The Necessity of Converting Apostolic Ambitions

apostle know himI happen to be a firm believer in the apostolic and prophetic graces functioning in the Body of Christ today.  As Ascension Gifts given to us by the Head of the Body, Christ Himself, I know their value to the People of God is irreplaceable and required for maturity to be developed in the believers, both individually and corporately.

In full disclosure, I haven’t always subscribed to apostolic and prophetic function.  Beyond NOT KNOWING what they were, I was taught and trained that the apostle and prophet were simply titular offices that ceased with the death of Peter, Paul and the other brothers way back in the day.  There was no need for God to “work or speak outside of sola scriptura now” since we have the Bible.

Let’s tap the brakes here. I am not wanting to turn this post into a discussion of the grand old debate regarding Scripture Only and whether or not apostles and prophets exist today and are relevant to the life of current day believers. I’ve circled around that mountain far too many times along the way in my faith journey and such discussions have rarely proven fruitful in cultivating things that truly matter, such as love and mutual respect. So, if you want to bail on this post now, I would encourage you to do so.  No hard feelings on my part!

I have discovered over the years (and yes, innumerable debates, arguments and conversations) that people usually fall in three categories regarding the topic of apostolic and prophetic function.  First, there is the “No way, Jose” crowd.  Second, “Yes, they exist so we are going to make it THE thing now!” crowd.  And, finally, those who being led by the Holy Spirit to consider, look into and explore such things and are open to them operating should they actually exist.

Having been indoctrinated into the first group of naysayers as I set out on my ministerial journey years ago, through time and experience,  I wholeheartedly plunged full bore into the other extreme of apostolic/prophetic EVERYTHING where the restoration of the apostle and prophet was THE KEY to the closing out this age.  With such a mindset, the structures, organizations and schemes to “DO THIS THING” emerge and, rather than equipping believers to function, the apostolic everything serves only to hold believers captive.

Regardless of who is at the top of the hierarchical system, a pastor or an apostle, the fact remains that the order is an inaccurate biblical and Kingdom representation fabricated by men’s whims, ambitions  and imaginations and, therefore, cannot/will not bring about Father’s purpose for and in His family.  While both functions of Christ’s Grace are absolutely required and have their role to play respectively, Pastors are not to be preeminent and Apostles are not to be the central, necessary component.

Over the past 15 years or so as I have merged back into the median of the two extremes, I have been blessed by the impact of Christ’s apostolic and prophetic graces functioning and being administered in a balanced and healthy manner.

As a matter of fact, I credit Christ making significant changes and bringing unforeseen growth in my life and character via the apostolic and prophetic graces over the past several years. The administration of those graces has, indeed, come through graced individuals but, more importantly in my opinion, has been administered through a corporate body and community (local and global) who have been equipped by those graces and released to operate accordingly. More about that in a later post.

While authentic apostolic/prophetic function can serve as a catalyst to believer’s growth and maturity,  much harm can come to believers and their maturation can be thwarted by inaccurate apostolic/prophetic figures who consider the respective grace in which they function to be THEIR OWN. The key to effectiveness in authentic apostolic and prophetic graces are that they function accurately and according to Father’s intent and Christ’s grace……..not according to men’s intentions, interpretations and men’s design. Although the ego induced shenanigans of ME and MY ANOINTING thrive within the parameters of men’s configured religious settings, such carnality has NO PLACE in the Kingdom and Father’s Economy.

When Jesus said, “I will build (MY) Church (of ME)….”, my opinion is that he really, really meant it. It is His Grace – whether apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher and/or evangelist – that functions through a DEAD to SELF, yielded vessel, who, as the Apostle Paul stated, ” I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.”

There’s a definite slippery slope when it comes to operating apostolically and/or prophetically. Along with any ascension gift comes the ability to influence and persuade people. With the apostolic and prophetic function there comes an inherent governmental nuance that is able to bring unprecedented impact into the life of a believer or community. However, if the potential to persuade is touched by carnal ambitions, it can wreak havoc in the lives of God’s People.

One of the sure signs of such apostolic carnality is that the ability to influence and persuade is used to direct people away from Christ and Christ being formed in them towards a “thing”, a new revelation, a mission, a project, an organization, etc. Essentially, rather than pointing believers to Christ, something is presented to believers as a lens that must be used in order to view Christ. It becomes THE THING and without it, a believer will “miss out” and “get left behind in what God is (really) doing.”

I’m pausing here because thinking about this and writing about this upsets me. I get angry. I get sad from having perpetrated such hijinks on precious believers in the past. It doesn’t matter that I was ignorant of it. I trusted my heart and went with what I thought God was speaking to me “to do”.  My heart betrayed me! I was an orphan looking for significance. I had to “build” some thing in order to validate who I thought I was. My heart became broken.  Since then, Father has been working at giving me a new one.  Would to Father, other apostolic types would take heed and listen to what I am saying.

I am extremely thankful for a brothers/sisters who loved me, suffered with me long enough and were forgiving enough to see some maturity emerge in my life, character and calling. The Body of Christ is a beautiful thing!

In a previous post, A Basic Understanding of Apostolic Being, I offered the following statement:

A true, genuine, authentic, God-called and equipped apostle has to have converted ambition.  Ambition is an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction.  What is it that true apostles earnestly desire to achieve?  What is the distinction they hope to obtain?  Well, I can tell you that it isn’t to be known as God’s man of faith and power!  It isn’t to lead a large congregation or organization.  It is not desiring to plant/start churches or even to win the world for Jesus! (gasp!)

Would you like an example of what I am saying? Let’s just stick with apostles being THE THING, shall we?

One of the things which have been established as foundational principles in regards to the apostolic ministry is that apostles operate as wise-masterbuilers and are responsible for devising “apostolic strategies” to get this whole Kingdom thing d-o-n-e!

I REALLY wish apostolic brothers would STOP saying that……….especially about themselves!

I know Paul said it.   He said it once.

And, he said it to a group of carnal believers in Corinth, who at the present time, were dominated by their evil nature, spiritually immature and unable to receive Paul’s spiritual teaching because they were not governed by the Holy Spirit. He fed them with milk rather than solid food because they were not able to assimilate the latter. (1 Cor.3:1-2)

He never used the “wise-masterbuilder” metaphor again to the Corinthians or in any other letter written to the churches.  Nor, do you read anywhere in scripture where any other apostle does so.

Hmmmmm, I wonder why?

So, he is talking baby talk to infantile, carnal believers so they could potentially understand the point he was trying to make about himself and the other apostles mentioned in the chapter or that they knew. What was he trying to get across to them?  Paul and Apollos are NOTHING but God is the Source that causes growth. And, in light of such basic truth, as believers they should stop being divided by choosing which apostolic brand they wanted to associate with in the faith.

But, brothers who want/need for apostles to be THE THING will use that verse as a proof text to establish that apostles are wise-masterbuilders, and, as such, should be honored, supported and heeded.

My question is, “Why aren’t all apostles heralded as laborious gardeners?”  I’ve never heard an apostolic message on that one, especially in the Western world.

But before he lays down the wise-masterbuilder metaphor, Paul uses the gardening metaphor to illuminate his point. But, I reckon being identified as a sharecropper isn’t as glamorous to our unconverted ego as is being proclaimed a wise architect.

The truth of the matter is that Paul is referencing laying the foundation of Christ accurately in the life of believers so that they themselves can begin to build upon that foundation.  Ultimately, the grace Paul received belonged to God and the People belonged to God. He isn’t talking about using his apostolic grace in building a ministry, organization, network or any of the other stuff our religious, idolatrous, unconverted ambitions can devise.

So, while a crucified-with-Christ Apostle Paul uses the wise-masterbuilder metaphor in context to attempt to remove himself from in between the believer and God and resolve the division found in community, today’s apostles, with unconverted ambition, erroneously embrace the moniker of wise-masterbuilder and prop themselves up before the people.

Converted ambition is what I’m talking about.

Below is an excerpt from T. Austin Sparks’ writing, An Apostle’s Supreme Ambition.

The impressive thing about this expressed ambition is the time at which it is made. Here is a man who has had a revelation and knowledge of Jesus Christ greater than any other man up to that time. That knowledge commenced whence as he said, “it pleased God to reveal his Son in me“. That beginning devastated him, and sent him into the desert to try to grasp its implications. Later he had been “caught up into the third heaven and shown unspeakable things, which (he said) were not lawful to be uttered”. Between, and around those two experiences, there is evidence of an ever growing knowledge of Christ. Here, after all that, near the end of his life, he is crying passionately: “That I may know him.”

The very least that we can say about this is that the Christ in view was a very great Christ indeed, who outstrips the greatest capacity and comprehension of man. This stands in such tremendous contrast to the limited Christ of our recognition and apprehension! How very much more there is in Christ than we have ever seen! But we must break down our verse. It is divided by its main words, and can be stated in its four phrases.

(1) The all-governing passion: “That I may know him.”

(2) The effectual power: “The power of his resurrection.”

(3) The essential basis: “The fellowship of his sufferings.”

(4) The progressive principle: “Conformed to his death.”

You  can read the article in its entirety here.  If you made it this far, you might want to go check it out. It is definitely worth your time.

When I talk to someone claiming to be an apostle, I use the 4 points provided above to gauge the conversation.

If the majority of the exchange is regarding their latest and greatest (insert something here), then I bless them and go about my way.

If I hear or can sense any mixture of the 4 points in our discourse, I know there is a potential connection to discover and develop. It’s Christ! It is ALWAYS Christ!

Keep your peace!

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8 thoughts on “The Necessity of Converting Apostolic Ambitions

  1. Excellent article, Bryan. Many are called, but few are chosen because they blame their wilderness experience on the devil and beat their own path out of the means God was using to strip them of human wisdom and selfish ambition. Our pride resists the fact that God doesn’t need us, yet in his love, gives us the privilege of co-laboring with him. We imagine their must be a better building strategy than dying, allowing Christ to mold us and then merely pointing to him. While Paul went without a change of under ware, suffered oppression, persecution and sleepless nights, he noted that the church he wrote to reigned like kings. Too many of today’s “apostles” reign like kings and use the church to fulfill their own need for significance. I imagine Paul didn’t feel self important while in prison writing letters to a few small groups of believers, but his priorities rested on the four points you listed above.

  2. Philippians 3:10 should be our litmus test: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” When you hold the “plumb line” up to one’s life (mine included), ministry, family living, work ethics, and how he treats his neighbor, does it look like Jesus?

    Bryon, don’t be surprised if you receive negative feed back, because most of us don’t see ourselves in the light of how others see us. The poet, Emerson said, “O wad the power the Giftie gie us to see ourselves as ithers see us” (Old English) Some are still using old wine skin tactics to raise their own support rather than trusting God like the rest of the sheep. I will say up front that we “shouldn’t muzzle the ox who is treading the grain”. “Every servant is worthy of his hire” which Jesus said to His disciples to eat and drink what is given to you in the houses that you stay in Luke 14:7. I wonder if God muzzles the ox at times that He might break men from this old paradigm of “head honcho”. Maybe we should take the teaching of Jesus to heart in Luke 17:10 “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” Rather than trusting the sheep for our supports as leaders, maybe we should put our trust in the “Giftie” (Giver of all—Father)

    Bryon, and T. Austin Sparks, you have just passed the “litmus test”. “Well done thy good and faithful servants”. Matthew 25:23. Look at the rest of the verse for his promise to you.

  3. Have you ever heard of Art Katz? He was the man who introduced me to the subject of apostolicity. What I believe distinguishes the apostle and prophet as foundational men is this: they can say with Jesus, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father. I and the Father are one.” In a general sense, we should all be able to say this. And in another general sense, the Body of Christ as a whole should function this way. Yet, who was the last person you met who had the audacity to say as Paul, “Follow me as I follow Christ”? Indeed, to follow Paul is to follow Christ, and to receive his words are to receive the words of God. The two have somehow become one in a very profound way. This is what it means to be apostolic. At the heart of the apostle and prophet is the cross of Christ Jesus; the apostle carries with him that which is heavenly measure, that which is heavenly pattern, to lay a foundation for the people of God to rest on and to build their common reality.
    Grace and peace in Christ. I suppose the Sovereign Lord is working in you something of apostolic caliber just yet. May His face shine upon you, and in beholding the beauty of holiness, may you be forever changed into the image of His likeness. Blessings from Ohio!

  4. Bryon, I’ve already responded to this article, but something kept speaking to me, after it grabbed my attention, when I first read this article. The key words were “gardener” and “sharecropper”. This year I have the biggest garden that I have had in many years. It’s a community garden. My son, Paul, and a few of my Hispanic friends share in it.

    I’ve been a carpenter, tended my grapes, and from the time of my youth I have worked on the farm. Each of these, I believe, were to show me the heart of Father. Just yesterday I hired a man to come in with his tractor and cultivate the garden for the last time, because the plants are getting too large and delicate to tend in this way. It takes more of a “hands on approach” with a hoe.

    Even after walking behind the tractor yesterday (checking behind him, even though he was doing a good job), this morning I discovered a tomato plant uprooted, one where the roots were exposed, and others that needed the gardener’s care. I believe, the Holy Spirit showed me what you, Bryon, and many of us have done over the years. We have come behind men that have run “rough shod” over God’s little ones. They have been uprooted from the way they first knew Christ as babes; their roots were made bare and the cares of this world has sucked the life out of them. We have taken the uprooted and planted them deeper in Christ; given them plenty of water of the word; and provided shade (a safe haven for them to recover).

    The scripture that you provided in I Corinthians 3 in the Wuest Expanded Translation makes it clear that the one who plants and the one who waters are one. However, they are not anything. It’s only God who cause things to grow. Luke 17:10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. How can anyone dare boast that they are anything, except in their death that He might be glorified.

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