Relationship between the Apostolic and the local Church!
“…look carefully at Jesus, the apostle and chief priest about whom we make our declaration of faith” (Hebrews 3:1 GW).
In today’s Truth for the Journey we are going to look at the relationship that should exist between the apostle and the local Church – how they should relate. We will look at how the authoritative structure within the Church works. Also we will look at gifts – for example is an apostle a position of “office” or a “gift?” This we can answer straight away - the position of an apostle is an office and NOT a gift. Or in other words; the apostle has a governing office and can function in any of the gifts. Therefore the apostle has an office to govern, along with ministry gifts and the authority to establish. It’s important to interject here - in no uncertain terms - that THE APOSTLE DOES NOT “TAKE” AUTHORITY BUT IT IS “GIVEN” BY THE LOCAL CHURCH.
Apostle James offers us an exception from the rule by the fact that although he was considered an apostle in scripture, he did not actually leave the church in Jerusalem. Seemingly, he never ministered outside of Jerusalem. But Apostle Paul travelled continually during his thirty-plus years of ministry. His longest stay at any local church was two years in Ephesus. So this begs the question; “can an apostle be a ‘sent-one’ and be a ‘stayed-one’ at the same time?” Yes! So long as he is “establishing,” “building” and fulfilling a mandate that he has ultimately been sent by God from (from birth) to fulfil. However this depends largely on his “gifting” too and not just his “office.” Now his office is one thing, and his gifting helps him to carry out the mandate upon his office. I.e. an apostle whose main gifting is to be a pastor can build right where he is – while still able to be very internationally minded (not parochial or narrow in scope) with the spiritual capacity to travel or to “go,” but primarily “stays!”
Now in addition to this, it must be stated that all the gifts are EQUAL - they just have different tasks to do. Likewise all the “offices” are EQUAL; they just operate with different gifting. For example a local elder who has a governing-office to “oversee,” is one who has been given dominion in a certain area. However when it comes to the local church in relation to the apostle – it has to be said that being part of one Body – includes being “connected” with the rest of the Body. And a great part of what the apostle does is through “connections.” He is a great connector. The Holy Spirit uses the apostolic ministry more than any other to do His great global networking!
Now having said all this – any position of authority or given office of governing authority (whether apostle, elder/bishop) is not dictatorial but submissive – particularly the apostle who is able to “recognise” what God has already established and continues to establish.
It is also crucial to observe here that once the local elders have been set in and their role established – it is THEY who have the authority over the local church and “NOT” the apostle. Now of cause he still has authority to bring correction like a shepherd-father-figure would - but he does not stay around to carry this out. His role is to oversee… To view this in scripture we go to the verses quoted below in order to highlight or showcase this point perfectly – when Paul was troubled to write with much concern to warn the Church in Corinth of his pending rebuke!
“I'm afraid that I may come and find you different from what I want you to be, and that you may find me different from what you want me to be…. I already warned you when I was with you the second time, and even though I'm not there now, I'm warning you again. When I visit you again, I won't spare you. That goes for all those who formerly led sinful lives as well as for all the others. Since you want proof that Christ is speaking through me, that's what you'll get. Christ isn't weak in dealing with you. Instead, he makes his power felt among you. He was weak when he was crucified, but by God's power he lives” (2 Cor 12:20; 13:3-4 GW).
Obviously the apostle has a continuing position of responsibility when it comes to the local church but he is not there to stay and to “RUN” the local church or implement the local vision! This again is the role of the set leading elders.
Let us move on now to the next step and take a look at how apostolic teams in particular should function and work together. Before we do this let me point out ever so briefly how important structure is. The spine or backbone is our natural structure. None of us can live without it! And spiritually speaking the same is true also. Even Satan’s kingdom has structure to it. We see this evidenced in the sixth chapter of the book of Ephesians and verse 12 where it says; “This is not a wrestling match against a human opponent. We are wrestling with rulers, authorities, the powers who govern this world of darkness, and spiritual forces that control evil in the heavenly world” (emphasis added - GW). It is very distinct here that there are varying levels in the kingdom of darkness, levels of authority or hierarchy to execute its mandates. This represents none other than a governing “structure” – yet perhaps in reverse from that of the Kingdom of God. And by using the words, “in-reverse” I don’t suggest for a moment that this means “equal-to” God’s Kingdom – albeit the other way around – by no means! Yet Satan once knew just how the Kingdom of God functioned and was internally structured… therefore he most certainly would have modeled his best attempts at organizing his hordes of darkness - upon what he saw working with pristine order and condition within the Kingdom of God!
Structure is valued by those who understand how it works (and by structure I don’t mean that we get all rapped up in knots because we have adopted some form of legalism, nevertheless “structure-less-ness” is far from freedom – but more like anarchy and chaos and who can have success in the midst of confusion?) Anyhow take business for example; they could never thrive without structure. Organizations would collapse the world over without structure and so would every great building of antiquity that we know! From the tower of London and Big Ben to the Eiffel tower – still known as the tallest structure in Paris! Nothing of significance can remain standing without some form of structure holding it up!
So we must not be “structure-shy” especially within the Church where we tend to feel obliged to run a “free-for-all” and expect it to work! It must not be said by our enemies that the Body of Christ has no backbone or that we are spineless! But nor let us try and create our own image of structure based upon what we think Church should be like… No! Rather we should submit ourselves to what God has already laid out in scripture to work (irrespective and notwithstanding our misguided reservations towards…) the apostolic ministry!
Instead we should shout, “Welcome back!” For the Church as we know it – has indeed been feeble and without strength – yes even much of it has been guilty of being spineless and void of spiritual backbone! But now is the time to embrace true spiritual structure as Christ deemed fit to bestow upon the Church and to recognize once again the importance of this “apostolic ministry” within His Body. Who are we to resist any rate? We must work-with and not against true spiritual structure.
It is true to say that it has never been enough for the spiritually immature - “floppy-n-floaty” (freshly filled with new wine Christians) to get this great and awesome job done! Nor has it ever been enough just for the “stuffy-n-religious-bookworm-types” to give their official nod to everything! What we need is the precious working of God’s Holy Spirit, the power of His Word and the coming together of His mighty Body worldwide – “a-great-working-together” – to get this great and divine commission complete!
So as we continue then, from our brief look at the supposed “hierarchy” of Satan’s kingdom – lets us now look at the “structure-of-authority” as it should exist within God’s kingdom – according to scripture (in other words apostolic teams working together) - as follows:
Derek Prince presence to us,
1) Main Forces of Human Leadership:
A] Apostolic teams and Presbyteries (elders):1. Both usually PLURAL
2. A shepherd is a pastor
a) Shepherd (singular) always refers to Jesus (Acts 20:17)
b) Elders (plural) are overseers (or bishops) or shepherds (see also 1 Peter 5:1-2).
3. As shepherds (Elders) are united, so will their flocks be.
B] Elder’s Responsibility is to Govern – Conservation (1 Timothy 5:17; Titus 1:5):
a) In the O.T. the elders place was at the gate
b) Their function: judgement, counsel and government
c) The N.T. concurs with this
C] Apostolic Team’s Function is Extensive (Romans 15:20-21):
a) Reach the unreached
b) They did not operate alone
D] Governing Body in an Area is Sovereign:
a) Same applies to a family, mother and father are sovereign
Independence and sovereignty are not the same.
b) Sovereign: accountable to God
c) Independent: out from under God’s authority possibly?
E] Apostolic Teams:
Top Authority of Church Extension
Local / Resident
Govern Locally Conservation
a) Balance is 50% emphasis on either side in N.T Church
b) The current balance is 98% conservation and 2% extension.
F] There is no Place for Independence in Christianity:
A] Apostles Appoint Elders (Acts 14:21-23):
a) After elders become installed, a group of believers becomes a
B] Apostles sent out by Elders (Acts 13: 1-4):
a) They became apostles after being prayed for and sent out
b) They where selected by the Holy Spirit from the most
Experienced and fruitful
c) Then new leadership emerges from the less experienced.
C] Reproductive Cycle (Acts 16:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:6):
a) Apostle means; one sent forth
b) It all starts with God the Father.
3) Jesus Set the Pattern:
A] The first Apostle (Hebrew 3:1):
a) Women have a place (Luke 8:1-3)
B] The Early Church was mobile:
C] Apostolic Attestation :
a) It takes the supernatural to make Gentiles obedient (Romans
b) (2 Corinthians 12:12)
D] Marks of the Apostle:
a) Perseverance, character, not giving up
b) Signs, wonders and mighty deeds.
E] The issue is NOT Apostle Succession, but Apostolic Ministry (1 Cor. 4:20):
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Father for any living creature to exist there must be structure. Without this – it cannot survive. Whether it is the food chain that sustains it or the spin that holds it up! We all need structure in our lives. Fresh converts care little about structure – but there is need for this in your Body just as in the human body. Without a backbone we can no longer stand up! Father help us to grasp the structure of the apostolic ministry. Help us to receive it by faith and the security that it is meant to bring. Amen.
CONFESSION OF THE DAY
Today I have spiritual backbone. I have a spiritual spine. I have structure. I accept this structure and I accept the restoration of the apostolic ministry within the Body of Christ; the power, authority and spiritual security that it brings, including the networking capabilities that it brings… to banish that tendency to be isolated. I confess today that I recognise my personal need for the working of the Holy Spirit and the fulfilment of scripture – through the apostolic ministry.
THANK YOU FOR HELPING TO MAKE THIS MINISTRY POSSIBLE! WE LOVE YOU…!
Motto: ‘God Chooses, then the Spirit Tests, but You Must Respond!’
Copyright 2011 © Alan Pateman Ministries