An Apostolic Understanding – Part Thirty-Seven

So, how do we recognize a true fivefold, New Testament prophet?

1> They will prophecy with great maturity and a very high level of accuracy

When true prophets speak, God backs them up. What they speak happens and there is no way to argue about it. Words spoken by a prophet over an individual, church, region, or nation will come to pass if those who hear the Word spoken actually line-up with and cooperate with what was spoken.

2> They will release the prophetic ministry for others

When prophets minister regularly within a local assembly they release a prophetic anointing in the local church. People begin to hear from God more often and more accurately. The revelatory gifts begin to flow more frequently. If the church was at 2 on a scale of 1 to 10 in the prophetic realm they will reach a 5 when the prophet ministers there for a week or so. After they leave the 5 becomes a 4 but they will always be stronger than before the prophet came. When they come back the 4 will be a 6 as they minister and when they leave it will slide slightly to a 5 … So, the more often the prophet visits, trains, and equips the people the stronger the prophetic anointing and there will be an increase in the maturity of the revelatory gifts that are functioning within the life of the local church.

3> The prophet will release God’s power

The reason for this is that there is power in the prophetic words. When a true Word from God is declared into a person’s life or a local church, it releases power to bring that Word to pass. It has power to change the hearts of the people, to change the circumstances, and to move the situation currently being faced. The Word is the fixed and the person, people, or church is the variable. The Word spoken always releases change.

4> The prophet will test prophetic words and correct those who are speaking in the flesh

When there is a New Testament prophet in your midst, your church becomes a safe place for other people to learn to prophesy. Demons are not going to stir up flaky words when there is a true prophet to bring correction and publicly reveal the errors within the words spoken. When the office of a prophet is established and released within a local church, the level of the accurate prophetic increases and flaky, fleshly “words from the Lord” are seriously minimized.

5> They will train and equip others in the prophetic and other revelatory gifts

True prophets will not just minister to others with the prophetic. They will teach, train, equip and release God’s people in all nine of the gifts, but especially prophecy. They will run schools where they invest a serious amount of time and effort in training and releasing God’s people in the prophetic. They impart and release this gift and others gifts of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands (Romans 1:17).

6> They will spot, call out, and raise up young people with the same call of prophet

New Testament prophets will always be on the lookout for others who have a similar calling on their lives. They will call them out and help them to start their journey as prophets-in-training. If possible, the true prophet will invest time and effort over a lengthy season in discipling and mentoring the prophets to be. Like Paul mentored Timothy so a mature fivefold prophet is always looking for those they can help to grow in the same calling. They desire to speak into the lives of the next generation and help them to gain momentum and maturity.

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Thirty-six

We have been looking at the marks of a true apostle. This is always the starting point for the new wineskin as we see the man-made pastoral model of the Church being transformed into the apostolic model of the Church – the Church that Jesus is building.

As we look around the local church at any given time you will most likely not spot an apostle. Don’t let that discourage you. Most churches will not have a mature apostle within their midst. “Apostle” tends to be a mobile gift, and an apostle is usually in relationships with a number of churches. It’s important, however, that each church is in a relationship with an apostle and that the leaders of the local church allow that apostle to speak into the life and functioning of the church.

Within most decent sized churches you will, however, find young people who are called to be apostles within the Church. They will need to build relationally with the trans-local, mobile apostle that their local church relates to. Then they can be discipled, trained, equipped, and mentored into their calling and its related giftings.

Once we have the apostle ministering within and relating to the local church then the other fivefold ministries can begin to relate and function within the church as well. These are the prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers (Ephesians 4:11)

Let’s look first at the marks of a trans-local fivefold prophet…

In Ephesians 4, Paul lists “prophet” as the second of the fivefold gifts. And, in 1 Corinthians 12:28 he again lists the prophet as second after the ministry of the apostle.

Prophecy is simply to ability to communicate the mind and heart of God, the Father, in a specific situation or to a specific person. Any born again believer who has been baptized in the Holy Spirit can prophesy (see: 1 Corinthians 14:31, 39). However, remember, that just because you can prophesy does not make you a prophet. Some people get their first prophetic word and announce that they are a prophet. Not true. The ministry of the prophet is a calling on a person’s life that involves prophesying – but also includes a lot more than just receiving words for people or situations.

A New Testament prophet is someone who is gifted to establish the revelationry gifts on the local church so these gifts function as God intended. The prophet is there, not just to prophesy, but to set prophecy and the other revelatory gifts n order. Where there is a true New Testament prophet engaged in a local church on a regular basis, other people will learn to prophesy and speak forth a Word of Wisdom, a Word of Knowledge, and flow in the gift of the Discerning of Spirits.

The prophet sets a standard of excellence and a standard of accuracy. When the people are trained and released by a fivefold prophet (or apostle) then you will not have a lot of flaky prophetic words being given.

Regardless, when you first begin to release people to flown and minister through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it will be messy. When immature people are learning to prophesy, it is always messy for a while. There will be a number of flaky prophetic words given. People will say, “Thus says the Lord…” but it is not the Lord at all. The temptation when this happens is to outlaw the prophetic because of the mess it can cause. And, I have been there and done that in my life as a leader of a local church. But, this is not God’s solution.

Paul addresses this very issue in 1 Thessalonians 5 … The church in Thessalonica was having a ‘prophetic mess.’ Paul’s instruction given in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 was, “Don’t despise prophecy … but test everything.” Rather than rejecting prophecy, Paul wanted them to learn a new level of testing and discerning truth from error, God’s voice from the voice of the human mind and will. The present of a true prophet will help this process of testing what is from God and what is not. The role and ministry of a prophet establishes order.

Next time … we will continue looking at how to recognize a true fivefold prophet

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Thirty-five

Looking at the work and nature of the apostle we say yesterday that…
1> Apostles have an immediately recognizable intimate relationship with Jesus
2> Apostles operate continually in a supernatural realm
3> Apostles are able to interpret what God is doing

Let’s continue this topic today…

4> Apostles have authority to discipline and pronounce judgment

The first place we see this is with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5

They had lied to the Holy Spirit regarding their offering to the church

Peter had a responsibility to establish a standard in the church that lying to the Holy Spirit would not be tolerated. And that God was not in the habit of blessing those who broke the unity that He desires to see in the local church. Peter than pronounces the judgment of God on them. If he had not done this than the church would have become defiled, and the power of God would have been diminished.

1 Timothy 1:19-20 we see Paul turning Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan, so that they will learn not to blaspheme

1 Corinthians 5:5 a young man is turned over the Satan because of immorality in the hope that he would repent

2 Corinthians 2 Paul instructs the church to restore a repentant sinner to fellowship (may be same young man we saw in 1 Corinthians 5)

This authority to discipline and pronounce judgment is not control or legalism or abuse. This encourages a spiritual atmosphere where the Holy Spirit can work freely and unhindered. This task is given to the apostle.

5> Apostles are “fathers and mothers” in the Church

Apostleship is a relational ministry motivated by love. They are fathers and not rulers – they lead from the front and not rule from the top down

1 Corinthians 4:14-15 “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

In 1 Thessalonians 2:5-8 Paul tells the Thessalonians that his goal was not to assert apostolic authority over them

But rather to tenderly care for them as a nursing mother cares for her child. Apostles want to see each person fulfill the call of God that is on their life. They pray, guide, instruct, correct, and open doors of ministry for them. Apostles disciple and mentor believers – – especially those with a calling to be an apostle or a prophet.

6> Apostles dedicate their lives to seeing the Church established and flourishing regardless of the cost

One of the reasons God allows apostles to exercise disciple and correction is because they lay down their own lives for the Church

2 Corinthians 6:4-10 Paul describes the lifestyle that validates his apostolic ministry

He tells us that he lives his life, “…in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distress, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in sleeplessness, in hunger…”

2 Corinthians 11:23-28 he speaks again of what he has gone through for the sake of the Church and the Kingdom

“…with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”

If you know a true apostle – you will see this in their lives. They will take the risks necessary to move the Church forward. It costs them emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually to fulfill the work that God has called them to. They don’t count their own lives or desires as important. True apostles will have some battle scars.

7> Apostles are anointed and called to set the Church in order

They set the direction and bring order to the life and ministry of the Church. When Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus) he instructed them to set the churches under their care in order. Taking the local church to the next level. Moving the church into it’s future. Bring adjustments to the foundational issues being seen in the life of the church.

When a church is set in order – it works
It moves forward in unity
It’s members experience life
The members are equipped for their specific ministries
The lost are being saved
The power of God is experienced
The gifts flow and minister to believers and non-believers

In review regarding the role and work of the apostle in the Bible and today:

1> Apostles have an immediately recognizable intimate relationship with Jesus
2> Apostles operate continually in a supernatural realm
3> Apostles are able to interpret what God is doing
4> Apostles have authority to discipline and pronounce judgment
5> Apostles are “fathers and mothers” in the Church
6> Apostles dedicate their lives to seeing the Church established and flourishing regardless of the cost
7> Apostles are anointed and called to set the Church in order

So, today in the Kingdom God is reestablishing the ministry of the apostle. As a result the true apostolic Church is arising in many places around the world. God is calling many young people into the ministry role of apostle. There is a need for much training and mentoring of these young people. Thus a need for more apostles to step up and become involved in coaching and mentoring.

God is calling His Church to become more apostolic and less pastoral. God is speaking strongly to churches built by man and functioning in non-biblical ways to heed what the Holy Spirit is saying too the Church today – and embrace the needed adjustments and changes. And, as we come more in line with His original plans for His Church we too will see the Holy Spirit move in power and lives changed.

 

 

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Thirty-four

In the Bible there are numerous mentions of true apostles, false apostles and super-apostles… (See: 2 Corinthians 11:5; 11:13; 12:11; 12:12)

However, the Bible gives very clear specifics by which we can know the true from the false. Those who simply call themselves apostles and those who really are called as apostles. If someone is called and gifted as an apostle – God does not want them to hesitate to say they are apostles

So, God set out some “specific marks” of a true apostle

1> Apostles have an immediately recognizable intimate relationship with Jesus

The first mark of an apostle – a very close relationship with Jesus

The life of an apostle shows that they spend time with Jesus daily and know Him well

Standing before the religious rulers who could put them to death should they decide to do so … Peter speaks to explain the situation. As he is speaking the religious leaders note that they are close companions of Jesus

Acts 4:13 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”

This was the first priority of Jesus when He chose His first apostles…

Mark 3:13-14 “And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach.”

Many followed Jesus but He wanted these 12 apostles to have a special closeness to Him

To be “with Him” in a different way than the crowds and multitudes. He established a different kind of relationship with them so they could represent His heart and His plans as they went

2> Apostles operate continually in a supernatural realm

A true apostle exercises supernatural power on a different level than believers do. They work in the local church seeing what is happening in the spirit realm. They work regionally and see the bigger picture of what is taking place. They understand the plans and purpose of God for each church and each area in which the church is located. They see what is but also see and know what God wants to establish – thus the changes needed.

They exercise authority over the works of the domaine of darkness. They see miracles happening in their ministry (2 Corinthians 12:12)

Acts 2:43 says that the apostles worked great signs and wonders….

3> Apostles are able to interpret what God is doing

An apostle receives revelation about what God is doing and has authority to interpret new things that are being seen and experienced. They are able to place the new things into the current life of the Church

In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit was poured out and the gifts began to operate

The first day of the Church … and no one had ever seen anything like this before. The disciples began to speak in tongues and nobody knew what was happening – everyone, I am sure, had an opinion. There is total confusion until Peter stands up and says, “This is what the prophet Joel had spoken about…”

This had a ring of authority
It bore witness
The crowd knew it was true
The issue was settled
We never see further discussion about this in the days that follow

In Acts 15 – a new phenomenal was taking place – non-Jews (Gentiles) were getting saved / born again. They were getting saved without first converting to Judaism. Up to this time – if you wanted to know the God of Israel, you converted to the Jewish faith. But while Peter was sharing with some non-Jewish people in Acts 10 (Cornelius) the Holy Spirit came and they were saved, baptized in the Holy Spirit, and baptized in water. So, a church council was called to discuss what was happening – never happened before…

They needed God’s point of view – a Kingdom perspective. Everyone had their say regarding the matter – thoughts, opinions, interpretations. Then James – the apostle in charge of the church in Jerusalem – and says, “This is what was written by the prophet…”

Amos 9:11-12 “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord that does this.”

James interpreted what God was doing and what was happening… that God was opening the Church to anyone who had called on the Name of the Lord and was saved. God was pouring out His blessing upon the Gentiles and pagans

His conclusion: “If God is inviting them in, we will not exclude them”

As new things are added to the Kingdom and the Church today – apostles are the ones who have the understanding of what God is doing, how He is doing it, and why. And are able to put it into the current context. They have a revelation of what God is doing and the authority to declare it. It will always agree with Scripture and time will prove it to be right.

More tomorrow…

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Thirty-three

The apostles in the New Testament were not limited to the twelve Jesus first chose as leaders

The original twelve apostles formed the prototype of this gift, but as the Church expanded, more apostles were added. Jesus called others to this role in the Church He was building. The New Testament identifies a number of additional apostles

Acts 1:26 Matthias is added to replace Judas

Acts 14:14 Paul and Barnabas are both identified as apostles

Apollos – 1 Corinthians 4:6, 9
Andronicus and Junia – Romans 16:7 // Junia was a woman
James – the half brother of Jesus – Galatians 1:19
Silvanus and Timothy – 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2:6
Epaphroditus – Philippians 2:25

The gift of apostle was not intended to die out with the passing of the original twelve. God was continually adding new apostles. God is continuing to add apostles to His Church in every nation today.

As you come to understand the function of an apostle, you will see that apostles are always needed of the Church is to operate as God intended

Personal comment and observation:

Something people have noted recently is that my preaching / teaching has changed. Not the content as that has always been seriously biblical. But the way I am preaching. Something has changed in these specific places and yet apparently not in other churches or locations

I have also noticed that in these specific places I sense and experience a freedom that is not there in many other locations where I minister regularly

Yet, the content of the teaching is the same
It is the delivery and the results that are different
The moving of the Spirit is very different and more powerful
The anointing on the words is more powerful
The way people are changing is amazing

I have also discovered that the places where this is happening are the places I am drawn to and where I seriously enjoy ministering. I leave these places enriched, more alive, full … not drained and empty. I sense more life and enthusiasm within myself as a result of having ministered. I am experiencing “spirit and life” (John 6:63) and come away from them more alive and “full.”

It has taken me six months to figure out why this has happened and continues to happen. These places see me as an apostle and accept me as one – thus they allow the apostolic call and anointing to be released. Other places simply see me as a ‘pastor’ or ‘teacher’ or as “Ralph’ and thus release what they receive…

Matthew 10:41 “The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.”

They receive me as an apostle to their work and ministry, their church and region (area) and thus receive an apostle’s anointing. And this frees me to be me … an apostle. I am, of course, drawn to give more time and effort to where my gifts and calling are welcomed, received, and released.

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Thirty-two

Let’s talk for a few days about the apostolic ministry that God is raising up around the world and in every nation…

Around the world God is making major changes in the ChurchThe way we view the Church
The way the Church functions
The work that the Church is involved in
The way that this work is carried out

These changes will not always be welcomed by everyone nor will everyone accept them as something God is doing. The changes, if embraced, will take the Church from being very pastoral and inwardly focused to being apostolic and prophetic and thus outward focused…Focused on winning the lost and not simply on caring for and ministering to the saved

These foundational changes in the way we see the Church and think about the work of the Church (ministry) will move us from maintenance to true ministry

From a Church viewpoint to a Kingdom viewpoint

We are in a season when the Holy Spirit is bringing changes that are of seismic proportions that will bring the Church back into line with the biblical model of the Church as seen throughout the New Testament …We will see the Church that Jesus is building as contrasted to the Church that man has built

Matthew 16:18 “…I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”

This apostolic model of the Church is founded upon a solid biblical base…

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.”

This is how God planned churches to be planted – and how they are to function. Starting the work with an apostle and with an apostle as the key leader. An apostle is the one who first comes into an area to plant the Gospel of the Kingdom. Apostles don’t plant church – they plant the Gospel like seeds in good soil. That apostle or other apostles will water the seed. God brings the increase

1 Corinthians 3:6 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”

This church then carries the DNA of an apostle and is a living organism. Jesus’ DNA as He is “…the apostle and high priest” Hebrews 3:1. And the DNA of the founding ‘minister’ who is an apostle. This church becomes apostolic in nature and in its life together

We have seen…pastors come in to an area and plant a church…These churches then carries the DNA of a pastor and functions pastorally. Usually very inwardly focused and members take care of each other. Not focused outwardly on the lost and expanding the Kingdom. A pastoral church can adapt and change and become an apostolic church. A pastoral church can grab hold of the current move of the Holy Spirit and enter into the fullness that God has planned for it. However, it must be done intentionally – does not just happen. It means major changes in all aspects of the life of that local church. It will release dynamic “life” within the congregation as the members fulfill God’s call on His Church.

We become the Church – no longer go to church. No longer come to an assembly to be taught – come to be equipped for ministry. Not interested in information for information’s sake. Now wanting to see transformation – life change.

After all, Jesus said: John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

The changes are massive and dramatic – but exciting and dynamic

Matthew 19:26b “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

So, 1 Corinthians 12:28 “…first apostles…”

This is where Jesus started

Acts 1:2 “Jesus ascended into Heaven after giving instructions to the apostles he had chosen…”There were many other believers / disciples following Jesus at this time – but He chose to give instructions to His apostles … “first apostles…”

When Jesus wanted to start a Church, He began with apostles. These first apostles established the first church.

Acts 2:42 “They were devoting themselves to the apostles teaching”

Acts 2:43 “Miraculous signs were done by the apostles”

Acts 4:2 “The apostles were teaching the people”

Acts 4:33 “The apostles were continuing to testify”

More next time…

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Thirty-one

The Church – the true apostolic church being built by Jesus – is the Body of Christ, Romans 12:4-5 compares the operation of an apostolic church to a complex physical body. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

Paul points out that a physical body has many organs, many members. They are all different, but they need to work together. Your lungs and your brain are not in competition. Your eyes and your ears do not argue about which is most important. Every part is important, and their common goal is the health of the body.

The Body of Christ has many members also. There are apostles, prophets, teachers, shepherds, healers, encouragers, administrators, and many others. Each member has a different God-given purpose, and when each member fulfills its function, the whole body operates in great power.

That was God’s plan for His Church. And it was revolutionary. God’s plan was to bring together a diverse group of people, place His Spirit in each of them, give them each a unique set of gifts, then knit them together to function as a single living organism.

Their purpose was to be the Body of Christ on earth, doing the same works Jesus did when He was walking around in His physical body. John 14:12 states, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”

You and I were created to be part of that Body. When God designed you, He gave you a unique personality and a unique set of abilities. When He saved you and you were baptized in the Holy Spirit, He gave you a unique set of spiritual gifts. No one else can do what you can do in the way that you do it.

Like the organs of the human body, we are all different, but essential. The problem with the traditional church is that only a few parts are allowed to operate. The “pastor” is a mouth that speaks. The members are allowed to be hands that serve. The missionaries (another non-biblical role, position, and word) are feet that go. But most people just attend.

Believers were created and saved (and Baptized in the Holy Spirit) to do more than attend church. But in the pastoral model this is what the majority of the body parts do – they sit and don’t function. Thus we have a really sick and non-functioning body.

But, you were created to do more than attend church. Some are created to heal the sick. But, most have never prayed for a sick person in their life time. They have no idea how to even begin. But it is their call and destiny, and they will never be fulfilled or satisfied until they do it. When they finally go out and lay their hands on the sick and see them healed, it will be the most exciting thing that they have ever done.

Some are created to lead worship. Some are to care for others and even encourage others. Some are gifted to perform miracles. Others will have the ministry of casting out demons, or deliverance. Everyone is called to prophesy but some will see this as a major gift and ministry and their role in the Body of Christ.

It does not matter where you work, how much money you make, or what you can buy. If you are not trained, equipped, and released to do what you were created and called to do, you will never find fulfilment in life.

This is the pastoral church model.

However, in the apostolic model of the church, where Christians are equipped to do the works of Jesus, they experience a level of meaning and purpose they have never known before. The result is that the Church truly begins to function as the Body of Christ. It is no longer a congregation of untrained laymen (another non-biblical term). It becomes the army of God doing the works of King Jesus in the earth…literally the Body of Christ alive, healthy, and functioning well.

The apostle’s call and giftings is to create an atmosphere where all of this can happen. And where apostles are welcomed and their gifting allowed to function in its fulness, the fivefold ministry is established, believers are equipped and the Church moves forward with incredible power to fulfill its destiny.

We are living in exciting time. God is re-formed His Church. He is in the midst of the greatest building project in history, and we are His building material. We are living stones, being joined together in Jesus forming God’s temple in the earth. God is building a sanctuary where His presence will be experienced and a people who will walk in His power will be released as ambassadors and ministers of reconciliation. God is restoring the apostolic church.

 

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Thirty

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

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.