Are there Apostles today? : My problem with the modern Apostolic movement
There has become an Apostolic movement in the Church in the last decade. It really came out of what some call the New Apostolic Reformation that was based on a book called Church Quake by C. Peter Wagner. However, I have some serious issues with the whole concerns of modern day Apostles.
Before we get started, let me make it this very clear. I feel the official position paper of the Assemblies of God is too legalistic. The critical take away from the paper is the following statement that cut right to the heart of the issue concerning the Apostolic.
Pentecostal churches believe they are apostolic because they teach what the apostles taught, and they share in the power of the apostles through the baptism in and fullness of the Holy Spirit, who empowers their lives and ministries. They believe what matters is not a contemporary apostolic office but apostolic doctrine and power.
Many people, especially people in ministry, have got down right silly about being apostolic. I have had people hand me business cards more than once only read “Apostle Big Name (M.Div)” It seems that people are more interesting in have a title than they are having a function. Apostolic ministry is what one does, not who one is!
It seems that being an Apostle has become the latest fad in our churches and because of the emphasis on miracles in Pentecostal churches, we are the first place these people looking for acceptance as apostolic leaders would look. We have to be prepared to answer the question about what is and is not an Apostle.
What is an Apostle?
There is a debate about this but in my mind, there is one clear question that must be answered. Are you taking the gospel where he has never gone before? If you are not, you are not Apostolic. It really is that simple.
Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. (2 Corinthians 10:15,16)
If you are not trailblazing for the cause of Christ and taking the gospel to a people who have never received the gospel; there is nothing apostolic happening. You can be an evangelist proclaiming the gospel in areas the gospel is established but Apostles establish it. Far too many evangelists think they are apostolic when they are just evangelistic. I realize this is hard for some to realize.
If someone hands me a business card claiming Apostleship, I am going to ask them what unreached people group are they are pioneering the gospel among? It is not about having pastors “under you,” either. Being a denominational head is not the same as being an Apostle. If you are not pioneering a work among those who have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ; there is no evidence of an apostolic work. Period.
Examples of modern Apostles
One of the most important leaders of all of Church history is a man named Count Zinzendorf. He was a local politician turned minister in the 1700’s that led a group of former followers of John Hus. Out of that came the greatest missionary movement in the history of Christianity. They became known as the Moravian Church.
Many of those who were sent out by Count Zinzendorf sold themselves in slavery in order to preach the gospel and establish the church among the slaves. They were the ones that made the statement, “May the Lamb be worthy of His suffering” famous. One of the examples were in Jamaica, where they baptized a third of the nation in less than a year.
Probably the most well known example among Pentecostals is Smith Wigglesworth. The Apostle of faith established work and preached among the unreached in some pretty remote places, namely in New Zealand. He also established Pentecostal witness in the church in a time that most of the church believed that all miracles stopped in 70 AD.
While most of his work was within the traditional church, his ministry are marked with miracles everywhere he went. He has been credited with raising over twenty people from the dead, including his own wife. Today, Smith Wigglesworth is considered the example of what it means to be Pentecostal.
A comtemparory example would be David Wilkerson. He left Pennsylvania in the height of the healing revival to reach the drug addicts in New York City. At that time, no one in the churches seems to have a clue how to pioneer a work among this unreached people. He went to New York and establish a work among the drug addicts.
The Cross and the Switchblade is the story of how God uses Wilkerson to establish apostolic work among them and one of the early converts named Nicky Cruz. His work became known as Teen Challenge that reaches people on drugs to this day. It is also worth noting that I came to Christ through a convert of David Wilkerson named Steve Hill at the Brownsville Revival.
Pioneering is not always foreign
I am a very strong believer in world missions. I am very concerned about the 7,000+ people groups that do not have a gospel witness among them. I also broken over entire nations that do not have a Pentecostal witness. However, I am not naive enough to think all pioneering of works is in foreign lands.
According to Joshua Project, the mainland United States has over 80 unreached people groups. Many of these are small niche groups but they are people who need someone to pioneer the gospel to them right in the United States. An example of this is the Kurds. There is believed to be over 50.000 living in America as few as couple dozens are believers. Establishing a work among them would be apostolic.
Another people group, Yapese, have only 1 in 5 that have heard a clear gospel presentation. This is frustrating because over 90% of this people group in in one community and no one has been willing to go to them and preach the gospel to them. For my knowledge, there is NO Pentecostal witness in their presence currently.
There is English speaking people groups right in the United States that do not have gospel works being done among them. It will only grow with the refugee crisis facing the nation from the Middle East. You don’t need a passport or a plane ticket in many cases to be actually do a real apostolic work. This is where the rubber meets the road for all these guys running around claiming to be Apostle this and Apostle that.
All things considered, it seems that people would rather talk about being apostolic than actual doing the gospel work that is required for that function. Right under the noses of the Bible belt is the the Tlapaneco people that still does not have a Pentecostal witness within minutes of some of the largest Pentecostal ministries in the world. Business cards do not change the world. Gospel works do!
What about Azusa Report?
There is a lot of ministry that goes on besides what happens on this website but the answer is we are not really designed to be an apostolic work. The primary focus of the website is to call the backslidden Church back to the fires of revival and set the dead religious saints on fire. We are a revival work. That is our primary mission that that over rides everything else that is going on.
We partner with many missionary groups that work directly with some of these groups. Our articles are translated into many languages. We also have engaging with people who are reaching unreached people groups within the United States.
The simple answer is we are more an evangelistic and prophetic work than we are apostolic.