APOSTOLIC FUNCTION & IT'S RESULTING FORM

(Part 4)

by Bill Click

Based on the pattern we see with the Antioch leaders in Acts 13, those who are seeking, receiving and yielding to the agenda of the Lord through the Spirit by "ministering to the Lord" truly seize the opportunity of Apostolic advance. This will also produce an unusual but much needed effect among those present: God's move itself being transformed into the "food" needed for those gathered to continue with Him (Jn.4:32-34).

For the Spirit to function among established leadership in a horizontal fashion, a true "seek" will take quite a different form than that which has come to be accepted as protocol for a traditional minister's meeting or gathering. When we truly seek God, we yearn for His presence more than that of anyone else. When we truly search God, upon finding we defer to Him more completely than to anyone else. So a horizontal gathering of established leaders will definitely have its challenges. The freedom of such collective individualism can be a problem for those who just have to have everything neat, tidy and (previously, by them) arranged. It can also be an irresistible temptation for those who are too immature to pass up the chance to take charge. It will require a strong degree of self-awareness and an even greater degree of flexibility for such a time to authentically occur.

But we need to look beyond intentionality. What is the purpose for the gathering? There is nothing which implies that the Antioch leaders were meeting for anything other than just to "minister to the Lord." There is nothing in the passage which suggests they were seeking direction for any activity whatsoever. Instead, it seems this was a regular part of their lifestyle as His anointed. In humble recognition of God and each other they gathered in order to be with the Lord together. In doing so they were living out the fulfillment of Psalm 133:

"Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of His garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion: from there the Lord commanded the blessing life forevermore."

From Acts 13 as well as Psalm 133 we see that there were "special effects" resulting from being together. They were more than meeting under the auspices of the Lord, they were meeting for the Lord (& not themselves). We don't know how long they met, but they obviously were together long enough to skip some meals. As they "ministered to the Lord and fasted" it was "good" and "pleasant" not only to God, but to them. By functioning in their unique priestly grace before Him, there was a tangible manifestation of the Spirit which covered them. A special release of God's presence was released as He was attended to by them (Isa.40:31). This resulted in the first New Testament example of what we now understand to be mobilized Apostolic advance of the Church. It was a reproduction that God has designed and willed to continue even to this day. But then it came out of experiencing the Lord with no expressed intention other than to honor Him for who He was by allowing Him to be with them in whatever way He desired.

Releasing their reputations, seeking the Throne instead of results, forgetting all performance and pride– their purpose was Him and Him alone. For those whose Apostolic callings are yet to be released, less than fully deployed or are under-effective: these are the types of relational priorities that will result in the birth of true Apostolic mission.

MINISTRY TO THE LORD, THE LOST & THE LAITY

The result of such a "seek" produces that which is not only authentically Apostolic in authority and advance, but truly Apostolic in priority and purity as well. Although there is but one litmus for authentically seeking God by horizontal leadership (seen above), there are two clearly seen outcomes of the process. Therefore, "ministering to the Lord" first results in ministry to the lost; then second is the resulting ministry to the laity.

As they "ministered to the Lord and fasted" they received the fruit of their faithfulness: the commissioning to Apostolic advance. But as they advanced, they did not set their sights on Christian's who had been reached by other Apostles and Evangelists. They did not purpose to "update" those already saved with a "new move" or their doctrine of "how to become launched Apostolically." They instead set their sights on those who did not yet know the Lord. Even though they began with Jewish synagogues, their understanding was that Jewish-ness by bloodline or religious observance was insufficient. Each must know Jesus Christ personally by receiving Him as Lord through repentance which by grace through faith released forgiveness for sin.

Their ministry to the Lord (at Antioch) resulted in ministry to the lost (of other nations). Their intimacy with God (in private) resulted in being sent to grant the opportunity for intimacy to others (with divine authority publicly manifested). Paul always kept "preaching the Gospel where it is not known" before Him (Ro.15:20). This perspective also stood in agreement with the order of the Lord for His Apostles: "first that they might with Him, second that He might send them out to preach . . ." (Mk.3:14).

But while ministry to the Lord also produced ministry to the lost, that was seen as only the beginning. Ministry to the Lord produced not only ministry to the lost, but as the lost were found, ministry to the laity as well. We tend to fall into the rut of recruiting those with potential from other ministries of which they are rejected or underutilized (whether intentionally or by default due to our lack of equipping calling that "church growth"). We also tend to fall into the ditch of recruiting staff leaders from other ministries in which they have been successful or underutilized.

The Antioch Apostles not only won souls and started new works, they raised up those who could continue them as well. They established equipping Elders who not only served by functioning in their respective gift of Christ, but won souls and discipled others as well (Acts 14:22-23). But these processes did not occur overnight (1Thess.5:12; 1Tim.3:6). In light of the above, Antioch quickly becomes the focal point throughout the rest of the book of Acts. Paul returns there; Prophets migrate there as well.

OTHER MODELS OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH

The Jerusalem church is not to be ignored. The Lord not only wants "Antioch's," He wants there to be "Jerusalem" churches and ministries as well. It is from Jerusalem the council on Gentile concerns is held, and it is also from Judea that the results of that Decree regarding the Gentiles are sent. Although Jerusalem can be seen as the origination point of the church, its role becomes one more of providing a supply line for evangelistic follow-up and a place for migration at important instances. Although not depicted as functioning in quite the same manner as Antioch, Jerusalem remains important as long as its status is preserved (until continual persecution eventually results in a complete dispersion by 70AD). But there is at least one more example.

We also see throughout Acts references to the church at Ephesus. Although much has been said about Ephesus being a model for the Apostolic/Prophetic "city church," we cannot really state with absolute certainty anything about Ephesus apart from what we find in Acts 18-20, Paul's writings, and Revelation 2:1-7. But while Paul's writing to the Romans could be said to be the New Testament equivalency of a "systematic theology," his letter to the Ephesians reflect an expansive "revelation of the mystery of Christ"– foundations of the omniscience and architecture of God which Romans only briefly touches on (Ro.8:18f).

To those at Ephesus, Paul lays out the revelation essential for our understandings of the foundational ministries, the "mystery of Christ" and the ministry gifts* (Eph.2:20; 3:4; 4:11). The one purpose? For equipping the church to release the gifts of the Spirit, carry on the work of the ministry and advance the Kingdom of God with Christ's nature and authority. The general nature of the epistle is somewhat noticeable by the introduction and lack of personal greetings which usually accompanied Paul's letters. But it is specific about the revelation of God's house, its foundations and the way Christ is to build it through His gifts. The church is to be equipped, deployed and reproducing. The revelation of what God has purposed for His people as well as who has been given the Christ-ordained realms of responsibility for it " as well as the warfare which surrounds it" are the most comprehensive found anywhere in the New Testament (Eph.1:3-23; 2:19-22; 3:3-7; 4:11-16, 6:10-18, etc.).

The Church that Christ is building will feature many different outposts of the Kingdom. Even those which are of similar function will take on a different form as they continue with the Lord. Not only are each to be Apostolic and Prophetic in revelation, doctrine and self-understanding, but they each will vary in aspects of their mission and the daily practice of it.

There will be war machines of Apostolic sending which spread the Gospel everywhere. There will also be revival centers that people flock to and then return home from with the "new" and "now" of God to spread among their own. Still others will be equipping stations that deepen believers, heal them up and prepare them for serving in that or other settings. Recognizing the uniqueness of each minister, church and ministry, all Apostolic and Prophetic churches should have each of these dimensions functioning to some degree (& be in relationship with others in regard to supplementing for their weaknesses).

But whether they be war machines, revival centers or equipping stations, if authentic each will feature the dynamic of lifestyle which not only made their birthing possible, but also their daily lives: having "ministered to the Lord and fasted," "waiting in the city until clothed with power from on High," then being "set apart for the work" that each has "been called to do" (Acts 13:2; Lk.24:49).

* I personally find all the terms commonly used to categorize "apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers" helpful in different ways. These include "Ascension Gifts," the "Gifts of Christ," "the Fivefold Ministry," the "Governmental Offices," etc.