-by J. Lee Grady.
The Bible tells us there are both true and false apostles. Let’s
learn to discern the difference.
For many years traditional denominations taught that the ministry
of the apostle passed away after the New Testament era. It was
assumed that the only people who served in apostolic roles were
early followers of Jesus who witnessed His resurrection.
Cessationists (those who believe that miracles stopped after the
canon of Scripture was completed) believe that healing,
deliverance, prophecy and all other supernatural phenomena
ceased and that apostles are no longer necessary.
But as Christians in recent years began to experience the
supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, church leaders and even some
theologians began to teach that the gift of apostle is vital if we
hope to advance the gospel in our generation. The logic makes
sense: If we still need pastors, teachers and evangelists (all part
of Jesus’ five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:11), we also
need the apostles and prophets who are listed in the same
passage. The Bible never says these functions were discontinued.
During the 1990s there was a renewed interest in the ministry of
the apostle. Many books were written on the topic, explaining that
the Greek word apostolos refers to God’s special ambassadors, or
"sent ones," who are commissioned to contend for pure doctrine,
preserve unity among the saints, equip leaders, model Christian
character and help the church advance into new territory.
But a strange thing happened on the way to recovering genuine
apostolic anointing. In true American fashion we began to merchandise it.
No sooner had the first book on apostles been written that some
men began to claim the title and print it on their business cards.
Apostleship became a fad. Before too long, some men were
creating networks of independent churches answerable to a
governing apostle who took ownership of their buildings and
controlled their congregations.
Some charismatic apostles became mini-popes who carved out
their fiefdoms. Suddenly the independent charismatic movement
had more invasive authoritarianism than the denominations these
pastors abandoned 10 years earlier.
In some circles apostles demanded total allegiance from the
leaders who were "under" them. Some required a policy of "tithing
up," creating a monstrous organizational structure similar to a
spiritual Amway. So-called apostles with huge "downlines" made
exorbitant amounts of money. One leader even offered pastors the
opportunity to become "spiritual sons" by contributing $1,000 a
month to his ministry.
Apostolic covering could now be bought. And apostolic grace was
reduced to the level of a motivational coach. May God forgive us
for reducing the value of such a precious gift.
I still believe we need the apostolic anointing—and I know many
wonderful apostles who have planted churches in many parts of
the world. As I have watched them, and studied the life of the
apostle Paul, I’ve seen three key truths we must reclaim today:
1. True apostles are servants. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:28:
"And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second
prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings,
helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues" (NASB,
emphasis added). When carnally minded people read this verse
they assume God has set up some kind of ecclesiastical
hierarchy, with apostles sitting on thrones at the top.
But if we view leadership in the way Jesus taught it, we know that
being first is not about being on top. Apostles are at the bottom of
the pecking order. They are the servants of all. And because they
serve a foundational role, their work will often remain hidden in
obscurity. They are not looking for fame or celebrity, nor are they
grasping for a title; their role is to empower everyone else.
2. True apostles are unselfish. I know one apostle in India who
goes by the name of Pastor Howell. He has planted 600 churches
in the Punjab region, trained countless young church leaders in a
makeshift Bible school and led thousands of people to Christ. He
has also seen whole villages impacted by the gospel through one
miracle of healing. He has never ridden in a limousine and he lives
in a modest home with a straw roof that he shares with about 12
Bible college students.
The apostle Paul would have gagged if he could see how some
modern American apostles profit from their downlines or how they
require pampered treatment. Apostleship has nothing to do with
privilege. In fact Paul sometimes made tents for a living in order to
avoid the appearance of entitlement.
3. True apostles share Christ’s suffering. True apostles live on the
edge. They push the boundaries of Christianity forward, into hostile
territory—and as a result they encounter more than their fair share
of persecution and spiritual warfare. They are never content to live
in a comfort zone. Yet even in foreign prisons they find joy and fulfillment.
One of my new heroes is a Nigerian pastor named Tunde Bolanta,
who bases his ministry in the dangerous northern area of his
country. I spent time with him last month when I was visiting
England. He lives in a city where Muslims have killed pastors,
maimed Christians with machetes and drowned their children in wells.
For Tunde, apostleship is not about getting the best seat on a
plane or having the largest TV audience. It is about teaching his
congregation to remain faithful to Christ even when receiving death
threats. And it is about sending his church members into difficult
regions where they could face martyrdom.
As our nation faces a turbulent economic crisis, I pray that we will
allow the Holy Spirit to shake the greed, pride and self-centeredness
out of our movement. False apostles prefer the primrose path over
the Calvary road. May God grant us true apostolic anointing that is
marked by New Testament courage, unquestionable integrity and
Christ-like humility.
-J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.
SOURCE:  http://charismamag.com/index.php/fire-in-my-bones/19934-reclaiming-