An Apostolic Church


I was hoping to bring a slightly different slant to things. While a number
of people have been talking about pastor-dependency and the desire by
“laity” to be empowered, the main focus has remained on the role of
leadership. It actually seems as if leadership is the “flavour of the
day”. However, I believe the style of leadership, while in many ways
foundational, is actually subsequent to the overall structure of the
church. In other words, the leadership oughtn’t captivate all our
attentions. When talking about the rise — or better still, the return —
of the apostolic, we should focus on what the apostolic ministry is meant
to focus on… the *plebs* themselves.

The word pleb is short for plebeian. The pleb was the basic Roman citizen,
right at the bottom rung of things, often considered just above slave. I
use this term because it is the one Shakespeare used to denote an
unnecessary subsequent character in his plays, in the same way that basic
Christians of the laity variety often seem to be tossed aside. Everybody
is focusing on the leaders, and training up leaders, and the leaders of
tomorrow. So what happens if you aren’t called to be a “leader”… and is
anybody in the Christian church really called to “leadership” anyway? What
does it mean to lead? (That’s a whole ‘nother extended debate, ain’t
it?)

When we talk about the apostolic, it is so often reduced to a “new”
leadership style. For all intents and purposes, in most cases it seems to
look much the same as the old leadership style, with a new title or two
thrown in. In the Catholic church, you have a Pope, a Cardinal, a Bishop,
a Priest, and Brothers and Sisters — Monks and Nuns. In a Pentecostal
church you have a Board, a Chairman, Senior Pastors, Junior Pastors, and
other such titles. In the Presbyterian church you have Moderators etc. And
the list goes on. There is even an Apostolic Church, which has Apostles
etc as leadership. But it is all top down, with the leaders leading.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much difference with the modern
day “Apostles” either. I really am for an apostolically equipped empowered
church, but I am ashamed of what many apostles believe this church should
be. While people are striving in the best of intentions to do well, what
many of the apostolic teams have ended up looking like is oligarchic
cronyistic tyrants. Relationship has become a euphemism for “old boy’s
school”, and where people would once obtain credentials before going into
ministry, now they need to make the right friends too. (Not that making
the right friends ever hurt before.) And it this problem many people seem
to be talking about on this list.

I was talking to a man called Paul Collins recently, and I have been
reading a few books, including The Book, and it seems to me that the main
differentiation between a truly apostolic church and all the other ones is
not the leadership, but the led. As Paul Collins said, the problem the
church faces today is the same problem it has always had, and that is the
problem of carrying the unregenerated old self through the cross into the
new creation we have become. In other words, when we are converted, we
take with us that old attitude of self, the one that needs an intermediary
before God, the same one that needs promotion and hierarchy and is
comfortable with lauding it over others, right through the conversion
experience with us. And what we then have is an unregenerated church.

The unregenerated church can only produce one thing… unregenerated
leadership structures.

As Yvette wrote,

The way we live now as church, as community, is depending on this how God
was represented on earth in different eras. For example, in the Old
Testament the Holy Spirit was only on the leaders, the prophets, some
kings, etc. – on His servants, but not on all God’s people. They were
really dependent on the ministers! Without Abraham they didn’t have vision
for their life, without Moses they were slaves and didn’t have the law,
without these magnificent people of God they were really lazy spiritually
and this was the God’s way to lead them – only through His ministers.

Then came Jesus – God Son in flesh. Everyone could hear His voice and
follow Him. While in the Old Testament God was on the earth only through
His Spirit in big men, now He was in flesh among people!

The crucial part came when He sent the Holy Spirit after His ascension.
Crucial for the God’s presence on the Earth. Now the Holy Ghost came and
He was on everyone. Something amazing for all the ages! God Himself in us!
And with us – all the time!

This is so important thing to understand – now God can lead everyone by
Himself. Of course, if we have an ear to hear His voice.

Maybe this could be put in more organisational terms. Originally, before
the fall, God walked with Adam and had a direct relationship with him and
Eve. Even after the fall, his relationship with people was pretty much one
on one. Cain and Abel brought individual sacrifices to God, and God
responded directly to them. God didn’t go to Adam and say, “Hey, about
your son Cain, you better go chat with him about the whole wheat and rye
thing. It ain’t on.”

However, as time progressed, people didn’t really enjoy the direct one to
one relationship with God. When God tried to talk to people at the
mountain, His voice was terrible and they were scared, and so they begged
that somebody act as a go between for them.

In otherwords, they kind of said, “Hey, God, I kind of like what you can
do FOR me, and I kind of hate what you could do TO me. And what’s more, I
kind of feel rather insignificant when you are around, and I don’t like
that. So I really don’t like hanging around you all that much. Why don’t
you just pick somebody who likes chatting with you, like Moses, and give
him all the goss. Then he can kind of tell us all about it later, and we
will do what he says.” Thus, the job position of Professional God
Go-Betweener was born.

Being a merciful God, and not overly fond of people being complete idiots
just because they are loosed in the bowels over something, the Lord
generously gave them a rule of law, and not merely personality. While
Moses was a cool dude, and an honest one at that, the second generation of
tyrants were usually not as “respectable”. Could you imagine the sort of
exploitation the only God Go-Betweener would have? I mean, just imagine.
Or, if you want to be really cynical, go and look at some of the more
“personality” oriented churches. It is really scarey. And so, given the
request of the Israelites for a God Go-Betweener, the Law is a major
blessing.

In other jargon: the Code of the covenant was to fulfil the Law through
Self Effort, and the Structure of the relationship with God and each other
was one of Professional and Laity. And in an obscure way, it was the
“laity” who caused that whole thing to be set up. Like the old saying, if
you don’t get the government you want, you get the government you deserve.
That kind of met here with a rather nice ironic twist.

But, like Yvette said, you then have this amazing thing happen. The son of
God comes on the scene, in the flesh, and tips the whole thing over on its
head. He achieves what was only dreamed of in the prophets, and through
his sacrifice the temple curtain is rent as He is rent on the cross, and
the way is opened up for everybody to again communicate one on one with
God. It is, in a very major way, a new Eden for mankind.

Now, instead of the law, we have relationship with God, and with one
another, by grace through faith. There is no intermediary between each
individual and God, so there is no longer a need for a “priesthood” as it
was, where the truth is instructed and dealt out from one guy in the know
to the rest of us plebs who don’t even get to vote. There is no longer a
“guy at the top” that everybody looks to because everything has now
changed. The whole relationship with each other is now organic. Every part
is equally valuable, and no part is particularly closer to God than any
other.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for a structure which supports this
new organic community. But it is a structure of a different kind. Rather
than being an heirachical structure, where everything is controlled from a
pivotal or central directive, the structure is a framework upon which the
church grows. As Col 2:19 puts it, the structure is a whole body,
“supported and held together by it’s sinews and ligaments, [growing] as
God causes it to grow.”

This is where the five fold ministry comes in. It is that ministry which
basically forms these sinews and ligaments.

I have heard some “Apostle” types claim that the members of the “five fold
ministry” are the head, and everything else is the church. But when you
look at this scripture, it is clear that Christ is the Head. I don’t
recall any use of the term Head in reference to leadership of the Church
which didn’t refer to Christ directly. For example, in Ephesians 5:23, we
are told that husbands are to be the head of their wives as “Christ also
is the head of the church, He himself being saviour of the body.” There is
no suggestion here that any other had access to the title of church
headship. Rather, as in Col 2:19, there is a clear indication that the
head and chief cornerstone/ capstone — the face of the body and the most
evident pinical of the building — is and was always meant to be Christ.
The church and all we members of it make up the rest.

What the five fold ministry does is form a flexible framework which
enables the whole body to grow and move. It is the skeletal structure of
the church, hidden within the body. This gives the image of a leadership
which is not directly evident, or popularly scene. It is the church that
is seen, and the five fold ministry which is within, underneath and
supportive.

That doesn’t mean five fold ministers a completely anonymous, but they are
not necessarily the ones out front having first contact with the world.
What shows us the success of the ministry is the ability of the body to
stand upright and move around. Christ’s body doesn’t look like an amoeba.
There is a very good reason why amoebae are single celled creatures, and
why vertibrates have been so successful as complex multicelled animals. It
is because vertibrates have a backbone which gives the whole body
strength, mobility, flexibility, and unity.

But the unity we share in this body isn’t the unity of a dictatorship. Too
often one hears “leadership” saying things like, “We are the head of this
church, and God speaks to us and gives us the direction, and you, the
body, are called to move as the head directs.” Then the minister usually
quotes something like Col 2:19 poorly and out of context. This is what
congregations are often told unity is all about. It is about conforming
and about following a set, single-eyed directive which has been delivered
to them from a mortal high command. There is no, or only very limited,
diversity of personality, vision or ministry within such “churches”.

But this isn’t the sort of unity you see in complex vertibrates. What we
see is a unity of cells and membrains all held together on the same
framework. Just because my left hand is holding a book while I read, it
doesn’t mean I can’t be simultaneously drinking a cup of coffee. However,
that is only part of what is going on. I might be sitting down, holding a
book, drinking coffee, but I am also breathing, digesting, heart beating,
blood pumping, cell reproducing (which I suppose is the natural body’s
equivalent to disciple making), and also completing a mirad of other
incomprehesibly complex activities simultaneously. And often, there
doesn’t appear to be any relationship, or even directive, causing many of
these things to occur.

Actually, when looking at the metaphor — or, better put, the mystery – of
the church as a body, contemporary findings about the locality of memory
and “decision making” is very interesting. More and more is being
discovered about how individual cells have their own “memories”, and how
many automated responses and activities in the body don’t require the
direct intervention of the head/brain at all. When we look at these sorts
of findings, we can only be amazed by the potential it has to bring
individual freedom and activity to each of the cells in the body of the
church.

Now I could discuss at length all the tremendous benefits of such a
structure, especially compared to a heirachical structure, but I don’t
think I quite have the room here. But two points to note are:

1. A heirachical structure, as any computer programmer knows, has severe
limits on the number of activities that can occur over a given period.
When the CPU of you computer has too many instructions to complete at one
time, it seizes up. That is, your computer crashes. Likewise, in a
heirachical church structure, when the CPU, or Church Pulpit Unity
commity, has too many things it has to do at once — or too many
ministries or ideas to fulfil at once — it siezes up. Also, when
ministers in heirachical churches have too much growth at once, or even
just a large amount of maintenance work to do at any one time, they tend
to burn out, much like an overused circuit does.

An organic system doesn’t have this problem. In an organic system,
instructions are diversly distributed in a number of different ways. Some
instructions are locally generated by individual cells; others are
instantaneously distributed through homonal secretions; yet others are
passed from the brain through the nerves to larger and smaller muscle
groups etc; while others are processed only along the pathway of the
nerve. An interesting example of nerves processing information is with the
eye, which preprocesses images before they reach the brain. When there is
a problem with this preprocessing capability, visual perceptual problems
can occur.

2. Heirarchical structures are less fluid than organic ones. By this, I
mean they are more rigid and they are more difficult to change when new
circumstances require it. But more important than this, when a
heirarchical structure has to change, anything but the most cosmetic
change is radically felt througout the whole structure. Also, if a large
systemic change must be undergone, the alteration often shatters the whole
structure. If you don’t believe this, then look at what has happened to
the ex-satelite states of the old USSR. When there was a major change to
how the heirarchy worked, many many nations crumbled completely
systemically, right down to water supply and basic human needs.

On the otherside of things, an organism may adapt to changed conditions on
a local level, and move toward change and growth without the sort of
impact heirarchical structures suffer. For example, unless a body suffers
severe and complete systemic attack, or one of the major organs, like the
brain, is severely injured, the body can usually recover. Even when under
attack, the body often recovers quite well, and can even maintain other
activities. Your hands don’t just shrivel up and die because you have the
flu, or even cancer of the brain. Most of your body just keeps on doing
what it has always done.

But even more importantly, organic structures can change local activity to
suit local demands. So, say you needed to build up a muscle in your right
arm in order to lift a heavy object, you could grow that muscle mass there
without much effecting what is going on in your left foot. You could even
have an accident and have to have your left foot amputated, and still end
up with a very strong arm indeed. This can happen because you are
organic.

Yes, you can amputate things in a heirarchical structure, but not in the
same way an organic structure can. Organic structures have proven to be
far more resiliant and less easily destroyed.

So, we are now looking at a different type of organisational structure all
together. Today, if you want to know about a church, you go the head man.
If you want to crush a church, you just go and pick out the head man and
crush him. You crush him well enough, you can do great damage. That is
what happens with heirarchies.

Now, in an apostolically structured church, where the five fold ministry
does the supporting and holding together role, the leadership is much less
obvious. Yes they work in teams and in relationship, just how cells work,
but they are also not usually positioned on the skin. What the world sees,
and what does most of the action, are non-skeletal cells. Yes, we can all
see that there is a skeleton, muscles and lingaments, but not necessarily
obviously, not necessarily directly — unless the body is very ill, and
not necessarily as front men. In otherwords, those providing the structure
are less obvious, because they have empowered those on the outside, who
are now more obvious. The body moves well and the skin has a sheen because
the sinews and ligaments are all doing their work well.

And this is where the plebs come in. We now see that the plebs are the
most obvious members of the church. They are out there ministering and
doing stuff, while five folders are inside the body supporting and
equipping. And just as a skin cell doesn’t usually much worry about what
bones, ligaments and sinews are up to, nor does it feel it has to
continually run back for support or direct healing from them, nor need the
member of the apostolic church. Normal Jo Blow church members now just do
most stuff in that distributed sort of way, sometimes with direction and
sometimes not. And when the skeleton causes the body to move, they
continue to just move and do stuff much in the same way they always have
done. But now, being the contact point for the church, they are all
ministers, and all directly in contact with the head.

Anyway, I am sorry to take so long in making this point. I think I
digressed a little, but I hope the ride was fun. But, the key is, when we
think of apostolic ministry, or five fold ministry, we are not thinking
about a leadership style, we are thinking about a radical change to how
church works. We are pulling the man off the pulpit, and allowing to body
to do the ministering organically. There is no set iconic man of God
anymore, but we are all part of the “man of God” doing the “ministry of
God” as we are meant to, all of us in relationship with each other.

At the moment, the whole five fold ministry thing seems to usually reflect
the old structure of things. It is very much a case of a skunk by any
other name would smell as bad. What needs to happen is the whole attitude
of what Christian identity is has to turn around. As Paul Collins said in
a recent interview “People want an intermediary. They want somebody in
between them and God, because it make their old man feel more
comfortable.” What real five fold ministers should be doing in these days
making people completely aware of the full gospel, and then tell them “Hey
you guys, you are free and forgiven and living by grace. Don’t come to me,
go right to Him.” When that happens, when each member of the church
realises they are an active, effective and necessary part of the ministry
through relationship with God and their brethren, the miraculous things
that Jesus did will ripple right through the church. Miracles and Christ’s
face will shine across the earth because the old man will have been left
behind, and we will behold that all things have been made new.

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