Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Glorious Ascension Gifts.

I mentioned yesterday that any Reformed Charismatic Systematic Theology will (or should) have a high view of the validity of the "Ascension Gifts" (John Hosier doesn't like the more commonly used 'Ephesians 4 Ministries' remember) and their essential contribution towards the fact that we are essentially a "Family on a Mission". I think that the role of Apostle and Prophet have generally been made much of in the Christian press, maybe due to only a recent restoration of the use of the term, but this has had the disadvantage of relegating the Evangelist and the Pastor/Teacher to that of second place.

I was walking back from work and had a useful mental image of the Ascension Gifts and how they could be seen as being useful. It was quite unoriginal but it was basically that of building a group of houses and the roles of individuals in building them - bearing in mind it is important to bear in mind the useful understanding that this blogger had concerning them.

1. An Apostle. (Loves the Church) He is the Architect of these houses that are being built. His mentality is unquestionably mobile - therefore he will not get tied down to a particular house, but maintains a deep love for the group of houses he is designing. It is important to get his role correct (something like putting the first buttonhole in a shirt) because get his role wrong, and the others will not be in place properly.

2. A Prophet. (Loves God) He is the Designer of these houses. His passions and feelings are quite subjective and based on the fact that he just "knows" such and such a way looks "right". He will most probably find it most difficult to work on a local level with the pastor/teacher, as both may frustrate the other - therefore if he is to be based (as he must) in a local church context, it is advisable that he is based with an apostle. The apostle understands his "mobility" desires the most, but has the ability to put his creative and prophetic qualities to work on to the broader global benefit of the wider church.

3. An Evangelist. (Loves Non-Christians) He quite simply has the primary job of going to the quarries and blasting out the rocks and shaping them into bricks - nothing more, nothing less! Vital at a beginning level. He too therefore may get frustrated by the business meetings and intricacies of local church life.

4. The Pastor/Teacher. (Loves Christians and Books) He is the brick layer. His passion is to carefully and delicately place one brick on top of the other and see the local house rise - beautifully built and supporting itself well. He may be tempted not to understand why it is important that the houses around him are designed well, and built well. He may also be in danger of bothering the Architect the most, but knows that he needs him desperately.

That picture helped me somewhat to understand that each and every one of the Ascension Gifts were given to the church by the Risen and Ascended Lord for an excellent reason and we need them all! So my prayer is that we see more and more of these released into the church as we look for the growth and accelaration of the Gospel and the glorious Church of Jesus Christ!


Hugh Griffiths said...

The issue of Restoration you've used as an illustration was very important at the time and was one of my favourite issues. It was particularly pioneering because there was precious little teaching about the role of apostle and the church was hungry to understand more about these re-emerging ministries.

As you point out, the world is catching up, although unfortunately many of the concepts are missing, particularly in the US where the idea of a ministry team is perhaps less well applied. From my own perspective, there seems to be too much 'senior pastor' mentality where almost the whole ministry is identified with a particular individual leader. However, recognising, cultivating and valuing all of these 5-fold ministries in an increasing measure is vital for the extension of the kingdom of God.

Baxter's Boy said...

Yes that is an extremely important point actually! While churches may need a "senior elder" to steer and guide the church body of people, I think that an unhealthy exalting of that figure takes something away drastically from the glorious truth that "WE are a royal priesthood, a holy nation". The Priesthood of ALL believers!

And maybe that semi-deifying of the senior leader figure gives rise to the problems I noted in the previous post particularly with heavy handed discipline, because people are afraid to hold the leader to account.

We don't want democracy though! I think that this is where the five-fold Ascension Gifts make that leadership corporate and serving.

Matty@hobbs said...

I want to play the devil's advocate here I'm afraid - this is an awesome vision that has been outlined here. But do we see it in practical experience?

I would be interested to hear some real men who fulfill some of these criteria of ministries.

For example, I read on one bloke's blog that he thinks Mark Dever from Capitol Hill is an "apostle"? What do we reckon? What about the infamous C J Mahaney? Is he an apostle? Or no?

And same again with the other ministries? Do we have meat to put on the bones?

Baxter's Boy said...

A very good valid question. I'm fairly limited in that I can only talk of my own experience - ie. Newfrontiers and SGM/PDI and a bit further back the Charismatic Movement.

As to C J Mahaney, my own personal feeling is that I don't think he is an apostle. I am going to write on this more tonight or tomorrow - I would argue that he is more of a prophet - bringing a single message (the Cross) that is needed to the nations.

In terms of actual men who fulfill these roles, I would see Terry Virgo as the best representation of an apostle - I think Keri Jones would fulfill that role from the Ministries without Borders role. Prophets? Dave Devenish is quite a key man in Newfrontiers as is Greg Haslam. Evangelists - there is a guy called Adrian Holloway and also Lex Loizides. Pastors/Teachers? They abound!

Hope that helps a bit! Like I say, I do want to develop these Ascension Gifts a bit more in light of what I have read in John Hosier's book, "Christ's Radiant Church" - thanks to Mark Heath!

Don S (Hastings) said...

I would be interested on you explaining a bit more about why you don't think Mahaney is an apostle - seeing as I think (even if they don't admit it) most of SGM would acclaim him as the father of the denomination of churches.

Baxter's Boy said...

A question worthy of an answer definately. I will include my rationale and apologetic for saying that in my post unpacking apostles, either tonight after work or tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Some wise teacher said (I think) that it is not upto us to name a person and their ministry, but surely their ministry will prove them and show them?

Ollie said...

Yes but at the same time, God has given us heroes and models throughout history - the key is, do they point to the Lord and glorify Him? I think a balanced discussion of these men is useful in helping to demonstrate and illstrate our discussion of the "Ascension Gifts" (btw is that your home-grown phrase Dan?) - so that rather than being simply semantics and head knowledge, we are reminded (as Dan said) that these Ascension Gifts are given to further our Mission.

Mark Heath said...

I actually thought that Adrian's breakdown of who loves what was somewhat strained. True, people with those ministries will love those things, but if a prophet "loves God" while a teacher only "loves books", then there is only one choice!

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.

Don said...

It's so funny to see that cover of RESTORATION! An early issue of PEOPLE OF DESTINY magazine (mid-80s) had a similar "construction site" cover. I think the theme was something like "Apostles and Prophets -- Not Optional!"

In the 80s, CLC talked a lot about the 5-fold gift ministries, and identifying who had which gift. CJ was seen as being the prophet of the church, with Larry Tomczak as the apostle and Che Ahn as the Evangelist. It turned out that all of them had the apostle's gift (plus others), which helps explain why each of them is over their own work now.

In more recent years, they stopped talking about the 5-fold gifts completely, I think to avoid people focusing on being the steward of one gift (with the associated pride), and focusing instead on being a vessel through which God can make any of the gifts come forth as needed.

In the late 90s the men in my care group took the Modifed Wagner-something-or-other Spiritual Gifts Test to help us identify what God had placed in us, but I found the results very frustrating. The test seemed, to me, to emphasize only what we were currently doing or good at, and didn't ask any questions about what gifts we thought God wanted to *develop* in us! I had/have a great desire to be used by God in supernatural healing, and since that time have prayed every chance I get for people to be healed. But, I still have yet to see a dramatic healing in response to my prayers. Based on the Wagner-whatever test, I should give up on thinking I have a healing gift. But the Spirit in me tells me to keep laying hands on people and praying!

Baxter's Boy said...

Great to hear from you Don! Thanks for your insights and ever-so helpful comments. It's also very interesting to hear that the issue of the 5-fold ministries gradually faded away from SGM along with the changes re: the Toronto renewal as you documented. Humility? Or fear of excess? And I couldn't agree more re: those tests! They are of some limited use, but I dont think they take account for the Spirit's plans and goals for one's life! So if the Spirit says keep laying hands and praying - then keep doing it!

Mark - also very useful and helpful insights and I love your expanding and amplified view of the Ascension Gifts ... thank you both!

Anonymous said...

So so great to hear from Don again and a useful piece of insight into the whole matter. I think that we miss out on hearing wisdom and experience at our peril. Thanks Dan for stimulating this conversation and thanks Dom for being prepared to share and bring your insight and wisdom to the matter!!

ollie boy said...

Thats interesting that Dom wrote about the magazine from PDI noting that then they saw Prophets and Apostles as "Non-Optional". I've read Dave Harvey's piece on "Church Polity" and it certainly doesn't come across as them seeing the 5-fold ministries as essential. Insightful.

Don said...

What does Harvey say that makes you think that, ollie?

ollie boy said...

I don't know, I just got the feeling from reading the online booklet that he wrote, that rather than seeing it as an essential to mission thing as we have been discussing here on this blog, he seemed to be of the opinion that it was just a nice idea and one of those optional extras that you could do without?

Maybe just being unfair? But I didn't get that same passion for the advance of the gospel that I do here?

Don said...

Can you provide a URL for that Dave Harvey talk you're referring to, Ollie? Thanks!

ollie said...

Yere Dan told me it used to be online at SGM website, but they seem to have taken it off. Here's the link to it in the SGM store anyhow! Hope that helps:

SJ said...

I have that particular booklet and I found it a real disappointment. It deals with the subject as thought it were simply a "nice" option and the apostolic teams were there just to "serve" (hated phrase!) the church pastors but wouldn't dare offer any authority or insight or impartation. Not my favourite!

Don said...

Well, at least the teams are "serving" and not "equipping!" That was the buzzword-of-choice for PDI in the 80s -- the five-fold-ministry leaders were involved in "equipping the saints for the work of ministry." Nothing wrong with that, of course, but sometimes the meaning of "equipping" was rather fuzzy, for those outside the five-fold fold.

While helping edit articles for People of Destiny Magazine, I once questioned the use of "equipping" in a sidebar discussion of what apostolic teams do in assisting their churches. I asked for an explanation in the text of what practical things these guys do that constitute "equipping." I don't remember anymore whether the text was changed, but I do remember thinking that if I was confused about "equipping," others would likely be as well.

That's an interesting insight, though -- hard to believe that an apostolic team wouldn't be making significant contributions to a local church's pastoral team in terms of vision, solving specific problems and challenges, and identifying areas of needed growth in Christlike character.