There’s an issue among Simple Church folks that I simply can NOT overlook any longer. It’s the issue of the apostolic ministry in the Simple Church.
What is an apostle? The word, literally, means “a sent one.” That is to say, one has been sent by God to minister to others in an effort to advance The Kingdom. These people have a strong “fathering” spirit and are willing to be spent for the purpose of bringing the Church to maturity.
In the Simple Church world, apostles (note the Lower Case letter “a” as this is a Job Description, NOT a title) have been limited to being called “Church Planters.” I don’t think it’s serving the Body at all to attempt to limit that which God has established for its benefit.
An apostle will establish ministries, which includes church planting, but it may include other things. A traveling missionary could be an apostle. Another could have an apostolic calling on the internet or through writing. These days, many people do. Apostles are given to bringing churches together in unity, tearing down the walls of separation, as much as they are establishing new ones. The time is short. It’s not only about establishing new church networks but perfecting the churches that already exist.
Are YOU involving the apostolic ministry in your life? If you have been given that gift, are you giving it BACK to the Simple Churches with whom you have a relationship?
WHO IS AN APOSTLE TODAY…YOU?
Jesus is the One gathering the apostles together in these last days, just as He always has. Apostles will serve the Body of Christ with Jesus as the Head and with us as Members of His Body. The Head does the thinking and we follow His direction. Jesus is the true Shepherd and will gather us to Him by His Spirit. We can expect, of course, opposition from the conservative, traditional, doctrine of man.
Are you an apostle? God knows if I am – and WHEN I must serve in that role. Personally, I’ve been asked if I am a prophet and an apostle and, frankly, I don't really care, nor am I impressed with those who refer to themselves as such. I’m simply listening to the still small voice who tells me when to go and where and how to serve once I arrive at my destination. I suggest we all do likewise.
I recently served in an apostolic role – with that anointing – as a group of Baptist brethren assembled to learn more about Simple Church. I was teaching with an anointing, prayed, prophesied and have heard reports of miracles having taken place starting that very evening. All glory to God! Despite all this, I am NOT inclined to re-print a business card with “Apostle Michael Tummillo” upon it. By the way, I didn’t take an offering but was given an unexpected wad of checks and cash. My excitement came from knowing those people will be blessed for we cannot out-give our God.
If there is truly an apostolic anointing on a person’s life, it makes no difference if they are called an apostle or think they are one. If it’s true, then the perfect will of the Father will be done, no matter what it’s called. What does it matter what others say or do or call you? Just do His will in building His Kingdom and don’t concern yourself with what others say.
APOSTOLIC MINISTRY IN
I have heard leaders within the Simple Church movement acknowledge that we are lacking one key ingredient: apostles raised up from within the movement itself. I agree with that notion as I have heard stories of apostles from without the Simple Church camp being invited in and sowing confusion because they did not see a particular group as supporting the local church or were too engrained in the Institutional Church system to see anything else as being legitimate.
On a DVD entitled “Tidal Wave,” I heard (paraphrase), “…you won’t find Presbyterian House Churches or Baptist House Churches.” I have found quite the opposite to be the case as I have, personally, ministered to a group of 42 “Church of Christ rejects” in a house in West Texas, a group of Universalists, Baptists, on several occasions (as recently as last night), a group of Charismatics that had recently split, and a group from an Assembly of God church that had done likewise after catching the pastor stealing.
One SC leader told me they had determined that if God were going to send them an apostle, He would raise that person up from within their own group. (If that is the case, they should be prepared to LOSE that individual for he/she will soon be “sent” to someone else as their job description requires).
Another SC leader said, after conferring with other leaders in his group, they couldn’t justify the expense of “flying someone in” whom they did not even know personally, unaware that the apostle in question had spent 8 years criss-crossing the nation in a motor home with his wife (Paul, whom the Corinthians knew, sent Titus to minister to them – they simply trusted Paul’s choice).
IT’S A MIRACLE…OR IS IT?
I have heard it quoted that an apostle was one who performed miracles. In fact, for many, signs, wonders and mighty deeds are the guidelines for the apostolic ministry. This conclusion is based upon interpretation of 2 Corinthians 12:12, “When I was with you, I certainly gave you proof that I am an apostle. For I patiently did many signs and wonders and miracles among you.”
Personally, I disagree with that litmus test.
Why? Because miracle workers can be found among the Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, and witches, too. In John 4:48, Jesus said, (I believe with a sigh),“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe." He also warned, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect - if that were possible,” (Matthew 24:24).
Paul wrote similar words to the Thessalonians: “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders,” (2 Thess 2:9).
Sadly, too many Christians will use this as the sole criteria for a TRUE apostle. Though this is often the case, some apostles will have a strong healing ministry while others are very prophetic. Some are incredible teachers while others operate in a combination or cluster of gifts.
The one thing ALL apostles will have in common is a desire to serve the Body, exalt Jesus, and build His Kingdom… NOT their own!
Jesus warned us about false apostles. These are people the Lord has NOT sent but who go anyway. Because the Lord is raising so many apostles today, the enemy is also raising up counterfeits that look and act like the real deal.
Jesus commended the Church of Ephesus in the Book of the Revelation: "I know your works and your labor and your patience and how you cannot bear them which are evil. And you have tried them which say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars."
There are many “liars” - deceivers - these days, people who operate as if from the Lord, even speaking in His Name, quoting Scripture and getting people to follow after THEM as their “apostle.” As a general rule, follow the money and you will discover a great deal about, well...ANYONE. False apostles are often nothing less than cult leaders, controlling the minds of feeble followers.
While true apostles will exemplify true servanthood, false apostles will be SELF-serving. This will be evident in that they resort to manipulation and control in order to maintain a following or accumulate funds. A true apostle will give his ministry away by imparting his gifts to others a la Jesus.
False apostles will stress the governorship of apostles over the rest of the five-fold ministries (Eph 4:11). That’s nothing but pride and arrogance.
True spiritual authority will be a threat to them as it was to the religious leaders in Jesus' day. This is what He said to His disciples which were also His twelve apostles: “You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many,” Matthew 20.
Did you catch the phrase, “IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU"? The apostles were never sent to dominate God’s people; the Head of the Church is Christ Jesus.
God never gave mankind dominion over any other human being. Yet, even in Christian circles, we this exhibited everywhere.
I realize the so-called “apostolic authority” many refer to today is simply a warmed-over version of what has been taught for decades. I contend it’s time for church leaders to lay down their titles - their crowns - and give Jesus all the authority, all the honor, and acknowledge Him as our Lord while becoming servants and ministers just as was the case in the early Church. This includes apostles as well as all other Members of the Body. There is but one Head on this Body and the last day revival will be brought about by those who submit completely to His authority.
The way we gain Godly authority is by submitting to one another as unto the Lord. There are renegade apostles today who think we should come into one accord with them because of the pretentious authority they believe they possess as “Apostles” (Note the Upper Case “A” as it reflects a title in these instances). I won’t name names but you HAVE heard of them, trust me. True apostles cannot submit to apostles with a carnal authority nor can authoritarian apostles submit to those whom God has actually called.
False apostles will in one way or another exhibit false characteristics. You will find false apostles among the sins of the Nicolaitans with their ranks and divisions. These will forbid women in ministry. They will exalt themselves and try to gather others around them. They will come with their own agenda and traditions of men. False apostles will see the army of God as likened unto a worldly army with many ranks instead of us marching as one man. They find it hard to have faith in God's provision and may feel the need to ask for money or divert funds.
The apostolic types I have personally been privileged to know and have as Guests in our home never ask for money but I have seen the Lord’s abundant providence with my own eyes after each of their meetings.
Instead of coming into one accord to the truth, false apostles will have others come to them according to their own version of the truth. Some among them will hold to the letter and not the spirit or even being subject to the prophets. They lack true wisdom but are wise in their own eyes. Many will be a law unto themselves and consider themselves infallible, they become authoritarian, manipulative and tyrannical, expecting absolute obedience and control and will lash out in the flesh if criticized.
Many false apostles are actually called by God but, when pride sets in, they become false and are led away into delusion and arrogance. These will preach apostolic leadership with themselves at the top of the Corporate Ladder. They are easy to spot if you know what you are looking for; they want to be first in the Kingdom and desire for all others to follow them.
Don't do it! Use discernment before you follow every spirit. Trust Christ in you and follow His guidance. Beware of those with feigned humility; true sheep of the Great Shepherd hear His voice. Don’t fall for anyone just because they put the title “apostle” in front of their name. For many, this is a clue as to whether they are exalting themselves or Jesus.
Once you detect this kind, run the opposite direction!
WILL THE REAL APOSTLE PLEASE STAND UP?
Paul ministered in synagogue and home to Jew and Gentile. Many came to the Lord after HEARING, not seeing. Example: Acts 18:4, “Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.”
In Acts 18, there is no record of signs, wonders and miracles. The thrust of Paul’s message was teaching and reasoning.
Acts 18:11: “And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”
Nevertheless, Paul stated that his ministry there was accomplished by signs, wonders and mighty deeds:
Signs – a miracle of no value UNLESS it points to something; direction sign or sign from God
Wonders – miracles that cause amazement
Mighty deeds – demonstration of power
The mark of an apostle cannot be taken from this Scripture alone. If you ask me, it’s the verses AFTER 2 Corinthians 12:12 that are more authentic signs of an apostle, including the true apostles I have known personally who have resided with us for any period of time. These were demonstrated in Paul’s daily life in patience, signs, wonders and mighty deeds.
The Ten Points mentioned below are important signs (indicators) of a true apostle. They have more value than the traditional measurement of flamboyant miracles and deeds which are too often counterfeited by the Darkside.
THE SIGNS OF AN APOSTLE:
1. NOT A LIABILITY TO THE CHURCH
v.13: “myself was not burdensome to you”
burdensome = expensive
This is in sharp contrast to many “apostles” today, who stay away from the ghettos and poverty-stricken areas where honorariums are non-existent. Paul was not expensive to the church – He would not have said, “deposit the honorarium into my account and fax the deposit slip to my secretary, if you want me to come. My secretary will get back to you.”
PAUL WAS NOT AN EXPENSIVE PREACHER.
He was preparing for his third visit to people that did not appreciate him. He was going DESPITE not not being celebrated.
2. PROPELLED BY LOVE FOR THE BODY
v.14: “for I do not seek yours, but you”
His interest and desire is the people, not their possessions. This genuine interest and love for the Body pushed him to Corinth.
3. A TRUE SPIRITUAL FATHER
v. 14: “but the parents for the children.”
Paul saw himself as a father to the Corinthian believers. Just as a father provides for his children, Paul went with the mentality of providing for the Body. He did not expect his children to provide for him. He gave more than he received. (Note that this is accurate in the context of “children” – not mature believers. Mature believers need to understand the principle of reciprocation.)
4. SACRIFICES HIS TREASURES AND HIS LIFE
v. 15: “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls”
An apostle sacrifices his possessions, treasures and himself for the Body. He does this gladly – not grudgingly.
5. SACRIFICE IS NOT BASED ON RECIPROCATION
v. 15: “though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.”
Paul was not motivated by reward from the Corinthian church. The absence of reciprocation does not quench an apostle’s love for the Body.
6. DOES NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OR DEFRAUD THE BODY
v. 16: “Did I take advantage of you by any of those whom I sent to you”
An apostle does not use his anointing, revelation, position, expertise or experience to take advantage or defraud the Body.
7. OTHER APOSTLES SHOW THE SAME SIGNS
v. 18: “Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?”
Paul affirms that Titus had the same mentality. Therefore these qualities were not unique to Paul. These signs present in Paul and Titus are marks of true apostleship.
8. RECOGNIZES DIVINE ACCOUNTABILITY
v. 19: “Again, do you think that we excuse ourselves to you? We speak before God in Christ.”
Apostles recognize that they will have to give account to God who sent them. Apostles do not make excuses or need human approval. The accountability to God defines their motive for ministry.
9. MOTIVATED TO EDIFY OTHERS
v.19: “But we do all things, beloved, for your edification.”
The apostle’s intent is to build the Body of Christ – to bring the Body up to the measure of Christ.
10. MOURNS FOR SINS OF OTHERS, AS IF HE HAD SINNED
v. 21: “my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced”
Despite Paul’s authority and stature, he mourned for those who did not repent. He ministered in brokenness.
I hope you will find this information helpful and that it will aid in a more fulfilling Simple Church experience.