An Apostolic Understanding – Part Fifty-Five

We are talking about the Kingdom “environment” that must be established in an area to really impact it for the Kingdom and enable a church to become effective in reaching the lost. We are citizens of another Kingdom – another culture

John 18:36 “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

It is really not about what you do … visit, feed, clothe, share, witness. What you do changes with each situation, location, culture and other religions also do all of these things.. It is all about who you are and who you become – Kingdom-minded. Then you are ready to face whatever a rapidly changing culture (or a country) can and will throw at you. You fit into the culture as leaven in the loaf / quiet, personal, slow, deep.

The disciples became Kingdom people and spread the movement / the Kingdom to every corner of their world

This is what Jesus did

He chose 12 men with whom He build a solid relationship
He helped them, in 3 years, to know who they were and seeded what was needed to bring about who they became
He instilled a Kingdom DNA and a movement mentality
Today: Jesus still wants people who will leave methods and meetings as well as programs and catch “movement”

People who will recapture authentic Kingdom culture
Kingdom culture: Disciples who make disciples

Church today:

When you are part of a sinking ship, you focus on the ‘life preservers’ – survival. That is what the church is doing – ‘maintenance ministry’ and not Kingdom movement. The measure of “Kingdom Movement” is the number of new disciples being raised up. Jesus began a movement with 12 normal, uneducated men who were in normal worldly activities. Each was invited: “Come, follow Me.”

He asked them, invited them, to sacrifice what they were (fishermen, tax collector, farmer) for what / who they could become. He did not explain what they were suppose to do
He nurtured them to become citizens of the Kingdom and deposited the Kingdom DNA into them. It was a process of ‘invitation’ and then ‘challenge’

Invitation: “Come hang out with Me and catch the Kingdom culture”                                                                                                                                                                                                           Challenge: “Go, multiply yourself, just as I imprinted you, imprint others”

This is a “go slow – Go deep” method…The Kingdom approach is so different than the Church mentality, The Church mentality – gather a crowd and grow a church / getting the leader known

The Kingdom DNA – You don’t work to understand it – you receive it as you come to really know the real Jesus

It is transformational
It is radically different than the way we function as ‘church’
It takes courage to embrace – not the absence of fear but the absence of self
It is about being a servant
“Take up your cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24)
It is vastly different than the way the world operates
The Kingdom culture is so different than the world’s culture
It is other-worldly
That is what makes it so attractive, intriguing, refreshing . And, this is why it is attracting young people today when the Church is not.

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Fifty-Four

We are discussing the Kingdom DNA that moved the early Church from Jerusalem into every known corner of the Roman Empire of that time. This DNA was Kingdom life and was foundational to each and every regional church and local church that was established. It was essential for the expansion of the Church because in each new area there was a need to establish and release a Kingdom environment that would impact the people regardless of culture, language, or what different kinds of religion already had a grip on the area.

The Kingdom: Not one leader impressing a crowd – That is man’s church. But, a movement where every believer imprints others, one person at a time

Jesus to the twelve / us to those we win and disciple

Not training them TO DO – But, helping them TO BECOME who they are – Kingdom people. Healthy, focused, counterculture Kingdom priests. Priests with a Kingdom DNA and focus

Spiritually healthy – focused on Jesus and God’s will for you. Ready for every and all challenges and opportunities. Able to figure out the changing strategic stuff that needs doing. Thriving in changing times, various cultures, and at all times. “Kingdom” so it works anywhere and everywhere

Example: Acts, Chapter 15

Complex issue – Gentiles wanted to be followed of Jesus
Big challenge
From the gentile perspective – the movement was primarily Jewish
Should gentiles then be first circumcised – become Jews?
Should the women learn to run a kosher kitchen?
Not at all as this is just programmatic stuff
This is simply style and not substance – Kingdom substance
They could change style when needed and still preserve substance
Major on the majors and don’t sweat the small stuff

Cultural differences and changes are not a threat to the Kingdom

The Kingdom is flexible in style to embrace any and every culture. The Kingdom substance is the basic Kingdom DNA and is not a variable but works everywhere

We are salt and we are light… / / Leaven in the loaf

The early disciples understood the Kingdom DNA and so kept the movement going forward and did not stumble over cultural differences because they understood the Kingdom DNA.  Cultural differences in life-style (marriage), dress code, sexual preference, drinking, smoking…

Let me say that another way:

The Kingdom mission was not a program
The DNA was not following a set format or pattern or method. It was who they were – Kingdom people. It was what they were becoming – mature Kingdom people. And, without a Kingdom DNA and understanding the Kingdom culture it is easy to confuse the packaging with the content; the method with the message

Church missionaries confused the packaging with the content. Took their cultural baggage with them – Dress code, language, approach, cultural issues – hoops to jump through. So, the content got lost in working to enforce the lifestyle and “Christian culture”

And, you read that and because of your traditional vantage point and religious upbringing accepted what you read. You need to questions what you see and hear … Missionaries – no such thing in the Bible. They were simply disciples who were obeying the Great Commission to “go into al the world.” The leaders … well, if you name the missionaries – Paul, for example, they are apostles and not missionaries. They did not go on mission trips but went on apostolic ministry trips

So, the early Church… Realized Jesus builds His Church. Realized that Jesus was King of the Kingdom

Thus they skillfully designed AN ENVIRONMENT where Kingdom thrived and life-change and transformation could happen on a regular basis

Regardless of the location or the culture

So today we are faced with two opposing options:

1> A Movement – where we see and experience life and spiritual health within every culture; a counter-culture becoming leaven in the loaf changing the culture from the inside out

2> An organization or institution with programs – a sub-culture with no power to influence and impact the overriding culture

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Fifty-Three

Before we look at several other apostolic centers (Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome) let’s go back to a really foundational issue for the Church and it’s mission in the world. Let’s look at the Kingdom Jesus came to establish and the DNA of that Kingdom.

Jesus came to earth with two interrelated missions

1> Take the judgment and penalty for the sins of everyone as the perfect God/Man and Sacrificial Lamb

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

2> Set in motion a movement that nothing could or will stop

The most important, longest-lasting, greatest life-changing, movement in history

These two separate but related missions come together as ESTABLISH A KINGDOM

Other kingdoms would come and go … The Ottoman Empire, The Roman Empire, The Greek Empire – All gone

But the Kingdom of God is alive and growing – It has survived even thrives on persecution

Communist China
Buddhist Myanmar
Hindu and Muslim India
Secular United States and Canada

If you were chosen to engineer the greatest movement on the planet – what would you do? How would you start?

Raise the finances, build an organization, start a Bible College. Establish a monastery, purchase church buildings, train leaders, train a sales force, marketing, establish a publishing company
Franchise the system – MacChurch’s

All of these have been tried and failed and all are totally foreign to what Jesus did. He did not go big and did not move fast and was not flashy or looking for publicity

Take a small group of men – say 12 – and train them to do what you are doing

Ah! That is what we think He did because we have been taught that. That is what our religious glasses see. That’s what our tradition sees because that is what the church does

Jesus spent three years imparting a KINGDOM CULTURE into His twelve disciples so they would know who they were … much more important than how to do something

Yes, He sent them out, released them, to heal the sick and cast out demons – Trial runs to see what they understood

Yes, they were commissioned to testify to what they had seen and heard as Jesus ascended

Mark 16:15-18 “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

But, this was not His main method for establishing a movement. He spent three years with a small group of men building relationally and showing them how the Kingdom functioned – imparting a Kingdom DNA

His focus was: Not the church; Not the ministry; Not their gifts and callings

He lived “the Kingdom” and shared that Kingdom lifestyle with His twelve future leaders

He did not go big, fast, and public – He went slow, deep, and private

He imparted the DNA of Kingdom living into the lives of the early disciples

He showed them how to live as a counter-culture to the current culture

It is counter-intuitive to invest most of His time and effort with a handful of His disciples

It is not natural to go slow and deep; personal and private

But then He was planting a supernatural DNA into His followers by living the Kingdom culture while with them 24/7 for three years

With the few committed disciples He imparted / imprinted them with the Kingdom culture because He had come to establish a Kingdom

Matthew 3:2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

He infused them with the divine Kingdom DNA and then gave them the power at Pentecost to live out that Kingdom culture and spread it to the end of the earth

Not a church culture; Not a church; Not an organization; Not a system; Not a program.

A Kingdom Culture and divine DNA…

He got “up close and personal”

He spent three years with twelve men and imparted the Kingdom culture and a Kingdom perspective to them because He had come to establish a Kingdom movement

“You can impress people from a distance but you can impact them only up close.” Howard Hendricks

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Fifty-Two

The apostolic center in Antioch was a training center where believers were equipped to be “little Christs” wherever they went. But there was more going on in Antioch than teaching

Acts 11 says, “During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch”

Why is this significant?

The Church at Antioch, up until this point, had only apostles ministering to the people. These apostles were teachers who imparted truth and laid a foundation for the new church – soon to be an apostolic center. They were not yet strong in the prophetic, so the apostles in Jerusalem sent prophets to minister in Antioch. This fits with Paul’s comment in 1 Corinthians 12:28 where he writes, “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.”

Prophets are the second to come when a new work in being established – and so prophets came down to the new church in Antioch to join with the apostles in the training and equipping of the saints (Ephesians 4:11-12)

To Note:

Apostolic centers are not independent – they are inter-dependent. What one lacks – another provides. This is how fivefold ministry teams are designed and called to function. God wants His Church to share their resources. A Church with a fivefold teacher is suppose to be a resource center for a church that does not have a fivefold teacher resident there. A Church with a fivefold prophet is suppose to be a resource center for churches with no resident fivefold prophets. Thus, God establishes larger regional churches where all five of the fivefold ministers reside and minister. And from these regional apostolic centers they move out to help other churches in the region who do not have resident fivefold ministers. Thus the church will cross-pollinate and will experience all five of the ministries Jesus fulfilled while ministering before His death and resurrection

The result of the prophets from Jerusalem coming to Antioch is shown in Acts 13:1. We read, “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers…” We see that fivefold ministry is developing in the new apostolic center. Antioch began with apostles bringing the message of the Gospel. Then there was a full year of teaching – as apostles main function is to teach. Then Jerusalem (the first apostolic center) sent prophets as this is always the second ministry to be added. This causes the prophetic to begin to stir in the hearts of the people and in the assembly of the saints. So, in Acts 13:1 there are apostles, prophets and teachers in the Antioch church (regional church)

Acts 13:2-3 tells us, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” So, Paul was released by the Church to move apostolically and plant the Gospel of the Kingdom where it had yet to be heard. The Church today calls this the first missionary journey when really it is the first apostolic journey. Antioch became a regional church that was sending out “labourers into the harvest field.” A regional apostolic center – a home base from which to reach the nations. In years to come, apostolic teams would go in and out from Antioch all over the Roman Empire. This is how the great apostolic center at Antioch was established

We are seeing God doing the same things today in many places. God is doing a new thing. Apostolic centers are being restored to the Church world-wide

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Fifty-One

As we saw last time when we began looking at the founding of the Church in the city of Antioch… “Some of them, however, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. And the Lord’s hand was with them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11)

That was earth shaking!

In Antioch, for the first time in history, Messianic Jews from Jerusalem openly told Gentiles about their Messiah, and the Gentiles got saved. As a matter of fact, lots of Gentiles got saved. “Great numbers” of Gentiles were saved. This had, of course, been God’s goal all along. Even in the Old Testament we are told that God’s ultimate intention was for Gentiles to be saved and come to know the God of Israel. Psalm 22 says, “All the ends of the earth will turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will worship.” God’s goal has always been to draw together men and women from every tribe, and tongue, and language. He wants every expression of humanity to join in a great symphony of praise to God.

None of this could happen in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was important as the birthplace of the Church But it lacked a key ingredient of God’s plan. Jerusalem had very few Gentiles. So, God brought the Church to the great cosmopolitan city of Antioch. The melting pot of every race, tongue, and ethnic group. There He established a new (second) apostolic center

Here is how it happened…

Acts 11 tells us that when Jerusalem heard that the Gentiles were being saved in Antioch, they sent Barnabas to check it out. Barnabas was more than “an encourager” – He was an apostleActs 14:14 tells us that both Paul and Barnabas were apostles. He was not one of the original twelve, but he was, like Paul, part of a second generation of apostles

Barnabas went up to Antioch. As an apostle, he began to set the Church in order, laying a proper foundation (Ephesians 2:20; 4:11-16; and 1 Corinthians 12:28)

In Acts 2 we saw the first apostles establish the first apostolic center in Jerusalem

In Acts 11, we see a new generation of apostles establish the next apostolic center in Antioch

The first thing the apostles did in Jerusalem was to teach and train the people. Acts 2:42 says, “The people devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” The Church in Jerusalem was a training center where the saints were equipped. The same thing happened in Antioch

Acts 11:25 say, “Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul” (also known as Paul). Barnabas knew that Paul was an apostle and teacher, and that the young converts at Antioch needed teaching and training. When he found Paul he brought him to Antioch, and for a whole year they taught a great number of new disciples in this second apostolic center. So Antioch became a training center also

When Paul and Barnabas were teaching the people for that year, what were they teaching them?

They were not teaching them how to figure out what year the rapture would happen. They were not teaching them the five points of Calvinism. They were teaching the saints the basics of the Christian faith so that they would grow and become mature believers and leaders, reproducing themselves by leading others to the Lord. They were teaching them how to live as believers and minister to non-believers. They were training and equipping them to do the works of Jesus.

An interesting thing to note:

At that time believers were called “followers of The Way.” The Christian faith was not a religion but a way of life embraced by those who believed in Jesus who came to show His people how to live. At that time “Christian” was not the name of a religion.

However, in time those who followed Christ became know as ‘Christians.’ The word “Christian” was made by taking the word ‘Christ’ and adding the suffix “ian” which means “little.” So “Christian” literally means “Little Christ.” As you read the book of Acts, you find that the apostles presented Christ to the Gentiles as one who “went about doing good and healing all who oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38)So when Gentiles heard the name Christ and were saved, this is what came to mind and this is what they wanted the apostles to teach them and equip them to do. When Paul and Barnabas equipped the saints in Antioch to do the works of Jesus, they began to heal the sick, drive out demons, and win the lost. So the Gentiles said, “You are all doing the same things Christ did. You are ‘little Christs!’” And the name stuck

This is God’s goal for every Christian. God wants you to lay hands on the sick and see them recover. He wants you to find people who are in bondage to the enemy and set them free. He wants you to become a “little Christ.” The apostolic center in Antioch was a training center where believers were equipped to be “little Christs” wherever they went

But there was more going on in Antioch than teaching as will see next time…

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Fifty

Let’s continue our look at “apostolic centers” or what can be called ‘regional churches.’

Antioch: is the Second Apostolic Center to be established…

The early Church experienced a level of harvest of new believers none of us could even imagine.

Pentecost, and the initial harvest of 3,000 on the first day of the Church, initiated three centuries of sustained multi-generational growth and the continual expansion of the Kingdom.

How did they do it?

Part of the answer is that they had an administrative structure that allowed the fivefold ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12) of the Church to function in each and every local church no matter how large or small they might be.

The apostles first established Jerusalem as a teaching, training, and equipping center. They began to equip the saints to do the works of Jesus (John 14:12).

By Acts, chapter 8, ordinary Christians were going all over the Roman Empire healing the sick, casting out demons, performing miracles… Proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and planting the seeds of the Gospel in places covered in spiritual darkness so that disciples were raised up and Jesus could build His Church.

But Jerusalem was just the beginning. The Church in Jerusalem was not the ultimate pattern for the Church . In fact, there is no model or set pattern for the Church set out for us in the New Testament. However, there was a second example within the expansion of the early church in the city of Antioch.

Antioch was a large city located 300 miles north of Jerusalem.

What happened there forever changed the Church’s identity. What was birthed in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) grew and developed and took on a different form in each and every city and town where a Church was established. Antioch being one of the most important and influential early locations.

It is interesting to trace the expansion of the church from Jerusalem to Antioch.

The Church was born in Jerusalem, and from Acts 2 through 7, pretty much stayed there. It was a time of much teaching and training. They were building the foundation of the Church and coming to understand what the Church was and the call upon it to spread the message around the known world.

In Acts chapter 8, rising persecution drove most of the early believers out of Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria (see: Acts 1:8 for how Jesus predicted this). Those who were scattered did the works of Jesus wherever they went.

By Acts 9, strong healthy churches were thriving throughout Judea, Samaria, and Galilee with help from the first apostolic center and the fivefold ministry team entered there in Jerusalem

In Acts chapter 11, however, something new happened. The Church made a major shift, and that shift took place at Antioch

What was so special about Antioch?

In New Testament times, Antioch was called the “Queen of the East.” With more than 500,000 inhabitants, it was the third largest city in the world. Only Rome (Italy) and Alexandria (Egypt) were bigger. Antioch was a great cosmopolitan, multicultural city. It was located in Syria, but had been built by the Greeks and enlarged by the Romans. It also had a very large Jewish population. Antioch was a crossroads city. People converged on Antioch from all over the known world. Roman roads led west from Antioch to the Roman province of Asia. To the east, the Silk Road (a famous trade route now being reestablished) led to China. To the south roads led down to Jerusalem and on to Egypt. Antioch was connected to the sea by the Orontes River making the city a great maritime trade center of the eastern Mediterranean. Antioch was a beautiful and prosperous city with temples and aqueducts, ornate baths and basilicas

When the first disciples entered the city of Antioch, something incredible happened

Acts 11 tells us that those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Antioch telling the message only to Jews. That had been the norm and the understanding under which the early Church worked. Everyone in the church at that time was a Messianic Jew

But then we read, “Some of them, however, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. And the Lord’s hand was with them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”

That was earth shaking! … as we will see next time

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Forty-Nine

As we saw last time … The early Church – comprised of mostly Jewish converts to the Christian faith kept the same structure as they were accustomed to in their original faith

As a result, for the first three centuries, Christianity was a home-based religion. Churches were house churches with the weekly worship gatherings loosely based on the pattern of the Jewish Sabbath celebration

The family being the first place of spiritual life
The spiritual family – the house church – being a weekly gathering to hear what God was saying
The regional church being a resource center for all the local house churches

So, it looked like this …

Jewish Christian
House was key / family House / family
House Church / combining homes House churches / traditional churches
Synagogue / the new “temple” Regional Apostolic Centres

This is one of the secrets of the early church’s rapid spread. New house churches were easy to start. Jews who received Jesus already knew how to hold a “church service” in their homes
They had been having worship gatherings in their homes all their lives. .So, when the persecution broke out in Jerusalem – Acts, Chapter 8 – those that were scattered could flee the city and start new churches wherever they went

Household churches were in the DNA!

This is why Paul could go to a city like Thessalonica, ministering in the synagogue, lead a few people to Jesus, start a church, then leave – – – all in about three weeks!

But these new Christians meeting in house churches did not have the fivefold ministry

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, they needed a place where they could go to for teaching, training, and equipping … a place different than the local church

The “synagogue transformed into a regional Church
In Jerusalem – they taught in the Temple court
In Ephesus – Paul taught in a rented facility
In some locations the believers actually established local regional Christian “synagogues”

James 2:2 “Suppose a man comes into your synagogue…”

These became regional centers where local house churches could access the fivefold ministry

They needed a place where they could regularly access the important ministry of apostles and prophets – evangelists, shepherds, and teachers
The first key one was found in the central hub of Jerusalem – an apostolic center

For the Jewish people – and for the early Church – Jerusalem was a hub

All the local house churches in the area – Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria – looked to Jerusalem for leadership. It was crucial in the early Church – as it is today – that churches not be isolated and alone. So, we see house churches linking to the first central hub – Jerusalem – where the apostles and prophets were located and people were being trained and equipped

Acts 2:42 “…the apostles doctrines”

This was based on the Jewish pattern

Jerusalem – the hub for temple worship on specific occasions and for teaching became a regional Church (Apostolic Centre) for occasional gatherings to train and equip leaders

THE APOSTOLIC CENTER – Jerusalem being the first

It was a place where the fivefold ministry could be contacted for teaching and training

The fivefold ministry is seldom contained within a local church no mater how big it may be. The fivefold ministry is most often located as a team in a regional apostolic center and moves out from there to help local churches of all sizes. They come to the local area to train and equip those who are members and thus ministers within the local assembly

*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, it is a place of sending

Believers going out from Jerusalem, evangelized all Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. From Jerusalem the apostles came to Samaria where Philip was witnessing a major move of the Holy Spirit bringing the message of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17)

From Jerusalem, Barnabas was sent to the city of Antioch to help establish the Church there (Acts 11:22)

And, it is a place of gathering

In Bible times, Christians continued the Jewish practice of returning to Jerusalem. But not for the religious festivals – but for special times of training and equipping for the work of the ministry – coming to where the fivefold ministry was established and travelled out from.

And, for major councils of the whole Church to discuss major changes and issues in the Church and in the way things functioned – the way the Church operated (Acts 15)

Jerusalem, as an apostolic center for the early Church, was seen as a resource center where
Leaders could come to learn and grow
Leaders could find “times of refreshing” in the presence of the Lord (acts 3:20)
Leaders could spend time and be healed and renewed

Jerusalem was also a place where the apostles lived and worked as they did not scatter in the persecution. And, from there, they protected the faith guarding and teaching the doctrines (teachings) of the Church (Jude 3b)

So, Jerusalem became the Church’s first apostolic center

It raised up a company of Christians who did the works of Jesus in the earth and the result was a major, powerful, abundant harvest of new souls for the Kingdom

Three centuries of sustained multi-generational growth and expansion

And, they set the pattern for the expansion of the Church world-wide

As a result house churches could thrive throughout Judea, Samaria, and Galilee and the Kingdom was constantly expanding. And, as God established Apostolic Centers today – we too will see the Kingdom expand and spread throughout the whole earth

Next – The Second New Testament Apostolic Center

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Forty-Eight

THE APOSTOLIC CENTERS

God’s plan for the Church that Jesus is building is that there would be a fivefold ministry team involved in the life of each local church

*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.”

The purpose of the fivefold ministry is to equip / teach / train the saints – God’s people – how to minister to non-believers so that the Church can grow and multiply and thus witness for Jesus in every nation, region, community, neighbourhood, and house

Our problem is that most churches, whether small house church, medium size congregations, or even larger churches don’t have all five of these ministers within the local church

The solution: Look at the early Church

The book of Acts – the history of the first few years of the Church. The letters (epistles) to the early local churches such as Ephesians. These historical records indicate that every local church was relationally linked to an apostolic center. In the New Testament, churches could operate in fivefold ministry because they were linked to an apostolic center – – The two key ones being Jerusalem and Antioch. So, although the local church did not have resident apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers …The fivefold ministry was available to them regardless of their size or location

TIME TRAVEL:

So, let’s travel back in time to approximately AD 60 to 62 when Luke, a medical doctor, wrote the book of Acts under the direction and inspiration of God’s Spirit

Remember now that the first church in Jerusalem – and other churches planted from this apostolic center – consisted of people who held to the Jewish faith and saw Jesus as the promised Messiah that they had been waiting for for thousands of years

Few if any of the first believers – first called Christians many years later – were pagans / gentiles … almost all were converts from the Jewish faith

So, to understand how the early church functioned we need to go back and see how the first century Jews worshipped. And, as we do, we can gain some really valuable insights into why the New Testament church functioned as it did

FOR THE JEWS, THE BASIC UNIT OF ‘RELIGIOUS LIFE’ WAS THE HOME

Throughout most of the Bible, the Jews had no ‘church’ to attend because there was no central gathering place for weekly corporate worship as the pattern today seems to be

The tabernacle and the temple were not places for weekly worship services

Until the Babylonian captivity (Daniel’s day) the synagogue did not exist

For over 1000 years, the Jewish faith functioned as a home-based religion

And, in the Hebrew mindset, the home is still the primary place of worship

The home was a ‘little sanctuary’ (a miqdash meyat) set aside for the worship of God, the study of His Word, and as a place of hospitality

And, long after the official service / celebration ended conversation was enjoyed long into the night

There was a time to share, to listen, to plan, and to laugh

The Jewish Sabbath celebration provided a pattern for the development of early Christian house churches

All churches met in homes in the early stages of the Christian Movement. On the Friday they would meet as a family to eat and celebrate God’s creation and welcome His provision of rest (Sabbath)

On Saturday evening the spiritual family (the house church) gathered in a home (as many as 50 to 60 people) for a meal to celebrate God’s redemption through Jesus Christ and the Cross of Calvary. And to welcome the Holy Spirit and release Him to minister through His nine supernatural gifts

So, each family was a part of a larger unit that met weekly to eat, worship, learn, and share time together (fellowship) … the spiritual family. Still in homes as the Church did not get into the business of owning and meeting in buildings until the mid-300’s

THE HUB – JERUSALEM

THE TEMPLE:

For the Jews the household worship celebrations were vitally important

But it was also crucial that the individual families were not isolated and alone

The family units worshipping in their homes were all linked together by their connection to a central hub, the Temple in Jerusalem

Jerusalem was where the presence of God was hosted
Jerusalem was also a place of teaching and training
Jerusalem was a place of gathering for special occasions / feast days
Three times a year Jewish males were required to come to Jerusalem
They would go home knowing they were not alone – part of something greater

THE SYNAGOGUE

During the Babylonian captivity (Daniel, the prophet) when the temple was no longer in existence

A new element was added to Jewish religious life – the synagogue

The word synagogue means: Assembly or gathering place

When the Babylonians destroyed the city of Jerusalem along with the temple, synagogues were established to take over some of the functions that the temple had provided

The synagogue gave the home-based worshippers a local training and resource center. Ministry took place and needs were met

Although most Jews were literate, very few owned copies of their holy writings (our Old Testament) and so they came together each week at the synagogue and listened to God’s Word being read and discussed

When the Babylonian captivity ended and the Jerusalem temple was rebuilt, the synagogue continued to fulfill a vital function

By this time the Jewish faith had spread throughout the known world. For many of them the Temple was too distant to effectively serve as a resource center. So, the synagogues acted as a “regional temple” providing ministry and teaching for the Jews in the local communities

This was the pattern of Jewish religious life we find at the start of the New Testament

This was the religious structure Jesus and the apostles had all experienced growing up. The home as the primary place of worship, teaching, sharing, and fellowship. Supporting these home-based groups, the local synagogue was a center for training and teaching

Jerusalem and the Temple acted as a central hub used for special occasions

The early Church – comprised of mostly Jewish converts to the Christian faith kept the same structure…

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Forty-Seven

The Church in the New Testament met in people’s homes. These house churches could be as small as a single family or as large as 60 to 70 people determined by the size of the home ad the enclosed yard. So, few churches would have had even one of the fivefold ministry gifts within the church assembly. Most the church members were recent converts from either the Jewish faith or paganism. They would be immature and untrained in the spiritual gifts that come when a person is baptized in the Holy Spirit.

So the question is: “How were the churches in the book of Acts able to operate in the fivefold ministry?” As you study the book of Acts you will discover that the key to the effective functioning of the local church and the ministry of the fivefold gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher was the establishment of what could be called “apostolic centers.” These were established in Jerusalem, Corinth, Ephesus, Antioch and other places as well.

An apostolic center can be defined as: A beachhead for the gospel of the Kingdom in a territory. It is a regional resource center established to provide everything necessary for the planting of the seed of the Gospel of the Kingdom and the raising up of new expressions of the Church in the region -and focusing on having these churches grow and multiply.

The early church in the New Testament had no megachurches. It didn’t even have what we would call ‘moderate sized’ churches. It was made up of hundreds or even thousands of small house churches scattered across a region or a city. Individually each church had few resources. But these churches could operate in great power because they were not isolated nor alone. The churches in each region were linked into a central hub that gave them access to the fivefold ministry teams serving their area.

Whenever the Church expanded into a new area or a new culture, a new apostolic center was established. These apostolic centers were all different, but they each met a number of needs:

1> They were first and foremost teaching and training centers. Each apostolic center was begun by a visiting apostolic team devoting a year or more to the intensive teaching and training, equipping and mentoring, of disciples.

2> They were also sending centers. From an apostolic center, ministry teams were sent out to plant new the Gospel of the Kingdom, raise up new disciples, and to see Jesus use their efforts to build New Testament churches in the region thus penetrating new territory for the Kingdom – thus becoming a multiplying movement.

3> They would also travel trans-locally to strengthen already established churches.

4> Apostolic centers frequently served as gathering places for regional discussions and decision making conferences.

5> Regional apostolic centers also were places for celebrations. In the Old Testament God established the pattern that regional worship gatherings be held three times a year at the biblical feast days. The early church continued this practice well into the 4th century. Christians in small isolated house churches would come together at an apostolic center for larger celebrations as hundreds or even thousands gathered for encouragement, praise, and worship.

Through teaching, training, and the sending out of apostolic teams, apostolic centers acted as hubs where all the churches in the region could access the fivefold ministry gifts. As a result of being connected to an apostolic center, churches in the first century were never weak or isolated. They were apostolically linked. Even a small house church had access to the ministry of an apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher. The result was that the church flourished.

Through apostolic centers every Christian in the region could be trained to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit and do what Jesus did (Acts1:5, 8; John 14:12). Saints were equipped and spiritual gifts were released. Signs and wonders took place, and the territory was transformed by the power of the Gospel;.

Today, in many nations, God is raising up apostolic centers.

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Forty-Six

We are seeing God establish the Church that Jesus is building. It is being built upon revelation. God is revealing to us the foundation, the design, the function, and the life of this new wineskin.

He is asking current churches to embrace the changes necessary to become a new wineskin. Some are catching the vision and this new move of the Spirit. Others are rejecting it. Those who reject it will see some of their members leave because they are individually sensing the move of the Spirit and the absence of life in the church. So, they will quietly leave in search of “life.”

And, those who are not hungry for more and are not experiencing divine discontent with what it … churches that don’t embrace this move of the Spirit will simply go on with their programs and events as if nothing has changed or is changing. They have not experienced His life and power in decades and will not want what they have not had. They cannot miss what they have not experienced. For them, it will be business as usual.

For those who move on and others who want to see the Church that Jesus is building – the question is where do we start? What are the first steps towards establishing a new wineskin and being a part of this new move of God towards an apostolic church?

So, let’s look at how we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit and build according to the biblical pattern. How do we transition from a pastoral model to an apostolic model?

1> The first step is recognizing that the pastoral model is not biblical and to recognize the need for a change to an apostolic model of the church. To see that programs and pastors are not doing what needs to be done to win the lost and see the Kingdom expanded.

2> Then there needs to be an apostolic alignment. You cannot make the transition alone or isolated from the fivefold ministry and others who are making this transition. You need to connect relationally with an apostle and, through them, with an apostolic network of churches.So, find one, take the time needed to build relationally, and learn all you can from the apostle.

3> Make sure that the believers you are working with have a good biblical picture and understanding of what a true disciple of Jesus (a Christian) is suppose to be. We are not called to be pew warmers. We are called to be the army of God on the earth. Communicate that vision to the church members.

4> Begin to equip the saints for ministry. Make training available. Offer classes and schools teaching people about the gifts of the Spirit, how to hear the voice of God, the gift of prophecy, evangelism, healing the sick, and deliverance. Out of this training time, meet with those who are submitted, mature, and effective, and form a team to move the church into the apostolic model. Also, release them to minister within the church – preaching, teaching, praying. In this way you will defeat the “man of God – one man ministry” pastoral syndrome and begin to instil the ‘every member a minister’ apostolic approach.

5> Remember that it takes time to change the paradigm of a group of believers. So, go slowly, be patient, teach, repeat often, and pray a lot.

As you go through this process you will need to give the people a new understanding of the way a local church functions. As you release the senior (and associate) pastors to actually find their true callings – you will need to explain that the role of “pastor” is a fivefold trans-local ministry and not a local church, resident ministry. That this established leadership role was never biblical and limits what a church can do and prevents a church from becoming what God intended it to become. And, teach that the oversight of the spiritual life of the local church is in the hands of a team of elders and not the task of a solo pastor or a board..

As well, you will need to come to understand how the fivefold ministry fits within this new structure of elders as leaders and the people as ministers.

One of the biggest struggles will be to find the fivefold ministers that you need to connect with. The biggest question for churches trying to transition to a fivefold ministry apostolic model is, ‘Where do we find fivefold ministers?’ This will be the same question raised by new assemblies of believers who are wanting to start their new church in the right way with the correct foundation (Ephesians 2:20).