A: Prophetic Awareness
- I sense that we are in a time of opportunity (Greek = kairos e.g. Acts 24:25; Gal 6:10; Eph 5:16; Col 4:5; Heb 11:15) that will not remain indefinitely e.g. economic prosperity is not permanent.
- I believe God gave me 2 Corinthians 9:6, “6 The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”, and applied it to himself. He has sown bountifully into this world and into W.A. in particular e.g. mineral wealth, but has received a meagre harvest of souls, resources and disciples from the church.
- He sowed his Son as the grain of wheat that fell into the ground and died that it might not be alone (John 12:24) but multiply the fruit of the kingdom – this is what the church in the west has not been doing (cf. Mark 4:26 – 29).
- Jesus is speaking about sowing into people, not into institutions, money – making ventures or programmes. This is about making disciples.
- In our group, the “5-fold” or “ascension gift ministry” of Ephesians 4:11 “apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers” (abbreviated as APEPT) is present. If this group has been gathered by the Father to Jesus (John 17:2, 6, 9) the ministry of the group must relate to the role of the church described in this passage (Ephesians 4).
- The current main stream church culture can be described as “church in a box”. Ministry motivation is inwardly directed into gathering more and more people and resources into the building and its associated programmes. We are trying to bring the world into the church and not vice – versa (attractional rather than penetrational or incarnational models of church and ministry)
B: Biblical Framework
Ephesians 4:7-16 teaches a paradigm totally opposite to that dominating the contemporary church: 7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it is said,“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” 9 (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended a into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
- The purpose of the Father’s exaltation (Eph 4:9 cf. Acts 1:9 -11; Eph 1:20 -21) of Jesus is “that he might fill all things” (Eph 4:10) through “the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”(Eph 1:21- 22).
- In Paul, “all things” is equivalent to the universe (Rom 11:36; 1 Cor 8:6; 15:28; Eph 1:10; 3:9; Phil 3:21; Col 1:16, 20; 1 Tim 6:13).
- he way God achieves this goal of filling the world with Jesus is by enabling the APEPT to “equip the saints for the work of ministry”, a work that takes place in “all things” i.e. not just within the borders of the assembled church programmes.
- Through the saints’ service Jesus sows himself into the cosmos of human affairs (political, economic, environmental, social, physical, relational etc.) in every particular context i.e. home, workplace, parliament, shops, schools etc.
- The result of the faithfulness of the church in this calling is the creation of a spiritual climate or atmosphere that welcomes the presence of the Holy Spirit into a community. This is because the life of Jesus i.e. his compassion, love, truth etc. begins to spiritually penetrate the community as salt and light (Matt 5:13- 16) dethroning the practical authority of the evil powers that keep humanity in bondage (Eph 3:10).
- The presence of the life of Jesus in the power of the Spirit in a community through Christian service brings “transformation”, “renewal”, “revival”, “revitalization” into a society. This occurs because the “righteousness = justice of God” is now revealed through the church by its gospel presence (Rom 1:16 – 17; 2 Cor 5: 21) in the world. When unbelievers see the grace, love and truth of God in practical Christian action they know the world is reconciled to God through the cross (2 Cor 5:19; Col 1:9- 20). Faith in the God of Jesus follows this expression of the faithfulness of God to oppressed humanity. (This is why classic revivals e.g. Methodism, Finney, Salvation Army have involved prominent ministry to the poor and marginalised.
- Since average Australians do not believe in God’s “fairness”, there cannot be a lasting spiritual change in the culture without justice and mercy to the poor (Mic 6:8). (Which is the most respected denomination in the nation?)
C: Practical Considerations
- As an APEPT group we possess a broad range of gifts that is usually not present in the local church. In some parts of the church the APEPT is present but is centred on church – building rather than manifesting the kingdom of God (Matt 16:16- 18). If the above interpretation of Ephesians 4 is correct, many of these gifts of Christ are focused on activity in the world rather than the gathered church. (So that in the current spiritual climate they are often not validated by the church).
- God has placed within our sphere of relationships (at least) 2 groups of people I believe we are called to “equip for works of service” in a particular way as an APEPT team.
- The first of these are Christians who have a clear vocation (because of their visible talents/gifting) in the work/market place who are struggling to fulfil their call to fill “all things” with Christ. These brothers and sisters may need pastoral care, coaching, spiritual and prophetic direction, on –site prayer, management assistance etc. to be able to reach their potential in Christ in the sphere of gifting in which Christ has placed them. Examples – Peter, Stuart, (Bob).
- The second group are intentionally ministering to the marginalised well outside the church culture e.g. gays, prostitutes (A.B.) , indigenous (T.E.), eating disorders (R.F.), addicts (S.N.,G.W.), personality disorders (J.H.) . (Or else they hold a creative vision for outreach that requires additional resourcing e.g. Alex’s comedy outreach?)
- This group is usually much better served than the first in terms of “spiritual” resources but often struggle with finances.
- I believe we, in conjunction with a wider network of people, have the God- given resources to equip both of these groups to bring forth for Jesus the bountiful harvest (2 Cor 9:6) that his death deserves. i.e. a harvest of souls, resources, finance.
- The above should be considered in conjunction with my earlier paper (see Hub, Storehouse, Net:A model for church in Perth http://cross-connect.net.au/?p=557) that spoke about a hub leadership group, a storehouse to receive resources and a net of relationships, business ventures and ministries to receive from the store.
- Further biblical structure to these practical considerations include:
- The principle of apostolic oversight e.g. in some meaningful (non- controlling) and ongoing (“mentoring”) way; those involved would need to bring what they have to “the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:35).
- This venture also needs a “deacons group” like those who administered the distribution of resources to the needy in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1- 6).
- No commitment to administer funds or personal ministry would be made without the complete consensus of the team (Acts 15:22, 28).
- There would be some sort of expectation that those whose business ventures have prospered because of the group’s input would sow back into its activities.
- I will leave the business and legal details of this vision fully to others.
 This “work” of the church fulfils the original dominion given to humanity in Genesis 1:27.
 Romans 12:1 -2 makes it clear that true worship is the offering of one’s whole life, not simply singing songs in church.
 This is God’s faithfulness in equipping humanity to fulfil the original creational or cultural mandate of Gen 1:26-28. The resurrection and exaltation of Jesus to the place of supreme power and authority over the universe means he has been given “all things” (John 3:35; 17:2; Matt 28:18 etc.) by the Father (as the second Adam 1 Cor 15:45) in a way that was forfeited by the first Man. The Father-Creator has restored universal dominion (Acts 3:17- 21) to humanity in Jesus as Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36;10:36). Christians know therefore that “all things” are theirs in Jesus (1 Cor 3:21-23) and are freed by the gospel to live this reality out in all the spheres of life.