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Monday, 26 November 2012

Apostles and Church Government (1)

In relation to leadership of the church, I have posted over the last few weeks about using the Bible to 1) identify essential principles and 2) as guidance for fluid and flexible patterns of leadership that we adapt to different contexts and stages of our journey, and not for 3) justifying inflexible prescriptive practices. I have also recently posted about taking a new look at Ephesians 4 (five-fold) ministries on that basis and argued against any hint of hierarchy but instead for mutual service through diversity of gift.

Bearing this in mind, I want to say something about apostles and the government of the local church. I suggested that a church needed to be characterised by all five of the gifts, and that there may well be people who have a measure of apostolic gift in the church without them being apostles or without it implying they have any governmental position.

However, I do also believe that there will be people who carry the apostolic gift to such a measure that they are apostles, and they may have an input to a number of local churches and a wider ministry. I believe that God has been restoring such a ministry (along with prophets) as a key ingredient for the building of his church; but I also believe that we were too quick to get prescriptive about how apostles should function, and it was too often related to hierarchy and a wrong view of authority.

I don't intend to reflect too much on the nature of the apostolic ministry here and have just realised this will need a second post (I aim to keep these posts short as seed-thoughts rather than treatises). But here let me say something about their relationship to the local church, and I am thinking in terms of a possible pattern, not a definitive prescription. Some apostolic ministries will be governmental (not all in my opinion) and that means they contribute to the leadership of the church in terms of direction and decision-making; but that leadership must be through relationship and be non-hierarchical. Think fathers and family, not generals and army, and not managing director and company.

One of the key things about fathers is that they want to empower their children, not control them or even just direct them. They want them to grow up and become independent (in a good sense) while still choosing to maintain and value relationship with them. And the  nature of fatherhood changes as the children grow.

Enough for now. One more post about this tomorrow (hopefully) and then an explanation of where this leaves us in the local church I help lead.


  1. Hi Trevor, really enjoying your blog. I guess on this post I'm thinking about how, if capital A apostles are vital, we know the measure of one who is, without being somewhat prescriptive? My thoughts are it is relational and through a Spirit led understanding, but it has me thinking none the less!

  2. Hi Matt,
    Glad you are enjoying the blog.
    I think that you are right - that it is in the context of relationship and seeing what the Spirit is doing. And also I think the effectiveness and fruit of a person's gift gradually becoming apparent. It's part of learning the dance of leadership - something just begins to connect and flow and feels right:and this must be a corporate and community thing as much as possible, so people don't feel that an 'outsider' is being imposed upon them.
    May have more to say on this in my next couple of posts.