Last week I was suggesting that we look at authority and church leadership from an understanding of the Bible that allows for a creative and open space for us to work out together how it can operate within parameters set by New Testament (NT) principles. If we keep Jesus as the central subject of Scripture, and then its big story and big themes in the foreground, we are better placed to understand those principles and then free to develop, adapt and change the patterns of government and leadership according to different contexts, demands, and the leading of the Spirit at any point on our journey as a church family.
That last clause indicates another key factor in working out truth and spiritual principles - the corporate leading of the Spirit: understanding what the Spirit is saying to the church at any one time (Rev.2:7). We cannot understand Scripture without the Spirit (1 Cor.2:13-14) and without him, the letter of scripture kills! (2 Cor.3:6). Now working out what the Spirit is saying to the church requires that we are in dialogue with others in the body of Christ and not just retreating into our own little groups thinking we understand it all. And we will have to learn how to disagree agreeably!
But along with many others I believe that in recent years, one of the things that the Spirit has been speaking about and restoring to the church relates to the equipping 'ministries' set out in Ephesians 4:11-13; and especially, to apostles and prophets. (There are some
commentators who believe that the restoration of these two 'ministries' has
been the key factor in what has been called 'the restorationist movement' of
the last 40 years, and that this has helped changed the face
of Christianity in the UK.)
The problem is that groups which recognised this came up with some very clear-cut and defined ways of understanding how these 'ministries' work in a NT-church - with different groups coming up with different patterns (One of the problems is that if we take a prescriptive approach to the NT, then we end up with lots of different prescriptions each claiming to be the right one!). Tomorrow, I hope to use the principles and patterns approach (as opposed to the prescriptive approach) to look at the Ephesian 4 gifts afresh.