Thursday, September 17, 2009
GLOBAL MINISTRY GATHERING: Apostles: Discerning between the True and the False
My soul is full of joy tonight? Why? It’s because I’m nearing the end of a high octane week experiencing the glory of the living God. I’ve joined with dozens of others here in Charlotte for “Global Communion”, an apostolic gathering.
Why has this been such a “high impact” event? There are several reasons:
Jesus is all over it
Honoring Jesus Christ as Lord of HIS church is the driving force of the people gathered here
There’s cultivation of a kingdom vision. No one is recruiting to their brand or religious franchise
So as a result, God is pouring out His glory and forging an incredible unity of heart and purpose in leaders from around the globe. Jesus is truly ministering through His people. This has not been just another religious seminar. It’s a family gathering brought about through organic relationships, and I believe everyone will leave with new friendships that will advance the kingdom.
One relatively new friendship I’m very grateful for is with Don Atkin. Don brought all of these kingdom workers together this week. And he began the first session with a hard hitting topic:
PURSUING TOGETHER A FRESH AND CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF APOSTOLIC MINISTRY THAT IS NEITHER REACTIONARY NOR APOLOGETIC, NEITHER HIERARCHAL NOR WITHOUT SUBSTANCE.
Don began by defining ministry: it is a supply of Christ to the body. Then he addressed our ministry challenges here in the 21st century. As many of us have discovered the need to go beyond Pastor-Teacher leadership, a rediscovery of apostolic ministry is emerging. But Don warned of the danger of putting an apostolic layer over an existing religious structure. He says this is an exercise in futility. There must be a rooting out first of everything that’s not about Jesus. Then apostles and prophets can build upon a foundation of Him and Him alone.
One of our big challenges is the fact that George Barna estimates 4 out of 5 adults in America could be labeled “Casual Christians”. These are people who display no real difference in their lives from unbelievers. In other words, their profession of Christianity is false. Only about 16% fall under the label of “Captive Christians”. These are people who, like Paul, consider themselves voluntary “slaves” to Christ. They are captive to the heart and mind of God.
And complicating matters is the fact that most of the 16% who are truly followers of Christ are still in institutional churches, and are therefore not able to fully function as God intended.
So in our effort to restore the church, many of us are looking to apostles to help set things in order. But tragically, some of those who profess to be apostles are false apostles. This can be difficult to discern because much of the time false apostles are genuine believers. But Don gave us some helpful insights to make sure those we look to for apostolic leadership are truly apostolic.
Don Atkin put professing apostles into 2 categories: those in the spirit of Ishmael, and those in the spirit of Isaac. This of course is based on the sons of Abraham. Isaac fulfilled the promise, but before his arrival, Ishmael was the product of Sarah attempting to “help” God out. He came first. So very often, before something is truly birthed of God, Ishmael shows up, masquerading as God’s apostolic answer.
So what does the Ishmael apostle look like? Abraham’s first son set a sour tone for sonship. So, in like manner, apostles in this lineage are the source of conflicts. Isaac, on the other hand is a source of peace. Order and peace are fruits of the Spirit. Ishamel had some godly roots, but he produced more of the spirit of Egypt than of Abraham’s God.
Here are key distinctions between true and false apostles, or those of Isaac and those of Ishamel:
Ishmael: life flows from their followers up to them. They are on a platform and everyone looks up to them, and they’re often more affluent than those who they are ostensibly serving
Isaac: apostles are often impoverished. They speak little about money. Paul laid down his life and made tents. Life flows from them, not to them. They lead a love revolution.
Elder Statesmen not merely Fathers
Fathers can be tribal and more subject to competition and jostling for position with other fathers and tribes. Statesmen deal with issues that transcend tribes. They do not subscribe to tribal mentalities that are parochial. They also do not come to seek something for themselves, but seek a kingdom agenda
Cross pollination rather than control
Those of Ishmael seek to control. Those of Isaac promote cross pollination across tribes. They tolerate “messy” growth without smothering with supervision
Legitimize Ideas not people
Those of Ishmael sell legitimacy like priests used to sell indulgences. These apostles legitimate people. They promote a code of brotherhood similar to the KKK or the Mafia in return for loyalty. They are also impervious to accusations. Those of Isaac legitimize ideas. Regular believers are released to do the cutting edge work.
Impact rather than impart
Ishmael apostles pose as purveyors of the power of God. They do all the praying, prophesying,etc to impart something to the people. The rank and file believers are treated as if they have a “junior holy spirit”. Those of Isaac help to unpack what God has already put within His people
Equip instead of inform
Ishmael apostles believe they have to tell the flock everything they need to know, stunting true spiritual growth. Those of Isaac give people multiple resources and keep responsibility for their lives in their own hands where it should be.
Being rather than doing
Ishamel types have to be in charge and active in everything in the church to validate their apostolic positions. They use language to stir the flesh into action. Isaac apostles promote a goal of displacement. Their desire is to reproduce themselves so the body is not always dependent on them. They walk in the blessing of presence. When an apostle is in the house, his gifting rises, no matter where he sits. Gifts are released in people he’s around. Peace is also released. True apostles carry the presence of God and blessing everywhere they go.
Summing up, Don challenged us to do 5 things:
1. Don’t be distracted by what’s false. God will deal with those issues in His time. We have to remain redemptive in our perspective
2. Recognize that some who have the heart of a son may have only been exposed to systems of slavery
3. There will be a continual need to heal the casualties of false apostles. But this is best done in private and with as little drama as possible. This is where we must be statesmen and diplomats.
4. “Isaacs” are raised up by God, not by men
5. Through wisdom, a house is built. Paul was committed to knowing nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. At the heart of a true apostle is SERVANTHOOD. Biblical authority is held lightly, exercised faithfully, expressed relationally, and followed willingly.
In the discussion that followed, one panelist spoke of the challenge of coming out of these “heavy shepherding” systems. He described what amounts to “unpledging” ourselves from these and described the process as bloody, similar to birth.
On a personal note, let me encourage you to consider whether you may be in this kind of bondage, and if you are, call out to the Lord to help you, and reach out to kingdom minded believers who aren’t promoting a “franchise” to help you. The antidote to this poisonous spirit in the church is nothing other than the liberating presence of the Lord in us. Let’s all make sure Jesus is getting formed in us, and that we’re truly growing in maturity… and not simply getting effectively indoctrinated and sermonized.