When I was a kid, I tried olives a couple of times. You know: saw one on a platter, picked it up and just ate it by itself, then spat it out again. Gross. But when I hit University, I had an Italian friend living next door to me in college, and he set me up with the perfect combination of cracker, cheese and an olive on top. Once I tasted it, I finally understood why people would eat them. I suddenly loved olives.
I wonder if you can think of a good thing, that you initially resisted, but then circumstances changed, and you were able to receive it? One good thing I believe we can have trouble receiving is authority figures: leaders. We might initially buck at having a boss or someone in an authority role that we need to respect. But at the same time, if you've ever had a boss (or a Mum or Dad for that matter) who looked out for you, or took hits on your behalf, then your opinion of leaders might have changed. That's what leaders are meant to do, lift other people up.
The Kingdom Coming
You might not be aware, but over the last 100 years or so, God's church has seen significant shifts and progress. Beyond the massive growth of Christianity in the global south (Latin America, Africa and Asia), back at the turn of the 20th century, two significant revivals occured. In 1904 and 1905 there was revival in Wales and in 1906 revival broke out in Azuza St, Los Angeles, California.
These revivals brought unprecedented social changes, at least in the short term. In Wales, pubs were emptied, Bible's sold out and people preferred going to church than watching their favourite sports team. In the Azusa St revival, black and white American's sat side by side worshipping Jesus, 60 years before desegregation was fought for and won under leaders like Martin Luther King Jr.
But part of what Jesus did through those two revivals was that he shifted the balance of power in churches. Whereas previous revivals had generally focused around key male preachers, these two revivals were a move of the Holy Spirit through a whole body of people. In Wales, there was little preaching, but songs, prayers and testimonies were spontaneously given by different people in the packed meeting houses. Similar effects were seen in California, with the notable addition of the gift of tongues, as seen in Acts 2. People flocked to the revivals from around the world, but the impact on the broader church happened in stages.
To begin with, those who embraced the changes brought about by the Spirit of God and the restoration of a breadth of the spiritual gifts to the church, generally were viewed as outcasts of the existing churches and denominations. The Spirit moved again in a significant way after World War II, such that at least some individuals from most existing denominations were touched with this awakening of the Spirit. One implication of this ongoing work of Jesus in his church was that unifying conversations between previously opposed denominations began. Then at the end of the 20th century, Jesus continued his restorative work in the churches around the world, in such a way that most churches accepted to some extent:
1) an enriched understanding of the role every Christian person has to live out their unique calling before God;
2) an enriched understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian; and
3) an increased openness to welcome as a brother or sister in Christ anyone who by the Spirit could confess Jesus as Lord
But one question that still remains to a significant extent is: what does leadership look like, in this renewed global church?
Opposition to the Kingdom Coming
Change is always a hard thing to take on board, and some people find it harder than others to embrace. There might be things happening in God's church that you don't understand or that you are even concerned about. But just like a flooding river, which may find obstacles in its path, so as the Spirit of Jesus continues to rush in renewed surges upon Jesus' Church, more and more people will find themselves coming to a unity of mind in the flow of the river of the Kingdom of God. And of course, Jesus only prompts us to change out of his undying love. So if we are open to what the Spirit is saying to the churches, what does Jesus have to teach us about leadership in His Church?
The Appointed Leaders in the Kingdom Coming
As Paul the apostle saw significant spiritual opposition to the forward progress of the gospel, he was prompted to lean on the authority that had been delegated to him by Jesus Christ. Paul writes to his young successor Timothy, as 'an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope' (1 Timothy 1:1). He leans on the authority of his appointment as an apostle by Jesus Christ, to give the necessary directions and encouragement for the church in Ephesus, as they faced false teaching which ultimately came from deceiving demonic spirits (1 Timothy 4:1). He especially uses his authority as an apostle to call out the people of God to the roles that God has assigned for them. For example, Timothy as Paul's true son in the faith is to command against the false teachers (1 Timothy 1:3). Everyone is to pray (1 Timothy 2:1).
Interestingly, with regard to the role of apostle, Paul says that in Jesus church after the coming of the Spirit, God has placed 'first apostles, second prophets, third teachers' (1 Corinthians 12:28) with no indications that those gifts will pass away before the church has reached its full maturity at the return of Christ (cf. also Ephesians 4:11-13). Further, as Jesus also said, 'the last will be first, and the first will be last' (Matthew 20:16), so though apostles might be first, that doesn't mean the church serves them, but instead they serve the church and become part of the foundation of church life that others in the church will build upon (Ephesians 2:20). Of course with Christ the greatest servant as the cornerstone of it all.
In the past 30 years, there has been a renewed openness in Jesus church around the world to recognise those that Christ has commanded to be apostles.
Receiving The Appointed Leaders in the Kingdom Coming
Paul makes clear that he operates as an apostle by the command of Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 1:1). He doesn't do it for his own power, or prestige, but out of fear of God. Scripture also shows us that those called as apostles were commissioned by others within the church as the Holy Spirit led (See for example Acts 13:1-3). Yet, the reason Jesus appoints his apostles, is an extension of his role as the Saviour of the Church. He wants to give to his church and bless his church. So just like Timothy, if we receive the apostles that God appoints for us, we receive 'grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord' (1 Timothy 1:2).
If we are unsure about the role of apostle in the church today, we will need to examine the Scriptures to see what they teach, relying on the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. To be honest, it's been a bit of a journey for me to search the Scriptures on this topic. But if you want to hear more about that, you'll have to check out the video of the sermon linked to this post!
About the Author
Jai Wright is a Christian Minister, who founded and leads MAKE Church in Mackay, Qld. He recently published the book, Life Plugged In: Connecting with the Source of Peace, Power and Purpose.
You might like to think a little bit more about your spiritual health, by taking the Spiritual Health Check Score Card here.