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".
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.