This article is included here because we believe it gives the best perspective possible on how we view New Testament ministry in the Church today. It is helpful to define what we mean when we say that the Armada Network is an Apostolic ministry.
THERE is a manner in which God resides in the heart of every believer, and another in which He indwells the Body of Christ. While our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost, at the same time the Spirit is preparing the whole Church as “an habitation of God.” (Ephesians 2:22) Regarding the believer’s personal experience, our Father has said that He would “dwell in them, and walk in them” as individuals, but He went on to say, “and I will be their God, and they shall be my people,” speaking collectively of a group, (2 Corinthians 6:16).
We often place an emphasis on the Holy Spirit dwelling in the individual, concentrating on those things that will cause the believer to bear fruit for God. How often have we emphasized, or even mentioned, that God indwells us collectively as a Body, and desires to maintain a relationship toward us as a people? There may be more and greater purposes for God in us as a people, than there are regarding God in the individual.
God deals with us in one way as individuals, and in another way as a Church. For instance, individuals may receive healing by praying the prayer of faith, (Mark 11:23,24). On the other hand, one reason Christians are weak, sickly and die prematurely stems from their lack of “discerning the Lord’s Body,” (1 Corinthians 11:29,30). This refers to the fact that Jesus bore our sicknesses and diseases upon the cross (Isaiah 53:4,5; Matthew 8:16,17), but also that we are all members of one Body and dependent upon one another.
1 Corinthians 12:26 tells us that when one member suffers, all the members suffer. He was not teaching this to suggest an action that we should take, or an emotion that we should feel, when we see another believer suffering. He was simply stating a fact. We will suffer when another suffers. Because we are in the Body of Christ together, we cannot escape this truth.
Moses, although a great man of spiritual stature, was not able to enter into the promised land because of the rebellion of the Children of Israel. His spiritual life was irrevocably linked with the spiritual state of the “church” in the wilderness. Even Caleb and Joshua, who kept the good report, were prevented from entering into the promised land for forty years.
Ephesians chapter four gives us further insight into this. Every member of the Body of Christ is important. We each have a destiny prepared for us by God. Verse one shows us that we are called by God to a vocation that we can worthily, or unworthily, fulfill. By the word “vocation,” Paul didn’t mean a plumber, or a salesman, or a farmer. Paul was referring to the members in the Body of Christ. He wanted to impress upon our minds how important our individual place is within the Body of Christ.
He went on to say, in verse two, that we need to “forbear one another in love.” In other words, just as we need to walk worthy of our own calling, we must accommodate what our brother is called to do. Not everyone is called to the same thing we are, and others will probably see things a little differently than ourselves.
I remember sharing this truth with a good friend of mine who had become discouraged by other believers. God had called him as an evangelist and he spent much of his time sharing his faith. When he invited other believers to go door to door witnessing with him, he doubted their commitment to Jesus if they declined.
I don’t mean to exempt believers from witnessing, but not everyone is called to go door to door. There are more ways to witness than that. A lot of damage has been done by putting people into positions they don’t belong in. The evangelist would be just as uncomfortable if he had to spend all his time in pastoral counseling!
When we “forbear one another in love,” we are accepting their call from God as being just as valid as our own. In this way, we can endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Diversity doesn’t have to bring division. The beautiful thing is that we can work side by side because it is the same Lord empowering us all. We can be just as confident in the ministry our brother walks in, as we are in our own, because it is the same Spirit who anoints us both!
Let’s take special notice of Ephesians chapter four, verse seven: “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” Here Paul reveals the truth that whom God calls, God equips. Every believer is given grace in proportion to the measure of the gift of Christ which he has received. Notice that every believer has received only a measure of the gift of Christ.
Paul goes on to describe the time period when this took place as the ascension of Jesus, saying, “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” (Ephesians·4:9) The gift of Christ, a measure of which every believer has received, was given to men when Jesus ascended up into heaven.
But what was it that Jesus gave to men by measure? That which He possessed without measure! Let’s look at the third chapter of John, verse 34: “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.”
During His earthly ministry Jesus was anointed by the Spirit of God without measure, implying that we are anointed by measure. Jesus walked in the fullness of the gifts of the Spirit while we have several gifts, but not all, apportioned to us “as the Spirit wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:11)
The book of Hebrews teaches us that God bore the early disciple’s witness “both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.” (Hebrews 2:4) Here the Greek word translated “gifts” should have been rendered “distributions.” Distributions of the Holy Ghost were made (referring to the anointing of God, as we know the person of God cannot be divided) to different believers among the Church. These distributions of the Spirit’s power are specifically connected with signs, wonders and varied miracles.
We find then, that at His ascension, Jesus dropped His mantle upon the Church just as Elijah left the double-portion for Elisha. The anointing that Jesus ministered with is available to the Church of today, and more, for “even greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (John 14:12)
The gift of Christ, or His mantle, is dealt with further in verse eleven: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” Notice the word “some.” Although we have all received a measure of the gift of Christ, we are not all called to one of these offices.
This five-fold ministry is for the “perfecting of the saints,” in order for the saints to be able to do “the work of the ministry,” and will continue until “we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
The five-fold ministry is to equip and enable the Church to walk in the earth as Jesus. We each have been given a measure of the gift of Christ, but together we represent the full measure, Christ Himself. When we “forbear one another in love” we are joining our measure with that of our brother. The anointing upon us all becomes stronger. We are coming closer to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, or the full anointing that Jesus walked in when He was on the earth.
The more united we become, the more our anointing will increase. When two or three are gathered together, Jesus promised that his presence would be in the midst, (Matthew 18:20). Paul taught the Corinthians that when the church gathered together, “the power of the Lord Jesus is present,” (1 Corinthians 5:4 NIV).
This kind of unity is a result of our walking in the light of the knowledge of the Son of God. As we each become more like Jesus we will automatically become closer to one another. We will become a perfect, or a mature man. Pay close attention to the wording here. It is not men, as in many, but as in one man, and that is Christ.
This perfect or mature man that Paul speaks of is not referring to the maturity of an individual member in the Body of Christ, but the maturity of one Body operating in unity. He is looking to the time when we as a people have matured to a place where God can reside in our midst in a new dimension of power. He wants to display His wisdom and reveal His glory through the Church.
It is time, not only for individuals to grow up in God, but for the Body of Christ to mature to the position in which it belongs. The Holy Spirit is building us up to become a habitation of God as a Church. Not only do we recognize that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son” (John 3:16), but that “Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it,” (Ephesians 5:25).
It is my prayer that we become as sensitive to God’s designs for the Church, as we are concerning His will for our own individual lives. We must love the Church, and be willing to give ourselves for it.
Structure and Government
Structures exist to help us reach our objectives. You have a goal to sell more product in your business so you hire a salesman, and then another, and another. Soon you have so many salesmen you must choose one to oversee the others. A structure within your business is evolving while you seek to reach your objective.
It is important to see that any structure which exists that does not support your goals is wasteful. It may cause you to fail. It will certainly slow you down.
It would be worth our while to hear Terry Edward’s comments on these lines:
“…it is evident that Paul knew he was building God’s building and that he was doing it through the grace that was given to him. It is also clear that the principles and structure he used were based upon a divine pattern and blueprint. His carefulness to lay God’s foundation is what gave him the right to describe himself as a “master builder,” or as described in Strong’s Concordance, a “chief constructor or architect.” He built God’s building God’s way and, because of this, the churches he planted became strong and evangelistic, eventually reproducing themselves and influencing large regions of territory around them.
“All of the apostles were wise master builders. Shortly after giving his disciples the Great Commission, Jesus poured out His Spirit and gave birth to the Jerusalem Church. The challenge for these men was to structure this body of believers in such a way so as to fulfill this mandate. The carrying of the gospel to a lost world and the proper structure of the church go hand and hand.
“Two thousand years later, the need is still glaringly obvious. The Great Commission remains unfulfilled. There are still not enough laborers for the harvest. Many of God’s people are without any real direction or involvement in the effort to see the Body of Christ built up and the world evangelized and discipled. Their potential, in large, goes unrealized. The problem usually lies in a Church structure that is void of a vital revelation of the Body of Christ and the mission of the church. They lack the foundation laid by the master builder.“
Recently, many have begun to see that the structure of the New Testament Church is at odds with the traditional structure of today’s Church. There has been a tremendous surge of interest in what is commonly called the five-fold ministry as depicted in Ephesians 4:11: And He gave some  apostles, and some  prophets, and some  evangelists, and some  pastors and  teachers .
Although many believe that apostles and prophets have passed away, there has been a lot of attention, even in mainline evangelical churches, concerning the ministry of modern-day apostles and prophets. The Bible is quite plain. These ministry gifts are to continue until “we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:13).
Others question the validity of these ministries. Are these ministry gifts needed for today’s Church? It is important to note that the Church herself is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone,” (Ephesians2:20). This very scripture is used by some to establish the viewpoint that apostles and prophets have passed away. In their opinion, the apostles and prophets were foundational to the Church Age and are no longer required. A closer examination reveals the truth. We must ask, Was Jesus’ ministry only foundational to the Church Age, or is His ministry vital for today? It is obviously vital for today since Christ is today present in His Church, (Matthew 18:20). Just as Christ is present wherever and whenever two or three gather in His name, the ministry of apostles and prophets, not as a luxury but as a necessity, can be expected in each and every local expression of the Body of Christ.
There is one problem that remains. Those who adhere to the validity of the apostle and prophet are just as open to admit frustration and difficulty in understanding how these ministries are to function in the local body. It is this point that I want to address more fully.
The Traditional Pastoral System
Today’s Church is by structure a pastoral system. That is, the framework of the Church’s ministry revolves around the pastor and his function. The larger churches hire additional staff (associate pastors, youth pastors, et al.) to help facilitate and enhance the pastor’s role.
Remember, structure is designed to reach a particular goal. If we honestly observe the pastoral system of the traditional church, we find its goals to be more inward and ingrown than the goals of the early Church. The majority of the church’s efforts and finances are directed back to itself. Jesus said that you could tell where someone’s heart is by finding out where they spend their money, (Matthew 6:21). It is a sobering fact that the Body of Christ as a whole only puts two percent of its finances into missions. We have become more interested in buildings, properties and padded pews than in the interests of God.
The Church’s purpose is missions, to extend the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by proclamation, by evangelism, by teaching, and then by pastoral work. Her structure should reflect this. It is in this pattern that the five-fold ministry will best operate. There has been little fivefold ministry in the past for the simple reason that the pattern of Church work was not directed properly, being mostly self or individual-centered. The five fold ministry was not needed and no room was found for it. But set the goals and priorities of the Church aright and the five fold ministry will spring up.
Many men, sincere in their call, have not had an effective ministry because the Church has had no place for them. Para-church ministries have arisen to partially fill in this gap; but none have realized their potential, nor can, until the Church is moving in the right direction.
I disagree with those declaring that God is raising up apostles and prophets in our day. The thought is contradictory to scripture. God never stopped giving apostles and prophets; the Church stopped recognizing them. I asked an apostle of God once, “Sir, where are all the prophets the Bible talks about? Paul said that there were two or three in the church at Corinth.”
I remember he laughed, and then said, “They’re where they have always been, son, just like they were in the Old Testament hiding in caves and holes in the ground because the people didn’t want anything to do with them!”
It is not as important to spend our time teaching about the apostolic or prophetic ministries as it is to release the function in the body by directing the goals of the body. No new believer need go through any course to understand the function of the pastor; he sees the function displayed before him often enough to understand it and he quickly comprehends the reasonableness of it. Certainly, there may be false conceptions from various sources, but let him watch long enough and they will all be swept away as the pastor explains his function in the doing of it. It is just so with the apostle and prophet.
The greatest change about to take place in the Church does not directly involve the apostles and prophets as much as it does the pastors. The very structure of the Church is about to under go a radical transformation! God is building from the ground up!
Two Kinds of Church Growth
There are two primary kinds of Church growth. I will try to help you picture them in your mind in order for you to understand it easier. Imagine a table top in front of you. Let’s say that it represents a map of the United States. Imagine placing a nickel on the table top. It represents a church, any church, perhaps your church. Now place another nickel on top of the first one, and then another and another until we have a nice stack of nickels.
That stack of nickels represents the first kind of Church growth which I call growth by expansion . It represents a church’s individual growth in members from five people, to fifty, to five hundred, or five thousand.
Now take that same stack of nickels and spread them out over the table. Each of the nickels now represents a new church in a new area reaching new people. This is the second kind of Church growth which I call growth by extension . It has to do with introducing the gospel into new areas by establishing churches.
The traditional pastoral system deals primarily with growth by expansion. The pastor is a local ministry. He generally stays in one place and ministers to the same people over a longer period of time.
Notice that the apostle, prophet, evangelist and teacher are all trans-local or mobile ministries. These are men on the move. These ministry gifts deal with growth by extension. Until the Church is aggressively ministering in this way, the need for the five-fold is almost non-existent.
In fact, a grave error exists when an apostle or prophet of God is placed into a church operating under the traditional, pastoral system. The structure must change first, and until then, you will have a square peg in a round hole.
Lead Them Out of the Dungeon
God has established us as a church planting ministry. It is apostolic in its function. At the beginning of this ministry, God dealt with me supernaturally in visions as well as from the Bible. I want to share some of that with you in order to help further our understanding of this subject.
On one occasion I was in the spirit and shown a vision that dealt specifically with the five-fold ministry. I saw myself chained to a dungeon wall in complete darkness. The air was filled with tremendous fear, oppression and hopelessness. It was terrifying. By rubbing my chains together, and with great effort, I was eventually freed from my bonds. At that moment the dungeon was lit by a great light. I saw that my chains had fallen to the ground and had become a key. I also saw that the dungeon was filled with many others in bondage as I had been. I quickly ran to the nearest and unlocked his chains. They also fell to the ground and became a key. The dungeon was filled with shouts of joy and victory. While others were being freed I approached a man sitting in a corner, holding his face in his hands. As I unlocked his fetters, he looked up at me. It was Jesus.
“Lead My people out of this dungeon,” He said.
The next day the Lord directed me to a portion of Scripture I had never seen:
10 And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field.
11 Then contended I with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and set them in their place.
Nehemiah is a book of restoration. It recounts the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and restoration of the temple worship.
I want you to notice that the temple worship was continuing at this point without the aid of the Levites and the singers. Nehemiah perceived a problem in this. It went deeper than physical sight. A perception comes from the spirit.
The Levites and singers had been forced to flee every one to his field, meaning that they had to work in order to support their families. Their portion had been withheld. The finances of the temple worship were misdirected, effectively stopping these men from fulfilling their ministry.
This is a tragic picture of today. Apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers, instead of being at the forefront of the Church’s ministry, are often forced to seek secular employment. Men and women with a genuine call and gifting are butchering meat, driving truck and packing groceries.
We see Nehemiah enraged, brought to a point of contention, when he asks, Why is the house of God forsaken? Although the temple worship was continuing without interruption it was Nehemiah’s perception that God was not in it. Thankfully, Nehemiah corrected the situation and set them in their place.
There is nothing new as far as apostles and prophets are concerned in this day, but God is now moving to set them in their place!
Let’s look at Jesus’ remarks upon this subject:
37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent [apostles] unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
Jesus taught that the house of God is left desolate when it does not receive the ministry gifts which He sends. He implies that if they had received the ministry of these apostles and prophets, He would have gathered them under his arms. This is again the purpose of the five-fold “till we all come into the unity of the faith.
The five-fold ministry functioning as the Bible describes is not an added blessing, it is a necessity. Nothing less will enable us to reach our objective. In order to preach the gospel in all the world, we must secure the attention of the Church to see the Great Commission as Her reason for existence. There must rise up a people willing to pay whatever cost to see it fulfilled. It is my prayer that through the power of God’s Word many mighty men and women of God will be led out of the dungeon and brought into His glorious light where they can serve God in the manner of which He has called them!
The Apostolic Ministry
The traditional church structure has caused, in many instances, conflict between the local church and groups which have come to be known as “para-church” ministries. A para-church ministry is an organization or ministry operating outside the structure of the local church and is typically made up of missionaries, evangelists, teachers, or various other specialized ministries.
It has never been the will of God for ministry to operate outside of the local church. Ministry exists solely to build up the Church. Biblical ministry, found within the pages of the Bible, was made up of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers operating as a team. A return to this form of church structure unites the traditional pastoral system of today and the para-church ministry into one, greatly enhancing the effectiveness of both. I will be referring to this form of church structure as apostolic ministry.
In order for us to pursue a more biblical form of ministry we must examine the structure of today’s church in contrast to the elements that made up the Early Church.
Whenever Church government is not according to the Biblical pattern, problems arise just as when the family unit is not patterned after the Word of God. In the home, when the father does not take his place as the spiritual leader, undue pressure and strain are placed upon the wife and children. At other times, if the wife attempts to subvert the authority of the husband, strife and contention can be the only result. God’s system for the family is not simply the right one morally, it is the only one practically.
In the same way, God designed a system of leadership within the Church. From the beginning God created the Body of Christ to be one and we cannot expect Bible results until we act and function as God created us. It will take great grace for us to hear the Word of the Lord in these matters and great patience and wisdom to make the changes that are necessary. It’s sad that we know so very little about apostolic ministry, and what we have been told in the past has not always been correct. Often, ignorance is not only a lack of knowledge, but an abundance of the wrong knowledge. There are times, or seasons, when we must first “root out and throw down,” before we can “build and plant,” (Jeremiah 1:10; Ecclesiastes 3:1-3).
The greatest difference between the Early Church and the Church of today lies in its leadership. The goals of the ministry and the leadership of the church go hand in hand. When we understand what God requires of the Church we will know what He requires of the ministry.
When the structure of a local church is pastoral, the goal will be to build up that local body; but when the structure is apostolic (which includes the pastor, as well as the prophet, evangelist, and teacher) the goal will be to build up the Church everywhere. The fruit of an apple tree is not just an apple; it’s another apple tree. The fruit of a church is not just new members; it’s another church. The pastor adds new members to the local church while the apostle adds new churches to the Body of Christ.
This difference in leadership can be seen by the multiplicity of men giving oversight to the New Testament church as compared to the pastoral system. Today a pastor may add staff to minister to the needs of his growing congregation; in the New Testament leadership was raised up, equipped, and sent out to harvest the lost. The one is maintenance-minded, the other intent on saving the precious harvest of a generation.
Unlike today, the local church in the New Testament was not led by a pastor, or a board of businessmen, but by a group of men who were actively involved in ministering to more than one local body. This multiplicity of leadership can best be described as a team working together for a common objective.
The church at Jerusalem was led by a group of men called apostles and elders, (Acts 15:2,4,23), among whom Peter, James and John, all apostles, stood out as pillars, (Galatians 2:9). The church at Antioch was led by a group of men designated prophets and teachers, (Acts 13:1-4), out of whom two were sent out as apostles. From that time on those two men, Barnabas and Paul, held a unique position of authority in the church.
These leadership groups were regularly concerned, not only with their own congregations, but with churches in other areas and even in distant countries.
Although we often think of an apostle as a key figure, we must not fail to see his place in a team environment. We think of Paul as a successful individual, not realizing that his success was greatly enhanced by the teams that he worked with. Thirteen different teams are mentioned relating to Paul’s ministry, and twenty two other teams are referred to in the New Testament.
Teams, operating in an apostolic manner, were essential to the growth of the Early Church. Their work was characterized by movement, going back and forth under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Their main objective was to open up unreached areas to the gospel by establishing new churches and to return time and again to establish them in the faith, (Acts 16:5-10).
The ministry of an apostle is best seen by examining the influence Paul carried even while confined to prison. His epistles written to the Churches are in themselves examples of apostolic authority, and not only were they addressed to Churches in foreign countries, but in a day when communication was most difficult.
It is important to see that these new churches were not left on their own, but incorporated into the vision of all the churches. There was a relationship between these churches that included consistent doctrine and teaching; coordinated outreaches; and mutual care.
Consistent Doctrine and Teaching
Paul declared that he had “received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations.” (Romans 1:5) Consistent doctrine and teaching was maintained among the churches by the movement of apostles and prophets, (Acts 15:22-33). In fact, a principle characteristic of apostolic ministry appears in a teaching ministry, establishing churches “in the faith.”
4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.
5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.
Specifically, Paul expected the continual obedience of the Churches he was related to, even during his absence.
12 As ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Notice especially his boldness in writing to the Thessalonians:
2 Thessalonians 3:4, 6, 7, 14
4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;
14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
Not long after Paul’s first missionary journey, he said to Barnabas, “Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the Word of the Lord, and see how they do, (Acts 15:36). We also find that Peter “passed throughout all the quarters,” (Acts 9:32) to fulfill his ministry.
Even epistles were written to numerous churches at a time. Paul writes “unto the churches of Galatia,” (Galatians 1:2), which included Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. He commanded the Colossians that “when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea,” (Colossians 4:16). James wrote to the “twelve tribes that were scattered abroad,” (James 1:1); Peter to the “strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” (1 Peter 1:1); and John, upon instruction from the Lord, wrote to “the seven churches which are in Asia,” (Revelation 1:4).
Paul determined the movement of other ministers to be received by the Church. “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state… Him therefore I hope to send presently… (Philippians 1:19, 23, 25, 28, 29)
Much like the itinerant preachers of John Wesley’s day, a multitude of ministry gifts rotated among the various churches, teaching, preaching, and establishing the Kingdom of God.
Paul encouraged the Romans to receive Phebe, and “assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you, (Romans 16:1,2). He expected the Corinthians to treat Timothy as they would himself, (1 Corinthians 16:10,12). He introduced Tychicus to the Ephesians, “whom I have sent unto you …that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts,” (Ephesians 6:21,22). Paul also sent Timothy to the Philippians with the recommendation that as “a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel,” (Philippians 2:19-30) and also found “it necessary to send… Epaphroditus… Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness…” Likewise, Tychicus was sent out, with Onesimus, instructed to “make known unto you all things which are done here,” (Colossians 4:7-9). In 1 Thessalonians 3:1-6 Paul expresses how much he desired to be with the Thessalonians, but because Satan had so greatly hindered he sent Timothy “to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith.” He also appointed men to handle problem areas, (1 Timothy 1:3,4; Titus 1:5).
Coordinated outreaches were made under the direction of these apostolic teams, and even financial decisions were made for the churches, (1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8:1- 9:5). Paul was very bold to say, “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service,” (2 Corinthians 11:8,9).
The Church of Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to Galatia, (Acts 13:1-52). The Philippian church enabled Paul to minister to Thessalonica, (Philippians 4:15,16), who in turn made it possible for Paul to establish a church in Corinth, (2 Corinthians 11:7- 9). Paul had hopes that the Corinthian church, once larger in faith, would assist Paul in preaching the gospel in regions beyond their own borders, (2 Corinthians 10:13-16).
The fact is that Paul expected a service from the local Church, as much as he offered ministry to the Church. He told them that Epaphroditus worked to the point of death “to supply your lack of service toward me.” (Philippians 2:30)
Mutual care was shown among the churches by their forwardness to bless financially as a result of a prophetic word concerning an approaching famine, (Acts 11:27-30). Paul explained the financial relationship among the churches when he said,
2 Corinthians 8:13,14
13 For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:
14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:
15 As it is written, ‘He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.’”
The Philippian Church had an active part in Paul’s ministry. They participated in the grace upon Paul’s life, counting his ministry an extension of their own: “Even as this is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.” (Philippians 1:7) He wrote,
3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,
5 For your fellowship [NIV, partnership] in the gospel from the first day until now.
He undertook to pray for them, as they also prayed for him: “Always in every prayer of mine for you all… For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels [NIV, affection]of Jesus Christ. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer…” (Philippians 1:4, 8, 19)
He communicated to them regarding his ministry and affairs, and was kept informed of their state: “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me… that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs… Which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me… that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state… ye had heard that he had been sick…” (Philippians 1:12, 27, 30; 2:19,26)
He made similar comments to the Church of Colosse:
7 As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;
7 All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord:
8 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts;
9 With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.
Paul expected them to help and care for others on the basis of his recommendation, appealing to unity in their labors, and calling them yokefellows and fellowlabourers:
2 I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.
3 And I intreat the also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers…”
Paul expected them to care for his needs: “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful but ye lacked opportunity… Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction… But I have all and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, and odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:10,14)
Apostles for Today
Paul did not consider his position unique, but saw himself as an example to be followed: “Let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing… Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” (Philippians 3:16, 17)
In summary, we have found these valuable points:
- The local church held a key role in Paul’s ministry.
- He counted their ministry an extension of his own.
- He undertook to pray for them, as they also prayed for him.
- He communicated to them regarding his ministry and affairs, and was kept informed of their state.
- He expected the continued obedience of the churches he was related to, even during his absence.
- He expected a service from the local church, as much as he offered ministry to the church.
- He expected them to help and care for others on the basis of his recommendation.
- He directed the details of their offerings.
- He expected them to care for his needs.
- He determined the movement of other ministers who were submitted to his authority.
At this point we have to ask ourselves, “Can a New Testament form of apostolic ministry work today?” If we keep in mind that structure follows the goals of an organization, a more accurate question might be, “Are our goals consistent with the goals of the New Testament?”
The apostolic ministry is essential to see Churches fulfilling the goals of the Great Commission. As Colin Brown said, “The service of the apostle makes it clear that the local church is not a law unto itself but under law to Christ.” The very existence of the apostolic office reveals the need for a working relationship between churches.
At the same time, “the apostle knows that he also is a member of the local church.” The ministry cannot be directed outward only (as in a para-church ministry), no more than it can be directed inward (as in the modern pastoral system).
Apostolic ministry, or the five-fold ministry, brings true balance by embracing both in their proper perspectives. Notice that this is the very point Paul was making when he described the five-fold ministry, saying that it would “perfect the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith ,” (Ephesians 4:12,13, emphasis mine).
The Ministry of Prophets
One hurdle we have yet to clear regarding the place of apostles and prophets in the local church hinges upon our proper estimation of the office. This becomes increasingly difficult as the Lord begins to raise men and women up in our midst.
It is much easier to talk about apostles and prophets when they were men of old, but much harder when they are men of today. The prophet is without honor in his home town most often because his own brothers and sisters find it hard to accept that God would call him!
As a result of our pre-conceived ideas about apostles and prophets we have magnified their job description to a place where no normal Christian could fill it. We have made heroes out of the rugged fishermen that Jesus labored over: men He rebuked for their hardness of heart and marveled at for their lack of faith, men He chided for not knowing what spirit they were of and rebuked for giving voice to Satan! We must appreciate the Bible for its honesty. We see Noah as a drunkard, Moses as a murderer, David as an adulterer, and Peter filled with cursing. Paul himself was chosen by the Lord as an example because he was the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).
Have we forgotten that God can make a success out of any failure? He has spoken through whores, wicked kings, slaves and even a jackass! Never should a man’s calling promote the quality and character of the person, but everywhere and always it should reveal the grace and the glory of God.
We have missed God’s anointing by looking for the perfect man. We have forgotten that there is only one Jesus and that He works through you and me.
The Lord dealt with me along these lines when I first entered the pastorate. He asked me, “What office is Paul Cho called to?”
I said, “The office of the pastor.”
He replied, “Yes, and what office do the people recognize you to be in now?”
I said, “The office of the pastor.”
The difference being that Paul Cho pastors over 500,000 people while at that time I was pastoring less than fifty! It took me a while, but I began to see what the Lord was pointing out. He showed me that we do not withold the title of pastor from a man because he is not leading 500 thousand people! But we are hesitant to call a man an apostle or prophet unless he has raised the dead, pulled people out of wheel chairs, and visited heaven at least three or four times!
The Lord showed me that just as he has called some men to pastor smaller works in smaller communities, he has called some men to be apostles to nations and others as apostles to a city. One man, like the apostle Paul, may be called to start many churches, while another is called to start only two or three. The measure of the ministry will be unique in each person’s life.
As a congregation realizes that God calls ordinary members of a local body to a supernatural ministry, it is also important for each individual to have an accurate view of what God is endeavoring to accomplish in himself. We are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought (Romans 12:3), but neither are we to think of ourselves lower than what is proper. A man with an inflated self-esteem needs to be told the former, while a man with a low self-esteem needs to hear the latter. To think soberly, as the Bible suggests, means to think clearly and with precision.
We should place our confidence in what we are called to do and not in what we are called. I am more concerned that our church recognizes her responsibility to establish new churches than that she recognizes me. This gives me the boldness to fulfill what I have been called to do without attracting undue attention to myself.
It is amazing how many people stumble over the use of titles. The words apostle and prophet have become tremendous building blocks of pride. In the past, the scribes and the Pharisees were afraid to speak against John the Baptist, because the people regarded him as a prophet. Today, the prophet is cautious of using the title for fear of being stoned!
Some insist on using titles, arguing that if the people are taught correctly there will be no abuses. The problem with this is plain. Ministers are forced to spend ninety percent of their time teaching about what they are and ten percent of their time fulfilling the actual call. The principle we should look at is accurately stated by Paul: If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend (1 Corinthians 8:13).
I believe that much of the apostolic and prophetic ministry has been preserved throughout the Church’s history by simply changing the titles. For instance, the word missionary is not as offensive to some as the word apostle . In the same way, the essential ministry of the prophet has been preserved by using the word intercessor . In fact, the Hebrew naba , from which prophet is translated, not only signifies to foretell events, but also to pray and make supplication.
This closet ministry (Matthew 6:6) enables the prophet to function in great power, although not necessarily open to the public eye. The secret place protects us from pride.
Pay special attention to the fact that the majority of prophets in the Bible did not have a pulpit ministry. Their power with God was not in preaching but in their praying. Daniel’s preaching, if he ever did preach, is not recorded, while his praying is.
Elijah showed that the prophetic ministry was dependent upon the prophet’s backing up his words by prayer. He boldly declared that as the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word (1 Kings 17:1).
When the Lord moved upon Elijah with the sound of abundance of rain (1 Kings 18:41), he immediately went to intercession until the objective was gained, and there was a great rain. Elijah’s word was made good by the effectiveness of his praying.
It appears that the prophet Daniel, by his intercession, was as vital to the fulfillment of prophecy as it was for Jeremiah to speak it forth.
Perhaps Daniel realized this while reading Jeremiah himself:
18 But if they be prophets, and if the word of the Lord be with them, let them now make intercession to the Lord of hosts…
In Luke, we find one Anna, a prophetess… which departed not from the temple, but served God [in the prophetic ministry] with fastings and prayers night and day (Luke 2:36,37).
This aspect of the prophetic ministry has not changed under the new covenant. At the beginning of the Church there were at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; . . . and while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Ghost spoke to them (Acts 13:1,2).
While reading this on one occasion the Spirit whispered to my heart. That was not a pastor’s retreat, He said. That was their job. I am convinced that our lack of fruit in the ministry today stems from not placing enough emphasis upon the ministry of intercession.
The revivals that took place under Charles Finney, bringing entire cities to the Lord, owe much to the ministry of a nearly unknown man called Father Nash. Daniel Nash accompanied Finney on his preaching tours but often went on ahead to the next city or town to spend days and sometimes weeks in intercessory prayer. This prophetic mantle of intercession is what secured a fresh outpouring of the Spirit and brought a revival to the Church.
As a local church, we must see the importance of God’s moving in our midst in this manner. Not long ago, I visited with a precious mother of Israel. Having lived a full life, she began to talk a little with me about going home; but with a sparkle in her eye, she made this remark: I am not ready to die yet. I have a few prayer requests that aren’t answered yet!
Thank God for the ministry of intercession in the church!
“Of these three ‘pillars,’ however, only one was now resident in Jerusalem. Peter and John, and the other original apostles who were still alive, had undertaken more extended missionary responsibilities. But James remained in Jerusalem, exercising wise and judicious leadership over the Nazarene Community there, greatly respected not only by the members of that community but by the ordinary Jews of Jerusalem as well. In his administrative responsibilities he had a band of colleagues- the elders of the Jerusalem church. How many they were we are not told, but in view of the multitude of believers in Jerusalem- several thousands, we are told in v.20- there may well have been seventy of them, constituting a sort of Nazarene Sanhedrin, with James as their president.” (Commentary on the Book of the Acts. Page 252, 253 and 429. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979.)