Thursday, July 21, 2011

True Apostles are True Fathers!

A current Sovereign Grace pastor asked a pertinent question on "SGM Survivors" today;

"From your vantage point what are the primary weaknesses within SGM? Do you see any strengths?".

Sadly as per the tone of the blog a lot of the focus is on the weaknesses of SGM. But a criticism has had me thinking a lot - a lot of the "SGM survivors" (ex-SGMers to you and me) are extremely critical of the polity of SGM - or in other words the way that the denomination is run. It used to be run by C J Mahaney and the "Apostolic Team". It is now run by Dave Harvey (interim President) and the "Board of Directors".

I think the reason I am slightly more cautious of dismissing SGM's polity is because it is so similar to the style of church leadership I am used to in Newfrontiers or other apostolic movements.

Does abuse command no use - or rather consideration of right and proper use?

Firstly it is important to understand that Brent Detweiler has unveiled that SGM do not believe in the apostolic ministry anymore (seemingly). From his papers, he wrote in response to an official announcement by SGM (p114 of "Concluding Remarks");

"I wrote my wife and son the following e-mail.

From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Tuesday, February 01, 2011 12:19 PM
To: Jenny Detwiler; Jonathan Detwiler
Subject: What Happen to the A Team

Check out ―"What happened to the apostolic team?" - It is not a truthful answer. The apostolic team was comprised of men we believed were called as apostles,not just pastors, in keeping with the teaching of Eph 4:11, etc.

The Statement of Faith makes this clear. It reads, ―The ascended Christ has given gift ministries to the church (including apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers)
for the equipping of Christ‘s body that it might mature and grow. Through the
gift ministries all members of the Church are to be nurtured and equipped forthe work
of ministry.

Sovereign Grace no longer believes in present day apostles and I presume prophets. The five fold ministry is out. The three fold ministry is in. What concerned me the most was the effect such an explanation would have upondiscerning readers who have been a part of the movement for more than five years. Itwould undermine your credibility. Except for you; Dave, Steve and I all gave up ourpastorates in order to fulfill our calling as apostles. We were not a team of pastors. We were a team of apostles. We were an apostolic team. Not a pastoral team.

Since then Sovereign Grace‘s understanding of apostles continues to fluctuate. I‘m still
not sure if you believe in apostles and prophets per Ephesians 4:11, etc. If you don‘t,
the Statement of Faith must be changed. But this much I know, when I stepped downfrom the apostolic team in November 2007, none of us thought of ourselves as apastoral team.Sovereign Grace Ministries can change its ecclesiology and polity, but it should notmisrepresent the past. Instead be honest. Just say we believed in apostles then, we
don‘t believe in them anymore
. In the past we called it a team of apostles, now we call
it a team of pastors. In Reformed and evangelical circles it is unacceptable to refer to oneself as an apostle or prophet. Those gift ministries have ended according to their theology. But let‘s not try to save face in those circles by spinning our understanding of the apostolic team in the past.Now a days, you refer to yourself as the President and to Dave, Jeff and Joshua as Directors.

In my opinion, Sovereign Grace Ministries has become a para-churchorganization because it no longer has a clear biblical justification for its existence. The five-fold ministry has folded".

Now it is largely irrelevant whether SGM have discarded their belief in the full Ephesians 4 Ministries or not - they (led by Mahaney and Harvey) have the right to change their doctrinal views on the baptism of the Holy Spirit as on Ephesians 4 Ministries. The point however is that the criticisms of SGM's polity HAVE come from their previous belief in the apostolic ministry. They believed that C J Mahaney, Dave Harvey and Brent Detweiler were apostles - hence equipped to lead and father SGM.

I actually believe that the problem is not their belief in the apostolic ministry but that C J Mahaney is NOT an apostle (what churches has he been personally responsible for fathering and planting? What signs and wonders has he been used in ministering?). I've said this before. I believe that rather he is a prophet/teacher. He is an extremely gifted and able teacher who is unilateral in what he preaches. He preaches the Cross - period. And that needs preaching! But it does not need preaching to the exclusion of other aspects of the Gospel such as the resurrection, glorification, ascension and so on. From what I hear Larry Tomczak WAS the apostolically gifted leader in what was PDI - hence the shame the two men split.

Again - rather than dismissing the validity of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers - we should assess and look at the valid and real. I am finding David Devenish's new book so helpful in this respect; "Fathering Leaders - Motivating Mission". Apostles must be fathers - otherwise they are nothing worse than autocratic leaders who care more about speaking on conference platforms than they do sitting and weeping with church pastors. Dave wrote;

"One danger ... is that apostolic ministry can become unwittingly hierarchic in terms of organisation. Apostolic ministry rightly raises sons to continue the ministry and go to places where the apostle is no longer able to go, whether through lack of time or because he has been called on to other ministry. But an apostle should never become simply 'the head of an organisation' simply supervising others with apostolic calling.

Apostolic ministry is always to a large extent, a hands-on ministry. It is not like some secular models of management, where the further we progress in the corporate hierarchy, the more distant we become from the coalface of production. Paul never worked like that.

The call to apostles is both to be engaged personally, hands on in world mission and also to "father" many others who will have the same passion for the gospel to go to the nations of the world".


Chris Welch - 07000INTUNE said...

Thoughts of should've sat down first and considered have we got the materials for the Tower, or have we got enough resources to make a spoil of the opposing army come to mind.

When following the Cloud, as they were, which is how they began so confidently, it's important to keep following the Cloud. The Israelites first experience of free life as a nation state happened ONLY after hundreds of years of slavery. Can you think of another nation whose first experiences were slavery? So they hadn't a clue about how freedom would work. When they entered the wilderness they just hadnt a clue! Period. But as the prophetic scriptures say, God carried them like a child. And He did that by getting them to follow a pillar of fire and a cloud.

You see although we do sit down and count the cost....this IS NOT the same as having to Know everything beforehand. because the Israelites didnt. It's a matter of deciding pretty early on before God to be WILLING, and TEACHABLE. To commit yourselves to flexible wineskins while the scale of the Operation continually changes.

It didn't particularly matter that the first generation of apostles didn't have a clue what an apostle was, they were following the Cloud that would make them into one. This is the beauty of melchizedek order ministry. You don't have to know everything, just be a few steps ahead of the people you are leading.

To paraphrase the words of Acts 2
Apostles and prophets DO EXIST but not as YE SUPPOSE.

Peter Day said...

"Does abuse command no use - or rather consideration of right and proper use?"

Excellent point and important to remember in every area. Just because we apply a truth or principle wrongly doesn't mean we reject the whole thing. We just need to apply correctly.

Mark H said...

I'm very much looking forward to reading Dave's book. The role of the apostolic has worked well in newfrontiers so far, and it will be interesting to see how things develop as we move into a new phase of "inter-related" spheres. It's good to see an attempt to write up a biblically based explanation for how apostles can operate today.

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

Hey Mark, I think you'll really enjoy Dave's book - as you say, I'm sure newfrontiers wouldn't claim to have got the apostolic exactly right but they are modelling really well.

I think this new phase will be interesting to see whether they advance their understanding of the apostolic further, or whether we will see lots of "mini-newfrontiers" develop!