The leadership of the church in Christchurch has become aware of an imbalance in the church – that the pastor/teachers have been governing the church, while those God has equipped as Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists have been suppressed. These guys tend to be a bit non-conformist and the human tendency is to keep such contained so that the unchurched are not put off. However this has suppressed God’s Holy Spirit from working in the church. Our church leadership are praying that God will raise up the next generation of Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists to restore spiritual leadership to the church and to allow the Holy Spirit to manifest unrestricted among us as in the early church.
In the beginning, Christ established the church with 11 apostles. They elected Matthias through human means to take Judas’ place as the twelfth, but Jesus later chose Saul to become Paul as his replacement. Through his ultra-orthodox Jewish education under the leading Rabbi of his time, he established Christian theology as the fulfillment of God’s promises as portrayed by Jewish traditions. There are also many other apostles and prophets mentioned in the New Testament and early church writings.
1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic [Greek] Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
Here we see a reflection of the Kings and Priests of Israel as a separation of governance and spiritual leadership – akin to “the separation of church and state”. These chosen men were highly regarded and filled with God’s spirit, to administer the practical needs of the church and provide pastoral care. Stephen’s defense before his martyrdom displays his spiritual maturity and gifting as a preacher.
God first established the tribe of Levi as the spiritual leadership and later the tribe of Judah to govern. The book of Chronicles presents this separation working as complimentary roles. These roles were not to be mixed. When the priestly Maccabees overthrew the Greeks around 150BC at Hanukkah, they retained governance and thereby corrupted the priesthood to become the Pharisees of Jesus’ day – the root of orthodox Judaism today. Jesus is the only King-Priest of Christianity as a father is to his house; as were the patriarchs from Adam to Jacob.
Our church leaders are refocusing on this doctrine:
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
The church is led by five complimentary roles:
- Teachers direct an understanding of scripture and its application to our lives
- Pastors gather the people together and provide governance to the churches
- Evangelists proclaim God’s work and draw new people to Christ and into the church
- Prophets see what others do not. They provide perspectives that can be difficult to take on board.
- Apostles tend to encompass all the above, some establishing new churches and others providing cohesion to the wider body of the church.
The latter three are often associated with the miraculous, they don’t mind sticking out as unusual and are not necessarily gifted in governance. Prophets can be too harsh, tending to legalism, while evangelists are too soft, tending out of compassion to take grace too far.
1 Corinthians 12
28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.
This suggests a pecking order, but we must keep in mind Matthew 23:11 The greatest among you will be your servant. Everyone’s different and has complementary giftings to contribute to the whole body. A healthy body requires all parts to be in the right place and functioning according to their purpose.
1 Timothy 3
1 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
Whatever role a person may be called to, these criteria apply. They must be mature in faith and receptive to correction. None of us are perfect. We must allow others to help shape us. This is particularly important for Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists – that they might be shaped away from their weaknesses. They need an environment where they can learn by making mistakes. This is a long and difficult journey, but worth the effort. Note that it took some 13 years from Paul’s calling to become the apostle we know. Tradition has him retreated into the desert around Mt Sinai for this time, where Moses first encountered God and Israel received the law and where Elijah retreated in his post-mountain-top depression.
So what happened
The early church balanced spiritual leadership and practical governance. After a few hundred years ungodly influences crept in to distort God’s order. When Rome embraced Christianity, they promoted the practical governance, placing the bishops and deacons as the sole authority. They “controlled” God’s Holy Spirit out of the church and benched the spiritual leadership, which does not make any sense to, and is contrary to human authority. Since the reformation we have gradually been re-embracing God’s intended order by providing the people direct access to study God’s word. America’s first constitutional amendment prevents government imposition over the church. The Pentecostal revival restored the manifestation of the Holy Spirit throughout the church. Before Christ returns, the restoration of the church will be complete with miraculous manifestations throughout the church and not just in a few niche areas.
Back to my point
We desire to see God’s Holy Spirit released upon the church and fully manifesting supernatural miracles to restore the nations to God. We want to see the next generation of Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists raised up. This is a noble and godly desire. However, we must first put right the present generation. The core age for Jewish priestly ministry is 30 to 50 years. These have particularly been bypassed by the baby-boomers who refused to pass on authority to their children. God has already placed this generation of Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists in the churches. He’s also provided their parents to mentor and support this generation as they move into retirement (which means getting their new set of wheels – not being put on a museum shelf). They love God above all else, but they’re easily misunderstood. They’ve been serving faithfully for decades, imbued by God with spiritual and practical understanding, but they’re the sort of guys that might put people off if we put them up front of the church. They’ve fought hard establishing ministries and teaching, but without support. Leaders are threatened by these people’s unique giftings and restrict them to some quiet corner where they don’t have an appropriate environment to contribute as God has purposed. They’re even despised and treated with contempt because the devil knows these people and stirs up misunderstandings against them. In humility, they have continued to serve in whatever little way they can while enduring abuse and ridicule from leadership over them. Some of them have burned out due to this pressure or psychosomatically developed chronic mental or physical illness due to their God-given purpose being suppressed. We cannot raise up the next generation without putting things right with the current generation. The church must repent to release the freedom of the Holy Spirit to move in the church and our nation. This generation of Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists need to be restored to the place God has prepared for them. They will need some shaping to be presentable, so we need to create an appropriate environment for them to practice. When this generation is put right, the next generation will consequently follow the established order.
May God’s Holy Spirit be restored to fully manifest throughout the church.
Blessings and Shalom.