You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Apostle and Overseer of Crusaders Ministries, located in Chicago, Illinois, with close to 4,000 in attendance weekly in several locations, John Eckhardt is the best-selling author of the popular Prayers for Spiritual Battle series, filled with his succinct, scripture-based declarations and prayers, and launched with his bestseller Prayers That Rout Demons. John Eckhardt is a sought after international conference speaker, has authored more than 20 books, produces a daily radio broadcast, and his television program Perfecting The Saints is seen weekly throughout the United States on the WORD Network. John Eckhardt resides in the Chicago area with his lovely wife, Wanda, and their five beautiful children.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (November 2, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute.
There is no substitute for the apostle's ministry. We need apostles in each generation, just like we need evangelists, pastors, and teachers. When emerging apostles do not replace founding apostles, the church is in trouble. This cycle of deterioration has occurred in almost every movement and denomination. This is because of a lack of understanding concerning apostolic ministry.
Tradition has often hid the apostolic from our eyes, but this gift was never withdrawn from the church.
After the death of the early apostles, the church began to teach that the bishops (those ordained and set by the apostles) replaced the apostles as the governmental leaders of the church. The doctrine of apostolic succession was espoused by Clement of Rome. He intervened on the behalf of the presbyters of Corinth who were dismissed from the church. He ordered their reinstatement by insisting that an orderly succession of bishops be established by the apostles.
During the second century, the church came under threat from false teachings, primarily the teachings of Gnosticism. These heresies posed such a threat to the church that Irenaeus proposed the concept that the true churches must be able to trace their leaders back to the apostles. He taught that an unbroken succession of bishops founded by the apostles guaranteed the truth that a church possesses. In this way, one could differentiate true churches from the false ones led by heretics. Churches were therefore considered apostolic if they could trace their leadership back to the apostles. This is found in Irenaeus's writing Against Heresies (ca. 185).
The African orator Tertullian, in his treatise On the “Prescription” of Heretics (ca. 200), proposed that a church need only have the teaching of the apostles in order to be apostolic. In other words, there was no need to have apostolic succession in order to be a legitimate church. Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215) similarly proposed that a succession of doctrine rather than a succession of bishops is the most important characteristic of a true apostolic church.
The apostle is a pioneer. This pioneering anointing causes great breakthroughs and advancement.
Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage (ca. 205-258), was perhaps one of the strongest proponents of apostolic succession. He maintained that the apostolate (the apostles) and the episcopate (the bishops) are one. In his view the bishops were the successors to the apostles, and the apostles were the bishops of old. By the mid-third century, the difference between the apostles and bishops disappeared with Cyprian.
The development of the doctrine of apostolic succession (an unbroken line of bishops from the apostles to the present bishop of Rome) was a response to the rampant heresies being taught in the early church. This doctrine was developed to test whether a church was legitimate or not. If teachers could not trace their leadership to the apostles, they were considered false. Only the apostles and the bishops that replaced them were considered valid teachers and carriers of apostolic tradition.
This teaching further states that only ordinations conducted by the bishops were valid. This teaching rests on the false doctrine of cessationism. It rests on the false concept that bishops replaced apostles. Any teaching based on a lie is false because it rests on a false foundation. There have always been apostles in the church. Tradition has often hid them from our eyes, but this gift was never withdrawn from the church. Each generation needs apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. I agree with Tertullian in stating that the doctrine of the apostles is currently available through the New Testament. Any teaching outside of it is blatantly unapostolic.
Paul was sent as an apostle without the laying on of the hands of the Twelve. He was an apostle by the will of God, not by the will of man. Jesus sends apostles. Although they are usually released in the local church and confirmed by prophetic ministry, their origin is from God, not man. No man has to trace his ministry directly to one of the original apostles through the laying on of hands. This would be a fruitless endeavor for the multitudes of apostles the Lord is sending today.
The apostle is a pioneer. Apostles are set in the church first. (The Greek word for “first,” proton, means “first in time, order, or rank”--1 Cor. 12:28.) This pioneering anointing causes great breakthroughs and advancement. New movements grow rapidly and have great momentum. This usually continues while the founding leader is alive. Movements usually try to maintain the leader's legacy by replacing the leadership with bishops, superintendents, and administrators. The movement begins to lose momentum as it becomes more administrative than apostolic. This process is called institutionalization.
The movement becomes less open to new ideas and revelation. It ceases to be a movement and becomes a monument.
Ernest B. Gentile defines institutionalization as “the process whereby the church of Jesus Christ becomes an established, recognized organization, a structured and highly formalized institution, often at the expense of certain spiritual factors originally thought to be important.” Derek Tidball defines it as “the process by which the activities, values, experiences, and relationships of the (religious) group become formalized and stabilized so that relatively predictable behavior and more rigid organizational structures emerge.” It is the name for the way in which free, spontaneous, and living (church) movements become structured and inflexible.
Inflexibility is the characteristic of an old wineskin. New wine must be poured into new wineskins. New wineskins can become old wineskins quickly after the death of the founding leaders. This has happened to almost every movement in the past. It will continue to happen unless a group can identify and raise up emerging apostles to replace the founding apostles. When the founding leaders are replaced by bishops and administrators (“governments” in 1 Cor. 12:28), the emphasis is on maintaining instead of advancing. The movement becomes less open to new ideas and revelation. It ceases to be a movement and becomes a monument.
And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.
--1 Corinthians 12:28, niv
The New International Version of the Bible translates the Greek word kubernesis as “those with the gift of administration.” The King James Version uses the term governments. The gift of administration is a very important gift to the success of any church. It is not, however, set in the church first by God. In other words, it is not intended to be the dominant anointing of the church. When the administrative gift becomes the dominant gift, the priorities of the organization become administrative instead of pioneering and advancing. The administrative gift cannot replace the apostolic gifts at the helm of the church. David Cartledge states the following:
Where apostolic ministries are not in the church, or accessed by it, those without a ministry Gift will attempt to lead or govern the Church. The end result of this is a man-made bureaucracy. It becomes merely a democratic administration instead of a theocracy. The usual effect is the utilization of control mechanisms rather than modeled leadership. . . . The attitudes of most denominations towards apostolic leadership have tended to squeeze such gifted ministries out of their local churches. The resisted or rejected apostolic ministries have either formed independent churches, or movements that functioned without democratic or denominational restraint.
I believe that God always provides the gifts that we need in order to fulfill our destinies. It is not the will of God that movements start out with great power and momentum, only to shrivel up and die after one generation. The apostolic gift is the key to continuous advancement and momentum. There is always another generation of apostles that should be in position to replace the founding apostles.
The church faces an unfortunate situation when administration takes over the apostolic, because the very gifts that churches need to advance are usually lost due to the organizational constraints placed upon them.
When an organization or church becomes administrative at the expense of being apostolic, apostolic gifts are often choked out. This is because apostolic gifts tend to be too progressive, pioneering, and advancing for many organizations. Some would identify this as rebellion, but usually it is a desire to keep the group moving forward and walking in present truth.
However, the church faces an unfortunate situation when administration takes over the apostolic, because the very gifts that churches need to advance are usually lost due to the organizational constraints placed upon them. This happened in the early church when bishops replaced apostles. The church became more ceremonial and traditional. The apostolic power and grace of the church in the Book of Acts was lost. The Reformation of the sixteenth century began to change this. The reformers, however, failed to restore the proper role of the apostle. Many Reformation churches kept the episcopal (bishops) form of government. We are now seeing the restoration of apostles to their proper role in the church.
Apostles Ordain Bishops (or Elders)
The third chapter of 1 Timothy gives the qualifications of bishops (overseers, elders). Paul is giving apostolic instruction to Timothy concerning the government of the local church. Timothy is functioning as an apostle.
Apostles are responsible for the oversight and setting of leaders in local churches. The traditional concept of bishops being over groups of churches is really an apostolic function. The teaching that bishops replaced apostles removes the role of current apostles from the church. Some have taught that the bishop is the highest office in the church. This is not true. God has set apostles first in the church. No amount of scriptural wrangling can remove them from this position in the church.
Apostles ordain and set bishops (overseers, elders) in the church. Titus was sent by Paul to ordain elders (bishops, overseers) in the church at Crete (Titus 1:5). Paul and Barnabas appointed elders (bishops, overseers) in the churches they established (Acts 14:23). In his book The Last Apostles on Earth, Roger Sapp states the following:
We must recover the scriptural understanding of the apostle and the overseer, and for the sake of the Church put away the unscriptural ministry and the title of bishop. It is evident from a simple look at these passages that all or at least the vast majority of those Christian leaders who have accepted the title of bishop did not receive it from apostolic ministry and have accepted a role that usurps the role of the apostle. For present-day bishops to acknowledge this error to the churches that respect them will be difficult, but necessary, to make room for apostolic ministry to come forth. Otherwise, the “old wineskin” will not be suitable to hold the “new wine” of the Spirit that will be poured out in the days preceding the coming of the Lord. In some cases, it will not be difficult for the man of God to dispense with this title and to instruct those who look to him for leadership about the apostolic ministry over a short time. It will be for him a question of humility and love for the truth. In other cases, due to long tradition it may not be possible to do so without serious difficulties. In any case, the Lord will grant His servant grace to embrace the truth.
My Take: I love the passion behind this book. It's obvious the author had a tremendous vision for getting the church back into the business of changing the world. The early chapters when he's expounding on church history and expressing the need for a return to apostolic leadership are a bit repetitive while he's trying to make his point, but that only reinforces how very important the point is. Through the book, I learned of several new resources I plan to explore as well as some new books for my reading list. This book can change the way you view the church and reveal a fresh vision to restore the church to a powerful, life-changing representative of the Creator of the Universe, a true force for good on the earth.