Apostolic Bullshit III

We Make This Stuff Up As We Go

Random Notes (ht Brother Maynard)
by C. Peter Wagner (2001)

Foundational or governmental gifts: Now that these offices are being recognized, it is important to develop agreed-upon protocol as to how they should relate to each other positively.

Definition of apostle: An apostle is a Christian leader gifted, taught, commissioned, and sent by God with the authority to establish the foundational government of the church…

What I have excluded in this definition: There are biblical characteristics of apostles which I have chosen not to include: (1) signs and wonders (2 Cor. 12:12), (2) seeing Jesus personally (1 Cor. 9:1), and (3) planting churches (1 Cor. 3:10).

The title “Apostle”: I believe that there is increased power in the use of the title “apostle.” The function, in my opinion, will be more anointed and more of a service to the church if the title is used.

Toward a useful terminology. Who is an apostle? Are all apostles the same? This is the methodology that I have used to arrive at a continually-developing set of conclusions.

Vertical Apostles

  • Ecclesiastical apostles. Apostles who are given authority over a sphere which includes a number of churches, an apostolic network headed up by the apostle.
  • Functional apostles. Apostles who are given authority over those who have an ongoing ministry in a certain specific sphere of service.
  • Congregational apostles. Apostles functioning as senior pastors of dynamic, growing churches of more than 800.

Horizontal Apostles

  • Convening apostles. Apostles who have authority to call together on a regular basis peer-level leaders.
  • Ambassadorial apostles. Apostles who have itinerant, frequently international, ministries of catalyzing and nurturing apostolic movements on a broad scale.
  • Mobilizing apostles. Apostles who have the authority to take leadership in bringing together qualified leaders in the body of Christ for a specific cause or project.
  • Territorial apostles. Apostles who have been given authority for leading a certain segment of the body of Christ in a given territorial sphere such as a city or state.

ENOUGH!

The reason that I posted this is to call BS on the hierarchical structures that have been fabricated around the role of the apostle, not only by Peter Wagner, but by hundreds of other apostles and apostolic networks.

This is a widely embraced governmental structure among non-denominational charismatic churches today. Interestingly it is almost papal in its levels of rank and hierarchy. Dependence on these intermediary authorities is commanded as necessary in order to access the grace of God in one’s life and church.

However, the majority of the apostolic networks in existence have developed around power alliances, itinerant platform ministry, conferences, and book publications.   The superstructures are gilded with investment and profitability. Were the money aspect to be removed, the entire picture of alignment and accountability would shift.

There is very little if any connection to grassroots apostolic function at the local level.  In my opinion this is the main factor that contributes to the corruption and distortion of these ministries. Ministry that is disconnected from the real lives of individuals that one lives among and encounters on an ongoing basis will devolve into a staged performance.

Sadly the hungry audience is too willing to flock from one performance to the next, hopeful to encounter the latest move of God at the touch of these experts, codependently perpetuating the celebrity-minister industry.

In most of the reading that I run across about apostles, both charismatic and evangelical, it seems that everyone is attempting to understand the role through an organizational grid. In my opinion the first step to really understanding the apostolic would be to stop trying to define it positionally or organizationally.

Those who truly function apostolically within the body have no concern for carrying the title.  When men are in the boardroom passing around titles to one another, you can bet that the real apostles are somewhere else.

Embrace those who are especially gifted in encouraging the church in the mission of the kingdom. Embrace the apostolic call upon your own life. I believe we will better recognize the apostolic function in our midst when we reject this false hierarchical system of titled apostles.

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26 thoughts on “Apostolic Bullshit III

  1. One can’t make this stuff up – but these “aligning apostles” certainly can. Vertical, horizontal and soon, extraterrestrial apostles. This planet just isn’t big enough for their egos.

  2. Grace, you said if the “money aspect were removed, the entire picture of alignment and accountability would shift.”

    Sometimes I wonder though if power was truly the elixir that these men seek. The money is certainly up there but at least for the ones I encountered – power was supreme. It is a heady high when you can require people to submit and respect you because of what you believe God himself has said about you. To threaten people with destruction on a personal level, to believe that you are the line that the Enemy will not cross and to be able to demand what becomes worship from your followers is a huge deal with many of these men.

    But the way they chase after money and respect and revere those who have it is also there too.

  3. Grace,
    i know you speak from your experience, but sadly, the hierarchy in mainline churches – specifically the United Methodist which I know best- is very similar in the whole “who’s on first” (so to speak) thing :-) I will say it doesn’t seem to be as complicated as what you describe, though!

    The big difference I see- in the mainline there is far less pretense that it’s about spirituality. It’s all about political clout and everybody knows it. The higher up, of course, the less pretense you find.

  4. “The first step to really understanding the apostolic would be to stop trying to define it positionally or organizationally.” Exactly!

    “When men are in the boardroom passing around titles to one another, you can bet that the real apostles are somewhere else.” Spot on! That’s because the real apostles don’t have heart felt affection for the power systems of this world.

  5. No ones nodding and amening from the front row about this, I bet :)

    What I find fascinating is how these ideological frameworks become so embedded in peoples psyches, that it becomes the only frame of reference they have for understanding the world. I think we all do it at some point to varying degrees with varying streams of religious ideology.

    I am always fascinated by that little known saying of Jesus where he says, if you fall on the rock you will be shattered. But woe if the rock falls on you.. for you will be crushed. Ive been trying to find it in the NT for years but it always elludes me..

    When you land on Jesus, most of your ideological frame works are shattered… I think this forms part of the path to freedom.

  6. Grace
    What frightens me is that 3 years ago I would have come after you and told you were wrong about all this. I bought it hook line and sinker. It seemed so different from the Assemblies of God I grew up in.
    I am glad I got delivered. Thank you for bringing this to the forefront.

  7. If the biblical requirements of apostleship are intentionally removed from the definition of “apostle,” that removes all verification of having been sent by God. And, with no biblical verification of being from God, what gives these men the authorization to use the position or the term? This abuse of the God-breathed term as stated in His Word was an early step in what is ever-more-clearly manifesting itself as a counterfeit system of false authority.

    In fact, this hierarchy of apostleship is at best “abiblical” – seeming not to be directly anti-biblical, but also having no direct biblical evidence in its favor. Sooner or later, abiblical theologies show the fruit of their growth and more often than not, it’s bad fruit.

    Also, when I saw the term “territorial apostles” at the end of the list, it suddenly struck me how similar this ENTIRE hierarchy is to hyper-overdone forms of spiritual warfare. It has more than a little in common with the abiblical theology surrounding spiritual mapping, territorial spirits, superspiritual warfare, and related overfocuses on the real world of angels and demons. Shocking indeed …

  8. Brad, Peter Wagner was first a big leader in the whole prayer movement that you describe. So you are right – you will see a lot of overlap between the two things. Intercessors pray that the “gates of a city” will be opened, Apostles open those “gates.”

    It is fashioned after the military in every way. My heart hopes that God stops it before you can be shot for deserting or being in rebellion to the Apostle. This may sound extreme, but in 3rd world nations (such as Rwanda) it would be easy for them to go there with this theology.

  9. All those categories of apostle makes one’s head spin if you read them too fast…

    I wonder if the original Apostles ever had such a convo with themselves as they walked along the road. Sorta like the ‘spiritual gifting’ tests that have been taken by many of your readers. I can imagine the following banter: Bartholomew to Thaddeus, “You know Thad, you are definitely a quadra-linear type. Just look at that robe you’re wearing, why it just screams out quadra-linear!”

    And of course Jesus would have to correct such a misconception…

    Such convoluted categorization & esoteric pigeon-holing akin to the role-playing make believe of video gaming. A spectacular alternate universe is constructed that is then populated with all manner of human/demonic/angelic levels of play with each having specific power/authority. My, my, my, what a tangled web is woven…

    I couldn’t keep my place straight if I had to have it ‘named’. Thank God Paul simply used the ‘members of the body’ allegory & stopped short of ranking anybody as the “Grand Poobah of the Most Sacred Sphincter”…

    :)

  10. When men are in the boardroom passing around titles to one another, you can bet that the real apostles are somewhere else.

    my fave line in this scathing-the apostolic-emperors-are-butt-naked three piece series. (Go KG!!!!)

    Here is the formula for the American Apostolic Movement:

    religion+power=money+more power=self-inflation+religion=even more power=effed-up-spiritualized bullshit

    (finally, all those middle school algebra classes are paying off…)

  11. As I’ve been reading your posts I’ve been totally baffled. I must live in a deeper cave than I thought, because I’ve never heard of this stuff before.

    No wonder so many people think you have to be freaking nuts to be a Christ-follower.

  12. bill,
    Someone has to bring order to outer space.

    jonathan, cindy, and wilsonian,
    I have to remind myself that this isn’t familiar to everyone. It is such a prevalent teaching among charismatics.

    barb,
    I agree with what you are saying. It would be difficult to pinpoint the primary motivation, but so often motives for behavior become apparent when you follow the money.

    ken,
    In the cases I have seen, those using the title aren’t functioning apostolically and vice versa, those who seem to be truly apostolic don’t have their “apostle” business cards printed up.

    sarah,
    Great insight. Interesting that within these circles there is no comprehension that they have adopted worldly systems of power that actually contradict kingdom values.

    urbanmonk and jen,
    We willingly embraced and taught this ideology. I am grateful that our beliefs about all of this were shattered, although the process was painful.

    brad,
    “counterfeit system of false authority” is a very precise term for this entire theology. Because of the hierarchy, I would be willing to state that it is anti-biblical rather than just a-biblical.

    Good explanation barb.

    joseph,
    You make me laugh. Quadra-linear!

    pam,
    I like math. ;)

  13. Wilsonian,

    I hadn’t heard about it either until I moved out of the Cessationist corral. But, my coming of age was just when Wagner et. al. were getting reved up. In the 70’s the Churches of Christ had nearly thrown out the Spirit along with the charismatics because (in part) of all the tom-foolerly baloney.

    Alison and I have dealt with this issue (Apost. BS) with more than a few of our friends. A significant number of folks from our -2CLB migrated into two “Apostolic Networks” with “proper covering”. ;o/

    Tom

  14. An excellent book addressing this issue and issues related is “Accountability, Authority, and The Apostolic Movement” by Steve Crosby. Now what makes this book excellent is not that it exposes errors in the church–that is not it at all. Instead, this book captures the heart of Christ for the church in relation to leadership, accountability and authority. Moreover, Crosby writes this book as a member of the Pentecostal/Charismatic heritage. In other words, he is not merely a critic. The back reads as follows:

    There is a new apostolic movement afoot, and it is leading many from the simplicity of the pure gospel. To be legitimate, the teaching emphasis and ministry expression of present-day apostles and prophets must reflect a correct gospel foundation: the person and work of Christ as its focus, spiritual death and resurrection as its method, and the indwelling Spirit as its power.

    Instead, the new apostolic reformation movement, with its emphasis on apostolic authority, “spiritual covering,” loyalty, honor, submission, and government, has become the vehicle to build the philosophies and kingdoms of men.

    Dr. Stephen Crosby’s third book, Authority, Accountability, and the Apostolic Movement, probes these and other authority/submission issues from a biblically disciplined, Christ-centered, New Covenant perspective. Within these pages, every believer, church leader, apostle, or prophet who may have wandered from the simplicity of the gospel can find the road to recovery.

    http://www.stevecrosby.com/

  15. Lord forgive them, for they do know what they are doing. This spiriual abuse grieves me more and more everytime I here these people talk as though they were God’s own mouth.

    It is amazing to me that the average guy in their eyes, can not possibly, know the things of God, much less talk to Him.

    Sounds like religiousity 101, They have been looking for a revival so long that they have missed he one going on under their noses, the last 2000 years.

    False prophets, these people believe it is all about them, and what they lead the church to work themselves up to do. The ” remnant” is doing all they can to help God make decisions, but the rest of us christians have definitely let God down.

    I just thank God that His Plan is moving forward, despite these people and that we can trust Him. That gives me great peace in which God’s word promises his children. I don’t see many christians with peace, especially those listening to these self appointed apostoles.

  16. Dear Sirs,
    I have have been an ordained Diagonal Apostle for some 5 minutes now and since landing on your planet I have found your sarcasm for the higher things of God to be amusing. I have been sent from the Planet Wagner to bring you all into submission and resistance will be futile . As a diagonal Apostle i can cross the universe diagonally and my authority is unsurpassed . If you would like to learn more of my vast knowledge of the higher things of god.
    please send 19.95 plus shipping and handling to
    The Diagonal Apostle
    666 dumbass dr
    planet wagner .co

  17. I myself am now a Territorial apostles over Hip Hop ministries in Orlando. I felt the call in 2007. Didn’t believe apostles even existed. So I said God prove me wrong. It proved it. I sought out the training from several sites. A MAJORITY of them were false because a lot of what they taught just contradicted the Word. I found one site (Apostle Movement International) who was really close. So I listened TO GOD when He spoke their. They had error of course like ALL ministries even the Original Twelve and Paul would admit their errors (and they do in many places in the Scriptures). Jesus is the Apostle of our faith so I look at it like this: Even the closest modern apostle to Jesus cannot be above the Master but they can get pretty close. So just try them all and see who comes the closest to the truth with the least errors. And search out the ones who are teachable and willing to admit their error and be corrected like Apollos was by Priscilla and Aquila. I went to one school and told them almost 50% of their stuff was contradicting the word and they gave me the “Who are you to question the Living Apostle’ speech. Then they called judgment upon my life and kicked me out of school. LOL!

    I learn as an apostle how to be and not to be towards other Christians as my number one apostle lesson.

  18. Hey… I loved this BS article and, as my toy “Yes man” would say, “I couldn’t agree with you more completely”. I was raised in an AG church and have been involved in the Vineyard for since the late 80’s so I’ve been up close and personal with this BS for years. I came to believe that the entire charismatic christian culture with it’s glamorous “stars” and their circuit conferences was a gaudy imitation of Amway style MLM productions which, on the surface, “appear” to be about the various legitimate consumer products they can sell but in reality is about selling the books and tapes of the top tier stars. Somewhere along the line the whole thing became pornographic. I’m disgusted every time I see a flyer or ad promoting the latest conference with the “glamour shots” of the hot new speakers. I just returned from 2 months in Asia and we have spread this disease to the far east. There are sexy men and women of God all over the planet now. Peter Drucker once said that for anything worthwhile to happen all the meetings and planning have to degenerate into WORK. Someone has to actually do something. To me, the missing element has always been discipleship. Men and women pouring their lives into a few other people who go and do the same thing.

    Shaloha!

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