The Work Of Apostles And Apostolic Companies In The 21st Century

  Tissot depicts the miraculous catch of fish after Jesus’ resurrection. Christians are partners with our Father in His great fishing business. Apostles and fivefold ministers work with Jesus to equip His saints and build or repair His global fishing net (the many jurisdictions of churches networked or connected through apostles and elders to form His One Holy Apostolic Church), enabling Him to harvest or judge the nations.

The article below is the introductory lesson of Bishop Kouri's new course which was developed for the Apostles Theological Seminary, 

AM250, The Work of Apostles and Apostolic Companies in the 21st Century

 

There has been much talk in recent years about the “restoration” of apostles and what some are calling a “new apostolic movement” or an “apostolic reformation”. But much remains to be properly understood, correctly defined and fully restored.

Many today among the younger generation of believers are hungry to see the glory of God, the restoration to the “contemporary” or “emerging” church of the power and glory of the Lord that once characterized the Christianity of the early apostolic era. Others however, eager to build their own ministries and personal kingdoms, are quick to jump on any “bandwagon” that offers new “buzz” words and opportunity for “innovation”. Still others, belonging to certain ancient communions, claim to be “apostolic” and strenuously defend their “apostolicity” simply because they have a long and ancient history, structure, and liturgy, and because they can trace the ordination of their bishops and priests to early apostolic times.

Dr. C. Peter Wagner, who for many years taught missions and Church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary, is one of the leading advocates for the need for the restoration of apostles today and for a new apostolic reformation. Drawing heavily on the contributions of the revival or restoration movement that came out of latter rain and on men like Dr. Bill Hamon, Peter has written several books on apostles, apostolic churches, and what he has called The New Apostolic Movement. He convened The National Symposium on the Post-Denominational Church at Fuller Seminary in May of 1996; the consensus of the panelists was that there are still apostles and prophets in the Church, and that there is an emerging Apostolic Movement that will revolutionize the 21st-century Church. Dr. Wagner is also the founder and current chairman of the International Coalition of Apostles, a global coalition of apostolic and prophetic men and women from various parts of the world.

There is no question that Dr. Wagner has made significant contributions through many years of service in the areas of missions and church growth. He was strategically used of the Lord to create a platform at Fuller Seminary for John Wimber to teach his course on Signs And Wonders (published today as Power Evangelism), which attracted the interest and widespread attention of evangelicals and others groups of ministers and churches to the restoration of miracles and supernatural healing to the work of evangelism. This course also helped catapult John Wimber into national prominence and served as a stimulus to the Vineyard movement. More recently, Peter has also been used of the Lord in the development of the global prayer movement, working closely with Cindy Jacobs, Dutch Sheets and a number of other national and international church leaders.

But while acknowledging his many contributions and paying him the respect due his accomplishments, Dr. Wagner’s definitions, descriptions, and explanations of today’s apostles, apostolic ministry, and what he calls apostolic churches miss the mark or pattern established by the original apostles. While the first apostles were faithful stewards of a specific revelation of God’s King, sent forth by the Lord as special messengers to herald His Kingdom decree and raise up the Lord’s Church (made up of many allotments or congregations) throughout the Roman Empire, Wagner focuses his attention on pastoral ministry (rather than apostolic) and independent mega-churches (rather than the one, holy, apostolic Church of Jesus). In his forward to Dr. Bill Hamon’s book, Apostles, Prophets, And The Coming Moves of God, Dr. Wagner writes, “the fastest growing cutting edge of worldwide Christianity in our times is what I like to call the New Apostolic Reformation, previously referred toby some as independent churches or nondenominational churches or post denominational churches or grass roots churches or other kinds of names.” Sadly, that which Dr. Wagner identifies as apostolic bears little resemblance to the New Testament definitions, descriptions, and historical accounts of the work of the apostles of the Lamb, the first ascension-gift apostles, the apostolic companies of which they were a part, and of the Apostolic Church, which was the fruit of their work together in the first century.

Recently there has been no small amount of confusion and controversy over the blowup of Evangelist Todd Bentley’s marriage and ministry, and the resulting fallout on the Lakeland Outpouring. Much of the confusion and controversy surrounds the fundamental issue of what Peter Wagner calls apostolic alignment and accountability.

Because of Todd’s mannerisms, peculiarities, and excesses Peter Wagner was asked by Stephen Strader, the host Pastor of the Lakeland Revival, to intervene and help Todd find apostolic alignment and accountability. In a public “ceremony of alignment” (Peter’s words) before 10,000 people in Lakeland, Florida, Peter and a number of his fellow apostles (Stephen Strader of Lakeland FL, Karl Strader of Lakeland FL, Jeff Beacham of Sydney, Australia, Rick Joyner of Ft. Mill SC, Doris Wagner of Colorado Springs CO, Sharon Stone of Burton, England, Paco Garcia of Chiclana, Spain, Clarice Fluitt of Monroe LA, Richard Maiden of Scottsdale AZ, Michael Maiden of Phoenix AZ, Joshua Fowler of Orlando FL, Barry Boucher of Ottawa, Canada, and Wesley Campbell of Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada) “aligned” (again Peter’s words) Todd Bentley with Ché Ahn, Bill Johnson and John Arnott, representing Revival Alliance, who then publicly commissioned Todd as the evangelist to lead the Lakeland Outpouring.

Peter and those involved with him in this “apostolic alignment ceremony” have been severely criticized for publicly commissioning Todd (implying their approval and commendation of Todd and his ministry to the people), instead of meeting privately and aligning him with governmental oversight that could take the time needed to get to know him and prove the viability of the relationship before any sort of public commissioning took place. (I have posted in the ATS Resource Center numerous articles and blogs written by Peter Wagner, Dutch sheets, rick Joyner, Steve Strang, Lee Grady, and others regarding the pros and cons of the situation.)

It is not my intent to attack Peter Wagner or those involved with him is this fiasco, although, I would wholeheartedly agree with Dutch Sheets, Peter’s friend and colleague (see Dutch’s blog on our ATS Home page), that the initial alignment of Todd with the Revival Alliance brothers should never have taken place in a public ceremony, and Peter and the others should not have commissioned Todd the way they did.

I only mention this particular incident because of Peter’s prominence in the current dialogue taking place globally concerning apostles, apostolic ministry, apostolic structure, alignment and accountability, and the need for an apostolic reformation of the Lord’s Church. What happened in Lakeland recently with Peter Wagner, his Coalition of Apostles, and the so-called apostolic alignment ceremony of Todd Bentley serves as a perfect backdrop to raise the critically important questions that must be answered today.

Tough questions facing the Church of the 21st Century:

What was the role of apostles in the beginning of the Christian movement? What was their original ministry or mission in relationship to Christ’s Kingdom and His Church? What did they preach and what did they build?

Are there still apostles in the 21st Century or have they ceased as many modern Churches contend? What is the ministry or mission of apostles today?

How should apostles relate to one another for the sake of Kingdom and the Church, and how are they supposed to work together and with other fivefold ministries?

Is there still such a thing as the “fellowship of the apostles” today, the body or governmental council that Luke called the “apostolate” in Acts 1:25? Is apostolic government needed in the 21st Century?

What is an apostolic company and what do they do together?

What are the biblical requirements or standard for apostleship today?

What are the signs of an apostle? Do miracles still happen today?

What is the proof of apostleship today? Is it a sufficient demonstration of true apostleship to be the founder of a modern mega-church or build a network of churches or develop coalitions?

What foundations did Jesus and the original apostles lay in the beginning? Are they important today? Should this particular foundation govern or control how apostles function today and what they build?

What is the apostle’s responsibility in the stewardship of the mysteries of Christ and in structuring doctrine, the administration of the ordinances of the Kingdom and the Church, the ordination of elders, and the ordering of Church life.

What does it really mean that the Church is one? Is this merely a spiritual or mystical unity, or is it also governmental and functional?

What does it mean practically that the Church is Zion? What does it mean that the scepter of messiah’s Kingdom comes out of Zion? What does it mean that the Church is the Israel of the Spirit, the Holy Nation? What is the responsibility of apostles and apostolic company in building the Lord’s army?

Are there false apostles today, just as in the first century? How can we identify them?

The goal of this course is to not only to enable AM250 students to answer these and other crucial questions, but to help them find placement in the Kingdom and in the Church and equip them to fulfill their own callings and destinies in the 21st Century, possibly as apostles and members of apostolic companies.

If you are interested in enrolling in this course without charge, click on http://ats.mrooms.net/course/view.php?id=40.

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