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Presbyteries and Apostolic Teams—Part 1
What I’m going to be sharing in this series of two messages on Apostles and Shepherds is the outcome of God’s dealings with me for at least a year past. I have been as much occupied with this material and these issues as I have with anything in my whole Christian walk. My wife would tell you that I’ve spent many sleepless hours in the night pondering on these things and meditating on them and praying about them. It’s like the Lord has put me through a process in which He’s been forming something inside me. And that’s taken the better part of a year.
For me to communicate that to you in two sessions would be totally impossible. I’ve deliberately limited myself by my outline to two sessions. I could have made it six sessions, but I determined to try to be compact, comprehensive, rather than going into excessive detail in any area.
When I look back on some of the experiences I’ve been through in the last few years, I could perhaps compare myself to a person who got into a forest. I found myself in this forest and every time I turned round I bumped into a tree. You know the old saying You couldn’t see the forest because of the trees, well I was in that situation. I kept finding myself confronted with another tree, but I could not see the real outline or configuration of the forest, or how the forest related to the rest of the landscape. And in the end, under real pressure which I believe was from the Holy Spirit, I determined to get out of the forest. And I deliberately backed out of the forest, disentangled myself from certain things and determined to study the forest as a forest and not as a group of trees. And that’s really what I’m seeking to do in these two messages it present you a picture of the forest. I won’t be telling you about all the trees in the forest, but I trust that I’ll be able to help you to relate the forest to the other parts of the landscape, and to see the forest as a whole and not as a lot of trees that you bump into.
I remember years back when I was in Kenya serving the Lord we had a German brother there although the mission was a Canadian mission, and—I don’t know why I think of this but—he said in a meeting of the missionaries once… “You know the definition of a tree.” He said, “A tree is something that stands by the road and then jumps out in front of a lady motorist.” Well precisely two days later is wife drove their car into a tree beside the road. So, you know, be careful what you say because it may have more truth in than you realize. But sometimes I felt like that about trees as though I was seeking to make my way down the road and this tree would jump out and I’d almost hit it.
I’d like to begin by referring to a Scripture which always makes me more respectable. So let’s turn to Luke chapter 6 and we’ll read just verses 47 and 48 which is part of the very familiar parable about the man who built his house on the rock.
“Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like:
“He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.”
The point that I wish to bring out is that in order to build a secure house you have to found it on the rock. For those of us familiar with the land of Israel that’s very vivid. For instance the house on which Ruth and I built three extra stories is founded on the bedrock. I was built about one hundred years ago and because it’s on the bedrock we’ve been able to add three stories above the two existing stories. And that’s an absolute principle especially in Jerusalem. You have to get down to the bedrock.
And so Jesus was talking about something that was very familiar to His hearers. But He said in order to get down to the bedrock which is the only secure thing on which to build, you’ve got to dig deep. You’ve got to get rid and get out of the way everything that is not bedrock. There may be many other rocks, there may be soil, there may be sand. Whatever it is you’ve got to get it out of the way. Now that’s hard work and I feel that much of what I’ve been doing in studying this theme is getting out of the way all the traditions and the preconceptions and the habits of thinking and speaking which nearly all of us with any kind of Christian background have within us, and we’re scarcely aware of them. And it’s been hard work. And it’s going to be hard work for every one of you who wants to get to the bedrock. It’s going to take concentration, attention. I’ve provided you with a pretty comprehensive outline. You will not digest the whole of that here tonight believe me. If you really want find the truth for yourself, you’re going to have to go over this outline with the Bible prayerfully several times, asking the Holy Spirit to show you the truth. And I’ll be praying that if I’ve said anything incorrect, the Holy Spirit will steer you away from it.
I’ll give you one more little example which is not taken from the Bible but from my personal experience of the kind of difficulties we have when we begin to find out what the New Testament really says about the Church. We assume that we really have a pretty good idea. The more I study it the more I realize how little I know. And how many times we use words that are familiar to us, words that are found in the New Testament but in actual fact we are not using them the way the New Testament used them. We’re not applying them to the things the New Testament applied them to. Our words sound like the New Testament but the truth is not in line with what we’re saying.
Anyhow the little example I have—one of my favorite animals is the zebra. When we lived in Kenya we saw countless zebras or zebras if you want to call them that. And I just pictured to myself somebody who’d grown up in a country where there were plenty of donkeys and very familiar with donkeys. But for some strange reason in their family background this person had been trained to call donkeys zebras. So every time he saw a donkey he called it a zebra. Well, then somebody gave him a vacation in Kenya and for the first time in his life he saw real zebras. And he said to his friend, “What ever is that?” His friend said, “Those are zebras.” He said, “Nonsense. I’ve knows zebras since my boyhood. I’ve seen them many, many times. Those aren’t zebras. Zebras don’t have black and white stripes.” It would probably take a long while to convince that man that what he’d been calling a zebra all his life was just a donkey. You see the application?
We’ve been calling things zebras which weren’t zebras at all. And it takes a real mental adjustment to realize that we’ve been mistaken about some things. And when I say “we” I’m not talking about some particular group. I’m talking about Christendom. The background of tradition that we have is not really, in many cases, based on New Testament truth. We have to dig deep to get to that rock.
Now let’s turn to our outline and we’ll go through this pretty systematically I hope if the Lord enables me. The overall theme is Apostles and Shepherds, and the theme for this study is Presbyteries and Apostolic Teams. Now I’m assuming that I’m talking to people that have some familiarity with this whole theme. If you’re a total beginner, never heard about these things you will probably sink. Over the past couple of decades I would say the Holy Spirit has confronted many of us in the Church, especially those who have some kind of leadership responsibility, with certain issues which in many sections of the Church had been neglected for centuries. The issues I have in mind are those of leadership. Who ought to be leaders? How can we bring forth leaders? How can we train leaders? How should leaders exercise authority?
I think one whole vital theme of truth which was almost never seriously studied was the truth of authority. I think one reason why it wasn’t studied is because in contemporary culture authority is really a dirty word. And nobody really wants to face up to the issues of who has authority. What I’m sharing with you is really the outcome of my being confronted with these issues. When I got involved with them I started with one advantage which was I knew I knew very little. I did not have the idea that I knew it all and I was very happy to look to others for direction or counsel who seemed to know more than I did.
Now I’m going to talk about human leadership in the Church. And I’m going to make certain rather categorical statements simply to give clarity and avoid hedging everything about with “if” or “perhaps” or “maybe” or “but.” And I invite you to judge what I say. I’m not trying to convince you. That’s not my object. My object is to share with you. I suggest that there are two main forms of human leadership in the Church. One - local presbyteries. Presbytery is a collective noun. It means a group of presbyters, and presbyters is the transliteration of a Greek word presbuterus (?)which means an elder.
Now the functioning and government of elders was familiar to God’s people from many centuries back. It was nothing new in the New Testament. And interestingly enough almost anywhere you go in the world where there are still relatively primitive social groups you’ll find that the concept of eldership is usually fairly well understood at least. Take a continent I have some familiarity with, Africa, basically you can talk to Africans from any part of Africa about elders. They may not have the right idea, but they have some idea. As a matter of fact, I think elders really are the permanent form of government that starts in Genesis and goes through to Revelation. And of course in Revelation there’s a very strong emphasis on elders. And let me point out, all through the Bible, I would say about ninety-eight percent of the time elders are always mentioned in the plural. That’s a very important fact. We’ll look at that more fully in our second session.
The other type of leadership is what I call mobile apostolic teams. Now the word or the phrase apostolic team is not or has not until recently been very much used by the kind of Christians that I’ve associated with. Fifteen years ago hardly anybody ever talked about elders. There has been a tremendous change in the Body of Christ. Where almost anywhere you go now people say these are the elders. They didn’t talk that way fifteen years ago.
I brought out some Bible teaching on elders which was regarded as very radical and controversial say fifteen years ago. It wouldn’t be considered that at all. My personal feeling is that the same is going to happen with apostolic teams. Although at the present times most people don’t think in those terms. Within the next decade or two they will take their rightful place in the thinking and structure of God’s people. But at the moment I would say the greatest major deficiency in the concepts of God’s people in this area is a failure to appreciate what apostolic teams are intended to be. And although I put them in the order of presbyteries first and apostolic teams second, in the evolution of the Church they came in the opposite order. It was apostolic teams first and presbyteries second which is a fact of vital importance. That’s one of those things where we’ve been calling a donkey a zebra for a long time.
Now let’s go through quickly the characteristic features of both—that’s local presbyteries, mobile apostolic teams. Notice the deliberate distinction. Presbyteries local—apostolic teams mobile. The characteristic features—I think most of them are simple and easy to understand. Each is normallyplural. I believe presbyteries invariably are plural. In fact the very word presbyterydemands the plural. It’s a collective noun. And I think you would have to search a long way through the New Testament to find an apostle functioning on his own. I’m not saying you couldn’t find it, but it’s definitely the exception. Apostles usually moved in teams and much larger teams than we’re prepared to adjust to at the moment.
Second feature each is sovereignin its own sphere, but not independent. I hope you can understand that you can be sovereign but independent. Like I understand every member of the Body of Christ in his own life is sovereign. He’s responsible for his own life and there are areas in which no one else can dictate to him. But at the same time I believe none of us independent.
So we come to the third statement: they are interdependent, and I point out in what way. First of all apostles appoint elders. We’d probably better look at those Scriptures. Acts 14:23. Before you get to 23, just look at verse 14 for a moment. That’s Acts 14:14.
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this etc…
You notice that both Barnabas and Paul were apostles. Now verse 23 speaking about the same men,
So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting,
I think that’s a correct translation. There are different possible ways of translating that word appointedbut my studies lead me to believe that appointedis the best English rendering. So it was apostles who appointed elders. And if you search the New Testament I think you’ll find there’s not record of elders being appointed by anybody but apostles. I’m not saying it must not happen, but it is not recorded in the New Testament.
And then again in Titus chapter 1 and verse 5. Paul is writing to Titus and telling him his assignment in Crete. Apparently Paul and Titus had both been together in Crete, set something in motion for the Lord and then at a certain point Paul had moved on but he’d left Titus behind to finish the job off. And so he writes to Titus,
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order that things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—
Notice that until elders are appointed something is lacking. I don’t believe a church if a church without elders. In fact I believe the appointment of elders is the decisive transition from mere disciples to a church. That’s indicated in Acts 14 where we looked.
Now Titus was appointing elders in Crete as Paul’s delegated representative. He was acting as the representative of Paul’s apostolic authority. So again the appointment of elders was an apostolic responsibility. And in First Timothy—we don’t need to turn there—Paul gives directions to Timothy about the kind of men who should be appointed as elders. But he says, “Timothy, you’re in Ephesus for that purpose.” Timothy, likewise, was the appointed delegate of Paul’s apostolic authority in the city of Ephesus.
The other side of this relationship is that elders send out apostles. We’ll look rather quickly in Acts 13, a passage we’ll be turning to several times. Acts 13 just the first three verses.
Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul.
As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.
Now I’m assuming that those prophets and teachers there were, shall we say, the senior leadership of that particular church. That’s an assumption. You could disagree with it. They were functioning as elders in that church. And it was their task by the direction of the Holy Spirit to send out Saul and Barnabas. And from that point onwards Saul and Barnabas are called apostles. Interestingly Saul, or Paul was never an apostle until he had been sent out from the church at Antioch. When we come to the definition of an apostle I’ll go back to that scene.
Then in Acts 16 we have the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey and the incident where he came to Derbe, found Timothy and wanted him to go with him on the apostolic mission.
Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.
He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. [It’s very important he had a good report in his own church.]
Paul wanted to have him go on with him—and so on—he took him and circumcised him…
Now compare with that First Timothy 4:14 for a moment. Now I’m offering you my interpretation of this passage and it could easily be challenged. Paul writing to Timothy says,
Do not neglect the gift that is in you, [Greek word charisma] which was given you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
Now what was the charisma? Your guess is as good as mine but I believe it was the apostolic ministry and it was given to him by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the elders in his home church. That’s my understanding of it. I can’t prove it. You’re free to disagree with it. But it points out, I think, that Timothy who is also called an apostle became an apostle when he was sent out by the direction of the Holy Spirit by the elders in his home church.
So you have what I’ve called in the past, the reproductive cycle. Apostles appoint elders, but elders send out apostles. So neither group is independent of the other. And I believe God ordained it that way. I believe God always ordains relationships like that in the Body. He never wants anybody to be completely independent.
That leads me on to the next statement. Each group is dependent on God’s grace. That’s very obvious, but it’s very important. There is no way this system of God can operate apart from His grace. I think people are continually looking for a system that will keep them from having to depend on God’s grace. And they don’t move in the grace of God and even the best system will break down without the grace of God. Don’t always blame the system. Just examine whether people were in the grace of God. Without God’s grace nothing will work. A marriage won’t work without the grace of God. A Christian marriage is one of the most difficult things to make work. We’re always dependent on God’s grace to make our marriages work. God ordained it that way. He never wants us to be independent of His grace.
The next statement, each can only function effectively when directed by the Holy Spirit.That’s really goes together with grace because it’s the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of grace. Without the Holy Spirit we cannot experience grace. Acts 13, we just go back there and look rather quickly because we’ve already seen it once. We’ll miss out verse 1, just point out,
As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to me Barnabas and Saul etc.”
A lot of interesting questions there. How did the Holy Spirit say it? Did He speak as a disembodied voice or did He say it through prophecy or how did He say it? We don’t know. My supposition is it was probably through prophecy. Notice also something very significant. The Holy Spirit said, “Separate to ME… I’m the Lord.” We very seldom think of the Holy Spirit in that way. Jesus is Lord over the Church. The Holy Spirit is Lord in the Church. So it all depended on the Holy Spirit.
Then as they went on their second journey, we just look in Acts 16 for a moment, verses 6 through 10, this is Paul, Silas and Timothy and their company. Beginning at verse 6—they were on this journey to bring the gospel to all men everywhere.
Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. [That’s the province of Asia.]
After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit [capital “S”] did not permit them [or the Spirit of Jesus].
So you notice that their direction always came from the Holy Spirit. And then we read about the vision that appeared to Paul which obviously was given him by the Holy Spirit. So that they could only function effectively when they were led by the Holy Spirit. And the principle there is stated Romans 8:14 which is one of my key Scriptures in life. Roman 8:14.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.
The Greek word for sonsspeaks of a mature child, not an infant. It’s not the word for infants. You become an infant by being born of the Spirit, but you become a mature son by being led by the Holy Spirit. Many, many people who are born of the Holy Spirit are not led by the Holy Spirit. They never reach maturity. And in the Greek it’s a continuous present tense: “for as many as are being continually, regularly led by the Holy Spirit, they are the sons of God.” It’s not enough to have a nodding acquaintance with the Holy Spirit on Sunday morning in church. We have to have a twenty-four hour a day relationship with the Holy Spirit to function as sons of God.
I sometimes said that you can sum up church history—this is my unlearned summary of church history about which I know all too little—as nineteen centuries of trying to find a safe system so that we didn’t have to depend on the Holy Spirit. Well there is no such system so it’s in vain to look for it. And if you even found the best system without the Holy Spirit it wouldn’t work. And let me say we are not led by principles or concepts. We’re led by the Holy Spirit. You say, “Doesn’t God have principles and concepts?” Certainly He does. But we are not smart enough when we encounter a situation to know which principle and which concept to apply. And if we were we still wouldn’t know how to apply it. So we have to depend on the Holy Spirit. That’s painful for the old nature.
You know—I didn’t intend to say this—but I’ve often described the way we come in contact with the Holy Spirit. We decide—well let’s put it this way—law or system is like a map. It tells you every road, every turning, every mountain, every river and if you can read the map you can make your way through life with it. So natural man in his fallen state never wants to depend on the grace of God. That’s alien to him. So natural man says, “Give me the map. I’ll make it. I’m smart.” Well sometime later it’s a cold dark rainy night, there’s no light anywhere and you find yourself on the brink of a precipice. And you say I don’t think I’m going to make it. And a gentle voice says in your ear, “May I help you?” The Holy Spirit. And you say, “Holy Spirit, I’ve just been waiting for you. You’re the one I need. Listen, I can’t handle this map. You take me by the hand and lead me.”
So then you make tremendous progress but after a while the weather clears up and it’s a bright fine day and you’re on a main road. And you say, “Well, after all I could have made it. I don’t really think I’m so dependent on the Holy Spirit as all that.” And you pull out the map again. You know where you’re headed for? Trouble. And it takes most of us more than one such experience to learn we can’t make it with the map. There’s nothing wrong with the map. It’s perfect. Paul says, “The law is holy, just and good.” The problem is with our fallen nature. And the biggest problem with our fallen nature is we don’t want to depend on God. You see that’s where the fall started. We’ll be knowing good and evil, we won’t need God to tell us any longer.
All right. As I say sometimes, no extra charge for that. Then one more comment on this. Prophets have a role both in presbyteries and in apostolic teams. This is a suggestion. You can check on it. We’ve already seen Acts 13—“There were in the church that was in Antioch prophets and teachers…” Let me say I don’t believe that they were necessarily split into either prophets or teachers. I think it’s possible to be a prophet and a teacher. And I think, in fact, it’s desirable. But anyhow there were prophets in that presbytery.
Now if you turn to Ephesians 2:20 you’ll find that Paul speaking to the believers says,
…you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets
Now I can’t believe that’s the Old Testament prophets because apostles are mentioned first. And I believer really in the ideal outworking of God’s purposes, it takes apostles and prophets to bring a church into being. And I sometimes think we are calling donkeys zebras. I think we are calling a lot of things churches which God will never call churches because they haven’t been initiated the right way. It takes apostles and prophets to bring into being churches. That’s the way I understand it. You say “God lower Your standards.” God says, “No. You come up. I’m not coming down. I’ll help you up but I will not come down to your carnal standards.”
Now let’s look at the important differences. First of all presbyteries function within at give locality. I think that’s very, very clear. A man is an elder or whatever else you’re going to call them, and we’ll see many different names later, in a given locality. If a man is an elder in Corinth and he moves to Rome, he does not automatically become an elder in Rome. The church in Rome has to recognize him. But if a man is an apostle, he’s an apostle anywhere—or a prophet or an evangelist.
Apostolic teams are available to the whole Body and have the world as their parish. I think it’s very important to see—we’ll come to it later—the primary thrust of the apostolic ministry is into the world. The function of the apostle is to extend the borders of the kingdom of God. Everything else is secondary.
The main task of presbyteries—we’re coming onto “b”—the main task of presbyteries of order and conservation through government. If you want to look at just one very illuminated Scripture First Timothy 5:17.
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor,
That’s really the simple statement of what elders primarily are required to do is rule, govern, give leadership. Apostolic teams give input to presbyteries but their main thrust is to extend the borders of God’s kingdom. Now this is where you’re going to find we’re going in a different direction from what you’re used to thinking. I’ve given a number of Scriptures there which I want to look at but first of all I want to look at another which God directed my attention to this evening, and it’s important. Acts chapter 1 verse 2. Acts 1, we have to read verse 1 just to get the context.
The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
Until the day in which He was taken up [into heaven], after he through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen.
Notice to whom He gave the commandments. To whom? The apostles, that’s right. It’s very important to see that. He didn’t give the commandments to the whole Church. He gave them to the appropriate people—the apostles. Now let’s look at the commandments and then you’ll see the nature of the apostolic ministry. Matthew 28 verses 18 through 20. These are the familiar words which are so seldom obeyed. Matthew 28:18.
…”All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations…
We don’t need to go into all the details. Notice the apostolic ministry is a “going” ministry. Go into all the nations.And he says, “I am with you to the end of the age.” On what condition? That we go. That’s right. If we sit He’s made no commitment to be with us. Mark 16, same again. And also He said “to the end of the age” which means He doesn’t have a different program. He hasn’t got Plan B—it’s Plan A, that’s all it is. Verse 15 of Mark 16,
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
“He who believes and is baptized…
“And these signs will follow those who believe:
You’ve probably heard the complaint, “Lord, the signs don’t follow.” The answer is they are only promised to those who go. You’ve probably heard the comment it’s difficult to follow a parked car which is what the great part of the Body of Christ is—it’s a parked car, parked on the church parking lot and it hasn’t got any vision beyond the parking lot.
Look now for a moment in Romans 15 verse 20. Paul is speaking about his apostolic ministry and he says,
And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation.
If you want to compare that with First Corinthians 3:10 he says,
As a wise master builder I have laid the foundation…
But he laid it where Christ had not been names before. Now you say well do we have any opportunity to do that? Yes, half the world has never heard the name of Jesus once. So it’s not through lack of opportunity.
All right. One more statement here—“C” in that Important Differences: the three most authoritative ministries are apostles, prophets and teachers, First Corinthians 12:28. There are a lot of lists in the New Testament which are not necessarily lists that indicate the order of importance. For instance in First Corinthians chapter 13, Paul says,
Now abideth these three faith, hope and love. [and he says] the greatest of these is love [which he mentions last.]
So it is not always true that the order in which things are mentioned indicates the order of importance. I believe it’s not so with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think they are graded in order of importance. But in this particular passage, First Corinthians 12:28 we are given a specific order.
And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings…
There are many, many church that never see miracles or gifts of healings. One reason why is they don’t have apostles, but they’re appointed. God has never removed them from the Church. They’re part of His standard appointment for every church. Like you walk into a room at the Holiday Inn you know what you’re going to find there. You’re going to find two double beds, you know where the bathroom will be, you know how to hang up—I mean it’s all appointed. That’s not—there’s some things that are optional. Well, that’s the same with the Church. God has appointed these things in the Church. There shouldn’t be any church without these things.
Now it definitely states that—“first apostles, second prophets, third teachers…” that must be in order of authority as I understand it. I believe the authority is vested on those three primarily because they primarily handle the word of God. Whereas miracles and healings may not have too much to do with the ministry of the word. In fact some people with the gift of miracles would do better to stay out of teaching.
However, now this last one is important, apostles should not normally override the sovereignty of local presbyteries. They are the senior, but that does not mean that they can walk into any local church and say this is what you people have to do. That is, I think, contrary to the Spirit and the ethic of the New Testament. I said in my study on Hebrews, New Testament apostles pleaded much more often than they commanded.
Now the next aspect of this—the balance between presbyteries and apostolic teams. If you read the New Testament objectively, which is very hard to do and I’m not sure I’ve ever succeeded, it seems to give more attention to the work of apostolic teams than to that of presbyteries. For instance, all four gospels the central focus is an apostolic team led by Jesus. And the word Church is only used twice in the gospels. Did you know that? Once in Matthew 16 and once in Matthew 18.
And then you go onto the book of Acts and primarily it’s taken up first of all with the ministry of Peter, then with the ministry of Philip and the most of the rest with the ministry of Paul. They were all either evangelists or apostolic teams. There’s very little said in the book of Acts about what elders do, very little. You go on to the epistles and there’s a good deal more about elders but I would say the emphasis of the New Testament is far stronger on apostolic teams than it is on elders. That’s my impression. I’ve tried to be objective. Numerically, however, there were probably more disciples involved in conservation than in outreach. And I’m not saying that’s wrong. Jesus Himself led the first apostolic team. Hebrews 3:1 says,
…consider the Apostle and High Priest or our confession, Christ Jesus.
He was Apostle Number One - the one sent forth from the Father. And at times His team could have numbered at least thirty persons, including women. That’s very important. Let’s look for a moment at Luke chapter 8, and I’ll tell you why it’s important. I’m reading verses 1, 2 and 3.
Now it came to pass, afterward, that He [Jesus] went through every city and village, preaching [and evangelizing] and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. [But the Greek word is evangelizing—He was doing the work of an evangelist.] And the twelve [disciples] were with Him.
[also] certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had comes seven demons,
It’s rather interesting to me that, I don’t think she was proud of it, but she certainly wasn’t ashamed of it. And interestingly enough, she was the first witness of the resurrection. They had a different attitude to deliverance from demons than the contemporary church. Going on with the list,
Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others [and now the Greek is feminine—many other women] who provided for Him from their substance.
Have you ever stopped to think how Jesus was supported financially? Well here’s a major key. By women, wealthy women. God bless wealthy women. Send us more of them.
All right, we’re going on. Now we’re coming to some very important statements. Thus, His team—Jesus’ team—also demonstrated the Church in a microcosm. That’s very important to lay hold of. When people saw Jesus’ team come into a village they saw the Church in a microcosm. They saw people from different backgrounds, different sexes all part of the same thing. See if there had been no women it would have been a very incomplete presentation.
I learned that from my association from Youth With A Mission, who really are far ahead of most people in this concept. They send out evangelistic teams and they try to make them multi-racial and bisexual so that when that team arrives the people see this is the Church. This is the kind of thing we’re being asked to get involved with. You might be interested to know, God helping us and I believe He will, we are going out some of us as an apostolic team to Zambia in April. Brother Jay and Sally here, Brother Mahesh, Ruth and myself and our African daughter, Jesika. So we’ll be both multi-racial and bisexual, and I believe that’s God’s ordaining. Just to come with a lot white faces to Africa has a totally different impact on the people. People think well this is a white man’s business. That’s the big obstacle in the Third World to the extension to the church. People have got the idea it’s an American thing.
Now we’re going on and these statements are very important. Most of the discipling processes actually described in the New Testament took place in the context of apostolic teams (e.g. those of Jesus and Paul). You have to check on that for yourself. I think it’s indisputable. The same kind of teaching, detached from this context, will not necessarily produce the same results. Okay? You can say all the words but if you’re not doing it it won’t work, and you end up calling a donkey a zebra. And I’ve got one extra statement I wrote in in pencil but it’s very, very important. The church was first manifested in a mobile form—only later in a residential form. Now if you can absorb that it’s revolutionary, because we always think of the Church as a group of people who meet in a building and live in houses. The first public manifestation of the church through Jesus was mobile. And we’ve got to get back to thinking of the Church as primarily mobile and secondarily residential. And that’s going to be a major revolution.
Turning over, now I’m making some comments and you’re free to question them. In the contemporary church, the usual emphasis is about ninety-five percent on conservation and five percent on outreach. I hesitated a long while whether to write ninety-five percent or ninety-eight percent. Personally I think ninety-eight percent would have been more accurate, but I wanted to be charitable. Certainly there is no more than five percent emphasis on the church, in the church generally on outreach. Even if every planned activity in the contemporary church were to be totally successful the overall result would be certain failure. You can analyze that for yourself.
Now I don’t want to be committed to a program that is certain to fail. Perhaps we should consider we should consider a fifty-fifty emphasis on outreach and conservation, allowing for a higher proportion of Christians to be involved in conservation. So there’d be more people in the conservation area of the church, but the emphasis would be equal. However, all disciples should accept personal responsibility for the success of the Church’s outreach. Again that’s critical. At the present moment it’s something that some strange people missionaries go off and do. And you keep a little box somewhere that you drop your pennies in and you have a, maybe their names on your refrigerator door and you pray for them. Well that is totally out of relationship to the realities to the situation.
Then I come to a little picture which I think the Lord gave me. Apostolic teams and presbyteries are the two legs on which the Body of Christ moves. If one leg is shorter than the other, the Body cannot function successfully. There are also many other parts of the Body, but none can take the place of the legs. So if a man has legs that are inches unequal you can give him all the instruction you like about walking and running and your instruction may be perfect but the results will be catastrophic. In other words, it’s not enough to teach all the right things. We’ve got to teach them to people who are doing the right things.
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