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

Anonymous 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.

Dan Bowen 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.

Anonymous 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!!

Dan Bowen 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 ;)

Dan Bowen 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!! :)

Dan Bowen 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!