Monday, November 8, 2010

Beyond 150 - Apostles

It is not often one has the privilege to wake up to the sound of rain pounding down on our LA roof. The early Monday morning, after a very powerful Sunday set of gatherings, brings a deep and pleasant smile to my face.

I have been leading churches for 27 years. For around the same amount of time, I have been involved with church planting, church replanting, church closures, church mistakes, church growth, church discipline. The list goes on. This is an intoxicating journey to see what the Father loves, what the Son does, what the Spirit empowers. The full weight of heaven is behind the scriptures, as "The Lord said to me, 'You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.'" Jer 1:12. We do not have the prerogative nor the privilege to determine which part of the text we choose to apply and which part we choose to neglect. Nor can any of us have the audacity to suggest we have "the model or the pattern". There is a vast amount of humility required to journey within the understanding that our revelation is progressive but our obedience needs to be immediate. As the Spirit reveals truth to us, we have the obligation to a full and complete response.

This series is about moving churches through the challenge of the 150 mark. There is no fixed formula nor a one size fits all. However there are some clear biblical road signs that can be very helpful indeed. One of the major "Forgotten Ways" [to quote my friend Alan Hirsch] is the partnership between apostles and the local churches. All to easily, we have used non-biblical alternatives to explore this deeply desired role. We have used words and concepts like coaches, mentors, teams, team leaders, superintendents, regional coordinators, mother churches when the scripture is very clear on who the key players are and what their roles are to be. I am certainly not wanting to be pedantic here. I simply want to take us back to the text to have the right conversation, ask the right questions, take the right actions.

"I thank God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now..." Phil 1:3 - 5.

Our hierarchical minds mixed with some poor experiences, invariably leave us very wary and wounded by a possible opportunity for control, dictatorship, excesses — and rightfully so. However we are not to throw out the baby with the bath water. God has no plan B. From the sublime moments when Jesus chose 12 men and designated them apostles, to his last few moments on the planet when he handed his apo authority on to these men, to the picture painted by the Book of Acts, his intention was clear — he gave his gifts to men, to "equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God... grow up in every way... held together by every joint..." Eph 4:11 - 16.

In my next blog we will look at how this partnership can catapult the church through the ceilings that surround them. We will also look at the other parts of the Eph 4 giftings to empower planters to push through these limitations. In nearly three decades I have seen the Father seek to reintroduce these gifts to the church. As they have been abused and misused, the Father has seemingly withdrawn them, to reintroduce them to the next generation to see if they can be a wondrous partnership one more time. Can we do it right this time around?


  1. How do you equate the way Paul Apostolically partnered with the local churches to the way the current crop of "Apo team members" partner with the church today. I see Paul stayed for extended periods of time with the churches - teaching and building into the life of the local church, not just flying in for 1-2 days every 3-4 mths and then expecting a GTT to achieve wonders in the life of the local church.
    Your comment iro the above will be appreciated.
    blessings to you
    Arnold Nel
    Lusaka Family Church

  2. Hi Arnold

    As a church planter there is no doubt that real apostolic building into a church cannot simply happen over one weekend.

    I do believe that some men carry an anointing and gift that can means they simply preach once and leave a great deposit in that church, but I think to really build deeply and put strong foundations in it, there has to be a longer time of building into that church.

    In our plant (about 2 years old), we had one man come and visit us for 2 weeks, and another man for over a month. There is no doubt that these visits have seen the most fruit born in the church.

    For this to happen though, it takes men who are able to be released from their churches for extended periods. I think this involves 2 things: Firstly, some experienced 'fathers' who no longer lead churches but are established in a base church, on the eldership team but released to travel for 8 months of the year, but secondly that those who do travel pick a handful of churches that they really want to build into regularly and deeply, rather than trying to minister in 25 churches for a weekend at a time over 2 years. Rather pick 5 churches, spend 4 - 6 weeks there per year, and see the fruit in that church.

    As I said earlier, although there are some men with giftings sufficient to build deeply in one sermon, in reality most men don't carry that kind of gifting, and time is needed. If even the Apostle Paul spent extended times, surely we cannot do any less.

    I trust that you will be able to connect with some people who will be able to really come alongside and partner with you, to see your church grow strong and healthy.