I have just been meditating on this scripture and something dawned on me that I guess we have somehow known in the back of our minds, but a deeper layer has been revealed. Moving forward into what God is calling us to do apostolically in reaching our cities, countries and nations I believe it is imperative that we understand what this following scripture means:
Eph 2: 19 – 20 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
Over the past 20 years, and in our “heavy” Ecclesiology, have place the main emphasis on the “apostles and prophets?’ Rather, I believe that the emphasis should be on the ‘Foundation’ and the ‘Cornerstone,’ as well as being‘fellow citizens.’ The foundation is the gospel, the revelation of the Messiah coming, his death and most importantly his resurrection. The revealing of the kingdom through Christ and the bringing of all people groups (ethnos) into that kingdom, therefore making them fellow citizens and partakers in the promises. How that kingdom was outworked and revealed through the church, by the Holy Spirit. The foundation was never “wineskin” as we have known it, since most of our understanding of wineskin is actually structure/model. Was this what Jesus even meant when he used the word wineskin? Was he not talking about covenants?
I believe that because we have focused more around structure we have focused the attention of apostles and prophets towards “helping”churches see the correct “apostolic, prophetic” model (whatever that is) and how this is the important partnership towards getting your church “running well.”Has the focus shifted from the gospel? Is Jesus a name used in a sermon to give it credibility? or has he actually been the key focus? Has his life been something that we are helping people to model? Has the reality of seeing his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven been something we have encouraged people to believe for, and even more so, to release? I think if we look back over the past few years, we might finds ourselves a little shocked. I heard Chris Wienand once say “if you asked me to write a book on Ecclesiology I would write 7 volumes; But of you asked me to write one on the gospel I would only be able to fill half a page.” I was as shocked to hear him say it as he was to realize it.
We need to demystify apostles and prophets, apo teams and team leaders, without devaluing their important role in the church, (a role that is no more important than the other gifts but clearly has a certain and important function) and replace it with what they actually release, which is revelation of the mysteries of the kingdom. We need to take the focus off an external “team” and place it on the local church. When we do this we see the value the ascension gifts have in building the local rather than trying to get the local to serve an external “team”.
I know that apostle is referred to more than any other gift; but I believe it is because of the revelation of the gospel and the kingdom they carry, and their ability to release that revelation into a congregation in order to establish that local church in kingdom reality, therefore enabling and empowering them to bring real transformation to their cities, towns, villages or neighbourhoods. This again reinforces my case. It is the gospel foundation, and the revelation of the mysteries that are revealed within it that is the important message they carry. Their message is not about structure, although they can advise and assist on that. It is not on model, although they naturally walk it out. But their message is to make plain the truths of this mystery. Paul does say he is a master builder, but a builder of what? Of the church? Jesus said he will build his church! We are to build up people, alongside Jesus, so that they reach full maturity in Christ and come to the full stature of Christ. It is the gospel that transforms. It is the revealed truths of the mysteries of the kingdom that matures believers to grasp hold of the life of Jesus and walk as he did, by the Spirit in us. It is fathers that raise sons to be stable and steadfast in their beliefs.
If an apostle or prophet is not coming into the church to lay in this gospel or releasing the revelation of the mysteries of the kingdom, then are they building the church to maturity? Are they raising believers to the full stature of Christ? They might be helping with our administration and how we have our church meetings, looking at our structure and programs, but this is more of a consultant role rather than a revelatory role. We need apostles and prophets to reveal revelation of the kingdom, not consult us on how our lighting should be, whether people should go to the toilet or not during a preach, a deacon we should bring on, how long our worship should go on for etc. It sounds even foolish to mention these things, but I have seen this done first hand. I know Paul addresses some administrative issues in some of the churches, but these were churches that he had planted and fathered, and it was these issues that were showing lack of revelation of the gospel and the kingdom. In such letters he mainly addresses who they are (identity), what Christ has done (the gospel), their kingdom position, the task at hand (all these things would help the people see beyond their fleshly desires and draw them into the new nature they should be living in), besides, these day to day, family, marriage, social, cultural, parenting, moral etc. issues in the local church should be the role of elders/shepherds to deal with and not so much the apostles and prophets (although we can draw on them for advice). It is humorous to know some of the stuff that “so called” apostles and prophets are doing, but the health and maturity of churches are at stake if the genuine gifts don’t function as Christ intended them to.
Now I know that the first reaction of some will be to disagree. I am happy for that to happen and for all of us to discuss (if you so wish), but let’s ask ourselves why we disagree; is it because this is the way we have always done it in our model?
Also just let me clarify what I am not saying: I am not saying that we don’t need apostles and prophets (or any of the ascension gifts), I am a firm believer that we do need them and that they are imperative for the building up of the church. I am not saying that they can’t assist with some of the local church structure or administration (but this is not the primary revelation of what they bring).
Why do we question these things? Questioning is one of the best ways to learn, it’s a great way to assess ourselves. The Jewish rabbis taught by asking questions, Jesus taught by asking questions. If we don’t like people asking questions then maybe we have become possessive over our “thing”.And most importantly we question in order to learn and to go beyond where we currently are. We don’t disregard the past but rather build on it, leaving behind the old scaffolding that is no longer needed.
We need the gospel to take the stage again, we need Jesus to be at the centre, we need the mysteries of the kingdom to be revealed and made plain so that the church can once again rise up in power and boldness and truly fulfil the commission given to her.