spiritual Covering” – look for “SPIRITUAL COVERING” BIBLE DOCTRINE OR ROMAN/PAGAN DOGMA?” By Steve Hill.

We have it posted on our web site at www.ralphhoweministries.com/ xxxxxx

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Twenty-nine

Blog for December 11, 2017

So, what do apostles do in the Church that Jesus is building and in the wider Kingdom expansion of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom where it has never been heard before? Good question.

The gift of “apostle” is a gift to the Church with a very specific set of functions that only apostles can perform. The main function of the apostle is to establish the church. This means the role of apostle is to create an administration within which other gifts can grow and develop. Apostles are key elements of God’s order for His Church, but God’s order and leadership (administration) is not that which we have been accustomed to.

Where apostles are functioning, you will see fivefold ministry come into its rightful place in the local church and in the region or district. You will see all five of the ministries within the team called out, and developed – young apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers.And, the saints, the true disciples of Jesus, will be discipled, trained, and equipped and the Kingdom of God will move forward establishing new churches in spiritually dark places and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom where it has never been heard before.

The discipling is where believers learn all the basics to become mature, re-producing Christians. This includes such things as how to hear the voice of God, reading and studying the Bible, receiving revelation from the heart of God, tithing, worship, fellowship, evangelism, prayer, and how to fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

The training would be teaching the believers the ten basic doctrines of the Christian faith so that they are no longer blown about and deceived by every wind of doctrine. These ten doctrines are basic to the faith and foundational to a Christian lifestyle and they also answer the ten top questions being asked by people today…

1> Can we trust the Bible? – Doctrine of Scripture
2> Does God really exist? – Doctrine of God
3> Whose world is it anyways? – Doctrine of Creation
4> What is God like? – Doctrine of the Trinity
5> Is my future fixed and predetermined (fate)? – Doctrine of Predestination
6> Why do human beings suffer? – Doctrine of Evil
7> What’s so different about Jesus? – Doctrine of Christ
8> Why was the cross necessary? – Doctrine of Salvation
9> Why do I need the Holy Spirit? – Doctrine of Supernatural Power
10> Where is the world heading? – Doctrine of Eschatology (of the end times)

The equipping includes teaching the believers how to flow in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. This includes teaching and hands-on practical training in the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) and how to become involved in the work that the Holy Spirit is already doing in expanding the Kingdom, building the Church, and planting the Gospel so new churches can be raised up.

There is a fourth element that we will see as fivefold ministry teams take their rightful place. The younger generation of fivefold ministers and other leaders within the Church will be mentored by older, more mature mothers and fathers in the faith. Mentoring is teaching those who are called to the fivefold ministry and those called to be leaders how to integrate ministry and life. This is a one-on-one teaching, training, and imparting spiritual insights that happens when the person being mentored travels with the fivefold ministers so that they see ministry and life in action by locally and trans-locally as well as overseas..

We need to be warned, however, that some churches carry the name “apostolic” but are not. And, they often give their pastor the title of ‘apostle’ but still function totally as an old wineskin. You see, most churches today are pastoral in nature. They were started by someone who was pastoral, called themselves a pastor, and thus led the church. These people are not the “pastor” of the fivefold ministry type but simply people who are caring and compassion and touch lives for Jesus. They may hold the position of ‘elder’ or they may not. They nurture and love the sheep, but they cannot establish fivefold ministry. It is not their gift. And, as talked about in earlier blogs in this series, often those with the role of pastor are really part of the fivefold ministry but not the ‘pastor’ in that fivefold lineup because this fivefold pastor is trans-local and not the solo leader of a local church. So, they should not use the title pastor. To help ease the confusion we refer to the fivefold ‘pastor’ as shepherd (APEST).

When someone felt called to the ministry – because the only ministry their branch of the church recognized on the local level is that of ‘pastor’ they assume that was the call on their life. So, they stepped in to a non-biblical role and became the leader of a local church.

My point, however, is the local ‘pastor’ and even the fivefold “pastor / shepherd” cannot establish the fivefold ministry.
Prophets also cannot establish fivefold ministry.
Teachers can teach about fivefold ministry but cannot establish the fivefold ministry.
Evangelists cannot establish fivefold ministry either.
It takes a gift from God to the Church – the gift of apostle – to establish fivefold ministry in the Church and region where the church is functioning.

That is the unique role and function of those called to be apostles.

 

 

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Twenty-eight

The pastoral model of the church is what we know and have been a part of. It is the old wineskin. And, the apostolic model of the church is the biblical model and, of course, the new wineskin. This model is based on many scriptures but three of the main ones are:

1 Corinthians 12:28 “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.”

Ephesians 2:20 “(the Church) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone”

Ephesians 4:11-12 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

God’s plan for the Church that Jesus is building calls for the fivefold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher. These are the five ministries Jesus fulfilled when He was ministering in Israel before the birth of the Church. And, for the Church today to have the fullness of His ministry we need all five roles functioning in the Church today. The question then is, “How do we get there?” The answer – follow God’s plan as set out in the New Testament.

God’s Church started with the apostles. Today, they are still to be the way churches are started and they are key leaders in the Church and the Kingdom. This is where Jesus originally started and still does so today. Acts 1:2 states, “Jesus ascended into heaven after giving instructions to the apostles He had chosen.” When Jesus wanted to start a Church, He began with apostles. The book of Acts is the story of the first apostles establishing the first churches.

Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Acts 2:43 “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.”

Acts 4:2b “they (the apostles) were teaching the people and proclaiming…”

Acts 4:33 “And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”

It is important to note that apostles in the New Testament were not limited to the twelve. The original twelve apostles formed the prototype of this gift, but as the Church expanded, more apostles were added.

The New Testament identifies a number of additional apostles. In Acts 1:26 Matthias is designated as an apostle to replace Judas. In Acts 14:14 Paul and Barnabas are both identified as apostles. Other New Testament apostles include Apollos (1 Corinthians 4:6,9), Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16:7), James, the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19), Silvanus and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2:6), and Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25). Apostles could be male or female and always functioned within the fulness of the fivefold ministry team.

The means the gift of apostle was not intended to die out with the passing of the original twelve. God was continually adding new apostles. If you understand the function of the apostle, you will see that apostles are always needed if the Church is to operate and function as God intended.

 

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Twenty-seven

So, where did the pastoral model of the Church come from? If it is not a New Testament model and the early church was not modeled this way, then when and where did this non-biblical model of the Church originate? Well, it originated with the changes that came into the early church when the emperor of the Roman Empire, Constantine, supposedly became a believer. Constantine wanted a church that he could control and it is hard to control the fivefold ministry.
So, he designed the church after what he knew – the structure of the Roman Empire and one of the dominate pagan religions of his day.

Constantine had another model for a religious organization. A model contrary to the organic model left us by Jesus, the Founder and Foundation of the Church. It came from the pagan religion of Mithras. In Mithraism every temple was led by one man, a priest. They called him “father.” The high priest was called the “father of fathers,” Pater Patrum, or the “Papa” (read Pope). The high priest of Mithras wore a ring and a red hat called a “miter.” His symbols were the shepherd’s crook and the key, and he ruled from his temple on the Vatican Hill in Rome.

So, under Constantine’s patronage, the church underwent a change in administration and structure. By the Middle Ages, the church no longer had apostles, prophets, teachers, shepherds, or evangelists. Medieval churches were led by a priest they called “father.” The High Priest was called the “Papa” or the “Pope.” He wore a ring and a red hat called a “miter.” His symbols were the shepherd’s crook and the key and he ruled from his place on the Vatican Hill in Rome. Mithraism was the foundation for the medieval church.

Now, this is not a knock against the Roman Catholic Church. This pagan heritage is common to all of us. All of our churches today share this ungodly foundation and heritage. Some parts of the church have come further than others, even moving beyond this incorrect foundation. But the whole church still needs to be restored.

When the reformation came and the born again message was once again known and understood, the reformers knew that many things in the church were not biblical. They rejected prayers to the saints and many of the other pagan trappings. They also rejected the idea of churches being led by a priest. They knew that the New Testament taught that every believer is a priest, and that Jesus is our High Priest.

The problem was that they really didn’t understand how the Church was suppose to operate. There were no apostles, Master Builders and architects of the Church. So, to solve the problem they looked in the Bible and found the word “pastor.” In an attempt to be more biblical, they changed the leader’s title from “priest” to “pastor.” But the basic structure of the local church and the regional church was not changed. It was still an old administration or an old and non-biblical wineskin. It was hierarchal and not relational. It was still an organization and not a living organism.

The pastoral model of the Church originated in the pagan religion Mithraism. Mithraism was a “Mystery Religion.” In a mystery religion only the priest was allowed to know the sacred truths and perform the rituals. The common people were suppose to worship in ignorance.

This is why the church has a hard time transitioning from pastoral to fivefold ministry. We still have the old mentality. We are still an old wineskin. The pastoral model was never God’s plan, and thus it cannot accomplish God’s purpose for His people, the Church today.

So how do we get fivefold ministry today and build on a proper biblical foundation? The first step is to get rid of the old wineskin mentality. When we walk into a church wondering, “Who is the pastor here?” We are walking in an old wineskin way of thinking. And yes, we still do that today. And, even worse, we travel to hear the current “super star” pastors who have build=t a large following, have a huge church, and write the books most Christians are reading. We go because of the leader, the pastor, the priest … old ways die hard.

In the Early Church when you walked into a church, that was not what you asked! The focus was Jesus and not the leader.

When you go to a new church, your first question should be “Is God’s presence here?” And, you should be wanting to experience His power which happens when the nine supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are moving during the assembly. Is there body ministry with members ministering to each other? Is there substance and not just foam and fluff? Is Jesus the center focus of everything that is taking place? You should take note of who the apostle to that work (the local church) is. Who is the prophet? Who is filling the role of fivefold teacher? Are they networked with a fivefold trans-local team and a regional church? These are new wineskin questions.

God wants to bring us into a new way of thinking and a new understanding of His Church, the Church that His Son, Jesus, is currently building.

The King of the universe, the ascended Lord Jesus Christ, gave us the fullness of His ministry in the fivefold ministry team. This is foundational to the new organic administration of the Church. A different king, a pagan Roman Emperor, changed that administration and we lost what God had given to us. The good news is that God is restoring what we have lost.

 

 

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Twenty-six

We are talking about trying to transform a pastoral model of the church into an apostolic model. This is definitely a difficult task and not to entered into by the faint of heart. The two models are so vastly different in their foundations, perspective, and operations that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to move a group of people, the local church, from one model to the other. I speak from experience having, after 17 years of working with a local congregation, simply failed to see the transformation take place.

So, the current model of the local church is based on a pastoral model with the key, main leader being the senior pastor or lead pastor. We have built the church on the backs of these men and women when it was never God’s plan nor design to do so. As we saw earlier, Paul sets out for us the order of working within a local church and seeing new churches raised up.

1 Corinthians 12:28 “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.”

Because we have built upon the backs of pastors – a non-biblical model – we see that the statistics regarding the life and ministry of pastors is distressing. Studies in North America show:

80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses regularly struggle with depression
80% feel they are unqualified for their position; they don’t believe they have the ability and training necessary to do what their job requires
70% say they regularly consider leaving the ministry
50% say that they would leave the ministry if they had another option to support their family
1500 pastors actually leave the ministry every month due to burnout, moral failure, or contention in the church
70% of pastors do not have anyone they would consider to be a friend. Almost no pastors have a close friend
75% say that they live under constant stress. The insurance cost for mental breakdown for clergy is 4% higher than for any secular industry
77% of pastor do not feel that they have a good marriage
50% of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce
The majority of pastors’ wives say that the single most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage was the day that they entered the ministry

Think about it now. The traditional pastoral model of the church is destroying pastors. In a pastoral church, pastors are given a set of demands that no one can fulfill. God never intended one person to do it all. God never gifted one person to do it all. The old wineskin places demands on the pastor that no human being can satisfy!

It is no wonder that the Church is in a mess if this is the condition of most leaders. The pastoral church is an old, non-biblical, wineskin that does not work.

So, we need to change and build biblically. This means that we need a new understanding of the role of “pastor.” The biblical pastor is a fivefold ministry role as seen by the only time in the New Testament that the word is mentioned. Ephesians 4:11 states, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers…” Here the “pastor” is a trans-local minister who is part of a team of trans-local leaders. They move from church to church in a region working as a team in the various churches. They can show up alone or as a team depending on the need of the local assembly. The pastor comes to a local church to teach and train the people to “do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12) and equip them so that they work effectively. Then the body can minister to the body (see 1 Corinthians 12) and every person ministers and all needs are met. Biblically, there are no solo pastors as they always work within the fivefold ministry team. And, the local church or assembly is not led by a local pastor. Totally unheard of in the New Testament and an invention of men in the late 300’s.

So, what do we do with the current crop of pastors? They will need to step down as the local church builds on a biblical foundation. Some will need to find alternate employment and continue to minister to those they are in relationship with at work or in the community. Every member of the body of Christ is a minister. So, they continue to minister but as a disciple and not from an official position of ‘pastor’ and not paid by the local assembly.

And, we should note, that most “pastors” are not pastors. Some are apostles. Some are prophets, evangelists, teachers …. The problem is that the old wineskin had only one main position of ministry – the local church pastor or priest. So, when someone answered the call on their life to go into the ministry – the only ministry they knew and were aware of was the pastorate. In fact, in most cases, the only ministry position recognized by the organized church was pastor or priest. So, many of those serving today as pastors are misplaced and need to discover their real calling and giftings and simply leave the pastorate and pastoral ministry and fulfill the real call upon their lives. The old wineskin forced everyone into the same mold and made them all do the same thing. This is now, hopefully, coming to an end.

So, one last thought … this is why most pastors are miserable. Their weekly schedule is full of things they are not gifted to do, and it always takes longer to do what they are not gifted to do. This means they rarely have the time to do what they are called to do. Pastors need to be free to be who they are. A church needs to figure out what their pastor’s gift and calling really is, and let their pastor exercise that gift to equip the Body of Christ. Then God will raise up the people – the priesthood of all believers – and equip them to do the pastoral ministry as a result of being empowered and released to do body ministry … member ministering to member as it was in the beginning and is suppose to be now.

 

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Twenty-five

So, we have been looking at the old wineskin and the new wineskin. The old is where one paid professional does the majority of the ministry. The new is where every believer is trained and equipped to minister. There is a shift going on in the Church that Jesus is building. A shift that I have been preaching and teaching about since I was first born again 40 years ago. It is a shift back to biblical basics and to the format of church life that was God’s original plan and design for His people and their assembly.

Many churches today reject the fivefold ministry. They do not believe in current day apostles and prophets. Yet, they believe in the ministry of evangelist, pastor and teacher. One should question how you can take the second half of the verse as still valid and important today and ignore even reject the first half of the verse (Ephesians 4:11). There are other churches that theologically and academically embrace the full fivefold ministry, yet still operate in the old wineskin – pastoral – model.

What makes it so difficult for churches and denominations to change? Why does it seem next to impossible to shift a church from the pastoral model to the apostolic model? The problem is that you can’t make a wineskin without killing a cow – even a sacred cow. And, there are many of those that stand in the way of the Church that Jesus is building – and seeing the established church shift and change into the correct and biblical model. The change from pastoral to apostolic.

The Church today has one specific and big sacred cow that keeps is from making the shift to the new wineskin. That sacred cow is an assumption held by most every Christian in all of the nations where I minister. That assumption is that the paid, professional, pastor is the primary office of the church. Let’s kill that sacred cow. After all, the church that the apostles experienced did not look like what we see today.

Today there are two main elements in the Church structure. The pastor and the congregation. The apostles never imagined a church made up of a pastor and a congregation. We – not Jesus – have built a church on the back of the pastor. And yet, this word appears only once in the New Testament and that is in Ephesians 4:11. And, in this verse, it is not referencing a local pastor as they did not exist in the New Testament days. It is referring to a fivefold pastor whose task was to travel trans-locally like the other fivefold ministers and specifically to train God’s people in how to care for (do the pastoral ministry) one another. After all, there are 59 ‘one another’ verses in the New Testament and it was never meant that a single paid professional pastor do all of them. The original plan was for the body to minister to the body (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-31).

So, the total teaching in the Bible on the ministry of the “pastor” is “there are some” as seen in Ephesians 4:11.

No church in the New Testament is described as having a pastor. Paul wrote many letters to the churches that were growing in places where he first went and preached the Gospel, planting seeds. In those letters he greets the elders and the deacons and the saints who met in homes. But he never greets or even mentions the pastor of any of those churches. The “pastor” of Ephesians 4 is a fivefold translocation pastor and not a resident, ordained, paid professional who is the solo leader of a local assembly.

When Paul ranks the Church’s ministries in 1 Corinthians 12, he says “First apostles, second prophets, third teachers…” He does not even include pastors in the list! Pastor was not the predominant office of the New Testament Church. In the New Testament, apostles are mentioned 87 times. Prophets are mentioned 157 times. Teachers are mentioned 121 times. Evangelists are mentioned 3 times, and pastors are mentioned once.

So, think about how we have built the church in almost every nation – the exception being biblically established house churches. Most churches today don’t believe apostles even exist today. They also don’t believe in prophets. They will let teachers teach a children’s class or teen class – and yet these are not fivefold teachers. They will let someone who calls themselves an evangelist come once a year to preach for a week of evangelistic messages heard mostly by those already saved. Then they take the office of the pastor – mentioned only once in the Bible – and make it the primary office of the church, responsible to do all of the work of ministry!

And then we wonder why the Church is in a mess. And, why it is almost powerless and ineffective in influencing and impacting the culture and local society. All five roles of the fivefold ministry team are equally important. And the pastor was never intended to be the primary office nor a local, resident office.

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Twenty-four

As we saw earlier, the pastoral and the apostolic church are like two different operating systems. Trying to get a pastoral church to operate in fivefold ministry is like trying to run Apple software on a Windows PC. They are not compatible! Let’s continue this thought and look at the contrast in these two operating systems.

1> The goal of ministry

The goal of the pastoral model of the Church is to meet needs. A church with a pastor as the main leader wants to make sure that those who attend are cared for and comforted when needed. This is a pastor’s heart and what motivates him or her in ministry. Now, it is a good thing to meet needs if and when the Lord directs you to. Everyone, at one time or another, will need a loving person to confide in and a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. But, this does not need to be the paid professional pastor. And, God has more for His Church to accomplish in His Name other than to comfort the afflicted and feed the sheep. Remember, Jesus gave us “another Comforter” who is the Holy Spirit. It is His task to counsel and comfort the followers of Jesus as we fellowship with Him (2 Corinthians 13:14).

The apostolic church on the other hand, is vision oriented. And, that vision is to see every believer equipped and empowered to help with the expansion of the Kingdom through *planting churches and seeing people saved. An apostolic church wants to see every disciple of Jesus learn what their calling is and then become trained to step into and fulfil that calling. An apostolic leadership team wants to see every person enter into the fullness of their destiny in Christ.

* Really we don’t plant churches. We plant the seeds of the Gospel (1 Peter 1:23) and as the seeds take root in people’s hearts then they come to a saving knowledge of the Lord. Then the Lord brings these new disciples together and raises up a church. As Paul states, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6).

To say that we “plant churches” is just not true, although used by most Christian organizations. As well, there is no such ministry role as “church planter.” Again, a non- biblical understanding of how the Church is planted and grows. 1 Corinthians 12:28 states, “First apostles, then prophets…” and does not mention ‘church planters.’

2> The role of church members

The pastoral church assumes the church members are laymen. The term ‘laymen’ means amateur.* Thus the clergy – the pastor – is the expert and the people are the amateurs. Ministry thus belongs to the professional and the amateurs pay the professional pastor to do the work of the ministry. It is okay for the laymen to do some of the low level ministry. And, if the layman ministers really well, he is often then encouraged to go to Bible School and seminary and become an ‘official’ pastor.

*The term ‘layman’ does not appear in the Bible. It sets up a false “class system” within the local church which simply never existed in the New Testament church. And, this division between professional and amateur was never God’s intention nor the plan of Jesus for the Church that He is building. The Church is the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9) and no one is set aside as THE priest or pastor. Does a local church have leaders? Of course. But, even there the people leading do not need to be ordained** and set apart as the experts.

** Being ‘ordained’ is again a man made concept that sets people apart as the professional and expert. In the New Testament people were simply born again, baptized in water, baptized in the Holy Spirit, and moved in the gifts of the Spirit. Anointed but not ‘ordained.’ Ordination was simply a means of setting up a hierarchy which allowed others to control.

The apostolic church views all Christians as ministers. Every believer and disciple is called to do the works of Jesus (John 14:12) Every believer needs to be trained and equipped to minister. If the members of the church are not ministering effectively, then the leadership team is failing.

3> The role of the leader

In the pastoral church, the leader is the pastor. The role of the pastor is to care for the saints and to oversee the overall ministry of the local assembly. He does not want to equip the saints to minister. He wants the saints to come to him for ministry. Their role then is to come and be ministered to and to financially support the work of the pastor. The result of this non-biblical format is that the people become dependent on the pastor. Many Christians have been taught to depend on their pastor for their spiritual life.

In the apostolic church the leaders* went to equip the saints to minister. The mark of a truly successful apostolic church leadership team is that they raise up a church full of disciples of Jesus who know God’s ways and do God’s work. In a new wineskin church, the leaders worse nightmare is to have followers who are dependent on them. Their greatest joy is to have followers who minister more effectively than they do.

* In the apostolic model there is never a solo leader such as a senior pastor. Leadership is always a team affair. There is always a plurality of leadership. The basics of this team would be the fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4:11 – apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd and teacher (APEST).

 

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Twenty-three

We are looking at the pastoral model of the Church that man had built. This in contrast to the apostolic-prophetic model that was God’s original intention and plan.

In the pastoral model of the church that most are familiar with, the pastor runs the church. He is the leader. He performs the ministry of the church. He visits the sick and prays for them. He counsels people with marriage problems. He consoles the grieving, and preaches the Sunday sermon.

The pastor knows “the mysteries of God.” If you want to know something about God, you ask the pastor. It is their job to know those things. The pastor has the ‘inside track’ to God. If you need prayer, call your pastor and he will pray for you. He is the “person of God” and God will answer his prayers.

The pastor carries out the rituals of the church. He serves communion and performs baptisms, weddings, and funerals. At fellowship suppers, it is his job to bless the food. He evangelizes, he has a ministry of deliverance, and counsels. He does it all. It is his job. This is what he is paid to do, minister on behalf of the people.

In the church we have known, the pastor is the highest office. When we visit a church, the first thing we want to know is, “Who is the pastor?” This tells us who is in charge, who does the ministry, and who we look to for our needs to be met. In many places the pastor is the one who is known and is treated with almost super-star respect. Like Hollywood has its stars so we, the church, have stars … and if I named a few well known authors who also pastor you would recognize their names. Often people go to those churches just to be with the ‘big name.’

One of my recent team members on an overseas trip was thrilled that upon his return he was heading to another state in the United States to visit a certain church. I asked him why he was spending the time and money to do so. The immediate answer was to see (read experience and admire) the pastor who is well known among those in their 20’s and 30’s. He is a very charismatic leader and a great preacher. So, they go to hear and experience his ministry – not see and hear and experience God. This is the status of many pastors and churches today. They are, in many cases, personality cults.

The pastoral model is good, I suspect, in many ways. But a pastoral model was never God’s plan. The pastoral church is an old wineskin that cannot hold God’s new wine. And, it never was and still is not God’s plan. To experience resurrection power, the Church must become a new wineskin! That why God has been calling His Church to change. For the last 40 years, God has been speaking about apostles, about fivefold ministry, and about equipping the saints for ministry. When I was born again 40 years ago this was the first message that the Lord gave me (Ephesians 4:11-15).

But very few leaders and even fewer churches have received the message and changed. There are only a handful of churches in most nations that have embraced the fivefold ministry and that are operating as apostolic-prophetic churches helping the Kingdom to spread to every nation.

The question then is, “Why hasn’t the Church shifted?” It is because it is hard to fit the Bible’s teaching on the Church into the present, traditional structure.

In the pastoral church one generic ‘pastor; is paid to do the work of ministry. It’s his job description. It is expected of him. In the apostolic church, the fivefold ministers equip every believer to minister.

If you begin with a traditional church structure and start talking about equipping the saints to minister, the result is confusion. It does not fit. You cannot pour the ‘new’ into the ‘old.’ New wine needs new wineskins.

Current day pastors (the non-biblical paid position of a local pastor) who try to train their people to minister are sometimes accused of shirking their responsibilities. After all, they are paid to do the ministry – not equip the people to minister but to just do the ministry on their behalf.

To get a new, biblical church, we need a new understanding so that we can receive and embrace a new wineskin. The pastoral church and the apostolic church are like two different operating systems. Like a PC and an Apple computer. Trying to get a pastoral church to operate in fivefold ministry is like trying to run Apple software in a Windows PC. They are not compatible!

So, next time we will look at the two ‘operating systems’ and see how they are vastly different.

 

 

 

 

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Twenty-two

Blog for November 30, 2017

As we have been discovering – God is preparing to pour out new wine, a fresh move of His Spirit. And, in preparation for this new move He is preparing His Church, the wineskin, to contain the new wine – the move of the Spirit.

God wants His new wineskin established. Where the wineskin Is completed, we will then experience the fullness of Jesus and His ministry – remembering that he ministered in all five major ministry roles … apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd and teacher (APEST). The fullness of Jesus is the new wine. If we prepare the new wineskin in response to His moving on our lives, then He will certainly pour in His new wine.

Our problem is that most of us have settled for a church that operates in a non-biblical manner. Thus it is the old wineskin. Oh, we think we are doing it “by the book” but we read the book with religious and traditional glasses and so miss the truth about the life of the early Church. Most of the Church today is the old wineskin – a man-made design of the church that functions in a non-biblical manner. A design built upon the ministry of a solo pastor who is in control as the leader of the people.

First there is a congregation made up of “laymen.” The dictionary definition of the word ‘laymen’ is, “Those without knowledge or training.” Layman is not a biblical word. God never intended for the Church to be a group of people without knowledge or training. He intended for His people, the saints, to be taught, trained, and equipped for life and ministry.

I very recently had a lengthy coffee with a new leader of an influential Christian camp. He manages and overseas the operation of this camp that functions year round. He used the word “laymen” in our conversation. I gently corrected him mentioning that this is not a biblical term and runs contrary to everything the camp he is now managing has been built upon over the last 40 years. The camp has been, before his leadership, equipping the saints for the work of the ministry,” training them so they would not be “laymen” but well informed and trained workers in the harvest field. It was a heated and tense part of our conversation as he totally disagreed with me. He has a top-down, pastoral understanding of the Church.

Most churches today are made up of laymen. Their knowledge of God is limited to a few Bible stories and some proof-texts. Laymen are expected to attend church, give money, read their bibles and live good moral lives. They are not taught to heal, prophesy, win the lost, or minister in any way.

Then you have the “pastor” or leader. The position of “pastor” in most churches today has very little in common with the biblical office of the fivefold pastor. In the fivefold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor (shepherd) and teacher we have a team of ministers who work trans-locally. We think of apostles, prophets and evangelists as travelling from church to church. But, as soon as the word ‘pastor’ is heard we immediately think locally. That is because this is all we have seen in the church in the last few centuries.

However, the “pastor” is fivefold and they travel just like the others in the team. Their role is to move from church to church teaching the people, the saints of God, how to minister to one another and others who do not know Jesus. They teach people how to ‘do pastoral care.’ This way the body members minister to each other and don’t need to look to the ‘pastor’ for ministry or help. Paul talks of this in 1 Corinthians 12 where he discusses body ministry with each member connected and ministering to those they relate to. And, in the New Testament there are 59 “one another” verses … where we are commanded to minister to each other and not sit back and let the hired ‘professional’ pastor do our ministry for us.

The job of the modern-day pastor does not involve working with other fivefold ministers to equip people to minister. They are “the minister.” Whatever ministry is done, to is their job to do it. They are paid by the laypeople to do it. He takes care of the laymen. The laymen are seen as “the flock” made up of helpless sheep. The pastor’s job is to feed, comfort, and protect them.

This is the church nearly every one of us has known. It is difficult for most believers to imagine church operating any other way. We assume it is the norm. And it has been the norm for the last 1500 years. But, it is not biblical. Absolutely not biblical.

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Twenty-one

The end result of embracing the new wineskin that we have been looking at?

Simple – God set it out for us in the Scriptures:

Ephesians 4:11-16 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

He wants His people – the Church – to grow up and become mature

That everyone would know what they believe – the correct teachings of the Bible
That every member becomes a minister and is released into their ministry
That we reach out to the lost and see them come into the Kingdom (Ephesians 4:18)
That the Kingdom will spread and push back the spiritual darkness
That there would be unity in the local church – so He can pour out His anointing
That every part of the Church would be healthy
That every member would do their part to keep the Church healthy and whole
That the false teachings and doctrines would be defeated and removed
That everyone would come to know the real Jesus of the Scriptures
That we all become a part of the priesthood of all believers
That we all become ambassadors of Jesus Christ
That we all become ministers of reconciliation
That we form a holy nation within the nations
That we become workers in the harvest fields because the harvest is ripe / ready
That we not miss the next move of the Holy Spirit and what God is doing today

AND that we can be the new wineskin and actually contain and move with what is happening today in His Kingdom

The Church today is needing new wine – a fresh move of the Spirit of God

In many places people are praying for a fresh move of the Spirit (power, presence, peace)

They are praying for renewal, refreshing, fresh fire, revival – call it whatever you want

But God is asking:

“Where is the wineskin to hold it?”

God longs to pour out new wine, but He needs a wineskin that can and will contain it.

He has given us the job of making the new wineskin

Generally He will not pour out new wine into old wineskins

HISTORICALLY: There have been times in history when God has been gracious enough to actually pour out new wine when there was only old wineskins

The results have often been very tragic and such a waste

The best example is the Welsh Revival (and I will end with this story)….

One hundred years ago revival swept through the nation of Wales

It was one of the greatest revivals in history

The Spirit moved from county to county, region to region, and transformed the nation

People walking down the street would be hit by the power of the Holy Spirit, fall to their knees, repent, and get saved

Every part of society was affected

Drunkenness disappeared
Pubs were closed for lack of business
Crime became almost nonexistent
Jails were empty
Police forces were downsized
There were places in Wales where it was reported that there were no unsaved people left in the city
Prayer meetings happened daily – sometimes all day
Churches were packed night after night … and Sundays

Those who study revivals love to talk about the Welsh Revival, but none of them want to talk about the nation of Wales today

One would think that a revival like the Welsh Revival would bring a permanent change in a nation and in the churches of the nation
That for generations to come, people would talk about the great revival that transformed their country

But that is not the case – because the nation was not transformed and neither was the Church

The Welsh Revival was a great move of the Holy Spirit (new wine), but the Welsh Church was an old wineskin

It’s legalistic structure quickly quenched the results of revival and eventually the revival itself

If you visit Wales today, 100 years after the great revival, you will find one of the least Christian countries in Europe

Less than 5% of the Welsh people are born again

New Age, witchcraft, and Islam (Muslim faith) are growing rapidly

Most Welsh people have never heard of the great Welsh Revival

Those who have heard of it think of it as a legalistic movement that happened somewhere back in their history

The old wineskin allowed the new wine to pour out and the wineskin (church) was destroyed just as Jesus said…

Matthew 9:16-17 “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

God does not want that to happen again

God wants us to prepare a wineskin that can and will hold the new wine

That is why Jesus said, “New wine MUST be poured into new wineskins” (Luke 5:38)

The new wine is a fresh move of the Spirit restoring to the Church that which has been lost over the years…

The new wineskin is the Church that Jesus is building based upon the fivefold ministry with apostles and prophets being foundational to all that will need to happen…

Ephesians 2:19b-20 “the household of God, (the Church) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.”

1 Corinthians 12:28 “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues…”

Ephesians 4:11-12 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”

So, we will need to be making a choice – two doors (remember the parable – An Apostolic Understanding – Part 17)

Personal choice
Choice as a church