Equipping the Equippers
Here is a sample from my new manuscript. Enjoy!
THE DISAPPEARING FIVEFOLD
Modern Christianity has struggled with the reality that God is releasing apostles in the current church system. Yet this is not a new problem. I believe that every generation has struggled with this same problem, because the apostolic grace is very unique and creates challenges for the current systems, which may have become cozy. For the sake of time, we will not be reviewing how every generation of church history has responded to the new apostles that God has released, but rather we will look at how the very first generation of apostles encountered this exact challenge.
15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”
18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
Peter quoted from two proof texts in Psalms to show that Judas’ death was predicted and that he should be replaced. Notice that the eleven apostles have two qualified candidates in front of them, yet in their perspective they only needed one, because they were simply trying to get back to the number twelve. Later in Acts they end up at eleven again because of the death of the first apostle, James.
12 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. (Acts 12:1-3)
When James was put to death, the other eleven did not reconvene to replace him and get back to twelve apostles. Peter did not stand up again and quote from Psalms, and there was no prediction that James would be martyred. I believe that what we see in the original group of apostles, which I refer to as the Jerusalem Apostles, is a system that would have died out. After replacing Judas, they had no plan of implementing new apostles. Even in Acts 1 when they had two qualified candidates, they only chose one! Martyrdom would have continued and would have simply killed all twelve of them without any new apostles being raised up. But the Holy Spirit had a different plan.
Over in Antioch, the Holy Spirit began to speak through the prophets and teachers about raising up two new apostles; this not only replaced James who had been martyred, but actually moved the number of overall apostles to thirteen!
13 1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:1-3)
The original model that we see is apostles create apostles, such as Jesus (Heb. 3:1) creating the twelve (Luke 6:1-3), and the eleven raising up Matthias (Acts 1:26). Yet the Jerusalem Apostles weren’t going to raise up any new apostles, therefore the Holy Spirit went to the Prophets and Teachers in Antioch and had them raise up the new apostles. Not only did the Holy Spirit break the barrier of the limited number of apostles by having thirteen apostles, but also these new apostles carried a revelation to the Gentiles and were not weighted down by any prejudice. We read of Paul and Barnabas carrying the gospel all throughout the known world, yet the Jerusalem apostles struggled with the uncircumcised receiving the Gospel and were weighed down with an old perspective. The new apostles were able to carry a grace that was different than the grace that the old ones carried.
“On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.” (Galatians 2:7-8)
Nowadays, I believe the Holy Spirit has been speaking through prophets and teachers declaring that a new move of apostles will be released in the earth. We have been seeing some of these apostles coming forth in the last two decades, but there has been a lot of confusion, mistakes and abuses. It is with this new batch of graced leaders in mind that I write this book to help smooth out the path ahead of us.
A CLEARER DEFINITION
The goal of being a follower of Jesus is to be like Jesus. Yet when a book is written about the Fivefold ministry (i.e. The Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers), it is easy to get lost in the weeds of church government or hierarchy. Somehow we focus on the present reality of Church politics and forget the New Testament models that have been handed down to us, and the ultimate goal of being like Jesus. Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did (1 John 2:6). This is not to say that we shouldn’t have books about the Fivefold ministry, because Jesus Himself is an Apostle, “fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest" (Hebrews 3:1b), therefore fivefold ministry is actually about Jesus!
As an Apostle, Jesus reproduced Himself in twelve apostles (Luke 6:12-13). None of the original foundational leaders were Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors or Teachers; they were all Apostles.
Then on Pentecost when the first 3000 people accepted Salvation through Jesus, we read that they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)
This is the foundation that we see: Jesus the Apostle is the model, and the twelve apostles were the replicas of His model, and the early church was built on the model of the twelve (Acts 2:42). Paul later writes that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, “Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). Everything that flowed out of the original foundation of the early church was “apostolic” in nature. “Apostolic” meaning “apostle-like.” At that point in the early church there were not yet Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors or Teachers in existence, they came along later.
Yet the Apostles are not only the foundation, but also the builders:
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11)
If we are going to build with care, as Paul admonishes the Corinthians, we must build on the foundation of Jesus (the apostle) and the other apostles. So everything that the modern church does must be built on an apostolic foundation. If we are building on a pastoral foundation that tradition has handed us, we may be seriously deficient in our foundation and unable to build the proper structure on top of the foundation.
Many of the other books on the Fivefold ministry have focused their argument on the fact that Apostles and Prophets still exist in the modern church. They have debated for the right to actually call someone an Apostle, and they have aimed to give a definition of what an Apostle is or looks like. My starting point is that yes, apostles do exist today, yes if someone is functioning as an apostle then they should be recognized as such, and we need a better definition of these gifts and how they function.
The goal of this book is to move beyond these arguments into the nitty-gritty of the Fivefold ministry. Here are my five goals for this book:
- To give a clearer definition to the Fivefold
- To display their structure and how they operate
- To show what their heart looks like
- To explain how abuses and mistakes have happened
- Demonstrate how to implement the kingdom model