Some among us are called by God to be prophets, and some are called to be apostles. Therefore this verse applies to these men and women.
Here’s a question for these folks: How are you doing at being foundational?
I sometimes wonder if this is one of maybe two key tests of the effectiveness of apostles & prophets: Are you being a foundation for others to build and grow on.
The other test, remembering Ephesians, chapter 4, is this: are saints being equipped, made more effective in their works of ministry after having been around you? Pretty similar work, wouldn't you say?
Observation: this seems to have little or nothing to do with how many conferences you speak at, how many people are in your network, or how many people greet you in the marketplace as Prophet Jered or Apostle Tiffany.
Success as a prophet or apostle doesn’t seem to be related to how many people you lead (not that it's insignificant), but what the nature of your influence is in their life.
I think if I hear that again, I’m going to scream.
May I speak plainly? That’s one of the stupidest spiritual-sounding things we could say in this day and age. I make the assumption that people who say that mean well, but come on! Let’s think about this a little bit:
The first century church, the church in the book of Acts, was a wonderful beginning. But they were only a beginning: this was the baby church, in diapers, as it were. I can tell you that I have no interest in going back to diapers. That would be such an epic failure, for the church of today to return to the “glory days” of the first century church! What was for them glorious success would be the worst of failures for us.
● “But,” someone will moan, “There were three thousand saved in a day!” That’s pretty good for rookies. Today, that’s less than an hour’s work in the Kingdom, and some reports suggest that’s closer to 20 minutes’ work.
Let us note that it only happened twice in the Book of Acts that three thousand were saved in a day. Today, more than three thousand people come to faith every single hour of every single day of every single year.
I’m thinking that’s an improvement.
● “But there were signs and wonders!” Somebody is seriously not paying attention. There were fewer than 20 miracles reported in the book of Acts, though there were repots of “lots of miracles.” Nowadays, we have lots of miracles on a regular basis.
I know one group that has a 100% success rate at healing the deaf, and nearly as good success healing the blind. I know two groups that won’t let people become elders unless they’ve raised someone from the dead. I know a group that legitimately calls themselves “The Dead Raising Team,” and they’re successful at it. I can’t tell you the number of successful healing teams I’ve heard about! They’re everywhere, and best of all, NOT just among the leaders, like the book of Acts.
Bethel Church in California reports thousands of documented miracles every time they send their students on outreach. And have you talked to the Healing Rooms movement recently?
Besides, I’m not sure I want more “Ananias & Sapphira events.” It’s my private opinion that even when that happened in Acts, it was an error, and not the will of God, but that’s another story. Surely it won’t be best for folks to fall dead in our meetings, when nobody can agree why it happened!
● “But they had all things in common!” I’ll grant that this is an area that we have room to continue growing in. But I am also aware that we’re talking about completely different cultures here. In that culture, if you couldn’t work, you starved to death. In our culture, the homeless guys on street corners make a (meager) living that in most of the world (or in the first century church) would be considered unmitigated wealth. (http://nwp.link/1s8woOt)
This does NOT mean that I propose that we stop helping the poor! Heaven forbid! This means I propose that we quit berating ourselves simply because we still have poor people among us: Jesus said we always would! (Matthew 26:11)
● “But they sold their homes! That’s dedication!” Well, some of them sold their homes. That was just good business; these were smart Jews! Jesus had clearly declared that the city would be destroyed shortly. It’s just good business to sell a house this week for full price that’s going to be destroyed with the city next week and be worth nothing! And clearly, if they “met house to house,” then not everybody sold their homes.
For the record, I know a bunch of people who’ve sold their homes for the ministry, several more than once. I know of others who sold themselves into slavery so that they could bring the good news to those in slavery, and they died in slavery. Most of these folks haven’t had books written about them, so they’re not known as well. But then Jesus taught us to keep quiet about our generosity, yes?
We could go on.
It is NOT my intent to disparage the excellent start that the Church had, as reported in the book of Acts. That was glorious.
What we have now is substantially more glorious. And that, too, is what we were promised. (See Isaiah 9:7)
If your job as a pastor, as a teacher, as a prophet is to “equip the saints for works of ministry…” then how will you equip these young apostles? How will you discern the real apostles from the wanna-be apostles? Will you receive them, rough as they are, or will you try to shuffle them off out of the public eye? (Hint: good answers to these questions will be more about relationship than about programs!)
It was late on a Sunday morning, and I was just waking up. I’d slept in, knowing that I wasn’t healthy and that I needed rest. I was thinking, “I’ll miss church if I don’t get up soon.”
For context, my Sunday morning “Church” is online and I attend by webcast. My “in real life” fellowship is another time during the week. This train of thought applies to both, really.
So I was thinking about what would happen if I miss church this morning, and that turned into an interesting train of thought. “What is my tradeoff? What am I missing if I miss church?”
The accusation crossed my mind that my online church is unnatural, not really what God has in mind for me, so I considered that for a moment. There actually is some merit in the argument that an online “fellowship,” where I am only an observer, not an actual participant, is not really what God had in mind as ideal for me. OK, let’s follow that thought for a moment?
But wait! Isn’t that what most Sunday morning gatherings are like? I’m an observer there, too. Oh, yes, I stand up when they say to, and sing the words they tell me to sing, and sit back down when they say to. But there’s no point during our time together at
Someone will say, “That’s not what Sunday mornings are for. That belongs in a home group.” [And here is where I’ll add my commercial: if you’re not part of a fellowship of believers that meets in an informal setting like a home, then they’re seriously missing out.] that kind of “sharing” is not an appropriate expectation for a Sunday morning gathering, though it would fit in the hallway or the lobby, maybe. There’s merit in that statement: Sunday mornings aren’t really designed for those kinds of things (which is rather a strong argument in favor of my online church – or for house church – but I’m going a different direction here).
So what are Sunday mornings for? What is the church gathering for, really?
Is Sunday Morning for worship? That can’t be right. My best worship is private, and I hear others tell me the same. I find that I believe that corporate worship is at its best when the worshippers have worshipped privately, and I know that I am a far better worship leader when I have worshipped privately. So while I affirm the value of corporate worship, I suspect that it is not the primary motivation, at least in God’s mind, for the gathering of the Saints.
I hear people talking about the value of getting fed at church; maybe the value of the church gathering is in the teaching. And I do value the teaching of my online church! But the Book is clear, and I’m fully committed to the concept that I must learn to feed myself first. The teaching there is good, but it is to supplement my own feasting on the Word. That can’t be the main value of church gatherings.
I’m going to be blunt here: It seems clear that the idea of “the message is the most valuable part of church gatherings” has come from those who preach. And it is from worship leaders that I most often hear that worship is the most important part of the service. (Please don’t assume that I don’t value a well-preached message from a gifted teacher, or that corporate worship isn’t glorious. If that’s what you’re hearing, you need to read this again more carefully!)
The thought crossed my mind, “What does the Bible say about the church coming together?” and as it did, a verse from Hebrews came with it:
It hit me like a freight train: God’s purpose for us coming together is to encourage each other. Specifically, it’s to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” which is how we are to encourage each other.
That’s the reason for coming together as a congregation: encouragement.
There is more extensive teaching on the church gathering together in 1 Corinthians 11, and it’s focused on meals together. Paul touches again on the topic in the midst of teaching about spiritual gifts in chapter 14, and in that context, he says, “Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” Same thing: encouragement. Apart from these passages, there is no definitive teaching on church meetings in the New Testament, though Acts shows that the early church met daily in homes and weekly for apostolic teaching.
We could take it all together and form this model: When the saints come together, let’s gather around the dinner table, and let’s encourage one another, and let’s use what God gives us to that end.
My recommendation: learn to worship by yourself, not dependent on a leader and a band, though worship with them when you can. Learn to feed yourself, though supplement that with good, inspired teaching sometimes. But choose the congregation you gather with by this: “Is this a place where we can encourage one another?” And then go there, prepared to encourage, prepared to encourage others.
I’m really glad that I’m not the one responsible for the statement, “I will build my church.” That’s a monstrously large task, and I’m not always convinced that we His Church are all that willing to be built. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that He’s doing His job and doing it well.
One subject that I am watching Him addressing in His Church is what I call The Thomas Syndrome. You remember
The central is along the eyes of “I trust my own eyes and my own experience. Yours isn’t good enough for me to trust.” We don’t say it that bluntly because we’re too polite, but that’s the essence of what we say to each other so often.
What we actually say is something like, “I’ll pray about it” or “I’m sure God will show me if I need to deal with that.” Or “No, God’s not telling me to repent of that sin right now.” Or “I’m glad that works for you.” Or “I just don’t see it that way.” I recently heard someone actually say “I don’t need any prophets to listen to, I have the Word.”
It all means the same thing: “I will not believe your experience. I must have my own experience before I will believe what you’re telling me.”
We were taught that in third grade science class: only trust empirical data (though when you come right down to it, that’s not practiced very well by those who preach it loudest).
The context supports this interpretation: “When someone tells you what they’ve experienced in Me, you need to believe them.”
Consider His response when the twelve didn’t believe the boys from Emmaus: “He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.” In other words: two of them had an experience – a strange and unprecedented experience – with
For the record, they eventually got it right later on. When God bypassed the leadership and poured out His spirit on (shiver!) gentiles, they grilled Peter for even preaching to the gentiles, but when they heard about what they experienced, they changed both their response and their theology: “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”
Does that mean that we believe every strange and spurious story that comes along? No? Then how do I know to believe the kids from Emmaus, and not the guy next to him that's just looking for attention? How do I judge what is God and what is not?
Here’s my point: The One who builds His church does not build it the way that you and I would. He sometimes shows Himself to no-name kids on the road to some country village, and He expects that the Apostles of the Church to believe their testimony and to change their expectations of God (their theology) because of it.
Here’s how that can work: until that time, almost nobody had the Holy Spirit resident in them. Now, we all do, though we don’t all listen to Him all that well. That’s probably why He sometimes disguises His voice: sometimes teenagers in Emmaus, sometimes as a friend’s encouragement, a secular movie, a weird dream, whatever. We’re not listening for what we understand. We’re listening for His voice. As He did with
He’s expecting us to hear it. And when we hear, He’s expecting us to believe.
The Third Place of Worship
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,
· 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
· The Apostolic Council: Jerusalem. Described in Acts 15, and led by the apostle
· 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
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.