Thursday, January 31, 2008

Terry Virgo - Apostles of Order and Power?

I have mentioned in a previous blog that I have a great affection and respect for this father in the faith and man of God - he has been instrumental in opening my eyes to my legalistic past and showing the wonder of God's grace. But he has also stood firm (up until now) in the Person and power of the Holy Spirit and I have rejoiced to get to go to conferences where the manifest power of God is actively welcomed under Terry's leadership. I was prompted to go on this little investigation by a quote from a USA teacher called Bill Johnson - Rob Rufus quotes him a lot. Bill said;

"Apostolic order without apostolic power is to be questioned. Order based on biblical principle that is lacking biblical power is tragic at best, and deceptive at worst. Order does not exist unto itself. The wineskin exists for the wine. The wine is the focus. All order exists to house God Himself – not to restrict Him, but to accurately express Him.

Wineskins need to flex in order to be useful, because of the expanding nature of the wine in the fermenting process. The Holy Spirit brings constant change, and to house Him means to embrace flexibility as a way of life. The goal is not to create a perfect structure or government. It is to create one that recognizes Him, and flexes with His changes".

I think great strides have been made in the evangelical church in recognising that apostolic ministries do exist - even if the more conservative types don't want to use the word. But the question must be asked - are most modern-day "apostles", apostles of order and not power? If so according to Bill Johnson they must be questioned. "The wine is the focus"! David Holden was speaking at Brighton a few years ago about Ephesians 4 Ministries and he said;

"Apostolic ministry is far more to do with impartation than administration".

So I have taken a stand and expressed my concern about Terry inviting a man like Mark Driscoll to Brighton. (As did Scott). Some people have taken that concern to speculate that I have written Terry off in my mind. I've done no such thing. But what is he upto this year? Is his schedule more to do with "order" than "power"? Terry has graciously become quite transparent on his website and lets us see his diary.

1. Terry began the year by ending a three part series on Elijah at his home base church CCK in Brighton. That series is available here for download. I wrote up the notes of the last session that we attended.

2. On the 29th and 30th January (about right now) Terry is speaking at the FIEC Council Conference. Now this speaks to me of power! Because I grew up in an FIEC church all my life and they were - let me put it nicely - never that enthusiastic about the Holy Spirit. I don't know what he is going to speak about and I don't know whether the sessions will be available. But the fact he is there is a miracle enough. Or is it? Has his ministry suddenly become not a threat to conservative evangelicals now?

3. April 7-10 sees Terry going to speak at New Word Alive Pwllheli accompanying John Piper and Don Carson. My comments remain as above. Is it a miracle? Are the conservatives softening and opening to the fact that things can be learned from charismatics? Or are the charismatics they are welcoming becoming "acceptable"?

4. July of course sees "Together on A Mission" and Mark Driscoll. Power? Or a "feast of the Word"? Or both?

5. But it was the month of October that really caught my eye. Terry leaves the UK for South Africa on the 1st and goes from there to Sydney Australia where he will be based until December. I am guessing (because I don't know) that he will be there to help and assist Peter Brookes and the Newfrontiers push into the South Pacific rim.

That really excites me! What an upheaval but what a commitment to the Great Commission! Many men around Terry's age would or are thinking about retirement, peace, tranquility and "calming down". But the fact that he is so called to his role as a father that he is prepared to go and live on the other side of the world for three months is a real challenge to me. What am I doing to contribute to the Great Mission we are on?

There are many other apostles I could have mentioned and spoken about and I am sure come to your mind.
But in closing let me say again - are you in a position to have apostles over you and benefiting your churches? But are they guilty of apostolic order without apostolic power? Do they exercise and enjoy a form of authority without a father's heart and a father's love? In that case are they really anointed by the Holy Spirit or simply self-appointed and self-exalted? Let's NEVER settle for second best! If God has restored the Ephesians 4 Ministries to the church for the "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ" then let us be absolutely sure we are relating to men and women of God!


diane (Sgm pastors wife) said...

Yes! Can an apostle really be an apostle unless they are prepared to up and move from their home base to an area that needs their fathering and care? As I recall Terry has done it a few times - Columbia and now here? Don't know about anymore. So I am left wondering when C J last upped and moved from his home church in Gaithersburg. And would he? Or does he claim to even be an apostle? So many questions ...

Peter Day said...

It is wonderful to read that Terry still desires to pioneer! That is the heart of a true apostle. No settling down, but pressing in to take new territory for the Kingdom.

James B said...

I admit I too am confused about the invitations to conservative reformed things like FIEC Council and the Word Alive thing. They have never struck me as being ready to adapt to charismatics like Terry so is Terry more acceptable to them? I can't believe that if he is moving in healing and signs and wonders!! What is going on!? I guess the clue is in WHAT he preaches - will he tone down his message for them (as other pseudo-charismatic leaders have done) and adapt to what they want to hear, or will he stand firm and use the opportunity to preach the glorious message of Grace and Glory!!

Dan Bowen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thebluefish said...

2. I'm impressed by.

3. C'mon, new Word Alive is part run by UCCF which is a family that unites charismatics and conservatives, and charismatic-conservatives... it's been hard at times to find expression of that until Terry did our student leaders conference a few years ago. Piper-Virgo-Carson is a great expression of what UCCF stands for, though even then the family isn't all as reformed as those would be.

thebluefish said...

Also, when you want to bridge the divides don't we have to learn to bear with one another. So, some at FIEC might not want to embrace Terry's signs/wonders emphasis, but there is enough about who he is and what he believes for them to say - I'll stand with him, rather than not... In my experience, when that happens you get a warming towards the convictions of the other. So the less reformed charismatic starts to see the good of reformed theology... the less charismatic reformed christian sees the good of charismatic theology.

I'm fairly convinced that most UK non-charismaticism is rooted in a reaction to the early days of the charismatic movement and any excesses it had. Once the non-charismatic can see the best of charismatics (such as Terry) they can't say anymore that they're not serious about scripture and so they have to go back and re-examine their convictions. It's the vital combination of the relational and the doctrinal in partnerships.

Dan Bowen said...

Yes fair point Dave. Don't forget my only experience of UCCF was at Birmingham CU which wasn't that tolerant of charismatics! I remember the song; "Let your glory fall in this room ... let it go forth from here to the nations" was banned because of it's restorationist themes!

I guess maybe a visit to Word Alive or a more positive and universal expression of the best of UCCF would be a hugely positive experience for me!

"I'm fairly convinced that most UK non-charismaticism is rooted in a reaction to the early days of the charismatic movement and any excesses it had".

Spot on. I have been reading through a USA Research website run by a guy called George Barnea. Apparantly it's quite big on the US front but he says that according to research Pentecostalism/Charismatic stream of churches is the only real one continuing to grow on a large scale. Apparantly among most non-charismatics, they are beginning to find that their traditional arguments (ie. Spirit without Word and you will blow up) isn't quite as relevant.

Most charismatics I encounter these days are hugely serious about understanding the WOrd of God in it's fullness and as you say quite rightly - that's gaining respect and credibility surely. Even if it has taken three decades!

Eclectic Girl said...

Interesting post and reference to UCCF. Yere I too didn't have such a great encounter with UCCF. I was on CU Exec and was praying with a friend in my room about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. One of my flatmates (who was also on EXec) happened to mention it to the UCCF Staff Worker and I was severely told off because it would hinder "unity" and that "charismatic issues" had no place within a CU. :( I was a bit crushed to say the least because I was really excited that my friend was so hungry for an encounter with God. I do take Dave Bish's point though that this isn't universal and I guess there will other expressions depending on which CU you go to.

Dennis said...

You put out a challenge to Terry or a question recently about leadership being in the areas of least population - I guess maybe that question has been answered now? Apostles must move to the unreached people groups eh!?

Dan Bowen said...

Terry has written a post and briefly refers (I think) to the FIEC Council. It's very encouraging!

"At a recent ministers’ conference I addressed, it was acknowledged that, even if they could not yet see all the scriptural basis for apostolic ministry, the ministers personally felt the need for such a figure to arise to help them in their leadership of the congregation".

thebluefish said...

Eclectic Girl, all I can say is - we all make mistakes - particularly people like me, and the history of the growth of the charismatic movement in the UK has done immense good and left some casulties on both side. I hope today that we're learning to live together more, but with the best of motives we still make horrendous mistakes.