Understanding Apostolic Ministry
We read in Christian media remarkable feats of great evangelists who are “taking nations” and “impacting the world for Christ.” Images of the masses tightly crowded together in stadiums waiting for God’s man of faith and power are transmitted.
Some evangelists are dropped off behind the platform by white limousines with police escorts; others delivered by helicopter and surrounded by bodyguards. Skyscrapers of speakers stacked atop each other rumble the message for all daring to come within miles of the “main event.”
For some reason, however, I don’t feel the same today as I once did. There was a time when the main event excited me. It was awesome to see so many people gathered in one place. But there is something in me that says, “It’s terrific that so many people are gathering to hear the Gospel message, ” yet something grieves me while witnessing the presentation.
Could it be possible that the Holy Spirit is trying to show me something? Am I the only one who feels like something is wrong with this picture? After all, what could be wrong with great events like this where so many gathering to hear the Gospel?
PIONEERING NEW TERRITORY
I will never forget the time ministering in a jungle in Central America. To get to where we went required the use of a small plane landing in a cattle pasture followed by an hour long boat ride down a blackened river. Once out of the boat it was a short walk on a jungle trail to a small wood-framed building with no windows bleached by the scorching hot sun.
At night a single light bulb hung from the rafters, drawing countless creatures for a peak at the visiting preacher. Looking around at those present and the conditions of the building offered my mind a clear definition of the word primitive. There were no stained glass windows, large screen projectors, ushers, greeters, or catchers. There wasn’t even a platform; just a dirt swept floor with hungry believers sitting on wooden planks clapping their hands as the dominant musical instruments of the evening.
The young man translating for me was an American who was receiving monthly support from his home church back in the States. I remember him telling me that his pastor was raising money to purchase a new jet airplane. Airplanes! “Awesome,” I thought. Then it struck me that we were at least 500 miles away from anywhere a jet could safely land. I asked the young man if his pastor had ever been with him to this part of the jungle. He said his pastor had never come to anything. That floored me. “How could that be?” I asked. He said his pastor was just too busy back in the States with the main event.
It seemed the few people we ministered to paled in comparison to the more significant events back home. That bugged me. Here I was on my fourth trip with this young man working in the clammy hot jungle, eating things I won’t tell you about, and I had to purchase a coach ticket with my own money just to do that. Sometimes, after hearing these things I feel like we should just all quit pioneering and go to the big conference center back home, phone in our $1,000 seed faith vow to the guy on TV, and leave the Gospel to those "special" people who seem to be more anointed than others.
Isn’t it terrible to feel like this? Maybe it’s just me, but some things just make me feel like saying, “What’s the use?” But wait a minute! You know what folks? I’ve discovered that thousands of other people feel the same way. There are some highly anointed people in this world who are giving their lives on the warring frontiers of ministry sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ that will never own a jet airplane or be able to buy the city’s arena and turn it into a church. There are others who will never have 50,000 attend their crusades. There will be some that never get on Christian television or Christ Power FM whatever, but they still have value, they're still important to Jesus, and they are still significant in the Body of Christ.
CHANGE OF PARADIGMS
I feel for men and women who are faithful with what’s viewed in the religious world’s eyes as little. In a society influenced by marketed sensation, judged by large crowds and big steeples, they don’t seem too important to some. We all know that it’s not appropriate, but everyone in ministry is judged by numbers. Countless times people have asked me how many people attend my church and since we don’t fill even the tiniest football stadium, well, you get the point.
Could it be possible the apostolic reformation is challenging the one-man-only “main event” paradigm? Is there some balance we can find in all this? What about the little guy, the regular Joes from Nowhere USA, those who love Jesus faithfully attending church on Sunday mornings? Shouldn’t they be involved in the work of the ministry, too?
I recently watched on Christian television a discussion about healing, miracles, and full-time "office gift ministries". Evidently, these men had awesome healings and miracles in their meetings. The gist as to why such profound miracles occurred in the ministry of these gentlemen was because of their calling as an “office gift.”
In my opinion, we need to break away from that type of thinking. The way I read the Word of God is, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Perhaps we should do a word study on the Greek word “for.” In my understanding, that scripture makes it clear all five “office gifts” are called to equip believers to do the work of ministry. This is clearly different that the one-man-does all pattern of ministry pervading our Christian culture.
Maybe this is why the “main event” doesn’t sit well with me anymore. Where is the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry in that pattern? If the one who is called to equip others for the work is doing all the work, then it appears to me that we are outside the Biblical pattern. It seems there are too many people thinking the ministry belongs solely to “office gifts.” With that kind of thinking, the believer’s responsibility is reduced to Sunday morning spectator status. That kind of sounds like what we have throughout the Church today. After all, just find the man with the five-fold office gift and pay him to do the ministry.
EQUIPPING EVERY BELIEVER FOR MINISTRY
It’s amazing to me that Ephesians 4:11 never came up in the mind of the show’s host. It just proves that no matter how many times we read Ephesians 4 we still don’t get it – every believer is important to God and called into ministry. I am not saying that full-time office gift ministry doesn’t have a place, it certainly does. And yes, God does manifest Himself mightily in certain individuals according to His will, but I don’t think that is His ultimate goal. I believe that the Holy Spirit wants to use everybody. Scripture declares, “The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits” (Daniel 11:32).
Folks, I am not trying to come against anybody because these guys did have some great things to say. Please understand the Holy Spirit needs all of us involved, them too, in the work of the ministry. I do not believe that the ministry belongs to the five-fold ascension gifts alone. One man or one “office gift” cannot complete the great cause of Christ, reaching the world with the Gospel and making disciples of all nations. I believe this is why the Lord is restoring the apostolic model, paradigm, order, government or whatever word best describes it to you. The bottom line is that the priesthood and kingship of every believer are being restored (1 Peter 2:9).
In the Book of Acts we see great power to give witness of the resurrection of the Lord and great grace on all the believers (Acts 4:33). They were invading cities with the Gospel of Christ and doing mighty exploits for God. I am sure there were many awesome healings and miracles taking place, and there were no television cameras to capture the event, snap the photos of the masses, and market the newest Christian fad.
Yes, there is an apostolic order being restored in the Body of Christ. My prayer is that we will break free from the one-man-does-all pattern of ministry and enter the apostolic dimension of equipping every believer for destiny and significance. In fact, I am convinced that it is God’s intent that we move from the one-man “main event” to the Body of Christ being equipped in the local church and sent out to impact the world for Him.
Friend, I know that you are called to do something mighty for Jesus. It doesn’t matter if you stand behind a pulpit on Sunday morning, get on television or have your photo taken in front of a massive crowd or not. The point is God wants to put His anointing and grace on you and me, everyday believers, as we invade the earth with the Gospel of the Kingdom.
(c) Jonas Clark
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