Apostle?

There’s just too much of this going around these days:

The "Apostle"

For Real?

Detached, unaccountable and self-appointed “apostles” who find their credentials in mutual promotion networks of other detached, unaccountable and self-appointed “apostles” – rather than a functional local church.

Whether they go by “apostle”, “worker,” “church planter” or whatever – a local church dud telling you how to be the church is a danger to your church.

Some of you, unfortunately, have experienced what I’m talking about.

Others, fortunately, haven’t a clue.

To the former, just … say … no …

To the latter, good for you!

~ Jim Wright

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25 responses

  1. I suppose my early upbringing said apostles ceased with Paul, so I find it confusing to hear the term used today.I guess the idea they ceased came from the qualifications required when they replaced Judas early in Acts. If first-hand knowledge of Jesus earthly ministry is a requisite then we can safely say all possible candidates died almost 2000 years ago.

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    • Those who Jesus commissioned to be his personal witnesses, and whom the Holy Spirit then led into all truth, are unique. For example, the gospel given to them and then fleshed out in the life of the church and the surrounding culture became the New Testament.

      Unfortunately, many of these modern-day “apostles” dismiss the plenary authority of scripture. Some outright deny that scripture is the written Word of God. Most claim deeper “revelation”.

      Unlike those directly commissioned by Jesus, they have no authority from Jesus. Nor do they carry the authority of His written Word, or the church that He established.

      Thus, they are not only detached, unaccountable and self-appointed from the local church, but even from Christ and the discipline and authority of His Word.

      I have seen the carnage they cause. Like wolves (although in sheep’s clothing!), they often run in packs.

      It is time to say no!

      There is a need for those who go and help start new churches by laying the foundation already established by Christ and His direct apostles. If some want to call them “apostles” (lower case!), fine. But in my experience, if they themselves need that title (or some euphemism for it), then there’s a problem. Run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit!

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  2. Dear Jim and friends,
    I find this topic interesting but I see too many flaws and too much closed mindedness towards the scriptures. Looking at this , it appears if a person is not well founded in a local church then they are false…well that statement is false. What if the prophet did all they was supposed to and then the assembly spiritually did to the prophet what those naturally attempted to do to the Lord at his own local assembly, which was attempt to throw him over a cliff head first…if this is the case then the apostle may well have no place to lay his head as the foxes have holes, it certainly does not make one false…I agree totally that a true apostle or prophet will certainly align with scriptures on what they are trying to relay, but being an easily misunderstood person amongst those looking for fluffed messages, they are detached from , not that they detach themselves.
    Thanks for your time.
    Brian

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    • Brain, I fully understand your frustration with dysfunctional local churches. Been there, seen that!

      I never, btw, said detached, unaccountable and self-appointed “apostles” (or whatever they chose to call themselves) are “false”. Rather, I said they are dangerous. Whether what one of these folks say is true or false is not my focus in this single blog. Rather, it is to raise the need for actual, proven local church credentials among those who want to tell others how to the church.

      Even if someone is rejected by a local church for speaking truth, that does not give them a free pass on needing to then learn how to make that truth work in their own lives and in an actual church BEFORE they start going and telling others how to do it. There is, I have found, a huge gap between principle and application, and it is only bridged with the wisdom that comes from actual experience that has been proven over time.

      I am fine with someone saying “I think the Lord is challenging us on this” or “I think the Lord is calling us to go in a certain direction” – so long as it is clear that they are making no false claim of mastery or authority on those issues. Rather, those who proclaim must have the integrity to say what is proven, and what is simply aspirational (even if they believe it is from the Lord).

      This blog is focused solely on the vagabond or otherwise detached “somebodies” who may have good ideas and promote themselves as authorities, but with no history of making them work in their own lives or being part of any church where those ideas – and how to apply them – were proven over time.

      After all, if they are such experts on “planting churches” and helping churches be healthy, then why can’t they point to the evidence of having started a healthy, sustainable church in their own town and make it work first there – before launching their books, blogs and self promotion as an expert who wants to tell everyone else how to do it?

      We need to stop having itchy ears, and start having discernment.

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      • If you’re going to speak so much on the topic of apostles, why don’t you write up as comprehensive of a teaching on what an apostle is and what the calling entails as you can? You rail against what you see as corrupt in some who are apparently claiming the calling, without ever truly defining what the calling entails or means?

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        • Your point is valid, William. Sometimes, though, we need to see the problems before we can fully figure out the solution. I think that’s where I’m at. I hate the title “apostle” as applied today, because I have yet to see anyone who needs or claims the title who’s life shows that they actually are one. The need for the title typically has more to do about ego and position than any legitimate function (however you might define that). How to define what legitimate function (as opposed to title) looks like in our age is not totally clear to me – although I do see the need for authentic and ongoing local church credentials for those who in turn want to tell others how to be the church. Issues beyond being truly sent by local churches, with continuing accountability after they have proven themselves first in that context, are outside the scope of this single blog, though. It is not my intent in this single blog to otherwise define or narrow their “job description”.

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          • I hate the use of the calling as a title myself. Hell, that goes for any of the callings. But as one who puts themselves out there as an ‘elder’, has such of a large readership and the influence which accompanies it, and one who speaks on the subject so much don’t you think it only makes sense for you to know what you’re talking about in a deeper manner than you do before you speak so authoritatively on it?

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          • I’m content to write from what I have actually observed, learned and applied – without needing perfect knowledge on all aspects of a topic. If comprehensive knowledge were a criteria, then none of us would ever be able to communicate anything!

            I have written on some of the problems we’ve seen locally in other churches with detached, itinerant, so-called apostolic “workers” in Organic Dead Ends.

            I also have seen the problems with unaccountable and detached itinerant ministries generally over more than forty years, going back to the Jesus Movement and the early Charismatic Movement.

            Like Matt Rust below, our fellowships fortunately have been able to avoid this particular problem, and it is important for those coming from a local church perspective to share from their experiences – even if they don’t have EVERYTHING figured out!

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  3. I think that the early church was not as bent out of shape over the issue of apostles as we are today. They had their share of false apostles who caused Paul no end of stress, but they also had women who were known to the church as apostles, which kind of blows the minds of most of us, myself included. We tend to treat apostolic ministers kind of like great artists; you can have the title as soon as you die. I agree with you, but I think that in our current age, I don’t honestly recognize people as apostles unless they have planted several churches that continue to grow and reproduce. This means that they are an apostle to those fellowships, not to churches everywhere. I choose to ignore the floating kidneys in the body of Christ who want to tell everyone how to do church; I think those are the ones Paul would have ignored as well. Thanks for this post. I appreciate your respect for the local church as being what lends authenticity to ministry.

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  4. We had run into some of this a couple years back but thankfully did not get burned by it. It took discernment among the fellowship, however. After that, we did a study on apostles and its applicability for today. Primarily in the form of helping an existing and established gatherings. We determined that if the Lord sent us the right person, we would be open to the mutual encouragement and edification. We came up with these criteria to judge these potential helpers below:

    How should we as a group view some of the functions of an apostle in relation to equipping and strengthening us as an existing church body?
    • Person should provide an outside perspective based on God-given wisdom and experience. Well-versed in scripture. Available testimony. Should live a life in Christ worthy of imitating.
    • Should edify and strengthen the church, encourage the functioning of the spiritual gifts, and mutual
    participation in the meetings
    • Christ-centered teaching that will result in more unity and love among the body of Christ and not
    division, elitism, or denominationalism (1 Cor 1:10, 1 Cor 13, Eph 4:2-3, et al.)
    • Person functioning in this role should be humble and not boasting in themselves or their abilities (2 Cor 10:17-18), serving, mutually submissive, open and honest, loving, and genuinely interested in us as individuals and as a group. They should want to spend time with us. They should be willing to speak the truth to us. There should be no hidden agenda or selfish motives involved on the part of this person.
    •Person should not want to maintain a level of control over the group. Person should be willing to meet us where we are at and go from there vs. require us to meet a certain standard or picture prior to them wanting to help us

    Btw – there are humble men out there who love the Lord and want to see His church built up who will visit and strengthen existing churches in Christ with nothing in it for themselves. Because these men have their hands full serving and loving those in their midst, they are usually not very well known.

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    • While I’m all for the character qualities which you’ve described as part of the calling in this post, I have a question for you Matt. What is it that would differentiate between one called as an apostle and one who simply has godly character? What about the Scriptural accounts of those characteristics which accompany the calling and make it stand out from the others?

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      • Good question. From the study we did on apostle in the NT context meant “sent one”. There were those sent out and commissioned by Christ that had seen the risen the Christ, and there were others that seemed to be sent out by the big A Apostles or by the churches. Regarding the sending out part, modern day missionaries seem to be a close fit (“missionary” is not mentioned in scripture, but I believe it is a biblical function).

        We decided not to get into the weeds of trying to label and identify the role as much as recognizing the function and being open to see it if God brought it into our midst.

        Not sure if that answered your question.

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        • It was very revealing. When someone comes along and claims apostleship or to be an emissary of The Lord, what kind of questions do you ask them to prove the calling? Do you know how to actually test for the calling?

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          • Based on your questions it sounds like you have the deeper answer or revelation here. I trust the Spirit to discern through the Church to test the spirits and to lead us into all truth through the written Word and divine nature in us. WE have the mind of Christ.

            If there is some special revelation or gifting we need beyond what the Lord equips his church with as it is needed, it sounds like more of the same tune of the very self proclaimed apostles who tell us that we need what they have to give.

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          • Deeper answer? I would say that the simple answers or questions come from just a cursory reading of the Scripture.?.? Questions like, ‘have you seen the risen Lord’, ‘what does He look like’, ‘what is the mission He’s given to you’…. Are there demonstrations of power? Power based upon authority versus prayer? Are their witnesses to any of their claims? Can you break anything which they share?

            This is just basic stuff and none of you know to ask these things? Really?.?.

            Is it a wonder that Christendom is so anemic and immature?

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          • Brother you should have just told me you were trying to set me up for the risen Lord requirement. While I am not one who would equate any modern day “apostle” with the NT “Apostles”, by any means, scripture lays out the following apostles who have no written record of seeing Christ: Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Apollos, Andronicus, and Junias.

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          • Set up? Really? Like I wrote, I just shared basics from a simple look at the Scripture. I would never teach to dogmatically rest a conclusion on one criteria. But I gave you a few basic ones. Don’t you know how Paul tested them? He was flat out about what he was looking for.

            And Matt, my brothers call me Will or William.

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  5. I understand and sympathize with the foolishness which you’ve had to deal with. But at the same time, you promote yourself as an ‘elder’ and apparently can’t identify what the calling actually looks like or entails? You frequently write about the authority of Scripture, but don’t even know the basics of the calling? Why not take some time to study the scripture, ask The Lord to show you how to recognize the genuine, and share what you’ve learned? Obviously, by your own words, you don’t know much about the calling and run the risk of dismissing or even worse opposing one who is genuinely called to be His emissary.

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    • Hmmm… So far, I think we have done quite well using the criteria discussed in the blog (actual proven local church credentials) in screening those who claim to be “His emissary” in telling others how to “be the church”.

      Beyond that, well… those are other issues for maybe another blog by maybe someone else or maybe me in the future when I feel ready, aren’t they? ;-)

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  6. I really hope you study it out and talk with The Lord as you do. One who promotes themselves as an elder, one who is supposed to be amongst the more spiritually mature believers in a group, and claims such of a great respect of the scripture shouldn’t have such a hole in their walk in such an area. I would hate to see one who represents themselves in such a fashion appear to walk in hypocrisy, pride, or ignorance as they have such a large readership and apparently are looked to as an example of maturity. I wouldn’t want your grace or the favor in your life be diminished for exhibiting such a poor example.

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  7. Jim,
    Thank you for your thorough reply. I more understand your position, I think. I apologize for the harshness of my last letter and meant no disrespect. I seen you say ” I have seen the carnage they cause.
    Like wolves (although in sheep’s
    clothing!), they often run in packs.” and that’s the statement I was referring too. I read too much into it I suppose.
    I have met a few people in my life that I consider genuine apostles or prophets and they are often treated very poorly amongst Christianity as a whole but I now see the type you are mainly referring to. They are the more “look at me” sort, full of pride and know it all but without the wisdom to acknowledge they honestly don’t know anything and are seemingly blinded by what they think they actually know…If I am understanding you correctly, I totally agree 100%.
    That is bad medicine.
    Thank You,
    Brian

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  8. Perhaps i view things a bit different
    I recall the established churches in christ’s time to be the synagogues, and the rogue teacher and his disciples, ruffling feathers, throwing out money changers were in fact the pioneers of what we embrace today. There is a distorted perception of who Christ was and is, mainly muddied up by the political correctness that modern established churches and their spokesmen promote. If it ruffles feathers, throw it out. If it offends the mainstream, it is no good. Christ was found to be an offense, a thorn in the side of established religious and political systems, to the point of crucifixion. Think of what that takes! To disrupt the comfort of an establishment to the point of being killed. I believe christians in modern times, if the “church” crossed paths with their messiah, would possibly do.exactly what was done to him then all over again. Christ warned that we would be hated, not embraced. Our right to.speak freely without being muzzled by those who give themselves authority is fleeting. Just an observation.

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