Apostles and weirdness

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Because of the accusation that we are not communicating clearly to all of our audiences, we wanted to share this with not only you, but in Hebrew in Israel. It was written to a the Israeli Elders Network—so, when I say “you” … that is to whom I am speaking. 

When we discuss the issue of apostles and prophets, one thing has become clear: There is a lot of weird stuff out there. When we say we believe that these gifts are for the church today, we are saying that these are vital leadership functions that will help mature the church and individual believers (Eph. 4:11-3).

We are not saying that we are excited about calling each other “apostle” or “prophet” (we actually don’t!) Or, that apostles will have “super” authority over the entire church. We are not saying, as some have suggested, that apostles will get their glorified bodies (manifest sons) before Yeshua returns. This is about extending the kingdom effectively according to the New Testament. It should be noted that the worldwide “apostolic movement represents the fastest growing segment of global Christianity.”[1] 

When some in other circles of the kingdom hear that there are those who believe in these Ephesians 4:11 functions, they assume that it is connected to the weirdness or apocalyptic fantasy and not something pure, solid and sober. The fact is that we are not always comfortable with other worship styles. I preached a couple years ago in a large Baptist church. They sang a few hymns and then I preached. It was strange for me. No place for the gifts of the Spirit. There was no emotion in worship (that I could see)…but I did not judge them. That was what they liked. Who am I to judge them? We have to be tolerant in the non-essentials. 

I called this paper “Apostles and Weirdness” because there is a lot of stuff out there that is simply weird! For example, when doing some investigation about the NAR (the New Apostolic Reformation), I found one video clip that seems to have become the “poster child” for all that which is weird in the NAR. It is the late Peter Wagner overseeing a team of “apostles and prophets” to “celebrate the formal apostolic alignment of Todd Bentley.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4YlqSV949g

I am going to be honest; it was hard for me to watch that. It is a circus. It is ridiculous and makes a mockery of true apostolic ministry. My hope is that one day the leaders on that stage will repent to the body of Messiah for this. (Let me add that I have heard from several leaders who were invited to be a part of that and said that God would not allow them to participate; something was amiss.)

It is particularly confusing here that Wagner used term alignment over and over. One might conclude that we are disciples of Wagner and that Asher borrowed that word. Actually, Asher received that word in prayer without connection to Wagner.

Correcting Wagner

There were many problems with Wagner’s theology and men like Dr. Joseph Mattera, the leader of USCAL (US version of ICAL,) have sought to correct it. One of the things I like about Dr. Mattera is that he doesn’t approach apostolic ministry from “weirdness” but through theology and a biblical worldview. He is also the first person I have met to embrace the term “New Apostolic Reformation.” In this article, https://roncan.net/38I2x9R, he speaks of four mistakes of Wagner:

“Although some of the earmarks of what Peter Wagner called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) have made many of us in the present Restoration movement uncomfortable (1-such as top down leadership, 2-hyper dominion rhetoric, 3-the use of apostle as a title rather than a description, and 4-the practice of laying hands on leaders proclaiming them to be apostles over regions and nations), it is still advancing because Jesus is the One building His church thorough the magisterium of the Holy Spirit who is pulling the whole body into the vortex of the New Testament pattern of Church.” (numbers added)

As you know, we in Tikkun have been accused of being dominionists (the belief that we will win the whole world to Yeshua before He comes)—many times. Most dominionists do not hide the fact, but teach it. In our case, you have to piece together quotes and then tell people what we are saying, to make it seem that we are dominionists. If we were, we would be proud to tell you.

By now you surely know this is not true—Asher and Dan teach against it in Israel, the Church and the Last Days, and, the end-time scenario that I put forth in The Coming End-Time Awakening is decidedly not dominionist. Dr. Mattera has also been accused of being a dominionist and has written an excellent article with seven reasons why he is not a dominionist. https://roncan.net/2t2VARw.

Taking Cities

Many teach and believe that dominionism is synonymous with believing that all five Ephesians 4:11 gifts are for today. One of reasons is because of misunderstanding of Wagner’s rhetoric. He spoke of “taking cities for Jesus.” Now, when I hear that, given my background, I think of preaching the gospel, helping the homeless, or serving a city. However, I understand that others see it as an aggressive political takeover for Jesus. I love how Dr. Mattera turns that around.

The present apostolic paradigm will not spout triumphalist dominion rhetoric like “the church is called to take cities” when rather, the church is called to love and serve our cities (those who serve the best are the greatest problem solvers who eventually lead anyway)

We are not called to “take over” but to serve. I look at how pastors Guy Cohen and Ephraim Goldberg have been serving Nahariya after the floods. I am not sure if Mr. Nissim (the chief accuser of Tikkun being dominionists from Nahariya) has had time to take away from his next bombshell video to serve his city, but Tikkun has raised almost 30,000 NIS to be presented, in Yeshua’s name, to the city of Nahariya.

Ephraim and Guy now have influence and a good name (and it was an opportunity for Gentiles abroad to provoke Israel to jealously through giving [Rom. 11:11]). But if you read Nissim’s paper on “Tikkun’s dominion theology”, he says that this type of influence is sinister—and an attempt to takeover, as opposed to simply being a blessing and shining the light of Yeshua as we were instructed.

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:16) 

Nissim writes:

“Each term here (impart, direct, cast vision, equip, empower) holds a specific and charged meaning in NAR jargon, one that is different than anything you could imagine.”

Hey Michael—each term also has a powerful biblical meaning!!! 🙂

Everything we write is compared with writings of perceived heretics and, if anything matches, it is then presented as proof of a conspiracy. This all became clear when a leader used the word infiltrate instead of integrate (into Israeli society). Now, personally, I like the word influence over infiltrate, but to take something as flimsy as someone’s spontaneous public comments and then to present it as proof of heresy is beyond unethical—all without even asking the leader, who was named in the paper and not part of Tikkun, what his meaning was or what he believes on the subject.

So make sure to never use NAR words like impart (Romans 1:11), direct (1 Timothy 5:17), cast vision (Matt. 28:18-20), equip (Ephesians 4:11-13) and empower (Acts 1:8). If you do, it will be clear that you are in the NAR—despite the fact that these are powerful, biblical words.

Our mission statement at Tiferet Yeshua is, “To love God, to love each other and to love our city, Tel Aviv.” (We are very happy that Nissim has not outlawed “love” as an NAR word!)

I know that one of the quotes that has been brought out, had to do with taking the land—“Asher and Eitan were sent out like Joshua and Caleb”. It would be silly to assume that we see Asher and Eitan like Joshua and Caleb in their fullness. It was an example of them being sent out to do ministry in the Land, while Dan stayed in America and supported them by raising funds. Anyone who knows Asher and Eitan knows that they love the whole body—those who were toiling before they made Aliyah in 1992 and those came after. It was an internal illustration and had nothing to do with any position over the whole body. There is no evidence or example over 28 years of either of them seeking any position of authority over the Israeli body.

Joshua and Caleb were fighting physical battles to defeat physical enemies. Tikkun, through love, prayer, evangelism and service, seeks to influence and impact society for the gospel—not takeover by force. Yes, we want to influence, but through kingdom persuasion, not political coercion (as we saw with post-third century Catholicism).

The title of Apostle

No one in Tikkun Israel uses the title of apostle or prophet. It is common in many circles to call one’s leader “Pastor Mike” or “Apostle Jim.” Paul never used apostle as a title. It was a description of his gift. He was Paul, an apostle, not Apostle Paul. No one ever calls him “Apostle Paul”. In Acts Luke refers to him as Paul. Yeshua speaks sharply against those obsessed with titles.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah.” (Matthew 23:9-10)

Personally, I do not think He was outlawing titles but speaking hyperbolically, as He often did, to make a point. The point here is not to emphasize titles or derive some carnal feeling of pride or pleasure from the title. Titles are not given so one can see himself as over another or make him feel good about himself. They are merely for others to know your function—it reveals what God has confirmed through other elders, through ordination and prophecy, as to how we function in the body.

Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. (1 Timothy 4:14)

Titles can create competition, like we see in Yeshua’s disciples when they fought over what position they would have in the coming kingdom. For me, I hate titles and wherever I go, I am Ron… period—and I know that most of you operate that way as well.

Tikkun and ICAL

While I have a lot of respect for ICAL, particularly now that they are seeking to deal with some Peter Wagner’s theology (That is not to insinuate that all of Wagner’s theology was off, not by a long shot.), Tikkun has no official relationship with them. Dan Juster fellowships with them and is received by them, but Dan does not function as ICAL’s arm here in Israel to oversee Tikkun. He does not claim to be ICAL’s apostle in Israel. In fact, ICAL has no governing authority over anyone—they are a horizontal organization, not top-down (see https://roncan.net/38LR0GE).

I want to be very clear here, because a leader in Israel publicly and aggressively accused Tikkun of being ICAL’s arm in Israel. That was two years ago and all indications are that he still believes this, and thus, that I am lying (or too deceived to know who is really in control) when I have explained to him in writing and one on one that it is not true. Maybe now that I am writing this publicly for the world to see, he might believe us.

ICAL has no ambassador role in Israel and, as Dr. Mattera says, the idea of taking cities and countries or setting in apostles over regions is unbiblical unless all the churches in that region come under that Bishop’s oversite, like Timothy in Ephesus. Even then, it must be with a team of other leaders. You would only find this in an area that was new to the gospel. Hence, making it impossible for one group to rule the church from Jerusalem. Please hear me—with 100s of denominations and networks, it would be impossible for any one group to have a position of authority over the Global Church. Even with restored apostolic ministry.

Why do we even care?

This is a great question. Why is this issue of apostolic ministry so important? Because it is one of the gifts that Yeshua gave to the church to bring her to maturity. Imagine congregations without pastors. The fact is, this gift is in operation today and many just call it by a different name. Some refer to those who operate in this gifting as a bishop or senior pastor. But what we believe is that Scripture teaches that all five gifts are essential to bring the church to maturity (NO—this is not dominionism; the church is not coming to perfection before Yeshua returns)…but this is the Bible!

 So Messiah himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Messiah may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Messiah. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

  • Five leadership gifts
  • To equip, prepare believers
  • To serve in ministry
  • To build up the body
  • Continuing until we all reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and come mature—or, until Yeshua returns.

Why do we need apostles?

To be clear, we need all five gifts as they work together. Most agree that:

  • A pastor is a shepherd of people.
  • A teacher teaches God’s word.
  • An evangelist is a soul winner like Philip, but in this context, he equips the saints for evangelism.

So, what about a prophet? There are some things that are not in the Word of God. In Acts 13 there were prophets and teachers gathered. God spoke to them to send out Barnabas and Saul. They needed the prophetic gift to know where God was leading them. They could not open to a book in the Tenach and know where Barnabas and Saul should go or go at all. God spoke:

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2)

Paul, in Acts 27, is given prophetic direction that no one on the ship would die. He could not simply read this in the Bible, apart from general promises for protection; even then, he was with unbelievers who did not have access to that protection.

Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ (Acts 27:23-24)

This is one of the many ways in which a prophet can function. Prophecy in the congregation comes to “strengthen, encourage and comfort.” Paul gives very clear instruction for prophecy in the congregation—it would strange to assume from a few vague passages, that those same rules are not for today. We still need prophets and prophecy.  It is to be used in evangelism:

“But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (1 Cor. 14:24-25)

In addition, we need national prophets. Joseph’s prophetic gift saved countless lives from starvation.

The apostolic gift is to oversee the team—not in an overbearing way, but to guide it. It is a leadership gift to oversee and equip leaders. Paul has this role as he travels with his team of Silas and Timothy, and surely there were others. (see Acts 20:4) If we can see how these other gifts are important (pastoring/shepherding, evangelism, teaching and the prophetic), then why, when we see this leadership/visionary gift, can’t we simply identify it for what it is? It does not fit the other four gifts.

We see this gift in Joseph as well. As a prophet he could see what was coming—plenty and famine, but it was the apostolic gifting (which has always existed even if we didn’t name it) that gave him wisdom to govern the crisis and even make a profit for Egypt, while saving countless lives. We see this in James the brother of Yeshua—who was not one of the twelve. But he is the wise overseer in Acts 15 and Acts 21, knowing how to deal with the rumors against Paul.

Why are we so afraid of “apostles?”

One reason is because when we use the world apostle, it seems spooky or ostentatious.

1) People think you are an elitist. Please understand that an apostle cannot just assume authority over different people and congregations–like a pastor, he only has authority on his own domain. A pastor of a congregation in Jerusalem, can’t show up at Tiferet Yeshua in Tel Aviv and assume authority. Paul was an apostle to Corinth, because he was the founder apostle.

“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” (Rom. 15:20)

It is one of the reasons that after their split, Barnabas went to Cyprus:

“They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” (Acts 39-41)

Barnabas was the lead apostle on the team when they ministered in Cyprus. He had apostleship and fatherhood there. But after Cyprus most believe that the relationship changed, as they are now “Paul and Barnabas”.

2) People think we are adding to the 12 (who walked with Jesus), or that we will write new Scripture or that we will get extra-biblical revelation (as anti-NAR folks claim we believe). This is crazy! Yes, we believe the Spirit speaks, but everything must be tested by the written Word and I have yet to meet any “apostles” who think they have authority to write Scripture. However, not every author of Scripture in the New Testament was one of the 12. James (the brother of Yeshua), Jude (one of his other brothers), Mark, and Luke were not among the 12…not to mention Paul!

3) One blog from a UK prophetic group said the NAR is advocating for “super-apostles” even beyond that of the 12, who will have glorified bodies. To be clear, they did not actually quote anyone. I don’t know anyone who believes such nonsense—maybe they are out there? If so, I don’t know them.

The apostle is a normative function of leadership—not some bigger-than-life, giant-type figure. Understand the apostle does not have some “super” authority. We function as a team of ministers, each doing our part in equipping the saints. Asher and Eitan are not the final word in Tikkun Israel and, in fact, are often are in the background.

The apostolic ministry appoints elders, holds leaders accountable and seeks to serve them any way possible. He is a visionary and has the spirit of an entrepreneur, but for the kingdom.

Bishop?

In many streams, this person is called a bishop. Dr. Mattera says that the term bishop was adopted because apostolic leaders that came after the first apostles died (including Barnabas, Apollos, James, the brother of Yeshua [not one of the 12] and others) felt unworthy of the title—not wanting to be confused with the 12. They chose the term bishop instead. Of course, after Constantine, the church became completely political and dominionist in nature, and the Catholic role of bishop was something altogether foreign from the New Testament role of overseer.

Apostles of Christ vs. Apostles of the Church

Now, Dr. Mattera points out something in a paper that I think is entirely possible. He notes that there may be a difference between apostles of Christ and apostles of the church. Apostles of Christ would be the 12 and few others (Paul, James), whereas apostles in the church would be the everyday Ephesians 4:11 function of overseer. It is an interesting article to read: https://roncan.net/2uL07Zx

My interest is not so much in “apostles of Christ” but in the normative overseer function in the body of Messiah today.

The main point of this paper is not all who believe that the five Ephesians 4:11 roles are for today are the same or believe the same things. Just because an individual believes something weird, doesn’t represent everyone in the supposedly in the “New Apostolic Reformation.” In fact, let me say, that are many strange people out there who do not represent us. The Todd Bentley ordination ceremony is a case in point.

Note: I didn’t write this to change your theology, but so that I could represent my own views and not someone else on my behalf.  

 

[1] https://www.icaleaders.com/news/2018/5/25/the-restoration-of-apostolic-ministry-by-joseph-mattera?rq=dominion&fbclid=IwAR0SBl5T3PaThmR59xcaBoXM0WTPofb4EOPSRnXcs0m33NqUwlPML_cxl7k

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