Since the late 1940s, there has been a resurgence of attempts to activate the five-fold ministry gifts as found in Ephesians 4:11. Starting with the “Latter Rain movement” in Canada, various groups have arisen proclaiming the restoration of the apostolic and Prophetic gifts to go along with the evangelist, pastor, and teacher gifts.
The result has been the emergence of great movements of independent networks led by apostolic visionaries—which has been exploding in Asia, Latin America, and Africa (this apostolic movement represents the fastest growing segment of global Christianity). Furthermore, now even Evangelical leaders and movements are embracing five-fold ministry language to describe church leadership.
The primary reason for this is because the church is being taught by the Holy Spirit that the church has to go from a “pastoral” model of church to an “apostolic” model in leadership if we are going to replicate the amazing Jesus Movement of the first few centuries of church History! (Truly, the Protestant Reformation which began in the 16th century is still taking place as the Reformed church is continually reforming itself.) Evangelical leaders like Dr. Peter Wagner—who crossed over to embrace the charismatic gifts in the 3rd Wave of the 1980s—became the catalyst for the wider Body of Christ embracing this restoration.
Although some of the earmarks of what Peter Wagner called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) have made many of us in the present Restoration movement uncomfortable (such as top down leadership, hyper dominion rhetoric, the use of apostle as a title rather than a description, and the practice of laying hands on leaders proclaiming them to be apostles over regions and nations), it is still advancing because Jesus is the One building His church thorough the magisterium of the Holy Spirit who is pulling the whole body into the vortex of the New Testament pattern of Church.
Jesus gave the name apostle to the original 12 disciples He entrusted the church to.
Although He called them apostles, it was never a title but a ministry and governmental function. (They referred to Peter, James, John, and Paul by their first names—not with the word “Apostle” in front of Peter in the New Testament accounts.)
Although the New Testament refers to dozens of other leaders as apostles in addition to the original twelve—when these passed away (the original 12 apostles) out of deference to them—the successors of the 12 apostles were referred to as bishops. Consequently, the Catholic Church perpetuated the apostolic function by consecrating bishops over cities and regions who would walk in “Apostolic succession” (and they granted them genealogical documents tracing their succession back to at least one of the original 12 apostles to legitimize them).
When the Catholic Church became institutional (it went from a “way” to an “institution” in the early fourth century) after the alleged conversion to Christianity by emperor Constantine, the apostolic went from a function to an office (an office is conferred upon a person by an institution). The office and function of the bishopric of the western church and the Patriarchs of the Eastern church became the glue that held the church together through the Middle Ages so that the power and voice of Christendom over the nations in Eastern and Western Europe held sway even after the official split between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy in the eleventh century.
Protestant Church History
Fast forward about five hundred years and we see the rejection of the bishopric in the Protestant Reformation because of the perceived corruption of the so-called princes of the church (bishops, Cardinals, and popes). Hence, Martin Luther and John Calvin rejected the apostolic succession of the bishopric, resulting in a two-fold ministry gift function of the pastor and teacher that became the leadership paradigm of the church.
Not only that, the apostolic function was not needed in their minds perhaps also because everybody was baptized as babies and were already considered part of the church; thus, there was no compelling reason for a missionary apostolic zeal to reach new territories and nations.
Consequently, the glue that held the church together (the apostolic governmental function of bishops and patriarchs) was now discarded in Protestantism. Thus, resulting in mass fragmentation which eventually resulted in millions of independent churches and over thirty thousand denominations.
With this loss of unity, Christianity eventually lost its influence in the public square and has been replaced by various forms of secular humanism that holds sway in the political, economical and educational spheres of life in contemporary culture.
What God is Doing Today
I believe that the present embrace of the five-fold ministry of the evangelical pastors in the USA is going to bring a convergence between the charismatic, independent apostolic networks, evangelical networks, and ultimately even evangelical bible confessing denominations.
The implications of this will be extraordinary!
1. The church will go from being pastorally led to apostolically led and prophetically inspired.
2. This emerging apostolic paradigm will shift the missionary focus from planting local churches to planting movements of churches and Christ followers that will permeate every facet of society.
3. The apostolic paradigm will shift the focus from gathering crowds on Sunday to developing disciples who will manifest the reign of Christ from Monday to Saturday!
4. The present apostolic paradigm will restore the church back to “the way of Christ and His Apostles”.
5. The present apostolic paradigm will bring a course correction to the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and view the apostolic as a ministry function—not an office—as an adjective—not a title.
6. The present apostolic paradigm will correct the autocratic top down hierarchical government of many in the NAR and mimic the servant leadership style of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many! (Mark 10:42-45).
7. The present apostolic paradigm will not spout triumphalist dominion rhetoric like “the church is called to take cities” when rather, the church is called to love and serve our cities (those who serve the best are the greatest problem solvers who eventually lead anyway)
Furthermore, when the “Cultural Mandate” of Genesis 1:28 was given to the first Adam the earth was not populated with humans; hence, Adam was called to have “dominion” over the created order—it was never about having dominion over other humans but merely to steward the land as well as the plant and animal kingdom.
In the New Testament, Jesus modeled the New Testament way of having influence with people when He wrapped a towel around His waist and washed the feet of His apostles (see John 13). This is how the church is called to lead as well.
The Ultimate Goal
God said that the five-fold ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11 will continue until we all come to the unity of the faith (see Ephesians 4:11-16 for the whole context). Jesus said the world will not believe He was sent by the Father until the church is united as one in Him (see John 17:20-24).
It seems to me that the greatest hope we have of seeing the church become one is the broader Body of Christ embracing the apostolic function—not merely as a title, hierarchy, or administrative function. But as the ministry gift as described in the Gospels, Acts, and epistles of the New Testament.
There are some who say this is heretical because I am speaking about the restoration of a personality or ministry rather than continuing the historic witness of the church—others would say it is heretical because the Scriptures alone continue the apostolic ministry; to that I would say a few things:
Firstly, the apostolic function (as all those mentioned in Ephesians 4:11) is a ministry expression and/or gift from Christ Himself; hence, it is a function of His Body which is His church—not a separate entity or personality outside the church, although it is encased in an individual leader. (The New Testament was not a nameless and faceless movement—God used individual apostolic leaders in an extraordinary way to plant churches as we see the way He used Paul in the nineteenth chapter of Acts.)
The individual apostolic leader has no authority outside of the cooperation and affirmation of the New Testament church as we see in Galatians 2 :1-10. Hence, his role as a “sent one” is a missional extension and leader of the church’s call to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19).
Secondly, the restoration of the Apostolic function is based on the New Testament pattern of church ministry—hence, it is a true continuation of the Scriptures that is bringing a correction to certain historic streams of the church that have neglected and or denied this biblical norm for the church. So, I would say that we who embrace the restoration of this ministry function more biblically than those who reject or neglect it.
Let’s pray that the full restoration of the church takes place, so we can reach the nations with the gospel and hasten the bodily return of Jesus who will come to unite all things in heaven and on earth in Him (Ephesians 1:9-11).
May the Lord Jesus, who alone can build His church, continue to restore His bride back to the biblical pattern as demonstrated by His original apostles in the New Testament; Amen.
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