Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beyond 150 - Apostolic Partnership

Our conversation wrestles with the community that finds herself stuck around the 150 mark. Universally known to be one of the most difficult sociological groupings to break free from and enter the next level of growth, development and impact, it is a most worthy study indeed.

In our last blog, we started exploring the role that apostles play in this transition. We cannot complete a full study of the role of the apostle throughout the biblical text, not throughout church history as space does not allow for this, nor is it the subject under discussion. That will have to wait for another time. However I do believe that God has given the church gifts that empower every church on their journey, during every chapter, through calamity and disaster, as well as through times of success and growth.

So, how can apostles help churches through the 150 mark? Here are some suggestions:

1. "He gave some to be apostles..." Eph 4:11. Churches need more than fathers, coaches, mentors, teams. It is the God authored role, that is God appointed, anointed, prepared. I am amazed how easily we neglect this as if it is an optional extra. The apostles lays foundations [Eph 2:20]. These foundations are needed when:
  • When the community is being formed,
  • When the community has gone through devastation and foundations need to be relaid,
  • Before there is growth, enlargement,
  • Before there in increased profile or impact.

2. "If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord" 1 Cor 9:2 It seems like each church in the New Testament walked personally and with reality with 2 or 3 apostles. This was not sole ownership or territorialism. Yet the relationships were real and the involvement ongoing. When Paul wrote his letters one, can hear the detail with which he knew each community, with his instruction clear and essential. The churches he worked with were the evidence of his apostleship. Churches did not work with generic teams nor nebulous committees.

3. "Saul...[stayed in Antioch] a whole year they met with the church... they stayed there a long time... Paul stayed there for a year and a half, teaching..." Paul's approach was not like Peter's. His modus operandi was to be available with a full life's investment, to a few churches at a time. He invested himself in their journey to empower them forward. He went to them. He stayed with them. He taught them. [look at Acts 20:17 - 38]

4. "They returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them..." Acts 14 21 - 22 There is certainly a space in the apo journey for quick return visits to churches. The notion that the only way is long protracted visits to churches is not an accurate picture of the New Testament experience. Short visits of love, prayers, encouragements and fresh apo instruction are just as valid.

5. "When we pray for you..." Col 1:3. Of all the texts I can choose to indicate the prayer side of the apo partnership, I have intentionally taken this Colossians one. This church was not planted by Paul, nor did he ever visit it, to the best of our knowledge. It seems like one of his disciples [Epaphras] went home, planted a church and called out to Paul. Paul was by now in prison. He could not get to this community, yet he was invited in to be an apo voice into the church as she wrestles with the matter of false teaching. So his apostolicity is reflected in his prayer and in his writings. This in no way indicates less of an apo role. Between emails, skyping, texting, blogs, podcasts, telephones and cell phones, the partnerships can be real, with the benefit of all the modern technologies.

I know for some of our readers this may seem very intriguing. If your background has been denominational or independence, this may seem very different for you. We have sought to find our way around these truths for almost 30 years now. We have done it well. We have done it poorly. Yet, in all of this, I am persuaded that God way is still the best.

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