Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pesky Apostles, Part 3, (in which Bill reveals a startling fact about himself)

"I believe there are thousands of emerging apostles that have gifts within them and they are not being released because we don’t have fathers that understand the apostolic calling and the [need to] release them like we should.

I believe we do have many young ministers with apostolic callings who struggle to develop on their own because there is no one in their region that they are connected to that has a heart to train and disciple them into their gifting.”

- "Apostle" John Eckhardt, Founder of Crusader Ministries, Chicago, Illinois

I love that quote. I believe it to be true. I believe that there is a tsunami of apostolic ministry that is waiting to be unleashed but is being held back and untapped. So, it's time for me to confess that part of my interest in contemporary apostolic mininstry is the result of my own growing personal desire to be apostolic. Now, before you start accusing me of latent megalomania, read on...

At the root of it all, I want to start a movement -- but not just any movement. I want to start a movement that inspires and assists other people to start movements. I want to see students start movements on their campuses, blue collar workers start movements in warehouses, factories and distribution centers, educators start movements in the school system, housewives start movements in their neighborhoods. I even want to see techies start online social networking movements in cyberspace.

That's what happens when you start to see the ministry of the Kingdom of God as a boundless network that stretches through everyday people into everyday places instead of a building-centered or superstar-revival centered physical destination.

I believe that the rising tide of network awareness in society in general and the church in particular may call out the ministry of the apostle in a way that our former models of church life and ministry simply could not. Today's "apostles", like those of the New Testament, will not make it about their superstar apostolic status (which, I Corinthians shows, was odious to Paul). As Forrest Gump's mother might put it: "apostles are what apostles do". And what apostles do, in the New Testament sense, is plant outposts of the Kingdom of God into everyday places, situations and people groups until the surrounding culture understands that Jesus is Lord.

I'm still not comfortable with calling people "apostle", but I want to be apostolic. That's because it takes apostolic people to release apostolic people. And apostolic ministry (according to Ephesians) does not stand alone. It stands alongside the mininstry of pastor / teachers, evangelists and prophets. Seems to me that we have plenty of high-visibility "pastors", some notable "evangelists", a very few reliable "prophets". What would happen if this five-fold notion of ministry leadership really came together in apostolic network movements without walls? I'm looking for how this can really happen in our day and in our time.

Today's resource-gulping ministry structures are in for a rude awakening given the economic times we live in. Apostolic ministry is lean, mean and organic. We can see that in the New Testament. We can see it in China and other places around the world today. It may not be too much longer before we start seeing it "for real" in the West.

Until then, I'll just keep praying that John Eckhardt's description of the need of this hour gives way to a new day when elders "eld" as releasing and empowering spiritual fathers, the young men see visions, the servants and handmaidens prophesy and the seed of the kingdom gets out of the warehouses and into the fruitful fields of harvest.

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