“Creating Apostolic Community” by Garris Elkins

by | Dec 3, 2012 | Apostle, Church, Culture, Five-fold, Future, Leadership, Ministry, Transition, Vision. | 0 comments

Creating an apostolic community requires more
than just reading good books on the subject or having discussion groups at the
local Starbucks. Creating this kind of
community requires providing traction points that will actually initiate
change. This kind of cultural shift will eventually touch every area of our
lives and ministry, and if initiated and facilitated properly, will provide the
traction needed to move us up the hill into the high ground of our preferred
future.

Recently, in the church movement I call home –
the Foursquare Church – our leadership took the bold step to revisit who we are
historically as an apostolic movement birthed under the ministry of Aimee
Semple McPherson. I am proud of our leadership for taking these first
steps.  This decision required courage
and vulnerability.

As church movements experience the passing of
strong, apostolic leadership, like an Aimee Semple McPherson, those who follow
and assume the role of leadership may or may not be apostles themselves.  Organizationally, this change of gifting is
not a hindrance to developing an apostolic church structure. As long as an
apostolic environment is affirmed and honored, and apostolic leaders are allowed
to rise, God can accomplish his will in any group, association or denomination.

Initiating an apostolic community will test our
existing thinking and challenge our current systems. There are typically three
directions one can take at this juncture:

1.  We can PROTECT the
past at the expense of the future.

Historically, movements have gathered around a
common theology or shared experience. 
This gathering has created ways of thinking and ministry that focus on
protecting our theology and our experience against any future threat that
challenges our historic reality. 

This mindset gathers people to its way of
thinking and then builds defensive systems to protect against a challenge of
the historic status quo.  Living inside
this protective box begins to lock-up the potential and vision of an
individual, a church or an organization. 
An apostolic leader will push people and organizations beyond their
current zone of comfort to experience what God has planned for each generation.
All of this is done under apostolic leadership without violating the essential
truth and doctrines of the faith. Apostles help the Church differentiate between
the essentials and non-essentials of our calling.

2. We can IGNORE the issue and carry on with business-as-usual

What can make this organizational shift towards
an apostolic environment so difficult is when we define how we “do church” as sacred
and see any challenge to our self-defined sacredness as a threat.  These perceived threats are either
marginalized or eliminated.  In some
cases, the very message God wants to deliver was within a person or idea we
considered threatening.   

Apostolic thinking gathers around mission instead
of preferences.  They gather around the
mission of bringing heaven to earth that is expressed in the fullness of the
Gospel of the Kingdom.  This Gospel of
the Kingdom is multi-faceted – it is a body, soul and spirit Gospel that
ministers to all dimensions of the human experience.

Just as the natural body is constantly in a
process of change and flux in order to stay alive, so it is with the
Church.  Ignoring the signs of decline in
any area of the health of our natural body will lead to sickness and disease
and even death.  In the Church, ignoring
the signs of sickness in any area of our spiritual Body will lead to
dysfunction and disease. Apostolic leadership requires frequent Body-physicals
to ensure that what we are doing is producing life and not assuming that
continuing to do the same thing unexamined will bring the promise of life in
our future.

3. We can ENGAGE
a process of adjustment that aligns us with our future

The change required to align us with authentic apostolic
community will hinge on how we choose to see ourselves.  This personal reassessment will require an
adjustment in our thinking before we can see correctly.  Correct thinking will change the lens through
which we see our assignment and calling. 

In my Foursquare church family we have
functioned under the Godly influence of many strong pastoral gifts.  Some of these pastoral models have also been
apostolic as they functioned within the Foursquare Church.  Names like Jack Hayford, Roy Hicks, Jr.,
Ralph Moore and Wayne Cordiero would fit this definition. These men saw something
beyond a single view of the Church.  They
saw a larger Kingdom image and some of what they saw has brought us to the very
conversations we are having today.

In the Foursquare Church, where we are
revisiting this conversation, I am not sure re-titling our pastors is necessarily
the answer.  Maybe the answer is simply revisiting
our history and validating it once again. Once that validation is made we can then
take steps to make sure we have an environment that continues to release apostolic
leaders to do what God has called them to do. Our investment in these leaders will
be seen most clearly in how willing we are to remove any organizational
barriers that would stand in their way.

One night almost 25 years ago, I was flying in a
small plane with my pastor, Roy Hicks, Jr. 
As I said before, Roy was an apostle in our midst.  It was about 2:00 a.m. and Roy and I were
flying all night to get back to Los Angeles. 

We were somewhere over southern Mississippi
when I asked Roy a question.  “Roy, if
tomorrow you were leading the Foursquare church – what would you do?”  Roy answered as we both continued to peer
straight ahead into the ink-black night sky. 
He said, “I would do away with a lot of our structure, take our money
and give it to 50 lighthouse churches in 50 states and let them do what God had
called them to do.”  The phrase, “lighthouse
church”, was Roy-speak for a church led by an apostolic leader. I think today,
25 years after that late night flight, we are in a better place to have this
conversation. 

When I was a kid growing up in the 1950’s and
60’s California, the term, “A Planned Community”, was coined.  A planned community is created on a plot of
undeveloped land. It is designed and built from scratch. Some of these communities
were out in the desert where only jackrabbits and sagebrush grew.  The planners laid out the city streets.  Individual house plots were assigned. City
office footprints were penciled in along with each individual house and their
assigned address.  Everything was under
the plan.

As some of us revisit the concept of an
apostolic community, we will need to go back to the original God-planned
community of faith Paul addressed in Ephesians 4.  In this original plan each of the five
equipping gifts are in place and doing what God intended for them to do in a
planned community.  Living in community
is the healthiest when we know our own street address and how to find our way
home again. It is the job of apostolic leadership to make sure each generation
understands God’s original blueprint for our community of faith.

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