Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Apostolic Ministry and Apostolic Extension ...

It has been a continuing deep joy to read the outstanding Newfrontiers Magazine that has just recently been brought out. I wrote of Terry Virgo's writing of his time together with Charles Simpson and Bob Mumford a few days ago, and Mark Heath drew attention to the forth-coming publication of Newfrontiers Theological papers on the website. That mention was very interesting as Mark and I had a discussion some months ago about the possible need for a growth in ministries if Newfrontiers were to effectively manage such a large church planting mission.

I am not sure whether Mark and I are prophetic or whether Terry Virgo is an avid reader of our blogs, but I noticed another section in his Firstline that again directly related to something I addressed in that discussion on my blog! Mark Heath had raised the valid question "Are we ready to take over (from parachurch organizations) ... at the moment I doubt it". Bearing in mind Newfrontiers' passion for church planting, he said; "But this means many churches with small memberships. There is no way that they can sustain a fully comprehensive set of ministries".

This I absolutely agreed with and so went on in my blog, "The Fields are White for Harvest but the Labourers are Few", to ask the question whether through the apostolic we should be learning from other strategic centres such as Dr Yongi-Cho's church in South Korea. And secondly whether more attention must be given to raising up of Ephesians 4 ministries in 'Antioch' style Newfrontiers churches - for the specific purpose of supporting and sustaining the church planting to which we are committed.

Well ...

Terry wrote of the recent Newfrontiers International Apostolic Forum:

"It had been my concern that most thought about apostolic ministry in recent days has been focused on what we might call ‘apostolic extension’, church planting and general expansion. It seems vital to me, at a time when others are also increasingly into church planting, that we take seriously the Biblical role of the apostle, not only in terms of multiplication but also in ensuring integrity of doctrine. If the Acts of the Apostles is largely about multiplication, the epistles of the Apostles demonstrate the urgency of wholeheartedly understanding and embracing genuine apostolic doctrine".

All I can say is ... awesome!

Let the two run hand in hand! Let us not spread ourselves too thinly but pursue a powerful church planting ministry that is supported by the fully active Ephesians 4 Ministries - apostles planting and preparing a foundation of sound doctrine and imparting the Holy Spirit, prophets acting as watchmen - seeing where God is moving and leading us there, evangelists to blow open unreached people groups (by the way make sure you read this outstanding article by David Devenish in the magazine!) and bring the message of the gospel and pastor/teachers to care for and raise the planted churches. All working together in the unity of the Spirit till we all come to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ.


Anonymous said...

A vital tension to be held!! I wonder if the problem here is that issues of the apostolic are not fully resolved and explored yet, as we are still too busy defending the fact that apostles ARE for today? So therefore we haven't actually had much of an opportunity to explore their roles, what they do etc.

Terry Virgo comes from an extremely strong position to be able to do this and is probably the best placed to do so. He has consistently defended the role of the apostolic for years and hence has the credibility for people to listen and to act on what he has to say.

I am extremely excited by this urge from him. It speaks volumes as to what we can expect from Newfrontiers in the future. You are right to express concern in your discussions that militaristic church planting is like spreading too little butter on too much bread. Resources will grow thin!

But with this attention given to foundation, to digging deep and ensuring a strong base - well the sky is the limit! I am tremendously excited by this magazine that you have drawn our attention to. We are living in exciting days!!

Dr S A J Burgess

Mark Heath said...

I underlined that quote in my frontline magazine as well. I've just posted to my blog about the need for churches to stay faithful to the original vision (including Eph 4 ministries) rather than just settling for what superficially 'works'.

Newfrontiers have perhaps envisioned apostles mainly in terms of their input to pioneering situations, but established churches need to be reminded of sound doctrine, to make sure that they are not building on dodgy foundations.

Baxter's Boy said...

Yep that's absolutely true Mark. I wonder if it is the battle to argue for the presence of apostles, prophets and evangelists today that is actually delaying our developing the vision of what these ministries actually do. Same principle with the gifts of the Spirit. We spend so long battling to argue that prophecy, tongues, words of utterance, etc do exist and so spend less time on developing what these gifts are here to do. And also move on to examine the less popular gifts!

I am hugely encouraged that Newfrontiers seem to be taking this step. I do think that Terry Virgo especially has yet to be answered on his arguments on apostles, prophets today in "Does the Future Have a Church" and also Greg Haslam's new book "Preach the Word". He defends to the hilt the sufficiency of Scripture but opens the door for the vitality of these ministries - and above all doesn't apologise for them!!

We need them! If we are to see the Gospel spread to the unreached people groups of the earth.

James B said...

Thanks for this excellent review of this very key magazine. I agree - it is so so exciting to see that Newfrontiers is streaming ahead in the maturing of these ministries and these gifts. It is only when this happens that we will truly see the tide turn, the land taken and the gospel spread. You've so excited me and lifted me. Thanks again I am reading through the online magazine as we speak - what awesome material!!

tigger said...

'We are living in exciting days!!'

'It is only when this happens that we will truly see the tide turn, the land taken and the gospel spread'

These 2 quotes from above posters really jumped out at me ;-)

Sorry to be the party-pooper but if I had a penny for everytime someone within Charismatic/Restorationist groupings had said something like that over the past 40 years then I would be a billionaire....

Do I hope? - absolutely. Will the body of Christ triumph? - absolutely. The final chapter is already revealed (Revelation 20,21) and we know how the story will end, but.... to get there, eh? That's the rub. How do we 'realise' the future? How do we 'see the Kingdom come'? How do we avoid the joint chasms of 'present cynicism' (remanant thinking/defeatism) and 'present idealism' (triumphalism)?

Newfrontiers is a vital part of the body of Christ, which is dynamic, gifted and commmited to Christ.....except that it runs a very real risk of missing the vital balance of kingdom-come-through-present-tension, which is embedded in the Way of Christ.

What do I mean? Well....think about all the things that you perceive Newfrontiers 'does' which is 'better than' or more 'dynamic than' other churches. Perhaps church planting, perhaps worship, perhaps leadership structures. Now stop and critically think whether other churches can provide 'balance' to this perspective through the things they do differently - or 'less effectively' as a Newfrontiersite would think of it ;-)

For example, taking the above areas:

Do new churches really need to be planted when there are existing churches in the area already. Has the 'present-tension' of ecumenical partnership been fully explored? Are we truly engaging with the problems we see within current churches? Might not 'missional outgrowth' from a larger church not involve, instead, bolstering the communities of other churches?Aren't the weaknesses of other brothers and sisters our concern as well? Or are we happy for God to 'remove their candlestick' and not weep and mourn when communities of faith finally extinguish?

Philipians 2 is of relevance here:

'Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant'

What would it look like to empty ourselves of restoration 'glory' and take on the form of a 'servant' looking to the needs of other churches? Does this define our thinking or are we seeking to promote a particular brand above the others?

Regarding worship. Is the sole goal to have a good lively bop and dance and feel like we've really 'done the business' and had a nice Alton Towers-esque 'day out'? Believe me, I led within a large NFI church and it was quite clear that the 'outcome' of worship was in terms of actually 'experiencing' something immediate. How short sighted, how impatient! Worship often consists of those constant and repeated activities we do which, although sometimes 'invisible' at the time, contribute to a global change in the way we act and think within the world as we become God's agents of justice and healing (see 2 Cor 5 on that one). There is something more powerful and mystical than 'immediate somatic experience' which takes place when we dare to approach God's throne and partake with the 'myriad upon myriad' of angels who constantly offer honour and praise to the Living God! Matt Redman is as 'right on' as St. John Chrysostom in this regard and we need to honour patterns of worship which preceed our modern versions (and I'm not just talking about hymns either!) as well as ensuring that our 'modern' worship conforms to biblical truth.

Finally regarding church 'leadership', see a post of mine of Mark Heath's 'results driven church' thread, but is Ephesians 4 really the 'long hidden treasure' (for say well over 1800 years...) detailing the exact pattern for church leadership?....Really...? Thank heavens that we now have it! Phew! Without it the church as simply been 'tredding water' until now...;-) A simply survey of ancient history clearly shows how the church continued to spread (and thus be a 'vibrant missional entity' to use modern parlance) long after the time of the Apostles and well during the age of the classic 3 fold ministry (bishops, priests, deacons). Church mission continued very nicely under this leadership structure, until the 'wheel' needed to be reinvented ;-)

I feel like citing the oft used maxim that 'The correct response to mis-use is NOT dis-use (or even reinvention) but proper-use'.

There is so much more that one could say and I don't want to be too much of a damp-squib but I really value (honestly!!) the contributions of blogs like this and feel like I have a responsibility to perhaps pose the 'other voice' from time to time!

Hope this makes sense!


Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks for your comment Richard and for being so fair as to present your views extremely well thought out - and above all fairly. I enjoy reading your blog.

You do indeed have the responsibility of being the 'other voice' and let me assure you, you are appreciated for doing that - because above all it makes one think through what they have written and what they believe! So thanks for doing that.

Do new churches need to be planted where existing churches are already? I would have to say yes. Can there ever be too many churches that have a heart and a desire to reach the unreached? Is there any city in this country (for example) where we can say "There are too many Spirit-filled, Mission-passionate churches in the area?". I don't know for sure - but I would say I don't think so. Now I do agree with your point that I think there should be cooperation with the churches in the area before moving into plant. I've heard the horror stories too (I don't know if they're true) where new church plants have opened up right next door to established churches without announcement, and have caused upset and pain. That's just rude and there's no need for it. Any established church worth their salt surely would be glad of new fresh wind in the area helping hopefully to transform the community.

What would it look like to empty ourselves of restoration glory and take on the form of a servant? Well ... I haven't been part of a true restoration church since my home church changed early in the eighties. Restoration glory in Newfrontiers? Maybe - but why then did Terry Virgo have to be asked whether Newfrontiers still believe in restoration a year or so ago? I do appreciate your question but I am just trying to think through whether the restoration glory of the charismatic era is still really present today.

Regarding worship - yes I would definately agree with you here, that the focus is the immediate experience. There's a lot in the Bible about worshipping by faith and not by sight I think. "I WILL bless the Lord". Worship isn't a tidal wave that we can just hop on and be enveloped in experience! My church experience in the last few years has proved that! It's hard! But the fact is - hopefully I was worshipping in spirit and in TRUTH.

Regarding church leadership - I am sorry if I came across in my blog as suggesting that the Ephesians 4 Ministries are "the hidden treasure" and maybe are copyrighted to Newfrontiers! I didn't mean to come across like that. And I certainly don't think that we have been treading water throughout church history. I am a great fan of church history with especial reference to revivals right from the time of the apostles and I think that we don't even begin to match up in experience and ecclesiology now, as to some of the accounts then. Yes indeed the church has continued to spread thanks to the promises of God that it would throughout church history. I guess I am just excited about the suggestions in the Bible that would enable us to do our job better.

Can there be anything wrong in desiring to do better rather than being content with the way that we've always done it?

I love that maxim that you quote: "Not disuse but right use". I found that in Gordon Fee when my home church was busy banning spiritual gifts due to excess. I'm not a church leader (thank goodness!) and in the position of having to decide whether 'new wineskins' are called for. I can really appreciate your point though that we should indeed work more with what is there already.

I hope that is a fair reflection on some of your questions and thanks so much again for taking the time to comment and correct some of my youthful excess ;)

tigger said...


Thanks for such a quick and comprehensive response!

Can you feel the lurvvve on this blog? ahhhhhhh ;-)

I think my point about 'emptying' was to say that, sometimes, it's the right thing to get involved in churches where the worship aint so hot, the preaching isn't so dynamic, the leadership is a bit muddled, the gospel isn't so clear, the ecclesiology more ancient than one is used to - why? Because without outside input how are these things going to change? And without their input into us, how are we going to change? Who knows, perhaps they've 'seen something' which has been missed by the more lively charismatic-evangelical churches (esp re: historic wisdom and insights).

The real 'eye opener' for me was to see that the evangelical/charismatic churches you and I are/were involved with (and which we thought was the 'true' church...) were only actually one very small part of the entire body of Christ worldwide! There are literally millions upon millions of Anglicans, Catholics, Orthodox as well as more traditional 'protestants' (such as methodists/URC etc..) in the world and their shear numbers dwarf all the restoration/renewal/charismatic churches put together. The 'mind of Christ' (being the mind of the Church, the 'body' of Christ) involves ideas and thoughts, therefore, that stretch beyond the boundaries of Terry Virgo et al and this makes for a different perspective I think.

The key thing is how are you going to know what it is that you don't know if your whole network thinks in the same sort of way?

Do I think Newfrontiers has something to add? Clearly! In fact it 'hits' well above it's weight, but my challenge to the Newfrontiers church planters would be, 'Are you seeking to plant because you want to grow Newfrontiers or do you plant because you want to grow the Kingdom of Christ? And if (as I would hope) the latter, then 'of what' does the Kingdom of Christ consist and what shape might it take?'. Of course if the Kingdom is tied to the Church (a whole different debate but I think NFI ecclesiology would be happy with this one) and the Church is the body of Christ entire (see above) then perhaps Kingdom building starts to take a different shape and flavour? And perhaps some of the church planting going on becomes more about franchise growth (or propogation of a certain ecclesial ideology) than about Kingdom growth....

What d'ya think?


Baxter's Boy said...

Yes I am very much seeing your point of view and I think you have a definate case! I am sure that at times it is the right thing to get involved in established churches, but the question is how do you decide when that time is? Should we all do this? As John Stott argued in 1966 in the famous showdown with Lloyd-Jones? Or are we in a position similar to that argued by the Doctor that we should "come out of her"? I vascillate between the two opinions because I do sincerely appreciate that there is a vast amount of good still in the churches that you mentioned. But how do you make that decision?

"How do you know what it is you don't know"? This has hit on something I am quite passionate about! But not perhaps to the degree of joining the said churches. I wonder if the way we can keep our spiritual diet healthy is to make it our practice to listen to as varied a range of sermons, conferences and books as possible? I have met many people within Newfrontiers who look at me quite oddly when I enthuse about John Piper or Gordon Fee or John Stott or J I Packer or D A Carson ... etc! But there is so much to be learnt from these non-Newfrontiers people! Even if I don't agree with all of it!

Would you approve of that I wonder? A varied diet of audio CDs and books? Or is that not quite the radical middle ground that you were looking for?! ;)

I do think you are spot on in your challenge - to grow Newfrontiers or to grow the Kingdom of Christ. And with all fairness I have heard Terry Virgo really enthuse on this in his series on the "Half Time Team Talk". He was very careful to say that Newfrontiers haven't got it all and stated that he didn't think we were in the premier league of church at all. And that we have so much to learn from others.

But what you have really stirred me to think through is a more careful understanding of restoration. Do I believe that Christ and His Church wind up the winner? Absolutely. I would die for it. But to accomplish that, are we going about it the best way to form families and movements "outside the camp"? Surely the Word of God has the answer if this is right!

So thanks once again for stimulating me to think through what I believe! Hope my response to your response made sense and answers some of your excellent questions!! :)

tigger said...

Yes, I think it is vital for all Christians to attempt to specifically 'dialogue' with positions which are completely 'outside' their box.

My own perspective started to shift when I started to read, not only Fee, but N T Wright/James Dunn, Catholic commentators/theologians and especially Orthodox thinkers (like Bishop Kallistos Ware and Bishop John Zizioulas).

I would also suggest a crash course in patristics, since these are the guys who were dealing with the post-apostolic shaping and thinking of the early church which, as any church historian will tell you, was far from being a united and 'singularly structured' entity (contra the suggestions of the Ephesians 4 'teachers').

Whether such reading and studying is the radical 'middle ground'? Well, it's certainly a massive start! My view is that the 'triumph' of Christ and His Bride has as much to do with all people being united under the Messiah, as it has to do with extension of His 'Kingdom' and defeat of Evil and Sin. All these are linked to the core concept that God, in Christ, will be 'all in all' and everything (which is from him) will be united and 'restored' (see! I am a restorationist!!) in return to him.

Evangelism is as much about ecumenics as about church planting and church 'growth'! And as to how 'ecumenical' one should be in certain circumstances? Well I think that the Spirit of God, through Newfrontiers, provides a good challenge to the rest of the body of Christ to not content itself with what it already has! So, in return, I wonder whether the Spirit, through the wider church, poses a timely challenge to Newfrontiers to dare to be more ecumenical than it has hither to thought possible ;-)

Those with ears to hear, perhaps let them hear!

Go well,


Baxter's Boy said...

Hi Richard,

Sorry it took a while for me to reply - I've been in Brighton. Thanks for the tips on where to begin a more "ecumenical dabbling"! I shall certainly add those to my list of books to seek out. I am really bad at tending to stick around the writers and authors that I am familiar with which tend to turn out to be the 17th Century Puritans, 18th Century Jonathan Edwards and then through to C H Spurgeon etc. So I guess a bit Spurgeonic-Baptisto-Puritan. Or something.

Anyway - I have read a bit of James D G Dunn. And liked him. A number of his books have been real landmarks, although I did get confused at some of his logic in 'Jesus and the Spirit'.

I must confess however "ecumenical" is not a word that sits well with me! Having been raised in a Calvinistic-Charismatic Reformed situation we had it drummed into us that "ecumenical roads lead to Rome" etc etc. It's hard to think through I think purely because once we get into ecumenics then we are outside the scope of the Bible and onto issues of denominationalism.

Ern Baxter said, "I am ecumenical at heart" and I do think I appreciate that. There are aspects to all the threads of denominations that carry degrees of truth. So - baptism and the Baptists, Spirit Baptism and the Pentecostals and so on and so on. I guess the question that is begging to be asked is, has Newfrontiers joined the ranks as a denomination!?!? Aaagh here come the rabble to stone me!

So many issues and thoughts - my mind is buzzing! But thanks again for your comment, it's really provoked a whole chain of thoughts that I guess deserves a blog series in and of itself!