Parts of the Apostolic Team

20 06 2008

I’ve written in the past that ALL the members of the 5-fold ministry should function as an itinerant team to found new works and build up existing ones. This strategy will lead to the explosive expansion experienced in the 1st century church.

One question people continually ask is how these 5 gifts function. Enter Mike Edwards’ excellent post on Apostolic Expansion. Mike has an apostolic ministry in our DiSC network (Discipling in Simple Churches).

Advertisements




The Pastor-ization of Christianity – An Alternative

17 01 2008

internetmap.jpgThe story has been repeated endless times. Whether you were at a Christian camp, on a missions trip, at a youth group meeting, or spending alone time with the Master you suddenly began to believe there was nothing you would rather do than minister to others. There are a million different ways you can experience this call on your life but its what happens the moment afterward that is rather uniform and that must be questioned.

Within seconds most of us have built in our minds the narrative for how this decision will play out in our lives. Unless you decide to become a missionary overseas you will decide attend a Bible College or Seminary and be trained to fill a full-time pastoral position in an institutional church for an indefinite period of time (maybe for the rest of your life). A few will choose to plant a church with the intention of quickly taking off the church planters hat and donning the pastor’s hat, and this is even more commonly a life-long commitment to pastoral ministry.

But what if we’ve got it all wrong? What if, instead of 99% of ministers taking permanent pastoral positions, no one is supposed to take that path? What if this kind of call is apostolic and not pastoral? First lets consider how men interpreted this call in the first century and then explore an alternative path.

Where are the Pastor’s of the first century church? Where do we get our biblical foundation for the way virtually all church ministry is directed today? Of course the answer is, we know of no Pastor who held a permanent position in an institutional church in the first century. The closest example people use is Timothy at Ephesus but was he their permanent Sr. Pastor? This would be an enormous stretch and reading our context into the Scriptures. When you turn to the book of Acts. where first century church practice is actually described, you never see this pastoral position in action. Church after church the apostles travel to and not one mention of these church’s having pastors. Letter after letter Paul sent to direct these churches how to mature and not one mention of the existence of a Pastor nor the admonition to seek calling a Pastor to help. Even churches in desperate straights like Corinth were not encouraged to lean on a single leader. In fact, Paul makes reference to the visits of many other apostles (there were literally thousands of little “a” apostles at that time) who had temporary ministries in Corinth but none settled down there. Why?

Because neither Paul, nor any of the first century apostles, would stifle a church, nor damage Kingdom expansion by holding a position in a single church. They believed they were to work their way out of job and quickly. Two years was the maximum time Paul spent anywhere and that was in a huge city where much training was required. Are we happy with the net effect of replacing thousands of scrappy, entrepreneur, independently funded apostles (and no paid Pastors) with millions of institutionally trained stay-at-home Pastors (and nearly no apostles)?  I’m not suggesting that every Pastor has apostolic gifts (that they can begin a new work) but that every gift (including the pastoral gift) should find its place within an apostolic team (be dispatched to temporary assignments as a part of the larger apostolic ministry).

So let’s imagine…

What would happen if EVERY pastor in the U.S. decided to leave their church in under 2 years and that their position would be dissolved after they left (no one could come and fill in the vacuum). Here’s a short list of what would happen –

  • Kingdom expansion would EXPLODE in growth with millions of trained ministers being released on apostolic missions to start new works or assist with struggling ones.
  • Lay ministry (non-paid disciples) would be released and, for the first time in our country, we would see the royal priesthood emerge.
  • Churches would be totally restructured from large complicated institutions into home-based bodies with almost no overhead, living in community.
  • Billions of additional dollars would be available for even further releasing of apostles
  • Cities would create a city-church structure over the house church complete with a School of Tyrannus to organize constant discipleship training, host visiting apostles, city elders to shepherd the smaller bodies and organize city-wide ministry efforts to bless their communities.
  • Apostolic networks would be formed where gifted ministers would be dispatched to equip churches exactly in the area of the minister’s strengths and that church’s (temporary) need.

So let’s do it! Let’s ask every Pastor to make a pledge to dissolve their position in 2 years or less and to be released on an apostolic mission. Let’s stop talking about seeking the Kingdom first and let’s actually do it. Don’t let petty excuses stop you. Yah, it would be an act of trust. You would actually have to be led by the Spirit to find your next assignment. You would actually have to trust God for provision instead of a comfortable compensation package. You would actually have to earn the right to be heard everywhere you went instead of listing academic credentials on a resume. But if you’re called by God you can do it. And if you’re not called to this type of ministry you should stop anyway.

If we had the faith to try I believe this approach would see the nations discipled in 2-3 generations. Jesus said “Go” not stay, and every apostle of that century obeyed and kept going (their obedience is why we are here today). Why should we be any different?





Are you building another man’s ministry?

29 10 2007

A prophetic word sent out last week included this line that deeply struck me.  The prophet wrote about a shift coming in the way people are released into ministry.  He wrote, “The new breed of ministry will not use the people to build their ministries.  They will use their ministries to build people.”

It’s a subtle difference but many churches and ministries are NOT designed to find and release people into their ministries (into the unique calling God has placed on you).  They begin with a specific ministry agenda and seek to find others to help them build THEIR ministry.

But is that how a church should be structured?  Should we structure a church, a body of equally gifted, interdependent believers around the ministry, gifting and calling of one man?  Should not churches be a place where everyone is released?  Where the first question is NOT “what ministry position can we fit you into” but instead “what is your Kingdom destiny and how can we equip, encourage and release you”?

But there is one huge weakness in a model that releases everyone instead of supporting only one man’s ministry.  The weakness is this – if everyone is released, it requires each person to PROACTIVELY pursue their calling and NOT wait for someone to come along and give them a position.  We must each take responsibility for our own calling and steward those gifts and fulfill our responsibility to God and His Kingdom.

Oh what am I saying???  Its so much easier to just put in our hour or two per week supporting another man’s ministry.  Let’s just do that and get on with our lives.  Anything more might require too much of me.  Anything more might require me to die to myself.  Anything more might mean I will have to be crucified with Christ, that I can no longer live, that Christ will have to live His life through me.  Anything more might mean I’ll have to live in God’s Kingdom and NOT mine.  His life for mine.  His Kingdom for mine.  And that is why almost none of us will do it.  See you at the ministry fair.