The role of Apostles and Prophets in an Organic Cell Church
…………..built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,…………. (Eph 2:20a)
When we talk of the Church being founded on the apostles and prophets, we should
first understand that the church is founded on the teachings that we find in the
Bible, and not on traditions or man’s ideas. The ancient apostles and prophet have
set forth for us the word of God in a way that is definitive and can never be repeated.
The bible is a complete revelation that cannot be added to or subtracted from (Rev.
22:18 & 19). Accepting this we can see that every Bible believing church is built
upon the apostles and prophets. Does this mean that there is no place for apostles
and prophets today? In no way! Rom.11:29 “… God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.”
He gave these ministries as gifts to the church; He won’t take his gift back now.
In this short text I’d like to share a little about the role of Apostles and prophets
within the organic cell churches. I also want to go on to look at how we recognise
these ministries and how, if someone feels called to be an apostle or prophet their
call can be tested, allowing them to arrive at the place where they can best serve
The role of Apostles and prophets are quite clear from scripture, Apostles are God’s
master builders, their main role is church planting and development, and according
to the pattern that God has given in His Word. Prophets on the other hand bring
God’s wisdom and guidance to bear on particular situations. In a wider sense, they
together with apostles and evangelists confront the world with God’s Word and justice.
Putting it simply apostles and prophets apply god’s plans to the church, planting
new churches and developing existing ones. They should be in clear and open relationships
with other gift ministries, ready at all times to listen to them, and share with
them, although not necessarily submitting to them in everything. An example of this
can be seen in Acts 21 when the prophet Agabus bought a word about Paul’s impending
imprisonment. Paul was not swayed by Agabus’ arguments and went ahead with his journey
knowing that imprisonment lay ahead.
Another point to be made from Agabus’ story is that God’s standards haven’t changed.
Prophets still have to have a 100% record. Some have tried to teach in recent years
that a 100% record isn’t necessary, just as long as they are right most of the time.
I feel that this line does not accord with scripture, and is only taught to justify
the errors of those who are in reality not prophets. I think that this arises because
people confuse the ability to prophesy (that is, receive a word from the Lord), and
the ministry of a prophet, who as well as transmitting god’s word, are also agents
of His word, power and justice in the World, as well as providing a strong foundation
for the church.
How then can we recognise the gifts of apostles and prophets? Well, the first method
is the easiest. It is summed up in the quote, “If it looks like a duck, sounds like
a duck, smells like a duck and eventually tastes like a duck, then it is probably
a duck.” If someone is constantly doing something well, then in all probability they
are fulfilling their ministry. So when we see a ministry building up strong churches
(numbers aren’t as important as maturity and strength), then it is very probable
that that person is an apostle. Equally, when a prophetic ministry is shown to have
100% reliability over a period and builds up the church of God, then in all probability
that person is a prophet.
The second test for me is maturity. God very rarely sends new Christians into these
ministries, although I have seen some new Christians who tell me that they are called
to be apostles and prophets, they are often misguided, deceived or deluded, yet some
demonstrate a real calling and the beginnings of a gifting. I would call these proto-apostles
and proto-prophets, being the stage before moving into the full gifting. I feel it
ludicrous for a person to call themselves apostle or prophet before they have some
track record. This however doesn’t mean that we should dismiss ministry from young
Christians. God chooses whom He chooses.
A third test is that of stability. Does the person consistently move on in what the
Lord has given them, or are they constantly chopping and changing, caught up with
every new whim or spiritual fashion. Apostles and prophets, whilst constantly open
to a new breeze of the Holy Spirit and not open to every wind of doctrine. They are
marked out by their constancy and stability. They “keep on keeping on” to the point
of pig-headedness. For another more subjective sign, we should not rule out the witness
of god in our spirit.
Some say that all true apostles should have had an encounter with the risen Christ,
as Paul did in Acts 9. I find it hard to take a position on this. Personally I have
had an encounter with Jesus, when he called me into the ministry. Other I know haven’t
had that type of experience. Did Apollos have an encounter with the risen Lord? If
so why did he have to be corrected by Aquilla and Pricilla?
The final test is collegiality, Is the body of the church agreed about their call?
Do fellow apostles and prophets accept them?
We should note the actions of the church in Antioch. Acts 13:1-3. “In the church
at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius
of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 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.” So after they had fasted
and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” They were already
aware of ministries at work in their midst, but then during a time of prayer and
fasting, the Lord said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which
I have called them.”
First Paul and silas had been seen as constant mature Christians ministering in their
own community, then during a time of prayer and fasting the Lord confirmed their
particular calling, separating them to be gifts to the whole Church.
So, if you feel called to one of these ministries (or any other come to that), how
can you test you calling and go on to begin ministering in the church.
1. Submit yourself to your local church. God normally calls and commissions people
in the context of their local church. Unfortunately more that 50% fall at this first
obstacle. They feel a call and think that they are instantly more important than
their church or it’s leaders. Their pride distances them from the Body, and eventually
from any possibility of serving the Lord. So submit yourself to your church and leadership,
God will bless you through it. Some will say, “But my pastor doesn’t understand.
He doesn’t let me minister.” If that’s what’s in your heart, let me ask you; when
did you begin to think like that? If it was before you were called, why didn’t you
go to another church then? If it was since your call, perhaps your leaders know something
that you don’t. Your submission will speak to them of your worth, rebellion only
shows unsuitability for greater responsibility.
2. Look for opportunities to support the ministries of apostles and prophets that
you know. Go to their meetings, offer to help put out the chairs, act as stewards
3. If possible enter into a discipling or mentoring relationship with someone already
exercising your ministry. Learn from them. As they see you grow they will often open
opportunities for you.
4. As you humbly minister what God has given you, little by little, folk will begin
to recognise your ministry, and ask you for help.
5. Ministries are not offices in the Church. The only authority that you will ever
have is that of Christ at work in you, and many times this will be only to the measure
that others see it. Don’t get above yourself!
6. Relate to other ministries in accountability groups. You MUST have others who
will feel free to correct you if necessary. Without this you risk becoming a little
pope. KEEP HUMBLE!
I hope that this small outline has helped you think about this important subject.
I would like to close with just one last thought. Apostles and prophets are humble
servants of God and his church. Those who demand position, rights, and authority
demonstrate a different spirit. One which needs to be broken before it can become
useful to God.
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All spelling and phraseology is UK English.