Chapter 10 THE APOSTLES, PROPHETS AND
Deception, deceit, apostasy are all words that describe what an “end times” Christian can expect from his church and government. Don’t look for something, obvious, bad or sinful, but appealing, good and couched in Biblical terms. It will be introduced by trusted experts, even the chief apostles! If the clergy, our illustrious leaders fall away, where does that leave the rest of us? There is a move in the church today to restore the office of apostle and prophet to today’s church.
Some feel that the problem with the church is that there are no apostolic and prophetic leadership. The laity needs to be held more accountable. The church is floundering for lack of leadership, vision and authority. So to fill that need, apostles and prophets are springing up around the world and to coordinate that effort, the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders was established in Colorado Springs in 1999 with C. Peter Wagner as the “chief apostle.” It is time to get organized according to true Biblical principals and they are going to help us do it!
In Wagner’s book, “Apostles and Prophets, the Foundation of the Church,” he claims that the reason for the success of the early church was that it had a foundation: apostles first and prophets second. Today, there is no foundation to build on (p. 8) Wagner believes there have been apostles and prophets down through church history, visionary leaders such as Martin Luther, but they just weren’t recognized as such. The present day church is founded on teachers and administrators ever since the sermon became the focal point of the worship service so there is no leadership or vision. (p. 10) He quotes George Barna, Christian researcher and pollster as saying, “As long as the Church persists in being led by teachers, it will flounder. Identifying, developing, deploying and supporting gifted LEADERS will renew the vision, energy and impact of the Church.” (p.11) In “Churchquake!”, his ”71,000 word textbook, he claims the “New Apostolic Reformation” will be as revolutionary and earth shattering as Martin Luther’s.
Remember C. Peter Wagner from the last chapter? He is a great proponent of meta churches and cell churches. He was a devoted disciple of the late John Wember, founder of the Vineyard Church movement. Both chaired the Department of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary. After Wember’s death, Wagner relocated to Colorado Springs to form Global Harvest Ministries and became the chief apostle of the International Council of Apostles and formed the Apostles Round Table, which he is accountable to. He embodies the merging of the “church growth movement”, cell churches, the “New Apostolic Reformation” and the dominion theology of “kingdom now.” He is very prolific and wrote another book titled, “Apostles of the City: How to Mobilize Territorial Apostles for City Transformation” in which he describes the organization of the apostles. Translocal apostles are over the pastors who are over the people, being accountable to one another going up the hierarchy.
Wagner believes that a visionary apostolic leader is needed to oversee a move of God. Wagner and other proponents believe that the apostles and prophets will lead the body of Christ in establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. Did you hear that? These “apostles” will lead the church to have dominion over the earth!
I would like to give you just one more example from a book titled, “Moving in the Apostolic” by John Eckhardt with the foreward by C. Peter Wagner. He puts forth the following four premises:
He claims that the Holy Spirit is an apostlic Spirit and only an “apostlic church” can fulfill the Great Commission. (p.24) He claims that apostles are officers of the Church and “an officer is an executive, and executives have the authority to execute commissions.” (p.32) It is an affront to the Body of Christ, the true church to say that the Great Commission can only be fulfilled by apostles!
But there is more! He believes that “Strongholds are major hindrances to the advancement of the Church and must be dealt with apostolically” (p.60) He claims these are only destroyed through apostolic ministry. He claims that “although every believer has rank to cast out devils, apostles walk and minister in the highest rank. Evil spirits and angles recognize this rank. Apostles are the spiritual commanders of the Church.” (p.63) He goes on to claim that only the apostle has the authority to execute the plans and purposes of God. “These are the military generals and commanders who will mobilize the people of God…” (p.65) I could go on and on, and would encourage you to carry on, if interested.
There is so much written on this, I will leave further research up to you (e.g. please see http://www.banner.org.uk/contents.html ). Also see Chapter 7 of this book. The apostles and prophets movement ties in with “territorial spirits”, spiritual mapping, cell churches, the church growth movement, etc. The participants in this movement reads like a “Who’s Who?” of Christianity. (e.g. C. Peter Wagner – chief apostle, Dutch Sheets, Ted Haggard – new President of the NAE, John Kelly, Win and Charles Arn, David Yonggi Cho, Bill Hybels, Paul Crouch, Jack Hayford, Tim LaHaye, the late John Wimber, Juan Carlos Ortiz, C. Peter Wagner, Ern Baxter, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, David Yonggi Cho, Robert Stearns, Mike Bickle, Reuven Doron, Che Ahn, Frank Hammond, Cindy Jacobs, Bill Hamon, John Eckhardt, Bobbie Byerly, Jim Goll, John Paul Jackson, James Ryle, Frank Damazio, Ed Silvoso, Carlos Annacondia, Claudio Freidzon, Roger Mitchell, Ted Haggart, Chuck Pierce, Rick Joyner, Kingsley Fletcher, Jim Laffoon, Barbara Wentroble, Robert Schuller, Paul Cain, Ralph Neighbor, etc.)
There is a hierarchy with apostles over several cities, and pastors as a super-eldership over a single city. Perhaps evangelicals are learning from the Roman Catholic Church. There is more to the agenda than just organization. The goal is conquest! Liberal Protestant Churches such as the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, etc. have always been “a” or “post” millenarian (meaning that they don’t expect Christ to come and reign a thousand years. It is the church’s job to bring God’s kingdom to earth) holding a position not unlike the Roman Catholic Church. All of these different branches – from the RC Church, to the liberal Protestant to the Charismatic Churches of the Apostles and Prophets Movement come together with the goal of taking over political and social institutions. We know that the woman of Revelation 17 (the apostate church) rides the beast (the political state) in her quest for world dominion. Is this not like the marriage between the “religious right” and the present administration to defeat the forces of evil and bring capitalism, democracy and Christ to the world?
Rather than repeating it, I would refer you to chapter 7 of this book for a description of the extra-Biblical notion among the “prophets” – a new breed of people who believe they utter “God’s word” today with the same power and authority as God Himself (in spite of the fact that they are more often wrong than right). But, hey, who’s keeping score? They go on year after year making false prophecies but no one calls them to account! Also, without belaboring the fact, I would point out that this is a highly authoritarian, hierarchical structure. So what about it?
Early in history, the church got off track and went the way of the world with clergy, buildings and all, but in the beginning it was not so. In the days of the Old Testament you needed leaders and superstars like David and Sampson, but not so in the New Testament period. We are all “kings and priests”. We all have equal access to God through our human spirit. We are like a vine, not a tree. Every born again believer is plugged into the vine. But to create a New Testament Hierarchal model is utter nonsense. We may as well just all become Roman Catholics again where the laity lost all touch with God (the vine) and had to go through a priest.
Today’s apostate church uses the world’s corporate or military model. The “church” of titles, ranks and job descriptions is from the world, not the Lord. The Bible speaks of gifts and functions – an apostle is one who is sent out to start churches. That’s what he does, not what he is. Others pastor, teach, oversee and prophesy. That is what they do, not offices they hold! This is a “functional” rather than a “positional” point of view. Man is not the head of the church, Jesus. There is only one head to the body and all instructions are issued from the head. They don’t flow down through the body. Every part of the body has a direct connection to the head. The world needs hierarchy and outward control.
Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. BUT IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU: but whoseoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant, even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:25-28)
Jesus repeats this in Luke 22:25-27. The Gentile world operates on the basis of a chain-of-command. Authority is based on position and rank. Leaders measure their greatness by power, influence and prominence. In the kingdom of God, the greatest is least and the least the greatest. The ruler is the one who serves the most. God’s way is the absolute opposite of the world’s way. The New Testament way is where you have a people controlled by the indwelling Spirit. Satan and the world always need hierarchy! Not so in the body of Christ!
But what about religious authority? Aren’t we supposed to revere and respect religious leaders? Jesus said,
But be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in heaven, neither be ye called masters; for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:8-12)
In the Jewish and apostate Christian world, there are religious leaders with titles – Rabbi, Pastor, Bishop, Priest, Reverend, Father, etc, but it should not be so among us. We are merely brothers and sisters in Christ, each gifted and functioning in His body. There may be pastors, teachers, prophets, evangelists and even apostles among us – but that is what they do, not what they are. A pastor is simply someone who pastors and cares for people. A teacher teaches. An apostle is sent out to start churches. Elders oversee. None of them “lord it over” the flock. We are all equals with different functions. We don’t need to have a committee to do a nationwide search for a pastor. We should look for the gifts in the saints among us. Each us has a gift and each should exercise it.
Offices or Functions?
The early church did not have a person who was the CEO of a 501c3 tax exempt organization, who directed the staff, preached on Sundays and conducted weddings, funerals and Eucharistic services, and psychological counseling . This is an extra-Biblical carry over from the Roman Catholic Church, and now, if the C. Peter Wagner’s have their way, we will have another hierarchy of apostles paralleling Rome. There is no such figurehead in the church! It is this very clergy/laity organization that has had such a crippling effect on the saints. For the saints themselves should be shepherding, overseeing and teaching, not some “professional” who has advanced post-graduate education in church growth, management, organization, creator of programs, exegesis of the Word, and chief cook and bottle washer! There is no such thing in the New Testament as an elder-driven, board-driven or pastor-led church! The church is simply brothers and sisters in Christ meeting together and ministering to one another.
I Corinthians 12:28 does not describe an organizational hierarchy when he says, “and God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” He describes logical functions: the one who gives birth to the church (the apostle), the one who imparts vision (the prophet), the one who lays the Biblical foundation (the teacher) and so on. When describing characteristics of elders or deacons, he is talking about qualities of a person functioning in that capacity, not qualifications for an office. A brother or sister functions in a group because he has been dealt with and refined by the daily working of the Holy Spirit. Others recognize their gift, their experience and authority in certain matters. But these are gifts and functions – not offices held. Their legitimacy is recognized by others because of their “servanthood” and their fruit, not because they were elected or appointed to office. An apostle proves his gift by raising up churches. An evangelist proves his gift by his fruit (bringing people to the Lord), a teacher by his teaching and a pastor by caring for others. These are all functions rather than offices bestowed. You don’t have to study for years to learn to be something. You let the Lord so work in your life that you become a gift to the body.
We have gotten so far away from the true church, the simple body life, I doubt that we will ever find it without a good dose of tribulation! Only when we have been shaken free of our preconceptions, the world, our possessions and our preoccupations and realize that it is all coming down – only then will we get real and discover the treasure that lies within the least of the saints, and let it be set free! Only when our organizations, programs and professionals have been exposed for the sham they are, will the body be free to be the body Christ intended where every member functions according to the life worked into it by the Lord.
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets and some as evangelists and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of services, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ,
From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 3:11-16)
My prayer is that, as you meditate on these verses, the Lord will show you His body and how it has absolutely nothing to do with the institution we call the “church”. God puts a variety of people in our midst. He works in their lives and through them to build up others. They don’t go to Bible School and Seminary. They go through the “school of hard knocks” as they grow and mature in the Lord. They function – not to build up an office and draw a big salary, but to raise others up so the whole body will be knit together and every individual part is working properly, allowing the love and life of the Lord to flow though the body causing it to grow and build up itself in love. These gifted men don’t hog the whole show, but they protect the younger ones and encourage them to be connected and grow to maturity themselves. They don’t dominate. They facilitate and encourage others to function.
I am so excited by passages such as this, but so inadequate to explain what they mean. Unless you have experienced it, it is like describing a good movie to a caveman. I actually experienced this “church life” in a wonderful way so I know it works. Those were days in which we abandoned everything for Christ and His body. It was so much more than just meetings. But today, there is so little commitment. A meeting doesn’t make a “church life” whether it is in a building or a home. We’ll get into this later. Meanwhile, Christians move from one program to another. That is why cell churches, mega churches, meta churches, apostles and prophets and all that sounds so appealing to Christians these days. We want something more and hope that the next fad will be ‘It’. We fall further and further away from God’s ultimate intention as expressed in Ephesians 3 – a corporate expression of Himself on the earth – an organism called the “church.”
I’ll have more to say on what we can do about this in a later chapter, but now we have to talk about one of the most abused and misused practices in Christianity today which is an outgrowth of the apostles and prophets movement – accountability!
We quoted above the verses which contrast the world and God’s concept of authority. In the Old Testament and in the world, authority depends upon position. You respect and cede to the authority of another person because they have a higher position than you do. Many Churches today would have everyone in an organization chart (or the maps we referred to in the last chapter) where everyone is over someone else. In the case of the “apostles and prophets” movement, an apostle would be over the pastors of a city, who preside over congregations and the flow of authority would go down through the pastoral staff or elders, deacons, cell group leaders, etc. And as you may recall the quotes in the last chapter from Juan Carlos Ortiz, every single person should be under someone.
There is a Biblical form of subjection to authority, but not in this way. It is an attitude of mutual submission, a voluntary attitude because of the leading of the Holy Spirit. There is only one “head” and authority in the Church and that is Jesus Christ. (John 17:2) As we submit to Him, He may have us submit to others – a mutual subjection but not a subjection that is insisted upon because of someone’s position. That is the way of the world. He is very clear in the verses above, “let it not be so among you.” (Matt. 20:26) The Bible does not teach that believers have authority over other believers. This type of authority is condemned in the church. “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But no so with you, but let him who is greatest among you become the youngest, and the leader as the servant”. (Luke 22:25-26)
Divine authority is not conferred, inherited, ordained or claimed by men, including the self-appointed apostles! Divine authority is exercised by a person who is acting in the Spirit, but it is not intrinsic or positional authority. It can’t be imposed upon people. It is recognized and accepted because of the working of the Spirit in the body of Christ. It derives from the Head and is recognized by others as coming from the head because it is earned rather than absolute and positional. Christ’s authority flows through the mature Christian and others recognize the merit and worth of that authority. Divine authority is NEVER in a hierarchy nor found in an office or position. Its source is the indwelling Spirit.
The kind of accountability in vogue today is not Biblical and often the excuse for a “fishing expedition” into the intimate details of a person’s life from sexual matters to finance to conformity to the unwritten rules and mores of the “Church” , cell or accountability group. Unless there is very good reason to suspect someone is in serious sin, you have no business getting into their business. “Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. (Colossians 2:16) “Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother …but who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12) “At at the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. (I Tim 5:13) Mutual subjection does not give one another the right to probe. (see the warning about being a troublesome meddler in I Peter 4:15) Believe me, the shepherding and discipleship movement, cell churches, the Promise Keepers and self-help groups following the AA type groups lead to intrusive meddling in areas of intimacy, finances and every aspect of your life.
We are to flow life to one another not meddle, control or adjust. Christians properly built and knitted together in the Spirit will automatically open and share things as the Spirit leads and directs. We are likened to a family, not a corporation or an army. We are an organism, not an organization! A family fosters a loving and supportive environment, not the tyranny of accountability. Each local church or assembly is like a family. It is independent, self-governing with Christ as the head. There is no hierarchy of churches, no apostles overseeing a city. There is no idea of submitting to someone for a “covering.”
Conclusion – The Real Goal of the Apostles and Prophets
There is something particularly seductive about the apostles and prophets movement. It sounds “properly” anti-establishment and has the flavor and allure of a truly New Testament “early church” solution to the deadness and stultifying nature of the traditional institutional church, especially when combined with a “Meta Church” zeal for the gospel or the “Cell Church” model which promises the intimacy and opportunity of the free wheeling house church. But in the end, it leads one into an even greater apostasy, an informal system of brainwashing, peer pressure and control, a well-oiled hierarchy that is militant and tightly governed. There is so much written on this, I have just presented the tip of the iceberg and would encourage you to look into it further. The web of the meta churches, cell churches, apostles and prophets is all interconnected. These are the leaders of apostate Christianity!
I would remind you all, that, if we are in the “last days”, there will be deception. The deception will be so good most people will see nothing wrong with it and many will embrace it. The counterfeit will be so clever, it will require keen spiritual insight to see the difference! But the real goal of the apostles and prophets is not just to establish themselves as self styled leaders. It is to bring the kingdom of God to the earth. It is dominion! They see a way to bring that dominion through an alliance with a government that seems to share their agenda, with a country that seems to have a “manifest destiny” and calling by God to bless the nations of the earth. This brings us to our next chapter – democracy, destiny, patriotism and politics!
Here are just a few of the books used as sources:
“The Coming Church Revolution” by Carl F. George.
”Moving in the Apostolic” by John Eckhardt
“Spheres of Authority” by C. Peter Wagner
“Apostles of the City: How to Mobilize Territorial Apostles for City Transformation” by C. Peter Wagner
“Churchquake” by C. Peter Wagner
“Disciple” by Juan Carlos Ortiz
“The Cell Church, Preparing Your Church for the Coming Harvest,” by Larry Stockstill
”Apostles and Prophets, the Foundation of the Church” by C. Peter Wagner
Please see Tricia Tillin’s website at http://www.banner.org.uk/articles.html
The apostles gathering at http://apostles-gathering.com/
See Flames of Fire Ministries at http://home.att.net/~flames.of.fire/home.html
Continue to Chapter
The Deception of the World & Politics