Monday, February 13, 2006

The Apostle - Architects of the Growing Glorious Church!

It seems from the fantastic comments on my last short blog, that I am not the only one who is interested in developing and understanding the 5-fold Ascension Gifts of the Risen Lord! It seems that this question lay heavily on Dr Ern Baxter's heart also. In his book; "God's Agenda", he wrote:

"There is an apostolic key to evangelism in the Book of Acts that we desperately need to find. We've just been playing around the edges of it. We have to talk about apostles, prophets and evangelists".

Before I get into some thoughts on the Apostle, Mark had an extremely useful critique that he wrote in the comment section of my previous blog - of the earlier breakdown of the 5-fold ministries that I mentioned. It is worth noting here:

"I'll have a stab at improving on it...They all love God, and they all love the church.

The apostle loves to build the church through church planting and overseeing the early stages of growth.
The prophet loves to build the church through hearing God's word of encouragement and guidance in season and passing it on.
The evangelist loves to build the church through proclaiming the gospel and seeing people saved and added to the church.
The pastor loves to build the church through caring for each person individually, seeing that they are helped in times of trouble and protected in times of danger.
The teacher loves to build the church through grounding them in the word of God, bringing them to maturity".

Thanks Mark!

So to the Apostle ... the working definition that I have used of the apostolic since I heard it at Brighton 2003 was by Dave Holden. He said that apostles will be responsible;

1. To ensure that the church is moving on to ‘regions beyond’.
2. To care for all the churches they serve – this may include laying foundations or fathering a church through all kinds of challenges.
3. To define doctrine that will help shape a church in what she believes and will result in practice that glorifies God. This doctrine, of course, has its authority in God’s Word alone and will prevent the church from being blown about by new doctrinal trends.
4. To impart the Holy Spirit. This could be introducing people to the baptism in the Holy Spirit, or enabling a church to have fresh encounters of the Holy Spirit. It may also be signs and wonders. Apostolic ministry is far more to do with impartation than administration.

Both Dave Holden and John Hosier do of course take great pains to note that the modern-day apostolic gift in no way whatsoever is intended to add anything to Scripture. The canon is closed! But they argue that the modern apostolic gift should be seen in the context of church planting. John Hosier's understanding of an apostle would tie in well with Mark's - he says: "An apostle is particularly gifted to help get churches well planted and well established" (p42).

Practically then ...

So practically, a previous commentator asked about individuals and whether in my opinon they are gifted. In one sense, it is difficult to state one way or the other because I don't know them and their ministry very well and certainly as well as I used to. But on the other it is of use to think about these things practically so they don't just stay as semantics. I found it extremely interesting that Don noted that in the mid-80's C J Mahaney was seen as the "prophet" of PDI, particularly bearing in mind that earlier I had suggested that I felt his gifting was more as a prophet bringing the message of the Cross to the church.

Is Mahaney an apostle? I think that the one word not mentioned in all the definitions of "Apostle" that I have found so far is the word; "Father". An apostle will have a fathers heart - or should have. Last year it came to my attention that Mahaney came to the UK to speak at the Brighton Leaders Conference. A number of folk in the UK SGM situation were quite excited because they were sure that he would visit their churches while in the country and speak. He however did not do this - much to their intense disappointment. Two of the UK SGM leaders were spotted at the Brighton conference, presumably to use the time to see Mahaney. Now I am sure that he had his own valid reasons for not visiting either of the churches - but this does not seem like a father's heart to me.

So for me, I am happy to see his role as that of a "prophet". He is passionate about the message of the Cross, his message is single-minded (often like that of a prophet!) and he cannot talk about anything much else (apart from sex and romance).

When Terry Virgo was visiting Bristol a few weekends ago for the "God's Lavish Grace" tour (by the way the messages are all available online here - I URGE you to hear them!) I was amazed at the intensity of his schedule. He had returned from Dubai not a long time ago. Yet he still spoke at City Church, Bristol on the Sunday morning after the conference had finished. To me that is the heart of a father. Like Paul, the impression was that he was "eager" to see us and impart something to us! That to me is the heart of a father. Somehow Terry has the ability to make each and every person in the Newfrontiers family of churches feel like they relate to him personally - an extrodinary gift!

So there is just a few collection of thoughts on the role of the apostle. Tomorrow - the prophet. It would be appropriate then to close with some words from Terry himself:

"Today, newly formed local church foundations must be laid. This is apostolic work, whether the apostle initiates the breakthrough or whether the apostle or apostolic delegate arrives after the evangelist ... if we consign apostles and apostolic ministry exclusively to the early church, we are left without one of the key factors in world mission, the vital role that apostles played".

As I said earlier, the 5-fold Ascension Gifts is not a matter of pure academia. We MUST be passionate about it, because they are crucial to the world mission that we are on as a family.


Ollie boy said...

This is very very interesting. So if we are arguing for the vital place of the 5-fold ministries and accept Dave Holden's definition then if apostles do not play a role in a particular church then they are going to miss out on maybe particular impartations of the Holy Spirit! Yes?

Baxter's Boy said...

Yes I think that would be an accurate argument to a certain extent. Of course God is sovereign and can and does work and anoint and send His Spirit, but I think the apostolic ministry has been particularly gifted to impart the Spirt in a special dimension to the growing church. Just as I'm going to argue tomorrow that the prophet can sometimes see into local church situations in a way that pastor/teachers can't - Terry Virgo quotes a number of occasions when specific prophecies brought by men such as Alex Buchanan and Dave Mansell changed the direction of the church.

Hugh Griffiths said...

Dan - you've gathered some important observations, definitions and examples of translocal ministry. As these conversations develop, can I make a plea for also providing examples and references from Scripture to underpin the dialogue? Like you, I am absolutely passionate about the 5 fold gifts and their role today and it must be a priority that Scripture itself is brought to bear in clarifying or defining roles.

Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks for that comment Hugh, it is a very important one. I guess my only defence (which isn't much of one) is that I feel I speak in the shadow of far superior works and men who HAVE underpinned their arguments with Scripture hence I don't have to as I stand on their shoulders!

This isn't acceptable though. I do accept your challenge, take it to heart and will strive to do so!

Thanks correcting me in grace!

Don said...

Dan, you ask "Is Mahaney an apostle? I think that the one word not mentioned in all the definitions of "Apostle" that I have found so far is the word; "Father". An apostle will have a fathers heart - or should have."

Good point. Mahaney's behavior in the UK doesn't strike me as unusual, given my knowledge of him. His focus these days is as a leader of leaders -- he is investing most of his time in training leaders, not speaking directly to crowds. So I would guess that to him, meeting with UK leaders would have a higher priority than delivering yet another message to a crowd (which he's been doing for over 30 years now).

CJ is indeed prophetic in that he isn't like Bill Clinton -- he really doesn't care whether or not you like him personally. I don't think he's reaching out for more friends, or desperate to please anybody except God, and secondarily his family and tight circle of fellow leaders (that's what he conveyed over 20+ years in my hearing). He's not "touchy-feely," and has a prophet's blunt personality more than a pastor/shepherd's one. He's much more likely to tell you to straighten up, pursue the spiritual disciplines, get accountability and obey the clear teaching of God ("-- Slick!"), than to put his arm around your shoulder and commiserate with your situation.

You can say this is good or bad, but that's simply who he is. You can't be upset with him for not being who you want him to be, though I can understand the disappointment of people who know he's close by but isn't showing up to speak.

Baxter's Boy said...

Thats interesting! And v confirming that his behaviour is indeed prophetic! No indeed, we can't be upset for him being who he is and feels he has been called to be. I think back through the hall of church history in Hebrews and I guess none of them would be particularly "cuddly" and "people-pleasing"!!

So it seems then, that his mentality would be that what he imparts to leaders, should be disseminated down from those leaders to the crowds ... therefore his prophetic message is getting out?

Don said...

Hugh asks for some specific scriptures. I've meditated a lot on Paul's statement: "The things that mark an apostle — signs, wonders and miracles — were done among you with great perseverance." (2Cor12:12) Now, some can say that Paul was talking about the original, first-century apostles, but I think it's valid for today.

However, the difficulty in using Paul as an example here is that He combined so many gifts into one person -- apostle, evangelist, pastor and teacher -- that Paul's apostolic gift came out only in response to the need to train those who earlier benefited from his evangelist and pastor/teacher gifts.

It was as an evangelist, I believe, that Paul said "I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done — by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ." (Rom 15;18-19)

I think that an apostle today need not have "sign" gifts himself, but should certainly recognize, encourage and train those *with* sign gifts to use them to glorify God, testify to the reality of Jesus' gospel, and build up the church. If sign gifts were good enough for Jesus and the early church, they're no less good today. (Paul counted what he had "said" and "done" by the power of the Spirit as "fully" proclaiming the gospel of Christ.)

Baxter's Boy said...

Here's a few more thoughts from a Scriptural basis (I hope). I mentioned that I felt that the Apostle is the Architect. In 1 Corinthians 3:10 Paul refers to his ministry as being an expert builder. Now I understand the danger of pride and the desire to be "humble" (note Don's comment re: SGM stopping talking about the 5-fold ministries) , but it seems that Paul was able to distinguish between his natural gifts and his spiritual gifts - "by the grace of God I am what I am". Therefore he (and any other apostles around today) should not, I don't think, fear seeing that it is by God's grace that they are gifted to go and build church.

Of course the danger word is "authority". Some may remember the dreaded "heavy shepherding" from the 70's-80's fallout, and I have mentioned it as being present today - yet I still think that the Word of God is adamant that "authority" isn't necessarily a bad thing!

(2 Corinthians 13:10) "the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not tearing you down". That seems to me to suggest that firstly; true biblical authority will ALWAYS essentially build up. Or should do. Any authority that leaves a person feeling condemned, broken and destitute is not of the Spirit of God. But secondly, it seems to suggest that an apostle cannot come "swaggering" into a church situation as though that church "belonged" to him. Paul was aware, as should modern apostles today be, that the church is totally and utterly the Risen Lord's! And they are grace gifted to come and build that Church. And they will be accountable to the Lord if they do not fulfill that commission.

Just a few thoughts that I hope are helpful!

Luke Wood said...

What an important subject! I am enjoying seeing your blog (and indeed the blogosphere!) filled with posts on this subject. It is one of vital importance. How can the church function properly if she rejects half of the gifts God has given her?

On apostles being father-figures: I couldn't agree more! Just this evening at dinner with my parents we were reflecting on the amazing family bond we feel with this family of churches - not just an affinity, sympathy or dry agreement (as if we were pursuing correctness only) but a family bond!

It is God who has joined us, and by His grace chooses to do it through humble men who can fearlessly father the masses.

Baxter's Boy said...

Yes I think that's an INCREDIBLY important point. In terms of authority, you are far more likely to joyfully submit to an apostolic figure who you can truly call "father" - than a faceless nameless figure in an ivory tower who calls himself "apostle".

For example when Terry Virgo announced they were stopping Stoneleigh, I guess to begin with a lot of people didn't understand - but we trusted him because he truly fathers Newfrontiers. It's a lot harder to comprehend for those perhaps who weren't in Newfrontiers and just came to the Bible Week.

We must never forget the concept of "family"!!

Don said...

I agree with you, Dan, about the importance of an apostle building up and not tearing down, and also about the issue of trust. Organized Christianity is ultimately a free-will thing: no one forces anyone to join and remain. Therefore, Christian leaders must lead by referring to ultimate authority (Scripture), plus their own life-example and "mantle" of spiritual authority that people "see" on them. People will only *willingly* follow others whom they trust (integrity!!), and with whose spiritual vision they identify and agree.

That said, different people lead in different ways, but an apostle had better have a "father" relationship with the leaders under him, or they will feel like "hired hands" and not true sons. Paul's writings clearly show he had a true father's heart for his people, plus a compassionate side (that we would call "maternal") evident in some of the prophets and in Jesus himself. (Leaders who combine calls to holiness *with* compassion for real-life experiences are very few, IMHO.)

The Father's Heart issue is vitally important today, as so many people in and joining the Church come from broken homes or situations in which they've never felt fathered or mentored in a loving way. Being "fathered" by someone with that vision or gift can be God's solution for such orphans.

I mentioned in another comment that I found my first real spiritual "father" only a few years ago -- someone who is younger than me chronologically, but who cared for me spiritually, helped me pray and talk through areas of hurt and confusion, spoke prophetic, healing words into my life, and then challenged me (lovingly) to follow him into new areas of ministry with the Spirit of Jesus. I happily submitted to his authority over me as I learned I could trust him to want God's best for me -- he is a "good shepherd" for the sheep in his care.

I recommend 2 books for learning more about how to receive from a spiritual father, and how to become a spiritual father: 1) You Have Not Many Fathers, by Mark Hanby (Destiny Image 1996); 2) The Cry for Spiritual Fathers & Mothers, by Larry Kreider (House to House Pubs. 2000). One vital point Hanby makes is that a spiritual son, when mature, has to find his own "field" of ministry. His explanation of this helped me understand why those trained by someone gifted usually have to leave and start something fresh, or develop their own personal ministries within a larger setting. Sons must be allowed to grow up and become responsible for their own work, and to teach others who are drawn by their Christlikeness and recognizable "mantle" of spiritual authority.

Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks so much for those two book suggestions! I haven't read either of them and will be seeking them out. I am really growing to love Destiny Image - they seem to share the same spiritual DNA as we.

It's a tremendous blessing to know that you have only recently found your true spiritual father. It's been a passion and a burden on my heart for some time now, and I guess I have been guilty of trying to "force the Spirit's hand" - ie. trying to approach men who really don't have a father's heart or interest in raising and fathering men. It just encourages me greatly that this is God's timing and He will bring this to pass in His own time!

Very very interesting that you use the word "mantle" - that's a buzz word that never fails to get me excited! I think there's great prophetic significance in that phrase and the example of Elijah and Elisha that we haven't touched on much yet!

Don said...

I think everyone understands when a leader has a "mantle" like that of Elijah -- every serious Christian has someone in their life whose spiritual authority they simply "see" -- whether that person is a recognized leader or not. I've been taught, and believe, that even if not officially recognized with a church position, spiritual leaders will draw people to themselves as they demonstrate Christ in their lives -- people want to be around others with spiritual wisdom and maturity. No power struggle need result, but leaders need to recognize that some laypeople will have unofficial ministries, and give them leave to help others grow in Christ.

Then there's the "sweet savor" concept of Paul. In one of his books on power evangelism/healing, the late John Wimber talked about the winsome quality of the spiritual anointing that we carry as we get closer to God.

He was shopping in a grocery store one day, and kept running into this woman who looked at him strangely. He finally realized what was happening, and said the strangest but coolest thing: "Smells good, doesn't it?" She nodded in agreement.

Turned out she was hungry for God, and was attracted to Wimber by his sweet "aroma." He was able to talk with her about God, right there in the grocery aisle.

Now that's a mantle to desire! And God is eager to put that mantle on each of us, as we grow in Christlikeness.

Baxter's Boy said...

Very interesting that you have picked up on and noted the "attractiveness" of church leaders. I have just finished transcribing some sermons of Ern Baxter's entitled the "Priestly Clothing" and he gets on to talking about "Strange Fire" - the unholy fire that Nadib and Abihu brought before the Lord and died as a result.

Ern went on to actually mention this and say that church leaders (especially profile leaders) must be ABUNDANTLY careful to realise that there is an attractiveness about them that can be abused, mistaken, and used for evil. They must (and we must) realise that it is indeed the anointing of God upon their lives. And leaders must be aware that it is there, not through some pious humility pretend it isn't, but realise that it is there to draw people to Christ and point people to Him.

I wonder if we heard more teaching on that in our Bible Colleges, whether the spiritual casualities in the ministry would be less?

Very very important point!

SJ said...

Yes indeed, I hadn't noticed that before. What a responsibility. To have that God-given aura of the anointing. You begin to understand why Paul warns; "Be not many teachers brethren for theirs is the greater judgement".

An interesting and provocative piece.

Mike Spreng said...

C.J. Mahaney should be rebuked. He claims to be an apostle when he is not one. His view of ecclesiology is so entirely heretical, that I cannot even believe that people are following him. But he’s bringing charismatics to the “Reformed” faith, right? No, he is bringing them to his faith. He is antinomian and hierarchical. He went as far as taking out the church government section, in Grudem’s book, so that he could present it to his very unstudied people. This guy is full of autonomy when it comes to his call as apostle of the Reformed Church. He is divisive, and knows very little about true humility. If he is an apostle, then why doesn't he insist that he be ordained in an historical Reformed denomination? Because they will dethrone him, that's why. His doctrines of "the gifts" give him an excuse not to be a part of the historical Reformed church. One day, God will send someone to humble him.

Anonymous said...

bit harsh don't you think?

Anonymous said...