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Healthy Church Apostles: Every local church should have a healthy apostolic covering in order to be effective beyond its four walls

John Kelley with Paul Costa, “Healthy Church Apostles: Every local church should have a healthy apostolic covering in order to be effective beyond its four walls” Ministries Today (May/June 2001), pages 53-56.

He was young in the Lord; rash and impulsive. He was also a born communicator, and immediately went out preaching and teaching, unencumbered by such banalities as sound doctrine and scriptural truth. That was where I was supposed to come in. When I mentioned in the company of other believers that I had to teach that boy sound theology I was surprised to hear what I now know is a common response: “make sure you don’t put out his fire for God!” Most will not come out and say it, but the sentiment is clearly felt: theology is dangerous.

Welcome to the Pentecostal/charismatic movement.

I am not sure where this fear of theology was birthed, but without a doubt it is with us. Though this does not reflect the attitude of the entire Pentecostal/charismatic movement, its influence is felt throughout. Few things are more shaky than a Christian movement that fails to emphasize the very structure that would preserve it: sound doctrine.

Thus, I was encouraged when I saw that Ministries Today had begun the Ministries Today Institute which describes itself as “A continuing Education Course to Equip Church Leaders”.  However, I was discouraged when I saw the May/June 2001 issue. The Institute teaching was titled “Healthy Church Apostles”. The subtitle read, “Every local church should have a healthy apostolic covering in order to be effective beyond its four walls.” The article goes into detail about how apostles are to be used in the local church. It was very specific, and reflected heavily the teaching of C. Peter Wagner.

Ministries Today has as its subscribers a large number of Pentecostal/charismatic leaders from many different doctrinal backgrounds. This movement is distinctive in its broad denominational following, as we are bound together by our common desire to see the contemporary work of the Spirit. As I read I kept thinking doesn’t MT realize the diversity of the movement?

This was not merely an article, but a teaching endorsed by Ministries Today. I have no desire to discuss the validity of the teaching set forth in the article. Rather, I question the wisdom of MT putting its name behind what is clearly a disputable doctrine. The alienation that can result from this is apparent in the opening paragraph. Note the unqualified statements:

We are in a subtle shift of Church leadership, which is going on around the world. The shift is in the way leaders think of ministry, view ministry, and function in ministry. C. Peter Wagner has carefully studied this change and has called it the New Apostolic Reformation. Because of this shift, if you’re conducting church the same way you were 10 years ago, you are already caught up in yesterday’s movement, and may be stuck in a religious system.

This would be acceptable in an article. But as part of their Institute, it is a sanctioned view of MT. As such, you can see what they are saying about those who reject this teaching, or are not “conducting church” in the ways prescribed in the article. Such a narrow and arguably obscure view is not in keeping with MT’s non-denominational stance.

Ministries Today’s commitment to educating church leaders is commendable, and I hope other Pentecostal/charismatic publications will soon follow suit. However, with our need for an understanding of the primary doctrines that unite us, I see no need for MT to endorse disputable teachings representing a small part of a large movement.

Reviewed by Mike Dies

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Category: Fall 2001, Ministry

About the Author: Michael J. Dies is the reviews editor for Pneuma Review. He and his family live in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.

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