Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Farewell Apostles!

I remember a group of us young man talking to Terry Virgo at Stoneleigh Bible Week 1999 about the changes in doctrine regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit. One of us asked "just how important" the baptism of the Holy Spirit was. Terry made a profound comment that I've never forgotten. He said that in his experience once the change is made on the baptism of the Holy Spirit - many other doctrines and church practices tend to follow suit. He quoted; "Worship, Ephesians 4 Ministries, spiritual gifts and spiritual warfare".

What was interesting was that we saw exactly this happen in my home church in Dunstable. The worship changed from being Spirit-led, sensitive use of hymns and choruses to a "hymn-prayer sandwich". The ministries of apostles and prophets were actively preached as ceasing with the New Testament canon (I still have the sermon notes). The gift of tongues was banned in public use and prophecies "may" be accepted but had to be written for viewing by the elders.

When Jeff Purswell published his "amendment" to the doctrines of faith for Sovereign Grace Ministries in 2003, I was intrigued. The paper was called; "Empowered by the Spirit: Room for Differing Views". I heard the accompanying tape - C J Mahaney launched the paper at a Leadership Conference to great applause and explained what it effectively meant - that cessationist churches who did not believe in a distinct experience of the Holy Spirit could happily and safely join Sovereign Grace.

I commented on the paper on my blog and wondered whether Terry Virgo's comment would come true of Sovereign Grace as it did my home church. And in watching from afar with interest (my family are still in SGM) - I've seen similar paths.

Until today this blog post was published; "What happened to the apostolic team?". Someone in the SGM family asked the question and then answer was given in this blog post. Essentially this is why SGM will no longer be using the phrase "apostle" (although I suggest they haven't properly used the ministry of an apostle for years).

"But over time, we discovered the name confused more people than it helped, so now we’re considering alternatives. We’ve also gained a better understanding of the term "apostolic," which makes us even more careful in how we apply it".

So if I understand this properly SGM have abandoned the use of the phrase and ministry because it "confuses" people. And then secondly (and I think this is the real reason) because they are travelling the same road my home church walked decades ago - and simply do not see it theologically anymore.

Interesting that a group so allegedly committed to "reformed doctrine" are more comfortable with the label; "Regional leadership team" that does not appear in the New Testament, than the label/ministry; "apostle" which most certainly does - and indeed is given as a gift from the ascended Christ.

1 comment:

Joey Phillips said...

Hey Dan,

You commented that "C J Mahaney launched the paper at a Leadership Conference to great applause and explained what it effectively meant - that cessationist churches who did not believe in a distinct experience of the Holy Spirit could happily and safely join Sovereign Grace."

Purswell's paper wasn't really addressing the issue of cessationism at all. The paper was about, specifically, when the baptism in the Holy Spirit takes place (is it distinct from conversion or not). It was not about whether the gifts ceased. SGM would not include any churches that officially hold a cessationist perspective.