Saturday, May 23, 2009

Apostle as revolutionary



As a group of friends, we exchange books recently read, that challenged, stirred and enlarged us. So this book found its way via Amazon to me. Intriquingly it is entitled “The Wages of Spin”. Does it find its way onto the piles of books that surround my red reading couch or do I trust my friends and start reading? Browsing through the contents page I was immediately drawn to the chapter “A Revolutionary Balancing Act…”. I quote; ‘As an intellectual historian committed to the study of ideas and their functions in historical context, and the role of self understanding in the formation of cultures and movements, I am fascinated by the problem which all successful revolutionaries must ultimately face: the transition from rebels with outsider status to establishment with insider status.”[1] [italics mine]…he continues  “the theological history of the church is a history of revolutions, generally driven by correct concerns, but all needing to be subject to the searching criticism of God’s Word”[2] and then he adds:”… have the revolutionaries become the new establishment…?”[3]


A flurry of questions rush my mind as I sit down to start writing. Is there theological integrity to use this often offensive word in a chapter on apostolicity? If Jesus was indeed a revolutionary, how was he one? Did Peter and Paul sustain this launching pad or did they surrender to the pressure of conformity? Indeed is it for the church to always be a revolutionary band of brothers? Do modern apostles still carry the weight of this higher call or is true God-impact on society in our day, achieved through the channels of acceptance and societal applause? Without drifting towards elitism or remnant theology, can the hard core revolutionary remain tender and empathetic? Can the weight of scripture prevent the seemingly inevitable drift of yesterday’s revolutionary becoming tomorrow’s establishment?


Allow me a moment for definitions. The word “revolution” means:  “1. The action by a heavenly body of going round in an orbit; 2. ROTATION; 3. A sudden, radical or complete change,…” Websters

The Oxford dictionary adds this”…Complete change, turning upside down, great reversal of conditions, fundamental reconstruction.”


Jesus, the great apostle was by no stretch of the imagination “addicted to mediocrity” to quote Frankie Schaeffer. The very essence of his person and ministry was that of a revolutionary. His motive was not revolution, like Nietzsche suggested, to impose change through violence but the revolution of love. The Christ revolt was against everything that had hijacked the project planet earth from a man / God partnership. Man’s sin brought death, destruction. Sin brought bondage and captivity with eternal damnation. The dominion of darkness blinded a now dying world into seeing life simply through the lenses of gratification of all the self-thrones. Beyond a political freedom, the Jesus-revolutionary brought a new kingdom and allegiance to this nail-scarred king. He taught his followers to pray that way [“Come your kingdom, be done, like heaven, like earth”] and live this way [“whoever wants follow me must take up his cross”]. These humble acts of surrender, produces the very liberty and freedom the Christ follower yearns for. The reversal of the dank days of the garden was uppermost in His messianic mind as he walked the dusty Galilean roads. The fundamental reconstruction of the Father’s original intent oozed through His every pore. This higher call drove Him, who was His Father’s son, to spare no price in order to achieve this end. The conflict in the garden escalated into an all out war that has splattered history with the battle for ascendancy. From the position of the historian, it is obvious that it would ultimately cost some one their life for the “great reversal of conditions” to take place. That is what it would take. No Less. The climactic declaration of the old rugged cross that “it is finished”, began the pilgrimage of victory that will ultimately be realized with His final return. As John Stott has popularized, we live in the tension of the “already and the not yet”.


Colossians 1:13
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,


 Jesus, as the apostle – revolutionary, did not hold back on His call to His fellow revolutionaries. His many intimate appeals to the twelve particularly ensured that they would understand they were embarking on a fight that embraced the heavenlies all the way to their own lives.


His heavenward parting now makes our conversation interesting. Whilst we can accept that He was to die to “take away the sins of the world”, the modern church and the theology that has drip-fed them, suggests that the evangelical church is a irrelevant, outdated organization set to maintain a conservative status quo. Losing her revolutionary edge by becoming an arm of the main stream, has made her a joke in the eyes of the world she is trying to reach. This afternoon I picked up my latest Rolling Stone magazine. There in the “Best of Rock 2008” edition is an account of a journalist who went undercover into evangelicalism in the USA. Let it be sufficient to say, I grieved as I tried to grace myself through the pages of this tragic article. If we are to be martyred, let it at least be for Jesus the revolutionary not for mainstream mediocrity!


Paul, the great apostle followed in his master’s footsteps. Born with a most wonderful intellect, his passion is well documented as he sought to defend the status quo with all his energy. His Damascus road divine encounter translated his defending of tradition to revolutionary for the Galilean. Without apology, he set out to match his master’s zeal with an unswerving commitment to the restoration of freedom through his savior’s message. Paul was a revolutionary in the truest sense of the word. He believed his message uncompromisingly. [A study of Galatians 1 and 2 is a sheer delight]. He lived his message unapologetically [read Acts 20]. He declared his message unswervingly. He challenged those who compromised the message unreservedly [Galatians 3]. He gathered and trained fellow revolutionaries consistently [Timothy in Acts 16]. The extent of his anticipated revolution included political, social, economic, relational, governmental.


Steve Turner the English poet wrote:

“History repeats itself,

Has to,

No one listens”[4]


Every move of God appears to have been started by this call to the revolution. From the Lord himself and His fighting band, to Luther, Calvin and Knox. The reading of the Wesley brothers account of transforming England is stirring indeed. This apostolic hearted passion knew no bounds as they gathered some 40,000 followers in a handful of decades but equally important, they revolutionized a nation out of a revolution like that which devastated France across the channel.


Often the apostolic passion of its founders becomes replaced by the pastoral bias of the next generation.[5] The pastoral office of Ephesians 4 is particularly preoccupied with the well being of the sheep. This heart, wonderful, essential and powerful, however drifts towards the loyalty of the yesteryear. Words like loyalty, faithfulness, covenant, honor and relationship become clarion calls. The defense of the past is viewed with much value and gratitude. These matters are not erroneous in their own right, however they remove the revolutionary edge. That which defined a movement or ministry as revolutionary, now gives way to its “Pleasantville”.


A sad example of this, is the Vineyard movement. Well documented in Bill Jackson’s book: “The Quest for the Radical Middle”, he does a most intriquing job of the evolution of this world-shaking group of men who gathered around John Wimber. The honest accounts of their humility and struggles with the Father’s mandate, is most refreshing. Without rewriting the book, let it be sufficient to say that the most tragic line in this account, comes after John’s untimely passing and Todd Hunter’s struggles with which direction to set. Having done his homework as he sought counsel, he took to the Vineyard board the proposal that the future lay with “Apostolic Networks”. Jackson says that: “Having no takers…”[6] they became a denomination. The revolutionary became the establishment!


History does indeed not view this with favor. The apostolic-revolutionary baton is often dropped for a safer pastoral-nuturing one. The revolutionary is replaced with the caring, the nurturing. The outsider has become the insider. But the question remains: Is this how things must inevitably evolve?


Revolution is not rebellion. When Jesus was arrested he asked his captures ;”Am I leading a rebellion that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?” Matt 26:55. The revolutionary is a person of deep truth convictions. Driven, not by an anti-establishment passion but by a pro-truth posture. Martin Luther’s great stand before his Catholic peers when he said he could do no other so help him God, best reflects the revolutionary heart. The 21st century apostle must embrace the mandate to pick up the baton of the revolutionary or the church will…




[1] The Wages of Spin, Carl Trueman, pg 169.

[2] Ibid pg 170,

[3] Ibid pg 171,

[4] Up to date, Steve Turner, pg 129

[5] I found Alan Hirsch’s observation of this discourse most enlightening in “The Forgotten Ways”

[6] Bill Jackson, “The Quest for the Radical Middle”, Pg 351.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Some quotes from an apo journey...

OK, here are some bite size pieces…

·      “The Lord does nothing without revealing this plan to his servants the prophets…that season has come to an end… calling us to move into a way in which we have never been before. I sense ‘team within teams’ and the various teams are going to change in nature…this time is the birthing of a second baby…labor brings pain and there will be pangs which have been sharp and sore…there is an excitement of the unknown… need to be wide open to the new thing that God is doing…” Gill P.[from her prophecy]

·      “ The mission of the church needs constantly to be renewed and reconceived” David Bosch

·      “…genuine gospel freedom, it seems, is difficult to maintain over the long haul and one cannot bind it down in well meaning structure. But when organizations enshrine this culture of restraint, they are extremely hard to change…. No historical denomination has ever been able to fully recover its earlier, more fluid and dynamic movement ethos again. That is why it is the network structure where power and responsibility is diffused throughout the organization and not concentrated at the center, that more approximates our real nature and calling as the body of Christ. A network structure thus guards us from the dangerous creep of religious institutionalism…” Alan Hirsch

·      “[after John Wimber died, Todd was suddenly left with the movement… he did some incredible study as too where the vineyard was to go… - pages 350 and 351 in the Quest for the Radical Middle…] Peter Wagner counseled Todd to consider breaking the Vineyard into what he called ‘apostolic networks’. This new area of research recognizes that we are entering into a postdenominational era where apostolic men are rising up… to gather around them clusters of churches, either through church planting or adoption…[now the most painful line in the book -  Todd took this to the V board and…] Having no takers in rthe apostolic network direction…” They are now a denomination… FROM Bill Jackson

·      At the Umhlanga team time, when asked “Rigs what do you think God is saying, I said Tighten to loosten”. (Relationships must be tightened but not as an end to themselves. 25yrs of covenant togetherness must give us a solid foundation for some robust debate. Structure, modus operandi, hardened positions on some issues must be loosened.) At the most recent time I was asked again. My answer was “Ask God for COURAGE because it will be essential for what is coming in terms of change and mandate.” More than ever I believe it is a time for courage. Courage to speak/debate with honor. Courage to measure and audit. … Courage to confront our own bias and preferences. Courage to admit that we have perhaps weighed some truths disproportionately to others (our ecclessiology ahead of our Christology). Courage to bring in some fresh minds from outside of our ranks. Courage to change and even make the hard choices. In a short while we will be a decade into the 21st C. By then it may be too late to re-invent ourselves under the leading of the Holy Spirit. I sense He is stirring, speaking and provoking! This ongoing conversation/dialogue/debate is crucial. I am so encouraged. May God help us to honor our roots as we charter new routes!... RW

·      William McDonald, a member of the Brethren movement describes the problem faced by many movements:

      “Most spiritual movements have been aptly described in the       word series: man ... movement ... machine . . . monument.       At the outset there is a man, anointed in a special way by the       Holy       Spirit. As others are led into the truth, a movement       develops. But by the second or third generation, people are       following a       system with sectarian, machine-like precision.       Eventually       nothing is left but a lifeless, denominational       monument”. FROM HB.

·      Donald Miller predicts “the … inevitable evolution of the new paradigm [his term for ‘new apostolic’] groups toward denominationalism. In time, they will start centralising authority, insisting on uniform practices, and creating bureaucratic layers of approval for acts that previously

were spontaneous and Spirit-led”. FROM HB

·      Without getting too theological, it must be stated that:

1.    God is an artist, so he is always involved in creativity, freedom, spontaneity, and uniqueness.

2.  God is an architect, so he has a design [or redesign] based on the nature of the building he has in mind. This design is not just as the wind blows, rather, he has plans and patterns…

3.  God is a builder, so he is systematic in how he builds. We do not have to guess, nor is his blueprint a mystery. Apostles are expert builders; apostles and prophets lay foundations… great building language…

4.  God is a wind maker, so is everyone born of the Spirit. Lest we become so cold, mechanical and mental… we are reminded, “the wind of the Spirit blows where it wills… so it is with everyone born of the Spirit of God”… FROM CW



·      This table may help.








Father with orphans

Father with sons

Sons become fathers with sons





The Team

Teams within/among /alongside Teams

Loose disconnected leaders-looking for…

The Apostle

Apostolic Fathers

All lead pastors

General Practitioners

Specific specialized gifts / offices


One tribe

Many Apostolic “Networks”





Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What does "American Idol" reveal about American culture? There certainly is one of fun, celebration and exploring talent. This is in part the American dream for someone to plow their way to the top of their industry. Opportunities abound. With that does it show our preoccupation with ... what?


In his book “Vintage Church” Mark Driscoll sums up the matter of leadership and the church simply when he says: “When we maintain the balance between healthy, respected, mature leaders and active, worshipping, serving members, the church excels as the living body of Christ.”[1]


Nothing will test this glorious relationship more than a decision to Replant. Almost every emotion known to man is let loose to create the potential for very muddy waters. From anger to sentimentality, from joy to relief, the soul of the community is stirred. This requires some very wise leading. Leading that is not easily swayed by the opinions of man[2]. The leaders must be God convinced but people sensitive. However it is still not for the faint hearted.


As there is no replant in the Bible, we may best explore this particular question by looking at Nehemiah who replanted a city in the face of enormous opposition. This text has been the sanity for many a replanter.



Who will not replant with us?

A.   The Godly;

There are some who will not relocate with us but who carry themselves with real godliness and holiness but cannot take the step. For those the reasons may be various:

§      Health,

§      Transport,

§      Heart for the previous city or context,

§      Vision uncertainty,

They follow the due process of the heart of scripture. They engage the elders in their journey. The conversation allows for a gracious conclusion and, for the kingdom, a relationship is still in tact.

B.   The Ungodly;

The study of Nehemiah introduces us to a group of resisters. Sanballat, Tobiah and crew who, upon discovery of the plan to rebuild, raged. This is how those who are against the replant may react;

1.     Emotional response:

·      “Very much disturbed

·      Mocked

·      Ridiculed,

·      Angry

·      Greatly incensed,

·      Very angry”,

2.   Provocative action:

·      Public ridicule[3]

·      Overtly demeaning, 4:2

·      Measured belittling 4:3

·      Insult throwing, 4:5

·      Plotting together, 4:8

·      Trouble stirring, 4:8

·      Private scheming 6:2

·      Vague accusations 6:5

·      Endeavor to frighten 6:9[4]

·      Intentional intimidation 6:13

·      Discredit leaders 6:13

·      Involve government [5]

·      Many letters [emails] 6:17

·      Endless calls for distraction, delaying conversations 6:5


This is not a complete list. When we are in the dark days of the replant announcement, the enemy will come in many forms to try to discourage or distract us from the clear divine initiative we have been given. It is most helpful to meditate on these texts. They will keep us sane.


The story is told of Martin Luther who was suffering under the weight of demonic assault as he had taken on the political and religious systems of the day. His wife walked in one day as he was lying in a defeated foetal position. Seeing that she was dressed in the black of mourning, he asked :”Who has died?”. She looked at him and said: ”Well the way you are acting, God must have!” My wife asked me at the time of the replant announcement if I had the legs for it. I could not answer her. Three tough years lay ahead.


Who WILL replant with us?

1.    The Replanter:

·      Nehemiah I - Must be absolutely sure they, as a couple, have heard the Father. There can be no doubt. Write down everything the Father says to you. No word is wasted. Every word will be a source of encouragement in the future.[6]

·      Nehemiah II – Our heart for the ‘city’ must broken. We cannot achieve the challenge at hand if we do not love deeply, care greatly and lead clearly. We can never replant out of anger, resentment or bitterness. That is bad root that will produce bad fruit.[7] The love of Christ is what compels us[8]

·      Nehemiah III [9]- Both husband and wife must find the Father together. Daily prayer is absolutely essential. This journey is not for the fainthearted. It will require a father and a mother to lead this family to green pastures,

·      Nehemiah IV - you will feel very poorly chosen for the task at hand. He was a “cupbearer to the king”[10] but was called to engineer a rebuild a city in record time. There will be many times when you will feel out of your depth,

·      Nehemiah V – it is imperative to go and study the place of replanting. Nehemiah took a few good men[11] and they did their homework. The passion to leave must not be confused with the need to find the ‘right place’. The Father has the right time and place where we must live[12]. We did our research around our ‘avenue of growth’ – where was our growth coming from and why? But we will examine this further under the “How “ question.

2.  The Team:

·      Apostle/s: [Artaxerxes the king] - we will all need someone of weighty biblical government to walk with us. “It was he who gave some to be apostles…”[13] The office of the apostle is a much debated one in the church, however, it is the office that is gifted by God to be the ‘masterbuilder’.[14] It is a supernaturally endowed office, not more important that any other, but one that is essential to a replant / rebuilding process. A true apostle has a track record of successfully negotiating this challenging track before with other churches.[15]

·      Eldership team [husbands and wives] - must be on the same page,

·      Find the ‘Few good “men”’. This is not based on giving or friendship. Rather they need to be found with the following characteristics:

a.  Love the Lord with all their heart,

b.  Love the scriptures with a righteous jealousy,

c.   Love this local church passionately,

d.    Love you enough to be honest with you no matter what,

e.  Have a biblical respect and honor for leadership – God anointed and appointed,

f.   Are true – their yes is their yes, not one thing to your face and another with others,

g.  Are strong and courageous,

h.  Are tough and tender… will not be drawn into a fight[16] with brothers but be a spiritual warrior in prayer, fasting and worship,[17]

i.    Workers. This is a time for more than philosophy or armchair quarterbacks.

·      The labor of love – fetching the fragile and the fringe.

·      The labor of the lost - to assist in creating a new momentum of getting, gathering and growing.

·      The labor of leading – protecting both the front door and the back, building great gates of grace and generosity.

j.   I try to meet with a “Forum of Fathers” on a monthly basis to hear what they are thinking, hearing or feeling. – senior men in the church who are tracking with us.

·      The prophet;

a.  A Gift - this most under – understood office and yet a wonderful gift to the church, is very helpful in this journey. The scripture says that God does nothing but first tell His servant the prophets.[18] Where there is a proven track record in these types of situations, as well as an honest relationship with the leadership, this is a very powerful partnership. The prophets are not called to govern in this context but can assist the leadership keep the church on course in the heat of the battle.

b.  A Disaster. The enemy will use the voices of ‘prophets’ to fulfill his objective, which is to destroy the church. The scripture is rife with examples of this but Nehemiah had to face up to this reality in chapter 6:11 – 14. False prophets give weight to what may appear a righteous cause. The way to measure these words is by their theological accuracy and their kingdom spirit [or lack thereof].

[1] Mark Driscoll “Vintage Church” pg 80

[2] The great apostle Paul deals with this matter in Galatians 1 and 2,

[3] Replanter your sanity is to study chapters 4 and 6 of Nehemiah – 4:2

[4] Ezra 4:4 -5 reads: Then the people around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans…”

[5] This is found in Ezra 4:6

[6] Habakkuk 2:1 – 4,

[7] Hebrews 12:14 – 15,

[8] 2 Corinthians 5:14,

[9] Nehemiah 1:4 – 11,

[10] Nehemiah 1:11,

[11] Nehemiah 2:12

[12] Acts 17:26

[13] Ephesians 4:11

[14] 1 Corinthians 3:10

[15] 1 Corinthians 9:1 -2,

[16] In extreme situations, one may need to put someone out of the church in the process, but we must remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood…

[17] Zechariah 10:6 – 8,

[18] Amos 3:7