Apostles are bishops (overseers) of local churches and thus are often seen functioning as leader or heading up a network or union of churches. However, just because someone is overseeing local churches or a complete network or union does not necessarily mean that they are functioning as apostles. This is a calling of the Lord Jesus upon a person and thus the call upon the overseer’s life to be an apostle must be recognized and acknowledged so that those to whom he is ministering can receive the apostolic anointing under which he ministers. Some fulfill the function without the call doing so because of their abilities and skills and often because there has not been an apostle available or willing to do the work.
The word bishop that appears a number of times in the New Testament simply means overseer. To oversee means to survey, watch, inspect, examine, supervise (Webster). When Judas lost his apostleship, he lost his BISHOPRICK (Acts 1:20 KJV) The “bishoprick” is an office, work, charge, or position of being an overseer. The word bishoprick is the Greek word episkope meaning inspection. To inspect means to examine officially.
Apostles have the official right to inspect the churches they plant and oversee. This responsibility and work is done relationally as all ministry should arise out of relationships that have been tried and tested over many seasons of ministry. Their “official right” to oversee is not based on their title or position as this is the lowest level of leadership. It should be based on their character and long-term productivity in the ministry. In other words, the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, their faithfulness and their fruitfulness.
This inspection includes correction based on correctly perceiving or sensing the spiritual health of the local congregation and the aspects of the on-going life of the local church that need to be addressed. They are not called to dominate and control the saints. When spirits of domination and control manifest through an apostle, deliverance is needed to avoid judgment from the Lord. The Lord is the Bishop of our souls. Apostles, along with other ministry gifts, are responsible to bishop (oversee) the saints with love, wisdom, and a great deal of patience.