The mention of the words “apostle” or “apostolic” tend to evoke resistance from traditionally minded church folk. Even among those who believe the “apostolic” is being restored to the church today, there is a variety of opinions concerning function and/or governmental office in the structure of the Church at large.
First let me say clearly, there will never be another band of apostles like those who walked with Jesus. The “Apostles of the Lamb” could only occur once in Church history and they will forever be set apart from any succeeding apostolic men or ministries.
Having said that, the Lord has in the past and is again today raising up apostolic men and women in these last days. The scriptures are clear in this and only someone unwilling to admit their interpretive schemes are in error will miss it. Traditionalist have a way of making their theological stands and their rules of interpretation, the final authority in matters such as this…rather than letting the Bible speak for itself.
Paul is clear in the Book of Ephesians:
Ephesians 4:11–13 (NASB95)
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
13 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 fullness of Christ.
None of these functions have passed away. If there are still powerful Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers, then there are still powerful Apostles and Prophets as well. Some would say that these are not “office” or governmental gifts in the church. There is honest debate about this of which I respect. Some believe Elders/Bishops and deacons are the only governmental offices in the Church.
I tend to disagree for the following reasons:
- As for the “office” of deacon, it most certainly is NOT a governmental office of the church. Read through all the scriptures you want, deacons have no scriptural authority over a church body…nor over what we would call the senior pastor of a church. It is NOT found in scripture. Deacons are recognized as highly anointed servants in the church to serve the body in many capacities, but not in governmental leadership.
- Elders/Bishops DO have spiritual authority to shepherd the flock of God according to the scriptural principles of the Word of God. That is without question as you read through the epistles of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. It is clear throughout the other epistles that the elders were a part of the carrying out of the governing of the local assembly.
- HOWEVER, the real hot button question is, “Do the elders/bishops have spiritual authority over the “lead man” or what we would call the “senior pastor” of a local church?” The answer is a resounding NO!
If you read 1 & 2 Timothy (where we get a wealth of information on Church structure and order) without considering that the Apostle Paul was writing to Timothy, the apostolic voice or as some would say, “The Pastor” in that local house, you will miss it. Paul was giving Timothy instruction in how to properly choose and order the authoritative structure of that local congregation. How could Timothy do that if the elders or deacons had authority over him?????? It just makes no biblical sense to say that the pattern of scripture is of a board of any type having authority over its God ordained leader. You won’t find it. It’s not in the OT types and shadows either.
Read carefully, all authority in the church is DELEGATED authority. EVERYONE must answer to or “be covered” by someone “up” the spiritual ladder of both maturity and calling of God. The issue is not a “church hierarchy” nor is it the ability to “dominate” another as the heathen world does around us. This is not a political nor popularity contest decided by the voting of some misguided democratic system of church government. God help us! Most people don’t even know the meaning of the word “democracy”! It means “Man-rule”. The Kingdom however is a “theocracy” or God-ruled entity.
Apostolic Church government is being embraced as this fresh anointing of God’s Spirit is being released in greater and greater measure upon the earth. Why? Because only genuine apostolic ministry is properly equipped and called of God to keep the move both foundationally grounded as well as flowing into a lost and dying world so that they may be saved.
What is apostolic government defined as simple as possible?
- Ephesian 4 apostles are acknowledge and accepted as NT reality and present day truth.
- Apostles are God called, God appointed, God matured, and especially gifted in the foundational truths of the Word and with an understanding of Church structure, that FREES the Church to move in the things of the Spirit and not throttle the creative power of the Spirit resident in each Church. These apostles are far more concerned for the spiritual well-being and will of God for a church leader and local Church than they are money or pleasing some denominational political structure. They are “fathers of the faith” who through RELATIONSHIP build a trust with local leaders and churches so people may see the heart…not simply the title or authority that they may carry.
- The local church then has what I like to refer to as “an apostolic voice” who leads them faithfully into the things of the kingdom of God. This local “set man” may be gifted as an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher. And no, the person who leads your church may not necessarily be a gifted pastor. They may be a teacher. They may be an evangelist, or prophet. Tradition has taught us the lead person is “the pastor”, a jack of all spiritual trades and with multiple personalities that please everyone all the time. But this is not biblical. The lead man, set man, apostolic voice in your church may not be gifted pastoral, but they are still God’s appointed leader. This person answers to their apostolic covering, who is always seeking their good and growth for the sake of the larger body’s good and growth.
- Elders are then supposed to be that team of ministry gifts that may or may not be gifted as the lead man. Under the delegated authority of the lead man, they are released to minister to the local body. Out of the collective wisdom of these people ,the vision of the lead man is both sharpened and broadened. These elders are what I like to I call “Team Ministry”. When it is working properly the church body thrives as each is released to function in their gifts for the common good of all.
I have served in three different types of church governmental structures throughout my service to the Lord’s church. The first was a church ran totally by an elected deacon board. What a train wreck! The deacons were always more concerned about re-election than what God wanted. The second was a system where all the elders including the “pastor” were on equal footing. This was far better than the first, but still the “equal opinion” approach ultimately stifled things the Lord wanted done, as we were continually compromising to be in agreement with each others agenda. The third was a denominational system that I believe desperately wanted to be more apostolic in its approach to local church government, but that in the end is still more concerned about its political system and treasury than its local pastors.
I have found a home in the midst of apostolic men who know me, love me, and support me. They proved themselves by being there for me in desperate times. They neither feared to love me unconditionally nor speak words of correction boldly where needed. They never once considered that I was any less a leader when I was down than when it appeared I had the world by the tail. Their heart and ministry was to restore me spiritually and emotionally so I could continue the call of God upon my life for the greater good of the kingdom.
That is not everyone’s heart, but it is the heart beat of genuine apostolic ministry.
…Have no fear, or have fear I suppose if you are trying to hang onto some perceived power that you might lose. There is more to come. The apostolic is not going away. It is a move of the Spirit of God in these last days to restore the power and presence of God to His Church. There are no perfect people nor man-made systems. There will always be “issues” wherever imperfect people gather to attempt the Lord’s work. The apostolic movement will be no different in that respect, however it is the most biblical pattern we have in the scriptures.
Count me in.