Many today (especially in Charismatic and non-denomination circles) claim for themselves the title and ministry of apostle. Most I have met do not claim equivalency with the twelve disciples of the Lamb. Yet they seem to invariably claim for themselves rights, privileges, primacy of place, and “positional governmental authority in the church” to which others must yield. The phenomenon is sometimes couched in language of “spiritual covering.” What they espouse and claim for themselves as apostles has no biblical legitimacy.
The heavy-handed application of Matthew 18:15-20 leaves a trail of pain, broken relationships, and human carnage among God’s people. Controlling authoritarians use Matthew 18 to silence dissenting speech, prophetic criticism, and to label people as trouble makers–sources of contamination in the assembly that must be purged.
My friend, Steve Hill (Harvest Now in Ontario, Canada), does what I consider to be genuine and biblically sound “apostolic discipleship” around the world. He does it based on the values of Jesus in the Gospels (See his Luke 10 Manual), not Western values of success. He empowers local people in countries around the world to full kingdom functionality in their communities, without dependency on Western “experts” or money.
In this brief article he asks challenging questions regarding the emphasis (and cost) of maintaining millions, if not billions, of dollars in religious buildings, real estate, and property when the needs of others around the world are so demanding. It is my understanding that between 80-95% of all church budgets in the West are devoted to buildings and salaries. Is there not a better way to do “ministry,” a way with a global perspective and burden? I believe there is. I believe it is the Jesus-Way, and Steve and his coworkers are doing it. This article is reprinted by permission.
In today’s climate of heightened political rancor, some believers use the cleansing of the temple gospel narrative to justify all manner of egregious and even violent behavior toward others–“After all, Jesus whipped people.”—sic. The cleansing of the temple account is one of the favorite proof texts of those who want to try to deflect the potency of Christ’s clear ethical commands to overcome evil with good and to love one’s enemies. Those who proof text this passage to justify their behavior are betraying the scriptures and the Lord they profess to serve.
Within Charismatic circles, there is a widely influential subset group called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). One of their strongly held beliefs is the necessity of submitting to an alleged “apostolic covering” or maintaining what is called “governmental alignment” to a “covering apostle.” It is alleged that failure to do so, cuts off heavenly blessing and opens the individual to spiritual dangers and demonic attacks. The Protestant forefathers must be rolling over in their graves. They gave their life’s blood to do away with the belief system that required a class of religious professionals to broker or mediate the blessings of heaven to the believer. It is beyond painful to see the resurrected form of this doctrine being espoused in so-called apostolic churches and foisted under the banner of “new revelation,” “restoring apostolic covering,” and “restoring apostolic authority.” It is not new revelation. It is old heresy in a new dress.
Spiritual covering is a biblically illegitimate, bad idea, that just won’t go away.
I often get asked: “Where should I go to church?” It is the wrong question to ask. Lurking in it are likely inappropriate and unrecognized presuppositions and motives. We need to ask a “who” question, not a what and where question. The correct answer to that question will be found in understanding God-assigned relationships. Relational reality in God-assignments is where you will find your “church,” no other way.
A guest blog by John and Katherine Matthews.
Unfortunately we missed National Coming Out day on Sunday, October 11. Better late than never though, so in honor of that special day, it’s time to officially confirm that we are out of the IRS, aka the Institutional Religious System. Yes, it’s true.
Anyone can wax eloquent about what could, or should be, versus what currently “is.” Idealism without action is a delusional dead end. Preachers, teachers, prophetic types, “apostolic visionaries,” dreamers, philosophers–whatever your language tradition might call them–are particularly vulnerable to irrelevant idealism. It is better to incarnate imperfection, than to romanticize about a never-seen ideal. Jesus can do a lot with folks who will simply “get to it” imperfectly, rather than “talk about it” ideally.