Apostolic Moments and Apostolic Calling
One of the most important events at the end of the church age will be the restoration of the apostolic ministry to the church. The ministry that opened the church age will be the one that closes it. The raising up of a victorious church, demonstrating for all time to all of creation that truth will prevail over lies and righteousness will prevail over iniquity; will be the completed job of the apostolic ministry.
The devil has had a boast since the fall of man— he declares that God’s special creation, which He made in His own image, loves evil more than righteousness. Satan proclaims that those whom the Lord created to become members of His family will gladly serve him, the devil, rather than God. He points out that even though God put man in a perfect environment, with perfect conditions, man chose sin and death over living in obedience to God. At the end of this age, the church will prove the fallacy of this boast.
Also at the end of this age, the church will live in an imperfect environment, in the darkest of times, against the greatest onslaught of evil and temptation, yet she will choose righteousness over iniquity. This will even be a witness to principalities and powers that truth will ultimately prevail over every lie. For this reason, even the angelic majesties will declare for eternity that these faithful ones, who were obedient against such an onslaught, are worthy to rule with the Lamb. This is our hope and our purpose—to live lives that glorify the ways of the Lord and to prove the power of His goodness over evil.
When a city is rebuilt after its destruction by war or natural disaster, the restored city is more of a marvel and testimony than the previous one. The nature that God created mankind with has likewise been almost completely reduced to rubble. However, it will be rebuilt. The main business of the Lord is now redemption, and then restoration. The church is composed of those who are in this process, who are growing in the grace, power, and nature of the Lord.
However, the church cannot grow to its full stature, or accomplish its full purpose, without the apostolic ministry. Neither can any of the other ministries given to the church grow to their full statures, nor accomplish their full purposes, without the apostolic ministry. We must also understand that the apostolic ministry cannot accomplish its purpose without the other equipping ministries given to the church, which is clearly stated in Ephesians 4:11-13:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.
The Apostle Paul clearly states here that these five equipping ministries are given to the church “until we  all attain to the unity of the faith, and of  the knowledge of the Son of God,  to a mature man,  to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.” Is there a church anywhere on the earth that has yet attained this stature? We would have certainly heard if this had been attained by a church. Therefore, we obviously still need these ministries that were given to the church—all of them.
This is not a new revelation. The fastest growing part of the church over the last two decades has been what is now being called “the new apostolic movement.” Not only does it now appear that a majority of Pentecostal, charismatic Christians are embracing this truth, but many evangelicals, and even those who are often referred to as “old line” denominations, are now embracing it. Where this is happening there is an obvious new spiritual energy and excitement created that is helping church life in the twenty-first century become what God intended it to be.
Just embracing the truth of the need for the equipping ministries seems to bring great blessing and growth, but as with all previous restoration movements, it has come with controversy, as well as extremes and mistakes. This should not discourage us. As did the Apostle Peter, those with the faith and courage to step out of the boat and start walking on water will also be prone to making some mistakes. As both the Scriptures and church history testify, those who want to walk with God without making any mistakes need not apply. Even so, these also testify that those who do not acknowledge the mistakes for what they are and learn from them, are doomed to increasingly worse tragedies.
Along with the faith and courage to keep pressing on, we also need the wisdom and humility to examine the teachings and practices that are causing unnecessary problems. However, this revelation for the purpose of examining the present apostolic movements, but rather to help define what true, apostolic ministry is and what the fruit of this ministry should be—true, apostolic church life. (The Apostolic Life Church)
From a perspective of church history, after the first century, all of the equipping ministries given to the church were gradually, but generally, removed from the life of the church. I say “generally” because there were many who functioned in these ministries for several more centuries, even if they did not continue to be called by them. There have also been students of history who have made a good case for all of the equipping ministries existing in the life of the church throughout the church age, but almost entirely in the underground, persecuted church. There is merit to this view, but looking at a broader picture of the church, it appears obvious that all of the ministries were removed from their authority and function in the church in general for over a millennium.
Beginning with the Reformation in the fourteenth century, we have seen a gradual recovery of these ministries in the reverse order in which they seem to have been lost to the church (I personally mark the beginning of the Reformation with the ministry of John Hus). The first ministry that ceased to be recognized by the church, and was therefore lost, was the ministry of the apostle.
It is now clear that this will be the last of these ministries restored, making it the ministry that will have the least amount of time to accomplish its purpose during the church age. Even so, it will be enough. Just as the apostolic church of the first century was extremely powerful and accomplished more for the spread of the gospel than possibly any generation since, the apostolic church at the end will again shake the entire world with its truth and power.
As encouraging as the growing realization of Christians for the need of the apostolic ministry is, as well as the other equipping ministries, it is also apparent that we are still quite far from having an authentic apostolic ministry restored. Likewise, it is obvious that the prophetic ministry has not been truly restored to the church, and it is still in an immature state as seeing among His ministers. In fact, this same thing could be said of all of the equipping ministries.
Just because the ministries of pastor, teacher, and evangelist are now widely recognized and accepted throughout the church, and some have been for centuries, this does not mean that they are functioning at the level to which they are called. None of the other ministries given to the church will be fully restored and matured before the apostolic ministry is restored and able to take its place with them.
Without the apostolic ministry, the church will continue to be like a sports team that does not have a coach. They may have gifted and able players, but basically their lack of coordination and discipline will result in a much lower level of performance than they would have with a coach. Such a team will be beaten by teams with far less talent that have a coach. In this same way, no ministry in the church can grow to its full stature, or the level of performance and fruitfulness that it could have, without the authority of authentic apostles and elders of the church present.
For most of my Christian life, I have been considered a part of the prophetic ministry as a seer, and I am usually associated with the prophetic movement. I have felt a personal mandate to help see the prophetic ministry restored to its biblical stature and place in the church. When I inquired of the Lord recently about how much progress we had made, I was surprised when He replied that what we were experiencing was about 15 percent of what we are called to do. That may sound discouraging to some, but it was very encouraging to me. Twenty years ago, I would have said it was at about 2 percent, at best.
In this I am not talking about levels of accuracy, but rather the authority and degree of revelation that the prophetic is now walking in compared to what is intended for the New Testament prophetic ministry. Even 2 percent is better than none, but there will be a prophetic ministry raised up by the end that will overshadow any prophetic ministry that has previously walked on this earth. That may sound far-fetched, but it is sound biblical truth. As II Corinthians 3:7-11 states, what we are supposed to experience under the New Covenant should be greater than what was experienced under the Old Covenant. Are there any prophets today who have attained the stature of what the Old Covenant prophets walked in?
I do know of a few very remarkable prophetic ministries that I feel measure up to the biblical stature of this powerful ministry and a good number more who are growing in authentic prophetic gifts and authority. However, even the most mature and anointed that I know still have a way to go to even measure up to what was experienced under the Old Covenant. Even so, we can be sure that what Paul wrote in II Corinthians will be proven true before the end of this age—the glory of the New Covenant will greatly overshadow that of the Old.
Like the prophetic ministry at this time, all of the other equipping ministries given to the church are far from what they are called to be. We may think of some extraordinary pastors, teachers, and evangelists and wonder about the truth of that statement, but I just ask you to consider how much more fruitful they would be if they were in a proper relationship to all of the other equipping ministries. For example, we would not have huge crusades with multitudes “making decisions,” with only a tiny percentage of them actually being added to the church. Pastors and teachers would be ready and in place to help these new believers become established in their faith and in the church. No ministry can be what it is called to be, or accomplish all that it is called to accomplish, without being in a proper relationship with the other ministries given to the church. This is the way that the Lord designed His church, and it will not function as He intended without doing it His way.
The State We Are
When I inquired of the Lord about the present state of the apostolic ministry, I was shown a number of beautiful, fast-looking cars. However, they were not running, but they were being pushed about by people because they did not have motors. The apostolic movement was also one of these cars, and it was going faster than the others because it had a few more people behind it pushing. What does this mean?
What we have now may look good, and even look fast, but without a lot of human effort and adding intelligence, it would not be moving at all. This is not only true of the apostolic movement, but it appears true of all of them. However, as I was watching, motors were brought and put in these cars. The motors that came were the apostolic ministries. These did not just come to the apostolic movements but to the others as well. When they were put in and started, all of the other parts began to work the ways they were created to function.
When that happens, they are going to not only be able to go fast, but be able to carry people instead of requiring the people to push them.
As I pondered this, I began to wonder how many churches and movements really exist to equip the people and get them to where they are called to go, rather than just using the people to go where they themselves want to go. Based on my experience, this seemed a very accurate reflection of where the church is in general.
This is not to imply that what has been done to build the church, or the present apostolic movements, will not be useful. A motor without a car will not do us much good either. Those who are waiting for the car to get its motor before joining it will more than likely wake up one morning and find that the car has left them far behind.
Even so, there is a big difference between what God is empowering and what is being pushed along by human effort. Today the church may have many great looking vehicles, but is their performance really more the result of human effort than the power of God? Motivating people for a purpose is not necessarily wrong, but the apostolic ministry is much more than the ability to motivate people or even to lead people. The apostolic ministry has much more to do with releasing the power of God and empowering people with the authority and power of God in which they are called to walk rather than it is getting people to follow them.
For this reason, much (not all) of what is today called “apostolic” is, in fact, the exact opposite of the authentic apostolic. Just because someone is a good motivator, a good recruiter, or a good administrator does not make him an apostle. We only have true spiritual authority to the degree that the King Himself lives in us and expresses Himself through us.
A Root Problem
The New Testament apostles were obviously devoted to helping each other. Paul expressed the desire not to build on another man’s foundation, and obviously tried not to do it except when requested. It is fundamental to a true apostolic mentality to be seeking to take new territory for the kingdom. It is also fundamental to a true apostolic mentality to have a vision for the whole body of Christ and not just one’s own ministry. Recruiting people or movements from other churches or movements will create divisions, and this certainly does not demonstrate a heart for the whole body of Christ.
Even sports teams have the integrity to ask other programs for permission to talk to their players, coaches, or other personnel before trying to hire them. We should be even more devoted to such courtesy in the body of Christ, and those who are not selfishly ambitious will. The recruiting mentality of many of the apostolic movements reveals a serious poverty of spirit, not the Holy Spirit. This rose up in the Shepherding Movement of the seventies, which quickly became one of the most divisive and destructive movements of the twentieth century. How is this recruiting mentality so destructive?
Right behind the mentality that would motivate one to recruit or take from that which has been the work of others is a control spirit that will ultimately do much damage. This is because what is built on selfish ambition and the strength of the flesh will have to be maintained by the flesh, which is the basic food of the control spirit, as well as every other evil thing, as we are told in James 3.
Years before the apostolic networks became popular; we were given a prophetic warning of a false apostolic movement that would come. I say “we” because this came to several on our team in various ways. We were also told the location where this movement would arise. When I began to inquire about this, I was told that this false apostolic movement would end up being more devastating to the church than the Shepherding Movement had been and that it would be taken over by the same control spirit and political spirit that came into the Shepherding Movement. The political spirit is what would motivate one to build the church or his ministry more on human alliances than in obedience to the Holy Spirit. From this time, I began more of the in-depth study on these strongholds that resulted in much of what I have written about them since.
At the time these warnings came, there did not seem to be anything in the church that even remotely fit the description of this false apostolic movement. Now, there does seem to be some evidence of this movement, and it is falling into the pattern of what we were shown. We have been very public about this warning for years. I believe we have shared these warnings every time we have felt led to prophetically speak about the restoration of the apostolic ministry to the church.
Obviously, I could not address this subject without bringing up this warning. However, when we are given warnings like this, we do not believe that they have to come to pass. We feel that warnings are given to us to help prevent them from coming to pass. That remains our devotion, and it is why I feel that I should address what is not apostolic, as well as trying to sow a vision for the coming, true apostolic. Also, I have never met a false teacher or false prophet in whom I did not recognize the calling of God on his life, but who had turned instead to evil or carnal means for gaining influence, which opened the door for his corruption.
It seems that there is almost always a “Saul” before there is a “David,” when it comes to anything the Lord is restoring to the church. In relation to the establishment of the kingdom in Israel, the Lord had promised Israel a king through Jacob (see Genesis 49:10). It was nearly time for the king to arise and to prepare the people for their coming king when the Lord put the desire in their hearts for a king. However, they could not wait for God’s king to mature, but they demanded a king immediately, and by this they rejected God and His provision for them.
So the Lord gave them a king and even anointed him. I think the Lord is doing the same to much of what is being called apostolic today. I think it is more the people’s apostolic ministry than the Lord’s, but He listens to His bride and will often give her what she persists in asking for.
Just as Saul did fight some of the battles of the Lord and accomplish some things for Israel, he was not able to carry the weight of this responsibility as a king for long. Soon he was attacking anyone else who was anointed, and jealousy began to drive him more than the purpose of God. His ensuing poor leadership caused more problems for the Lord’s king, who was a true king after the Lord’s heart. However, David possibly would not have been the great king that he was without the trials provided for him by Saul. Even so, Saul’s administration caused many unnecessary problems for Israel and made it much more difficult for the people to recognize David’s anointing to be king.
I was personally given this warning about the restoration of the apostolic ministry to the church—that one would come first that did seem to be “head and shoulders” above the other movements in the church, but it would be premature and would cause many problems. Though these biblical precedents are seldom completely accurate in the way they reflect later parallels, they are good guidelines.
We can expect some of those movements today that are called “apostolic” to accomplish some good, and they will fight some of the battles of the Lord. However, they will also help to mature the true apostolic which is coming, but they will cause many problems, making it difficult for Christians, in general, to recognize the real when it comes.
As stated, in this debunk teachings and movements, but rather to help prepare the way for the real apostolic moment that is coming. However, I could not call myself a shepherd if I did not try to protect God’s people from attacks. I could not call myself a watchman if I did not sound the alarm when I am able to see the danger. Even so, I do not expect a single revelation to bring an end to the rising controversy surrounding the restoration of the apostolic ministry, and I am not saying this for that purpose.
Though I have been identified with the prophetic movement as a seer for many decades, I started teaching on the apostolic ministry long before I ever taught on the prophetic ministry, beginning nearly thirty years ago. I knew about the apostolic mysteries in before I beginning shaping on the prophetic ministry. This is a subject that I have considered not only important, but crucial for the church in our time to understand. I also think that one of the primary purposes of the prophetic ministry is to help prepare the way for the coming apostolic ministry to be fully restored to the church. Without it we cannot experience true New Testament church life as it was intended to be.
I also want to say that in spite of all that I have known about the false apostolic movements, which may end up causing trouble for the church, I have a very high regard for those who have the courage to press beyond the present limits of church life to seek more for the body of Christ. I think some may have carried things a little too far in trying to see the apostolic ministry restored to the church prematurely and are so full of zeal for the Lord and His people that the devil simply could not stop them. So he got behind them and pushed them too far. I am also convinced that what the devil intends to do with these can be changed, and I still hold to that. Regardless of the amount of confusion that comes by some prematurely trying to walk in the apostolic ministry, clarity will come, and the truth will prevail.
The Victory Is Sure
An authentic apostolic ministry will be restored to the church. There is abundant evidence that those who will be true apostles in the end times are already among us and are maturing. Like King David, most are faithful shepherds who have learned to fight the lion and bear and will risk their own lives to do this to protect the sheep. They are also probably not regarded highly by their own brothers at this time, but in due time they will be recognized. Even if a prophet comes to pour oil on them and tell them about their high callings, their response to this will be to go back and faithfully watch over the flocks that they have been given. They will consider that if this is from God, they can wait for God to promote them in His time.
In all of these matters, let us keep in mind that there is a ditch on either side of the path of life. If we overreact to extremes on one side, we will fall into the ditch on the other side. It is my prayer for you that this revelation will help to clarify some things and, even more than that, impart a vision and an understanding for the coming apostolic ministry. It will be far more powerful and far more exciting than anything we have yet experienced. We are in the time that even the prophets of old desired to see, and you are here!
For those who read this and feel called to this ministry, remember that even King David was willing to serve in the house of Saul. He also refused to lift his hand against “the Lord’s anointed” (see I Samuel 26:11). David could have killed Saul, and he could have taken the authority to which the prophet had already told him he was called. Because of this awesome respect that he had for the anointing and for authority, the Lord could trust him with more anointing and authority than He could have otherwise.
One phrase that rings over and over concerning the apostolic ministry in the Book of Acts, is that they were “filled with the Spirit.” Possibly the most basic characteristic of those who were true apostles is that they followed the Holy Spirit, which is what revealed this revelation. I pray that you will do the same by follow Him.
The Apostolic Ministry
As we have stated often, the first and most important thing lost by the fall of man was his intimate relationship to God. The whole plan of redemption that was added after the Fall was designed to restore the intimate relationship between men and their God. If there is any way we can measure the degree to which redemption has worked in our lives or that we have spiritually matured, it would be by our intimacy with God. God created man for fellowship, and His ultimate goal is to have His habitation among men. TO BE A DWELLING PLACE OF GOD IS THE ULTIMATE CALLING OF MEN. The apostolic ministry is given to the church as a master builder to help build the habitation of God.
Redemption is only the first step in restoring man’s former state of fellowship with the Lord. However, the Lord’s plan of redemption is much more than just restoring us to the former state before the Fall. As we are born-again, we become a part of the “new creation,” which greatly transcends the original creation. Now we do not just have fellowship with God, but we are being made into His dwelling place. To be born is just the first step of life. To be born-again is just the first step of our spiritual life. It is the beginning, not the end. Evangelists are concerned with the beginning; apostles are devoted to the final result, the full maturity of the church.
God does not just fellowship with the new creation; He has come to live in us. This is much higher than what Adam, Moses, or even the disciples experienced before the Holy Spirit was given. This is why the Lord said to the disciples that it was better for them that He go away so that the Holy Spirit would come. It was truly the most glorious and awesome time for mankind to have the Creator walking among men. Even so, it is even more awesome to have Him living in us!
This is not to belittle redemption, which is essential before we can even return to fellowship with God, much less become His dwelling place. Even so, we must recognize that redemption is not the ultimate goal, but rather the initial step. Redemption gets us back to “ground zero,” the place from which man fell. We are called to go on from there to much greater heights.
True Christianity is more than just acknowledging certain truths or even living by them. True Christianity is becoming a “new creation” that is in even higher unity with our Creator than the first creation. God is in us! He did not just come to change our thinking or just change our behavior; He came to live in us.
The apostolic ministry is especially devoted to seeing the church become the temple of the Lord. If there is any way to measure the overall fruitfulness of an apostolic ministry, it would be by the manifest presence of the Lord in His church. Is the church abiding in Him so that He can manifest Himself through us? We must always keep in mind that we do not change so we can fellowship with God, but we are changed by our fellowship with Him. That fellowship was made possible by the cross. Regardless of how mature we become, we can never enter the Lord’s presence by our own merit, but only through the blood.
The Last Great Movement of the Church Age?
Before the end of this age comes, there will be a movement that will bring true apostolic Christianity to the church. This can only be done by a restored apostolic ministry. The ministry that opened the church age will be the one that closes it out. The Spirit is now moving relentlessly toward that which will again be truly apostolic. This is our quest—to see true, apostolic Christianity restored to the earth. This is not just so the church can become what she is called to be, even though that is important. The church must become what she is called to be for a much higher purpose: so that the Lord can dwell among us.
What does this mean? First, it means that Jesus will be in us to do the works He did when He walked the earth. Second, it will mean that the church will accurately represent Him to the world. Our words must become His words, and our works His works.
As we read from Ephesians 4 in the previous chapter, when all of the ministries are fully restored and functioning in the church, believers will do the following:
1) be adequately equipped for the ministry,
2) come “to the unity of the faith” (which is much more than just a unity around doctrine),
3) come to “the full knowledge of the Son of God,”
4) be raised “to a mature man to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ,”
5) “no longer be children” (or immature),
6) no longer be tossed about the waves, the winds of doctrine, and the trickery of men, and
7) “grow up in all aspects into” the Head.
This is the apostolic commission, and it is far beyond human genius or ability. If we are going to be apostolic, our labor will not be finished until Christ is formed in His people. We must not let any other emphasis eclipse this basic work. We are looking for far more than the manifestation of the sons of God; we are looking for the manifestation of the Son of God in His people. Jesus must always be the focus of our ministry if we are ever to be truly apostolic.
The ministry of the apostle is to bear the travail of spiritual labor until Christ is formed in the church, not that the church would come into any certain form (see Galatians 4:19). To the early church, the apostles did certain things to achieve and maintain order in the congregations, but they did not emphasize any specific form, except the forming of Christ within. The Lord’s emphasis and the apostolic emphasis was devoted to changing the heart, not just the institution. When hearts are changed, institutions either give way to the Spirit or burst like old wineskins.
Changing externals, such as where and how we meet, cannot by itself impart life. As discussed, the early church had community and met from house to house because they had life, not in order to get it. Again, the church is not the pattern for the church; Jesus is the pattern for the church. The church does have order and form, but when form becomes the primary emphasis, there is almost always a fall from the grace that can only come from abiding in the Lord Himself.
Who Is an Apostle?
The following are some of the more prominent characteristics of an apostle that we can derive from the New Testament:
1) Apostles are spiritual fathers. Paul said that we have many teachers but not many fathers (see I Corinthians 4:15). The same is true in the church today. There are many outstanding teachers and preachers, but not many fathers. Many are called spiritual fathers because of their age, just as most men become physical fathers when they are young. However, being a spiritual father has little to do with age. A spiritual father reproduces his ministry in others. Very few in ministry actually seem to do this.
Even so, just the ability to reproduce our ministry in others does not make us an apostle. All of the equipping ministries are supposed to do this. To be apostolic is more than reproducing our ministry in others; it is seeing Christ formed in the whole church.
2) Apostles establish churches. This was an obvious result of apostolic ministry in the first century. However, there is a big difference between establishing churches and building franchises. The churches in the first century were so unique that each one listed in Revelation needed a different word from the Lord, even though they all existed in the same general region at the same time. Our God is the blessed Creator who makes every snowflake different. Possibly the single most tragic way that we have misrepresented God is by our boring uniformity. Every congregation, every person, and every meeting should be gloriously unique and interesting if we are to reflect our blessed Creator.
The Lord is the only One who can build His church. He does this through apostles, whom He uses as “wise master builders.” Even so, the Lord will be both the Designer and Builder of His own house. If we are going to be a part of a truly apostolic church, we must question whether we are building that which the Lord wants to dwell in or whether we are just building that which will attract people. If our true motivation is to attract people, we will not build that which will bring the manifest presence of the Lord. If we build that which the Lord truly inhabits, we may or may not attract many people to it, but that is not our concern.
The Lord does care about numbers. He desires for all men to be saved. Even so, there are places where the conditions are such that His presence may not draw many people, and there are places where He will draw far more than a human organization could contain. We are not here to be big or small but to do His will and to abide in Him so that He can abide in us.
We must also consider that just building churches does not make one an apostle. Evangelists, pastors, teachers, or prophets as well as those who are not recognized as being one of the equipping ministries may all be used to establish churches. The first-century church at Antioch was not birthed by apostles, but it gave birth to new apostolic ministries. It is likely that if the apostolic team from Jerusalem had birthed this church, it may not have been able to give birth to the new type of missionary-apostle who came forth from her. Only a new wineskin can hold God’s new wine. However, the Lord is also going to serve aged, refined wine at His banquet, which He is preparing for all people (see Isaiah 25:6). We should have a taste for both!
3) Apostles impart God’s government. We cannot have a complete revelation of who Jesus is without understanding that He is the “King of kings” (see I Timothy 6:15). Jesus is the ultimate representative of God’s authority, and if we are becoming like Him, we will both walk in and help to establish His authority in the earth.
The Lord made it clear that His authority was not like the Gentiles or present human authority. His authority was based on love and service. The most devastating mistakes in church history have been the result of church leaders imposing church government that was in the form of human authority, rather than that of the kingdom. Earthly authority is in contrast to the very nature and Spirit of the Lord, and it will not produce righteousness in the people.
The Lord’s own leadership style is also in striking contrast to that of most churches and movements throughout history, and this deserves a considerable amount of attention in our study. The Lord did not impart a system of government, but He built men who had the law in their hearts. Even if we have the best system of government, it will be bad government if we do not have good people in it. Likewise, even bad systems of government can be good government with good people in them.
The government of God is not just a system or organization, but an anointing. We only have true spiritual authority to the degree that the King lives within us. When men derive their authority from a position in a system, they can maintain influence long after the anointing has departed from them. This alone has caused repeated tragedies in church history.
We must also recognize that lawlessness will be one of the greatest enemies at the end of the age. Though it is likely that the truth of God’s government has yet to be discovered by the modern church, it will not be built upon the rebellion of tearing down what now exists. Even earthly governments that are in contrast to His nature are ordained by Him for keeping order until His kingdom comes. Let us not confuse the fact that even though His authority is based on love and service, it still contains discipline and judgment.
4) An apostle has seen the Lord. This is one of the criteria which Paul stated as proof of apostolic authority when defending his own ministry (see I Corinthians 9:1). Obviously this means that an apostle must literally see the Lord—a prerequisite for an apostolic commission. This is because Jesus is the pattern of the house that the apostle is commissioned to build. Just as Moses, who built the first dwelling place of God on the earth, had to go up on the mountain and see the pattern of that dwelling place before he could build it, the apostle, who is called to labor until Christ is formed, must see the glory of who He now is, and have this branded on his heart and mind.
When we are captured by the glory of who He is, we will not be prone to be distracted by the ways which may seem good but are still according to the flesh. Devotion to patterns and formulas is a basic symptom of witchcraft. Witchcraft is the counterfeit of true spiritual authority. If we are to be delivered from the tendency to use human devices in trying to accomplish the purposes of God, we must see Him on His throne in such a way that it is much more than a doctrine to us. A requirement of true apostolic ministry is literally and visibly to have seen the resurrected Christ.
5) The apostle is a witness of His resurrection. This is related to the last point, which is to have seen Him in His resurrected glory, but it also speaks of proclaiming His resurrection. It is by seeing the glory of His resurrection that our proclamation is empowered.
In Acts 1:22, we see that the office of the apostle was given to be a witness of His resurrection. In Acts 4:33 we see that power was given to the church to be a witness of His resurrection. In Romans 1:4 we see that Jesus “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.”
The resurrection was the central theme of the gospel preached by the first-century apostles. Yet having studied the writings and messages of the great voices in church history, it is hard to find more than a cursory address on this foundational truth by any of them since the first century. I have listened to thousands of sermons, many by some of the greatest preachers of our time, and I do not recall a single in-depth message being given on this subject unless it was an obligatory Easter sermon. Could the neglect of this most basic truth be a primary reason why the church today is so far from the apostolic pattern and power of the first-century church? It certainly has much to do with it.
Charles Spurgeon went so far as to say, “There are very few Christians who believe in the resurrection.” When I first read this I thought that it was a misprint, but then the Holy Spirit witnessed to me that it was true. True faith is more than just an intellectual assent to certain facts. It is belief with our hearts, not our minds, that will result in righteousness (see Romans 10:10). We can believe in the doctrine of the resurrection without really believing it in our hearts. If we really believed in our hearts, most of our lives would be radically different than they are now. We would not be as consumed with the tyranny of the temporary and would be given fully to the things that are eternal. What Spurgeon was implying was that we give intellectual assent to the fact of the resurrection but go on living our lives as if it did not exist. As Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:13-14, if we do not believe in the resurrection, our faith is in vain.
Moses was a man of vision. He actually saw the Tabernacle in detail on the Mount before he was able to begin its construction (see Exodus 25:40). A true spiritual vision is not just something we decide to come up with; a true spiritual vision must originate from God.
The Prophet Haggai said that “the latter glory of this house will be greater than the former” (see Haggai 2:9). He did not say that the house was greater, but that the glory in it would be greater. The apostolic goal is not focused on the house as much as on the glory of the One who is to inhabit the house. True apostolic vision is Christ-centered, not church-centered. The apostolic call is to lead men to Christ not just to church. If men are truly led to Christ, they will end up in church, but the reverse is not necessarily true. Many are drawn to the church for various reasons but never come to know the Lord. What good is the most glorious temple if the Lord is not in it? If He is in it, the temple will not be what gets our attention. The great apostolic prayer was this:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might (Ephesians 1:18-19).
It does not say we should come to know what is the hope of our calling, or our inheritance. Neither will anything of true eternal value ever be accomplished by our power. One of the most subtle but devastating deceptions that we can fall into is the over-emphasis of who we are in Christ in place of who He is in us. We do need to know who we are and what our calling is, but we must never allow that to eclipse our devotion to seeing Him.
Apostles are called to be God’s master-builders of His dwelling place, the church. We can see aspects of the character required for this task in the lives of all who were used to build His dwelling places in Scripture. Of Moses, the first to build a dwelling place for God, it was said:
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the [spiritual] recompense of the reward (Hebrews 11:24-26 KJV).
Here we see that Moses chose to sacrifice the greatest of worldly opportunities to serve the purposes of God, refusing to be “called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” The Apostle Paul, as the archetype of the biblical apostle, did the same, refusing the high position of influence he could have attained as the Pharisee of Pharisees.
Moses chose to “suffer affliction with the people of God,” esteeming the sufferings of Christ as “greater riches” than all of the treasures of Egypt. Paul also walked in continual persecution, dangers, and setbacks, viewing all of them as making greater opportunities for the gospel and even a basis for his authority. As a Roman citizen, Paul was obviously in a high position as a member of the aristocracy of the world’s greatest empire, yet by his own admission, he counted every such title and privilege “as dung.” Just as the earth does not even register as much more than a speck of dust in the great expanse of God’s universe, all of the riches of this earth could not be compared to a speck of dust in the eternal dwelling place of God. To suffer any kind of persecution for the sake of His gospel is a treasure far beyond any earthly wealth.
Moses rejected the temporary pleasures of sin. All of the apostles walked in a life above reproach, sanctified and holy to the Lord. They were examples to the church, but they did not do this just to be examples. They dwelt in the presence of a holy God. When we view the beauty of His holiness, we will hate even the garment tainted by sin. God is holy, and we cannot really love Him without loving purity. Just as Moses chose to suffer affliction for the purposes of God, we too have a choice as to whether we sin or not. If we are to be an apostolic church, we must begin to choose to walk uprightly before the Lord.
Moses’ vision was on the (spiritual) recompense of the reward. It is often said that some people are so heavenly-minded that they are not any earthly good. Those about whom this is said may be close to being apostolic. What men who ever walked the earth after Jesus were more heavenly-minded than the apostles? An overwhelming problem in the ministry today is that most are too earthly-minded to be any spiritual good. “For he (Moses) endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (see Hebrews 11:27 KJV). Spiritual vision requires that what we see with the eyes of our hearts is more real to us than what we see with our natural eyes. We must see that which is invisible to others.
The apostolic ministry will be restored to the church before the end comes. The apostolic message is not only in word but in demonstration of the Spirit and power. This demonstration will be a church that fully reveals the nature and power of her Lord. We cannot settle for cheap substitutes. Like the restoration of every other ministry to the church, there will be many pretenders before the real appears. However, we can know for certain, by the sure testimony of Scripture that the real is coming.
The apostolic ministry requires a commission from God, and it requires the substance of spiritual authority. True apostles will not come with theories, forms, recipes, and formulas, but with an impartation of the true life and power of the Lord. This is nothing less than to be the temple of God, to dwell in His presence, and to manifest the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. Before the end, such an apostolic church will turn the world upside down again, or turn an upside down world right side up.
The Lord praised the church at Ephesus because they “put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not” (see Revelation 2:2). We cannot allow our spiritual currency to be devalued by calling those apostles who do not qualify. Even so, just as we must receive a prophet “in the name of a prophet” (see Matthew 10:41) to receive a prophet’s reward, the same is true of every ministry. If we receive an apostle as just a teacher, we will not get the full reward of having received an apostle; all that we will get is teaching. It is right that we put to the test those who call themselves apostles and reject those who are not, but let us also be looking expectantly for those who really are and receive them properly.
HOW TO IDENTIFY AN APOSTOLIC LEADER
Ministry may be blooming, but apostolic leaders are focused on the edge; where things haven’t blossomed yet.
For most of my life in the church, “apostle” has been something of a dirty word.
Either because it’s assumed to be an expired gift, or because we’ve so often seen it abused, most of us (even those of us who are gifted as apostolic leaders!) struggle with the idea of calling something “apostolic” and have difficulty finding the right language to identify this gift in its emerging forms. Toward that end, here are five key indicators that might evidence an apostolic gift at work in you or your community, and some reflection questions to help you identify the emerging apostolic leaders in your midst!
- Apostolic Leaders START NEW THINGS
Perhaps the surest sign of an apostolic gift at work is a litany of new things that have been started due to their influence, whether spiritual or not. Apostolic folks demonstrate a remarkable ability to get things off the ground (even if they don’t always last), whether it be a new initiative, gathering, or community. Whereas gifted evangelists leave a trail of new disciples in their wake, gifted apostles leave behind a trail of new communities that have come into being due to their vision and initiative.
* Whose vision was behind the new communities/initiatives that have started in your network?
Apostolic folks demonstrate a remarkable ability to get things off the ground…
- Apostolic Leaders DEMONSTRATE SPIRITUAL INTENSITY
Another indicator of the apostolic gift at work is a palpable spiritual intensity. Especially focused intensity towards starting new things that are not in existence yet. Apostolic leaders are zealous for God, God’s mission, and God’s people, and their passion leads them to act, even when the odds are stacked against them. In younger leaders, this passion can often create as many problems as it solves, either because they find themselves passionate about everything or sometimes the wrong things (notice I didn’t call this one spiritual maturity), but we can’t allow their immaturity to blind us to the potential latent in these emerging leaders.
* Who in your networks radiates an almost exhausting expression of intensity?
Apostolic leaders are zealous for God, God’s mission, and God’s people, and their passion leads…
- Apostolic Leaders THINK STRUCTURALLY
Whereas evangelists and pastors tend to think more relationally about individuals or groups of people, apostolic leaders are consistently thinking about the systems and structures that undergird a community and how they could be redesigned to function more effectively. They might be constantly devising new overhauls to your current structures or suggesting brand-new initiatives, but apostolic leaders often demonstrate an aptitude for connecting previously disparate parts of a given network, in a way that releases new energy and momentum.
* Who in your community is regularly coming up with better ways to structure your ministry for greater momentum?
apostolic leaders are consistently thinking about the systems and structures that undergird a…
- Apostolic Leaders EXPRESS A BURDEN FOR EXPANSION
In contrast to teachers and pastors who tend to be concerned primarily for what is already, apostolic leaders express an almost overwhelming burden for what isn’t yet—for the people not in the room, the communities not being reached, the territory no one else is talking about. Apostolic leaders have more than a vision to reach new territory, they have a genuine burden to do so; it’s housed not just in their mind, but in their soul.
* Who in your community is constantly championing growth & expansion to new territories?
apostolic leaders express an almost overwhelming burden for what isn’t yet
- Apostolic Leaders RESPOND TO BIG CHALLENGES
For better or for worse, apostolic leaders have huge vision, and consistently respond to big challenges—the more impossible the dream, the more motivated they are to take it on. Of course, this often gets them into trouble as they regularly bite off more than they can chew, but this willingness to act into the gap is a hallmark of emerging apostolic leaders.
* Who are the folks in your community who respond to your costliest challenges?
apostolic leaders have huge vision, and consistently respond to big challenges…
Because it wasn’t a part of the vernacular of community, I did ministry for more than a decade before I even considered whether I might have an apostolic gift. However, once I was given language that helped me understand my experience, I found the apostolic gifting in me fanned into flame and operating with far more boldness (and maturity). May these “clues” do the same for you or the emerging apostolic leaders in your midst!
See Mark 1.38-39 and Acts 13-14 for examples of this trait in Jesus’ and Paul’s ministry.
Luke 6.12-13 provides a great example of Jesus’ spiritual zeal, and Philippians 3.1-16 captures both the pre and post-conversion intensity of Paul.
The “Sending of the 72” in Luke 10 is a terrific example of Jesus’ structural thinking, and we see the early apostles demonstrating this same trait in Acts 6.1-6 in their handling of the food dispute. Finally, Paul’s shift from focusing merely on synagogues to the Greek oikos provides another fantastic example (Acts 20:20).
Paul’s words in Romans 15.20-24 capture this sentiment beautifully, and we see it too in Jesus’ decision to go through Samaria in John 4.1-42.
Of course, Jesus’ Great Commission to the 11 apostles in Matthew 28.16-20 is the preeminent example of this, and we see it too in Paul’s choice to press onward to Troas (despite multiple closed doors) in Acts 16.6-10.