In this series of articles we are investigating and contrasting the contemporary notion of an “apostolic network” and many of the unhelpful ideas which often underpin it with God’s plan for the apostolic. In the previous article we unpacked the language which the Bible uses to describe the relationship which churches should have with one another and with apostles. We found that the word which beautifully describes these relationships is “koinonia”. Koinonia means “partnership or community”, and so we learn that the relationship which God has in mind for us as local churches is far greater than a loose federation or church network. Let us now go on to explore some other vital aspects to the Biblical pattern for authentic apostolic partnerships.
Loving the People and the ‘Pastor’.
In the Bible we find a very special relationship within apostolic partnerships. We find that the leaders as well as the people are intimately known by the Ephesians 4 gifts working within the field. For example, Paul would speak of members of Chloe’s household (1 Corinthians 1:11), and would oftentimes mention individual saints by name! Another striking example of this is in the long string of names in Romans 16:1-25. Paul demonstrates the fact that apostles should know and love the individuals that make up God’s house and be interested in each one. Everyone in the church should enjoy relational friendships and have opportunities to develop themselves. In this environment people feel safe because their church leaders are in relationship with other Christ-like apostles, prophets and elders (as well as other gifts in the field) who actually know the leaders, know the people and love the church. Not only this but these outside voices will speak the truth in love and jealously guard health and truth within the churches that they partner with (2 Corinthians 11:2).
The tendency in apostolic networks can be that only pastors and a few select leaders enjoy relational friendships and opportunities to develop themselves outside of the local church. It is the select few that learn from other leaders, get exposed to new ideas and get blessed by other fruitful gifts within the field.
Serving for Free or serving for a Fee?
In apostolic partnerships, love should be the motivation for those who come and serve the church. The leaders in the New Testament demonstrate their willingness to pay their own way to go and serve, whether they were blessed financially or helped to pay their ticket or not. In networks there is sometimes a fee or a list of expectations placed upon the local churches to bless the preacher that comes in.
The Antibody or the Virus?
God’s vision is that apostles and other Ephesians 4 gifts work skilfully to place Christ in the foundation of every part of the church. Apostles and teachers should speak out to warn churches of dangerous doctrines and fads (Titus 1:10-15), and use the Scriptures to show local elders how to avoid their pitfalls. They should help the churches negotiate the strong storms that blow against them. Their role is also to help churches deal with internal problems, relational breakdowns, faulty premises and unbalanced or false doctrines. They should not be afraid to speak out and even name dangerous, destructive doctrines as they help the churches negotiate their way through whatever is thrown at them. Apostles provide antibodies for the minds of those in partnership with them by carefully illuminating how new fads can be destructive. In this they immunize the church against dangerous thought-patterns and doctrines.
The tendency within networks is for the latest winds of doctrine and the newest fads to sweep through like a wildfire. When apostles are not helping to build correctly, the newest programme or system which guarantees church growth can easily displace the authentic ‘every person is a priest’ kind of Christianity. Many of the ‘grow your church’ fads promote the kind of church growth that draws a crowd but does not necessarily grow a healthy church. In networks there can be an “anything goes” mentality. There is a false sense of security in the thinking that as long as Christ is preached, churches can be left to themselves to deal with their issues and problems.
There is more still to say on God’s architecture for healthy church but hopefully you have found these keys helpful. If so then read Part 3 in this article series on Authentic Apostolic Partnerships here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew is the lead apostle of Four12. He also leads Joshua Generation Church (JoshGen) and is the founder and director of FOR SA (Freedom of Religion South Africa). He is based in Cape Town along with his amazing wife Emsie and his daughter Enya. You can follow him on Facebook.
Share this Post