A couple of years ago, Steve Johnson asked to meet with our church staff to help hammer out a response to several pastors in our group who were experiencing what can only be described as “Apostolic envy”. Since other organizations have begun handing out the title of “apostle” to their pastors, the pastors in our fellowship wondered why our group did not use the title as well.
So, after calling several friends in the ministry and taking good notes, we met at the Casa del Taco for breakfast to brainstorm the use of the title “apostle”. Since this topic has come up in emails to me several times over the last few weeks, I thought my notes from our breakfast meeting would be helpful.
This account of our breakfast lunch is lengthy, but is by no means comprehensive…
In attendance were Dad, Beto Garay, Jerry Salmeron, Steve, and Bro. Irving Gillette (I called Cam and he informed me that his dad was in town and “whatever he believes, I believe.”) It was great to have Bro. Gillette’s experience and wisdom from Canada to Mexico over many years.
The meeting was interesting and informative. Everyone shared their thoughts, and we kicked around many different concepts and matrixes and points of view.
ORLANDO SUMMIT ON FIVE-FOLD MINISTRIES
Jerry had brought the conclusions of an Orlando Summit on the Five-fold ministries called “A Call for Accountability” that involved many nationally acclaimed charismatic and pentecostal preachers (Hayford, Haggard, C. Peter Wagner, Joyce Meyer, John Bevere, Rick Joyner, Steve Hill, etc.), which we read.
Each person shared their thoughts about the statement, then we went to the Bible and gave our opinions as to the Biblical view of the Apostle.
FOUNDING PIONEER/CHURCH PLANTER/FATHER FIGURE
All of us seemed to agree that the Apostle is a founding pioneer who plants churches, then functions as a “father figure” to the new congregations he himself has planted. He is a servant leader, not one who is drunk on authority.
Some of our conclusions could not help but be reactionary, because of the new emphasis, especially in charismatic circles, on Apostolic leadership.
Steve said that he had finished reading a popular book — “Moving in the Apostolic” by John Eckhardt, and he had been bothered by not seeing servanthood mentioned at all, while authority was mentioned repeatedly. Steve said that in the life of Jesus, He repeatedly told the disciples that in the world, “leaders Lord it over one another, but among you, this not ought to be — whoever wants to lead, must be the servant of all.” and that whenever the disciples grasped for authority and position, Jesus rebuked them. It bothered Steve that some embracing the current Apostlic trend seem to over-emphasize Apostolic authority to the detriment of servanthood and suffering. Steve mentioned also that it bothered him that money also seemed to be a factor that kept coming up, but in this context, it is being called, “Kingdom Investments”. — “Follow the money, and it usually ends up in somebody’s pocket, and that somebody is usually a “Governing Apostle”.”
Brother Gillette mentioned that the church is distracted so easily onto side issues that take our focus off of winning the lost and planting churches, and that if someone says he is an Apostle who is busy doing those things, that’s fine, but keep the focus on what’s important. “I personally am uncomfortable with the title; I’ve always been a helper.” — Dad responded that he considered Bro. Gillette to have an apostolic ministry — Bro. Gillette smiled uncomfortably and repeated the previous statement.
I brought up the fact that the Ephesians 4 ascension gift ministries are horizontal, not hierarchical; in other words, just as a plumber, electrician and drywall man all function differently, no one is greater than the other. Someone mentioned that Paul stated in Corinthians that “God gave first Apostles…”, and my response to that was that “first” refers to the Apostle’s function. Since he is a pioneer/church planter, he goes “first”, just like a blocking back in football clears the way for the running back. Neither one is a bigger “hot shot”; each just fulfill different functions. In many groups today, the title of “Apostle” just seems to be “more exotic” and more “exciting” than the other, more standard titles.
TITLE, TITLE, WHO’S GOT A TITLE?
In my phone conversation with Trevor, he mentioned that it irritates him when ministers come in and insist on being referred to by their titles (Dr., Bishop, Pastor, Apostle). “What about being a servant? What about being a regular guy?” This is a point that has annoyed me for years. I have one friend whose wife even calls him “Pastor”. Can you imagine Esther calling me “Pastor Jim”? In Spanish, we avoid all this by calling each other, “Hermano”.
Bro. Gillette added that the danger becomes the danger the church faced in the first century, that we appoint somebody as the big cheese and authority starts flowing down and BAM, we’ve got ourselves a new Roman Catholic hierarchy.
Beto voiced the opinion that to many, the title “Apostle” just sounds flashier than “Pastor” or “Teacher”, and it seems to be the latest pentecostal “fad”…”everybody’s got to have an Apostle in their movement to keep up with the next group”.
Jerry then reminded everyone that the Apostle is one of the Ephesians 4 grouping, so it has to be more than a “fad”…maybe the way it’s being lifted up and exalted today is a “fad” but not the office or function itself.
I then read off a bunch of information I got off the Global World Breakthrough Network website, a group that several of my friends in California have joined, promising an “Apostolic Reformation”. This group is led by Noel Woodruffe and is set up in an “Apostolic Kingdom” matrix. Some of the vocabulary used on the website is unique and can be a little complicated and wordy, and uses a lot of corporate terminology i.e. “a global synergy of Kingdom initiatives”, but it basically boils down to a “a total restructuring of the global church making obsolete the present shapes and emphases” — “a radical movement away from dead religious tradition and local church limitation to a Kingdom reality that invades every aspect of life”, “a bringing back to effective recognition and operation of prophets and apostles…”
WHAT ABOUT SIMPLICITY?
My tendency is to hunger for simplicity when confronted with something so radically layered. Also, when a group implies that the current church as a whole is a failure that needs to be radically reformed and “reshuffled”, it always makes me smile and think of the hundreds of souls being saved here in McAllen, the revival happening all over Mexico in these “un-restructured” churches, my own experience when I received Christ as Savior in (gasp) an Alliance Church, seeing so many effective and Godly leaders of different denominations advance the Kingdom…it just seems so pretentious to proclaim that a particular group is here to “restructure and radically renovate” our mentality.
Anyway, no one was that impressed or horrified by what was read. The guys I know in this group are Godly men who are not mental midgets and are definitely nobody’s puppet either. In fairness, I only talked briefly to Chris Copp and a quick midnight chat with Keith, so I need to have a more in-depth conversation.
APOSTOLIC GIFTS ARE FUNCTIONING/TITLE IS A CURRENT FAD
In conclusion and after much discussion, most of us agreed that Apostolic gifts are in operation today in the church, but are part of the rest of the ministries and gifts, not greater or lesser in importance. We also agreed that this seems to be a hot topic right now, just as “spiritual warfare” was in the 90’s, “dancing and banners” were in the 80’s, “falling and laughing” were for several years, and “The Prayer of Jabez” was for about 5 years. Our job as ministers is not to get “blown about by every wind of doctrine” but to stay balanced whichever direction the wind is currently blowing. Take the good….leave the bad…
Most men who function as Apostles don’t even use the title or care two hoots about the title anyway…In the end, the title “apostle” means “sent out”.
Bro. Gillette told Steve that a solid definition of exactly what an “Apostle” is would answer a lot of questions, and, depending how each group answers that question, the function and office will flow out naturally. Good point.
Anyway, it was a fun, productive discussion.
Bishop Emeritus, High Chancellor of Power for the Hour