Sunday

A New Apostolic Reformation: On the Government of Apostolic Ministries.

I am privileged to know several young apostles and their apostolic ministries. For the past several years, I’ve been studying apostles and apostolic groups or apostolic ministries, and it’s being an interesting study. It seems that God is raising up more young apostles in this season than any other time in perhaps the past few centuries.

Nearly all of the ministries formed around these new young apostles follow the same governmental pattern: the apostolic leader carries the vision for the group, and is – functionally if not legally – the sole director or elder in the group. (It’s interesting that the ministries of more seasoned apostles do not seem to be limited to this model.)

Actually, this is clearly a biblical model for apostolic government: the ministry of Jesus followed that pattern: one leader (Jesus Himself) carried the vision, and everybody else (the multitudes, the 72, the 12, and even the 3 favorites) both submitted to His leadership and supported His agenda. I’ll comment on the relevance of this model in a moment, but for now, I’m just pointing out that this is the pattern that young apostles fall into: “I have the vision, and every one else gathers around that vision and supports it.” It’s not the only model, but it has been the most common so far among the young apostles I know.

In reality, the New Testament shows us several other models for the government of apostolic groups. Here are some that I’ve identified:

· Team Ministry: The Team of Two. For the majority of his travels, Paul traveled with another apostle. At first it was the team of “Barnabas and Paul” which before long became “Paul and Barnabas”. Later, Paul traveled with Silas and Barnabas traveled with John Mark after their famous argument. The point is that these ministries were led not by an apostle, but by two apostles working together, a model still virtually unheard of among today’s young apostolic ministries.

· Team Ministry: Apostles and Others. Nearly every epistle in the NT begins and/or ends with greetings from a variety of people who traveled with Paul. When Peter brought the gospel to the gentiles, he traveled with a group. In fact, most of the journeys in the Book of Acts are written in the first person: “When we did thus and such….” Author and doctor Luke was part of the traveling team. I notice that the team model was often led by two apostles working together. This team model of apostolic ministry is not completely foreign among the ministries of modern young apostles; it’s exciting to see young apostles today raising up others, taking others (both younger and older) with them as partners in ministry.

· The Apostolic Council: Jerusalem. Described in Acts 15, and led by the apostle James. Apparently, this group worked by consensus – at the least they discussed things quite a bit before they arrived at a community decision of some sort. There was a leader of this council (James), though the biblical record suggests that he was perhaps more facilitator and spokesperson than leader over the council; I observe that he doesn’t even speak until everybody else was through talking (Luke called it “much dispute”), and his declaration was clearly based on the testimony of Paul and Barnabas rather than his own thoughts. The rest of the group were not merely followers and supporters of James’ ministry, but were a council of “apostles and elders”. I’m waiting for the 21st century institution of the apostolic council, though it appears Peter Wagner is already working that direction.

· Solo Apostolic Ministry: Apollos. It seems that much of the ministry of Apollos was solo; he appeared to generally travel alone. He’s not always recognized as an apostle, and his fruitfulness isn’t as well documented in the NT as apostles using other models: I’m not sure this is a model to emulate.

· The Apostle and Prophet: A model that is not uncommon today is an apostle teamed with a prophet; I can’t find a NT example of this team – though I note that the apostles Barnabas and Paul were called out to be apostles from a group of “teachers and prophets” – however the model is supportable by teaching in Ephesians and other places. Often, the apostle-and-prophet combination today shows up in married couples, but not often when leading a team of other anointed ministries. (Bethel Church, in Redding is one exception, though they don’t talk about it.)

· The Apostolic Father: Sometimes, we see the apostle as a father. If you read any of John’s epistles, you can hear the fatherly tone of his ministry. I don’t often see this in young apostles; though the “fathering” is often a part of their ministries, often it seems to come from other members of their leadership teams.

· The Apostle and his Disciples: As mentioned before, this was the model of Jesus and the boys: Jesus set the agenda and the pace, and the boys tagged along; they were followers and servants. If they agreed with Him, they were affirmed; if they disagreed with him, they were corrected, but they were not invited to lead. For the record, Jesus functionally repudiated this model at the end of His ministry: He promoted them from servants to friends, and then He submitted His will to theirs and committed Himself to – at least in a measure – to following their decisions in matters of the Kingdom. (Yes, I know: Jesus never abdicated His role as Son of God, but He did elevate the boys out of their servant role to partnership; face it: until His death, Jesus was the only Christian on the planet.)

I understand that the current movement (which some are calling a New Apostolic Reformation) is young and therefore is not yet mature. I’m expecting that as the movement matures, we’ll begin to see more of these 20-something and 30-something apostles making use of more of these models, and no doubt developing new ones beyond these. That will be an exciting day: as the new generation of apostles begins to walk in maturity.

2 comments:

jgreene said...

This is an interesting topical study on the different models of Apostolic ministry. You've obviously put some time into it. I'll probably be referencing your post in the next few days when I start busting out some posts on Apostolic ministry. God bless!

McPilgrim said...

I've been thinking more and more about NT apostolic ministry, and I've recognized another characteristic of the apostolic: anonymity.

If you think about the original twelve, most of them are never heard from again. Most of them were named as being in the upper room (Mathias being notably absent), but never again until they’re referenced as a council in Acts, and as foundations in Revelation. Those are not insignificant references, but the point remains: most of their earthly ministry was in obscurity.