Biblical Apostolic Ministry Today #6 – Apostolic Evangelism #30

Apostles today are sent out – not only to evangelize and win the lost – but to plant new churches. When the Holy Spirit said in Acts 13:2 that Barnabas and Saul were to be set apart “for the work to which I have called them,” the ‘work’ in view was clearly to plant churches throughout the Roman Empire.

There is a wonderful pattern here. Apostles are sent out from the church to do the work of planting new churches. The next step, shown in 1 Thessalonians 1:8 is even more exciting: The new church itself then becomes an apostolic base, sending out it own workers to do the work of establishing still more churches. Thus not only are disciples going into all the world and making more disciples – but churches are also reproducing themselves as they reach out with the Gospel and plant new churches as the Kingdom continues to expand.

The beautiful thing about this process is that it is designed to go on and on and on and on and on… Every church is supposed to be reproducing and sending qualified apostles and apostolic teams into the harvest field to plant new works. These new churches can, in turn, send out even more workers in the harvest field and so on. It is truly meant to be a process that never ends.

This pattern in the New Testament shows the high priority God places on evangelism and “missions.” It goes beyond seeing people come to salvation; it is greater than offering humanitarian aid where and when it is needed; it involves the planting of new churches – churches that will continue the task of proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and discipling new converts – while also reaching out and planting another and then another church.

It is regretful today that we don’t see most churches reproducing and planting new churches. This is still a very effective way to evangelize just as it was in the Roman Empire during the time of Paul’s apostolic ministry. It is hoped that as apostolic ministry becomes more widely accepted and the influence of apostles increases in the life of the local church that we will see this process of multiplication begin once again and become a part of regular life within each and every local church.

Biblical Apostolic Ministry Today #5 – Apostolic Evangelism #29

As we continue our look at the evangelist ministry of apostles today … we are in the midst of pulling truths out of Acts 13 and the Church in the city of Antioch. Today I want to briefly examine the truth that: “The ultimate sender of an apostle is not a church or a para-church organization not really any group of people – the sender is God Himself.”

As a result of their experience in God’s presence in Acts 13:1-4, Barnabas and Saul could go out in confidence that they had been “sent out by the Holy Spirit.” This is the key to all genuine apostolic ministry: not sending ourselves out or even being sent by the Church, but being sent by God. Paul later wrote to the Galatians about his call to apostolic ministry, “Paul, an apostle – sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father …” (Galatians 1:1 NIV).

Many young people today are awaiting a call to ministry, but they are expecting to receive it from people. They think, ‘Maybe the pastor will recognize my gifts and ordain me to ministry.’ Or, ‘I sure hope that prophetic minister calls me out of the congregation and confirms my calling.’ Or, ‘Perhaps I should go to Bible School or seminary so my calling can be recognized.’

All these feelings are understandable and I see them and hear about them in every nation where I travel to minister. But, they miss the crucial point: Valid commissioning always comes from the presence of God. Yes, people should confirm our calling, but they are not the source of the calling. Before being confirmed through the prayers of others, we must first hear God’s voice in our personal prayer closet. When we hear His unmistakable voice and it is then confirmed by godly leaders around us, we can go our with an unshakable conviction that we have been sent by God and not just sent by man.

So, really, a person should know in their heart that they is called as an apostle and then the prophetic words from apostles and prophets are simply a confirmation, a reminder, and an encouragement to hold on to during tough times; a confirmation of something that is already being sensed and felt in the person’s heart. Regretfully, because many today do not take adequate time in God’s presence and often do not know how to accurately hear His voice – the prophetic word through an apostle or prophet is often the first indication a young person has that there is a call upon their life. In Paul’s life he had already hear from The Lord regarding his calling and then the Church in Antioch was simply confirming what he already knew (see Paul’s road to Damascus experience in Acts, chapter 9) and adding a few details. This, I believe, is how it should be for all those called into the five-fold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher (Ephesians 4:11).

Biblical Apostolic Ministry Today #4 – Apostolic Evangelism #28

We have been looking at valid apostolic ministry today. Many today who are calling themselves apostles are really not. Many today who are apostles are quietly doing the work of an apostle and are seldom seen or heard as they labor in their part of the vineyard and are not known nationally or internationally. We have seen that:
1> True apostles are actually doing apostolic work
2> The local church is the normal “sending unit” from which apostles and their apostolic teams are released and sent
3> Those considering working overseas must first have proven their call and ministry on the home front and in a local church

As we continue our look into Acts, chapter 13 we quickly see #4 – The call of an apostle should be received and confirmed in a place of prayer as the leadership team of the local church wait on The Lord in prayer with fasting.

Barnabas and Saul received their call in a prayer room, not a board room. They received the apostolic call as they and other leaders in Antioch “ministered to The Lord and fasted” (Acts 13:2a). This pattern – apostolic commissioning birthed in a place of prayer – occurs in a number of Scriptural episodes. Immediately before Jesus gave His disciples the commission in Matthew 28:16-20 to “go and make disciples of all nations,” the disciples were worshippingHim. Genuine worship of Jesus, “The Lord of the harvest” (Matthew 9:38), will propel us to reach out to others with His love.

Isaiah, likewise, was commissioned during a mighty encounter with “The Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1). He did not just “volunteer” for the army of salvation, but responded to a direct question from The Lord: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” (Isaiah 6:8b). This is the same question God wants to ask us – but we have to get deep enough into His presence to hear His call. One of the greatest scandals among professing Charismatic, apostolic, prophetic, Pentecostal, intercessory, and other ‘deeper life’ Christian groups is that we claim to be exceptionally spiritual, but somehow we have often missed this cry from the heart of God.

Biblical Apostolic Ministry Today #3 – Apostolic Evangelism #27

As we continue to look at true apostolic ministry and the impact of this ministry on evangelism today we see in Acts 13 (the church in Antioch) our third major truth. Principle #3: Those being considered for membership on an apostolic team that is being formed to “go into all the world and make disciples” must first have proven themselves on the home front within the ministry of the local church. In my experience there are many who want to travel to a foreign nation to minister – I have requests almost weekly from people wanting to travel with me. However, most have not proven faithful and fruitful in ministry in their local church.

There is a saying I share a lot; “If it does not work at home, don’t export it.” In other words, if you are not winning the lost within the evangelistic ministry of the local church you attend – don’t even think about going overseas with an apostolic team to evangelize and plant churches. First be faithful and fruitful here on your home territory and then think about becoming a part of a team that is going overseas. If you can’t win the lost here – you will never win the lost there … wherever “there” is.

When Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were sent from the church in Antioch, they were already faithfully serving as part of the leadership team in that local church. As well, their ministry had been very fruitful during their stay in that city. In Acts 13:1 they are part of the team meeting together described as “certain prophets and teachers.” They didn’t get launched to the mission field after sitting lethargically on the back row of the church; they were already actively involved in ministry. And their ministry had been proven and was fruitful.

If believers do not have an effective ministry in their home church, why should we consider sending them as part of an apostolic team to minister in some distant land, where they will face inevitable barriers of language and culture? Although there are times when someone thrives in a foreign ministry even though he has had “no honor in his own country” (John 4:44), the general principle is that those we are faithful in little will be entrusted with more (Luke 16:10a).

If we are not fruitful in the part of the Kingdom where God has placed us, it may be just wishful thinking to expect great results is we are sent somewhere else. Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, served for a time with a missions agency, screening new applicants for the foreign mission fields. He was amazed to discover that the vast majority of the people wanting to travel overseas to minister had never led anyone to Christ back home! The moral of the story is that it takes more than crossing the sea to make a person a valuable member of an apostolic missions team.

Biblical Apostolic Ministry Today #2 – Apostolic Evangelism #26

We are examining Acts 13:1-5… and the genuine apostolic ministry as seen in this passage. This is a good thing to do because there are many “false apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:13) and “super apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5; 2 Corinthians 12:11). So, we must book to the Scriptures to help us determine who the “real (or true) apostles” are (2 Corinthians 12:12). Yesterday we saw that true apostles do apostolic work. This may seem so very obvious but it needs to be stated because many who call themselves apostles are simply not doing what the Bible clearly states is the ministry of the apostle.

Today (#2) we want to state that the Church is the normal sending station from which true apostolic ministry is sent.

Acts 13:1 begins, “Now in the church that was at Antioch there were…” Today many who have been called to be apostles have been trained by “mission agencies,” parachurch organizations, and seminaries. But, the actual sending is rightfully and biblically done by the Church. I believe that the time is coming when future apostles will find their training within the local church and mainly through mentoring relationships with active and mature apostles who have proven themselves over the long term and have a fruitful, long-term ministry. However, even though training is often currently received away from the local church – it is the local church that must be the sending agent for all those called to be apostles and work in apostolic ministry. It is the biblical pattern.

There are important reasons for this pattern. No one knows us bette than the folks back home. No one can better encourage is or offer prayer support. And no one is in a better position to gauge our spiritual condition and provide a source of accountability. It is important for apostles and apostolic team members not only to know that there is a place where they have been sent out from but also to know that is a place where they can go back to. Tragically, many apostles today don’t have this sense of security that only a local church can supply.

So, the local church should be the place where apostles are trained and equipped (Ephesians 4:11-15) as well as sent out from. This also means they should return to the sending church on a regular basis to give an account of their work as Paul and Barnabas did in Acts 14:27-28).

Biblical Apostolic Ministry Today #1 – Apostolic Evangelism #25

One of the key places to study the ministry of the apostle today is found in the Book of Acts, chapter 13. In the next few blogs in this series I want to look closely at Acts 13:1-5 and see what we can learn about apostolic ministry and apostles today from the work of the Church in the city of Antioch.

Many sincere Christians would vehemently contend that apostolic ministry is no longer needed in the Church today, yet they are strong advocates of missionaries being sent out to work in areas that have not heard the Gospel of the Kingdom. This is somewhat amusing, when we remember that the Greek word for “apostle” (apostolos) means exactly the smae thing as the Latin word from which we derive the term “missionary” (missionari). Both words mean “ones who are sent,” and the Latin word simply came into prominence when Latin became the standard language of the Roman Catholic Church.

Now, I am not suggesting that all ‘missionaries’ are apostles. No more than I would suggest that all those who call themselves “apostles” are truly apostles. I am simply stating that when properly used these two words – missionary and apostle – should both refer to the work of those called to be apostles today and are not two separate ministries within the Church today. And, I am not suggesting in any ay that the work that most missionaries place their hands to today is “apostolic” because a lot of it is not due to the misunderstanding of what it really means to be a “missionary” in the Church today.

Once we can recognize the apostolic nature of genuine missionary work, we can begin to evaluate modern missions from the standpoint of what the Bible says about apostolic ministry. Without this foundational understanding, how could we ever come up with with a Biblical approach to missions? The Bible says nothing about “missionaries” who are not involved in apostolic ministry because the root of the word apostle is the same as the root word for missionary – truly they are one and the same when correctly understood.

So, point #1 is simply that true “missionaries” today must be doing apostolic work. If they are not then they are neither missionaries nor apostles.

I believe that it would be good to go back to the Greek biblical word for this ministry – apostle – and no longer use the church Latin word missionary. Then we can approach apostolic ministry with a correct biblical mindset and hopefully avoid all the religious trappings that come along with the term “missionary.”

Signs and Wonders #8 – Apostolic Evangelism #24

People ask me all the time – “How come we don’t see miracles, signs and wonders in our services?” The answer is not complicated. God wants to arise and do mighty miracles in His Church today. However, this will happen not so much because we have sought after miracles or sought to attract crowds – but we have sought Him. If we truly find Jesus, we will find miracles too. Crowds will again come to seek out the mighty miracle-working Jesus who lives within us by His Spirit.

What will we do with the multitudes when they begin to come? Will we treat them to a spectacular combination of supernatural and showmanship, telling them they can have God’s best and still hang on to their self-centered lives? Or will we tell them the truth about eating Jesus’s flesh and drinking His blood – the truth that only those willing to lose their lives will find them!

As The Lord restores apostolic evangelism to the Church, His Church, we will have an exciting opportunity to proclaim and practice both the power of God and the message of discipleship. Instead of reaping a harvest of shallow, self-absorbed “converts”, we will once gain produce a generation of world-changing disciples.

Note: Our next blog will begin to look at apostolic outreach – the work of “missions” that every local church, if they are apostolic in nature, should be considering.

Signs and Wonders #7 – Apostolic Evangelism #23

One of my mentors, many years ago, told me that it was easy to gather a crowd or to have a circus but difficult to build a church. That has proven to be true in my life and ministry many times over the 30 years since I first heard it.

many Charismatics and Pentecostal-type Christians today have been gripped by a potential fatal disease: “miraculitis.” Like the children of Israel, we have seen God’s mighty acts but have not learned His ways (Psalm 103:7). We have received the message of the resurrection and Pentecost but have somehow bypassed the message of the cross: denying ourselves.

Christians infected by miraculitis do indeed look spiritual when they lift up their hands in worship, but don’t dare challenge them about their selfishness, pride, and lack of accountability to other Christians. And don’t risk offending them by mentioning your concern about their worldly lifestyles or habits of attending meetings only when convenient. Likewise, you will probably be disappointed if you expect them to give back to God even a tenth of their income, for this isn’t the ral church – it’s merely an audience.

God not only wants to do miracles among us, He wants to show us more miracles than we have ever seen before. But He doesn’t want us to live on miracles alone. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego had the right idea about expecting God’s supernatural intervention. They told King Nebuchadnezzar that their God was able to save them from the fiery furnace, but they were committed to serve Him even if He DIDN’T do a miracle and rescue them. Their hope was in The Lord Himself, not just in getting what they wanted.

Christians and Christian leaders today should be wary concerning the fickleness of miracle-seeking multitudes. Jesus preached to the crowds, but He entrusted Himself to only a few. The reason He was careful about entrusting Himself to people was “He knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25). He knew that the multitudes could change directions as quickly as the wind, as they later did in the few days between shouting “hosanna” and then “crucify Him.”

Paul, an apostle, felt the brunt of a miraculitis crowd when preaching in Lystra (Acts 14:8-20). After dramatically healing a lame man, Paul and Barnabas had to rebuke the crowds for worshipping them as gods. Yet, only a short time later, the same people turned around and stronded Paul. The “worshippers” had changed their minds!

Signs and Wonders #6 – Apostolic Evangelism #22

We have been looking at the role of signs and wonders in reaching out to the lost and making disciples. Apostles, and thus apostolic people, move in a calling and empowerment that brings about signs and wonders both to initially get a person’s attention as well as to confirm the words being spoken and the message being shared.

As vital as signs and wonders are for successful evangelism, John chapter six also includes a sobering warning. Although the chapter begins with great crowds and triumph, it ends on a far different note. Midway through the chapter, Jesus starts to challenge the multitude that the time for real commitment has come. Instead o remaining a crowd of freeloading miracle-seekers, they must eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:53-57).

How do people respond to Jesus’ message of total commitment? “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:66). How would the sight of these mass defections affect Jesus’ original twelve disciples? Would they question their own dedication in light of Jesus’ sudden unpopularity? “Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life'” (John 6:67-68). Despite Peter’s affirmation of the disciples’ unwavering commitment, the chapter ends with the tragic statement that Judas, one of the twelve, would ultimately betray Jesus.

John Chapter 6 describes a pivotal decision in Jesus’ ministry: He would build His Church around eleven dedicated followers rather than 5,000 people who were looking only for a good show and a free lunc. This is, in fact, one of the crucial “apostolic decisions” that every believer and Christian leaders must face: What kind of people will we build our ministry around and what kind of people do we want to invest time in discipling?

We need to understand the central paradox in John chapter 6. On the one hand, great crowds were attracted by Jesus’ signs and wonders; on the other hand, most of these people turned out to be fair-weather followers, who quickly disappeared when confronted by the call for true discipleship. So what are we to think and conclude? Is it therefore a waste of time to seek God’s power in order to draw people into the Kingdom? Or should we go the other direction, watering down Jesus’ call to full commitment because it hinders Church growth?

We need to be challenged by both sides of this apparent dilemma:

>> God wants to reveal His miracle-working power in every church today, drawing multitudes to come and see Him work

>> Churches that are experiencing the supernatural and attracting large crowds must honestly ask themselves whether they have taken the next step: presenting the cost of discipleship. If your church (ministry, personal outreach to the lost) is only portraying God as the “God of the goodies,” you may well have a lot of people – but you are deceiving yourself if you thing they are really committed, true disciples of Jesus.

HERE’S MY POINT: True apostolic evangelism combines miralces and discipleship, realizing that both are crucial to the growth and stability of the Church. Apostolic evangelism isn’t impressed by big crowds alone but inquires about the maturity and depth of commitment in the lives of the people. It realizes that the evangelism process isn’t finished until individuals have been built together as a healthy spiritual body.

Signs and Wonders #5 – Apostolic Evangelism #21

We are looking at signs and wonders, miracles and healings, deliverances and the raising of the dead – the need for the supernatural when we are speaking to others about Jesus and His resurrection from the dead.

We saw that apostolic evangelism goes beyond talk to demonstration. According to Paul, the apostle, “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20). Few people today will be won by persuasive words alone. Tired of our talk and bored with our theology, they are looking for evidence of the God who transcends our rationalistic and materialistic world.

It must have been similar in Jesus’ day. The multitudes didn’t show much enthusiasm for the synagogue meetings conducted by the scribes and Pharisees. Even though the Word of God was taught and the standard prayers were said, most people realized there was little reality or authority behind all the religious talk.

The Gospels are clear that more people were drawn to Jesus’ miracles than to His messages. As John chapter 6 begins, “…a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased? (verse 2). Soon the crowd had swelled to more thyan 5,000 people and the miracles continued.

Next, Jesus amazed the crowd even further by feeding them all with only five barley loaves and two fish. He was not just doing “miracles for miracles’ sake,” but each supernatural event was an illustration of the Father’s love. Jesus was communicating His message not only in word but in deed. He not only gave people a Gospel they could hear, He gave them something they could see. The people became so excited that they proclaimed Jesus a great prophet and then tried to take Him by force and make Him king (John 6:14-15).

Can your Gospel be seen as well as heard? Are you able to demonstrate both the compassion and the power of Christ? Can you show people a living Savior, or must you just point to miraclesHe did many centuries ago? These questions will be crucial to the success of our evangelistic efforts in the years ahead.

Apostolic evangelism goes beyond talk to demonstration. According to Paul, the apostle, “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20). Few people today will be won by persuasive words alone. Tired of our talk and bored with our theology, they are looking for evidence of the God who transcends our rationalistic and materialistic world.