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A "New" Church For A New Millenium

Dr. Howard Morgan

As the church enters the third christian millenium, I believe that we will see a number of profound and prophetic changes taking place. They are profound because these changes will affect every area of our lives as believers. It will affect how we worship and how we pray. It will affect what we pray for and what we pray about. It will affect the way we conduct our church services, the structure of church government, and how we evangelize and raise up disciples. These changes are prophetic because they reflect the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit to restore "lost" truths to the Body of Christ. It is prophetic because it reflects the move of God to restore the church to her true Biblical Hebraic roots and to the fruit that those roots are intended to produce. It is prophetic because it expresses what God is saying and doing in the church today. And it is prophetic because it will cause the church to be a prophetic instrument in the hands of God that will affect the world, the Jewish people, and prepare the way for the return of Jesus.

Authentic Apostolic and Prophetic Ministry

Perhaps the most controversial restoration that is taking place, and will continue to take place, is the restoration of authentic apostles and prophets in the everyday life of the Body of Christ. For centuries these two foundational ministries have either been completely rejected, purposefully ignored, or relegated to some past historic era. Those who dared call themselves apostles or prophets were typically persecuted as dangerous heretics, dismissed as those who were deceived by the devil, or treated as deluded self-seeking egomaniacs. Sadly many were just that. But the counterfeits are very useful for us because they serve as a foil by which the authentic can be more clearly recognized. Others who did not use the sacred titles "apostle" or "prophet," but in fact did function as apostles or prophets in bringing reform to the church, were usually persecuted and martyred by the very church they loved and sought to restore to more Biblical faith and practice.

Ephesians 2:20 clearly teaches us that apostles and prophets are foundational ministries for the church. The church today simply cannot be, or do, what the Bible describes without these vital ministries. Ephesians 4:13 states that God gave five gift ministries to the church. Apostles and prophets, along with pastors, teachers and evangelists were given to the church "UNTIL we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Has the Body of Christ come to the unity of the faith? Has the Body of Christ become a perfect man? Has the Body of Christ come to the fullness of Christ? The answer is obviously, "No." So then, why do we now believe that we need only three of the five ministries? Why do we now accept only three of the five ministries? Can three ministries do the work of five? God said we need all five to come to maturity. When did He change His mind? The ministries of apostles and prophets are mentioned in the same way the other three ministries are, as gifts to the church. Why would we then have thousands more pastors, evangelists, and teachers, than apostles and prophets? The bible does not say that there would be that many more of one gift ministry than another. Why would God give so many more of three of the gifts, than the other two, especially when those two are so important to the foundation of the Body of Christ?

We cannot disobey God’s clear directions and reject His provisions and then expect the church to function the way it was designed to. God has designed the church in such a way that it cannot function as the Body of Christ without authentic apostolic and prophetic ministry. He would not design the Body of Christ to function in a specific way and then not provide all that is necessary for healthy functioning, would He? Of course not. So what happened to our apostles and prophets? Could it be that we have been deceived into thinking that the way the church functions today is how it is supposed to? Who removed the ministries of apostles and prophets from the church? Why did they do it? What was their motive?

As the church departed from her Jewish roots and embraced various non-Biblical concepts and theologies, satan was able to infect the church with numerous doctrines of demons. He cleverly designed strategies that effectively removed apostolic and prophetic ministries from the church. Satan knew that if he could eradicate these powerful foundational ministries from the life of the church, then he could easily manipulate the church and create a new non-Biblical religion. If the church could be removed from the influence and authority of authentic apostolic and prophetic anointings, satan could replace those anointings with his own influences. History shows us how satan either murdered the apostles and prophets, or replaced them with those whose qualifications were based not on supernatural anointing and gifting, but on political loyalty to the "church institution," or he sought to eradicate their ministries with lies like this: "The apostolic era is over, all the apostles and prophets are dead."

Those with misplaced loyalties easily came under satanic control because their motivations and goals were not Biblical. They sought for institutional position, money and power. To complete the counterfeit, satan very craftily arranged for them to adopt the titles "apostles" or "prophets," or another ecclesiastical title that substituted for the position of apostles and prophets. They did not have authentic apostolic and prophetic anointing, authority and motivation. They only had the titles. The everyday members of the church, who were kept ignorant of the scriptures (by another cleverly designed strategy of the devil), believed that they were authentic because they had official "institutional" designation, approval and affirmation. But they could not do real apostolic or prophetic work because they did not have the anointing or the Spiritual authority. They were counterfeits.

In order for the Church to actually function as the Body of Christ, and not just carry out institutional religious activities, the ministries of the apostles and prophets must likewise function properly. In Ephesians 4:11-16, we learn that we need five ministries to be in operation in order for the Body of Christ to come to maturity and function properly as a body. We don’t need those ministries just to have church services. We don’t need those ministries just to be church-goers. We don’t need those ministries just to practice the traditional religion known as Christianity, with its rituals and dogmas. We do, however, need apostles and prophets in order for the Body of Christ to function the way the Bible describes it. Each of us as individuals need those ministries operating in our lives in order for each of us to come to maturity. We receive from them a specific impartation, a particular nourishing, that only their anointing can give us. That anointing is an important part of our becoming a "healthy part able to nourish the rest of the body" (Ephesians 4:16).

Recognizing Authentic Apostles and Prophets

Two of the most frequently asked questions about these ministries are: "How do we recognize them?" and "How do we relate to them?" In a short article like this, we cannot go into all of the various aspects of apostolic and prophetic ministry. But it is important that we begin the process of de-mystifying these ministries and understand that apostles and prophets do not "glow in the dark!" They are simply men and women who have an apostolic and prophetic anointing given to accomplish specific tasks in the Body of Christ.

Jesus commended the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:2 for testing those who said they were apostles and were not. It is our responsibility to examine the motives and the fruit of the ministries. Here are what I consider the most important issues to look for in the lives of men and women who are, and will be, part of the restoration of these ministries. Are they motivated to do things for your benefit? Are they seeking to support and nourish the purposes of God in your life? Do they come alongside you to help fulfill God's purposes for your life? Are they more interested in building their organization or denomination or network (to use a phrase in vogue today) than building the Kingdom of God? Are they interested in your spiritual development or in your money? What do you have to join and how much does it cost?

Authentic apostolic and prophetic ministers are not interested in your money, they are interested in your spiritual growth and maturity. They are not asking for anything in return and are glad to suffer for your sake. Money, position, power politics, and organizational advancement are not influences in their lives. They couldn’t care less about such things. When you find such people, they are worthy of your financial support and spiritual loyalty. They are good ground to sow your seeds into, and quality people you can learn from. Become their disciples!

Authentic apostles and prophets have the identical motivation that inspired the apostle Paul, who is our model for apostolic ministry. He shared this motivation in Colossians 1:25, 28-29:

…Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,…. And we proclaim Him, admonishing every person and teaching every person, with all wisdom, that we may present every person complete in Christ. And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Paul understood that his ministry was a stewardship responsibility that he had, not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of others. He was motivated by one thing and one thing only, and that was to present every person complete (fully mature) in Christ. He was only concerned with bringing believers to maturity. He understood that this was the plan and purpose of God. He desired nothing else and it was a joy for him to suffer in order to bring this to pass (Colossians 1:24). This motivation is something that we can test. The circumstances of life reveal to us the true motivations of the heart. Authentic apostolic and prophetic people are highly motivated for your spiritual growth and maturity. That is what enflames their heart. When things get difficult, it doesn’t change their behavior or their attitude towards you. Authentic apostles and prophets are "glad to suffer" for your sake in order to do whatever is necessary to help you become "complete in christ."

The Unity of the church

Another aspect of this "new" church that will be built upon the foundations of the restored apostolic and prophetic ministries is that the church will begin to experience real unity. Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21 will be answered. Ephesians 4:3-6 will be manifested in a practical way. The restored authentic apostolic and prophetic ministries will bring back to the Body of Christ a passion for God’s purposes in the church. They understand that God’s intention for the church is that every member be equipped and discipled so that they come to maturity. Nothing else is more important than that. To accomplish this purpose they will bring a restoration of the Hebraic understanding of unity and how it is practically achieved.

This Hebraic understanding defines unity in Biblical terms. The influences on the church from the ancient Greco-Roman world will be uncovered and removed. We will come to understand that unity will never be based upon our believing exactly the same things, or interpreting the Scriptures in the same way, or having the same theological understanding of various issues. Unity in the Body of Christ was never designed to reflect conformity to a system of beliefs or understandings. In the Hebraic mind, according to the Biblical model, unity is based upon diversity; diversity of understanding, diversity of interpretations, and diversity of beliefs. When we understand that God is interested in Christ-likeness and Godly character, then we look at the fruits of our beliefs, at the fruits of our interpretations, and at the fruits of our theologies. Do they cause us to grow up in all aspects into the image of Christ? If they do not, then they should be rejected. Beliefs, understandings and interpretations which cause us to mature into Christ-likeness should be implemented.

Our diversity is our strength because our differences sharpen us as "iron sharpens iron" (Proverbs 27:17). Our differences strengthen us and cause us to grow because they provoke us to prayer and deeper study of the Word. We become like the Berean Jews who, upon hearing the preaching of the resurrection of the Messiah, determined to study the Scriptures to ascertain the truth (Acts 17:11). Just as our human body is made up of many different parts, so is the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12). Just as the parts of our human body differ in structure and function, so do the parts of the Body of Christ. We cannot say that we do not need the other parts of the Body of Christ that differ from us, anymore than any part of your human body can refuse what the other parts supply. Your index finger cannot say to the pancreas, "Don’t send any of that pancreas stuff here, we don’t believe in pancreas stuff." If it did refuse "pancreas stuff," it would soon start to feel bad, turn funny colors, stop working and die. This is what happens in the Body of Christ when we refuse proper Biblical fellowship with other members of the Body who differ in "structure and function" from us. The necessary "nutrition" that they supply is cut off from us and we all suffer spiritual "disease" because of it. If you think through this analogy, you can see just how unhealthy the Body of Christ really is. But God is going to change all of that. The church will learn the principles of unity and begin to practice them. The church will come into unity. Those that resist the unifying move of the Holy Spirit will be removed from their positions and be replaced with those who will encourage and sustain it.

Another "disease" that is crippling the Body of Christ is the insecurity that is endemic in its leadership. Like tares among the harvest of wheat, there are church leaders who, because of their insecurities, operate their churches as if they are their own private empires. They do not, or are not willing to, see that their congregations are part of the Kingdom of God and are the personal possessions of the King. After all it is the King who "purchased their salvation with his own blood" (Acts 20:28), and made the leaders merely overseers or stewards of his flock. Because they see their church as their own personal empire, they suffer from a number of symptoms that prove that they are infected with this "disease." These symptoms include an unwillingness to: join with other churches in city wide events, allow other pastors in the city to minister to their people, support other churches in their ministry, and join with other pastors to do the work of the Kingdom. In the next millenium, I believe that there will be move of the spirit spearheaded by authentic apostles and prophets that will bring all local churches into an understanding that they are building only ONE Kingdom. After all:

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all,
and through all, and in you all.
(Ephesians 4:4-6)

As the church has her apostolic and prophetic ministries restored to proper function, and as those ministries bring unity to the church, so the church will begin to be re-formed. The health that will begin to flow into the church will cause her to build herself up in love, and grow into maturity. This will be a church without spot or blemish. This will be a church worthy of her Lord. This will be a "new" Church for the new Millenium.

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