Since apostles and prophets are foundational to the Church, it is imperative that we know how these two offices work together. An illustration or two may help us to understand.
The illustration of cement and water
When making concrete for sidewalks and buildings, powered cement and water are used. Once the cement and water are combined, it is ready to be poured to form pavement and building foundations. Likewise, apostles and prophets work together to form the foundation of the Church. The apostolic ministry can be compared to the powdered cement, while prophetic ministry is comparable to the water.
Apostolic ministry is one of substance. Apostles provide stability to the Church. Apostles endeavor for purity of doctrine and teachings. They have a great desire for Church organization and structure. However, these ‘drives’ can cause some apostles to become rigid (legalistic) or even stagnant. This is where the prophetic ministry becomes vital.
Prophets strive to see the Church keep pace with the flow of the Spirit. Prophets bring life to the Church.
Water has many uses. Water brings life, cleans, and refreshes. Prophetic ministry should accomplish these tasks in the Church. Prophetic ministry keeps the Church vibrant and clean from spiritual impurity. Prophets prepare the Church for the upcoming moves of God.
Apostles and prophets bring balance to one another. Apostles provide stability for the Church – while prophets facilitate mobility in the Church. Stability and mobility work together as cement and water to lay the proper foundation for the Church.
The Illustration of the Builder …
Apostles serve and act as builders in the Kingdom. Paul compared apostolic ministry to that of a builder – a master builder.
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 1 Corinthians 3:10
Apostles endeavor to lay a spiritual foundation for the saints to grow by. Their ministries provide structure and order for the worship of God as well as the life of the believer. Paul’s ministry at Corinth exemplified this. He, along with the other apostles (Peter and Apollos), first laid the foundation for the Church (Christ Himself) and then built upon it through preaching, teaching, and the writing of letters – strengthening and correcting the new believers in their walk with the Lord Jesus.
After laying the foundation and establishing the local church, the apostle then disciples the believers with a eye for young leaders who will have the grace of God upon them to enable them to lead the local church in the future. Apostles, as part of their “builder” role, are responsible to train, raise up, and release leaders in the Church. They are concerned that there will be men and women in place to do the work of the Lord now and well into the foreseeable future. They will, of course, resist placing immature or unqualified people in positions of authority.
As they build apostles will be very careful to expose any who are self-promoting and who are striving to be leaders without the anointing or the release of the Spirit of God. They will reveal or expose false anointings as well as any false “moves” of God. They have a tremendous desire for spiritual purity and spiritual ‘practicality’ within the Church.
When training future leaders for the local church the apostle will be looking for three things other than the initial call and grace of God upon the believer’s life.
First they need to see the potential leaders – those with the anointing – be faithful in little things within the local church. In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25) we see that those who were faithful in what they had been given and used it wisely were then given much more to do within the kingdom. This is the same in the ministry within a local church. Apostles are never to be in a hurry to release and recognize a believer’s ministry. They must be patient and wait until they have proven themselves faithful in serving the local church and the current leaders of that church. If and when they have proven themselves faithful and trustworthy in the ‘little areas’ of helps and other behind the scenes ministries then, and only then, should they be released to minister in a more public role.
- Faithful and trustworthy in little – given much!
Secondly, in the Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 25) we see a second qualification needed for those who desire to be recognized and released in ministry. Here we see those who had been given the care of the vineyard not being faithful in what belongs to another. Before a believer is released into a ministry of their own and have their anointing, calling, and grace recognized they must first prove themselves faithful in what belongs to another. Only as they help a more senior minister to fulfill his or her call and help them on a consistent basis in the area of helps can they then begin to be trained and released into their own ministry. Often, especially with future apostles and prophets, this will mean they will travel with the senior leaders helping them with the physical aspects of the trans-local ministry. This is often accomplished at their own expense as they pay their own way.
- Faithful in what belongs to another – given your own!
Thirdly, implied in this parable is the principle that a future leader needs first to be found faithful in the natural realm before being released to work in the supernatural realm.
- Faithful in the natural – given the supernatural
One real testing ground for all three principles is the whole aspect of finances and tithing. This will test the heart of the future leader. Do they deal with their limited finances in a biblical manner. Faithful in the little so that God can bless them financially later as they begin to need more funds for their ministry? Are they faithful in what belongs to another? In other words, do they tithe? Remembering that this belongs to God. Thirdly, are they wisely managing their money (the 90% that belongs to them)? Being good stewards or managers in the natural will mean they can then be trusted with the supernatural.
An apostle (and others in the leadership team of a local church) must be cautious and not rush to release someone into ministry simply because they can see the anointing and calling on the believer’s life.
Thanks to: Jonas Clark for the “cement and water” analogy and to Dennis Cramer for his understanding of Matthew 25’s “3 faithfuls” preached in 2001 in my local church.