TRANSITIONING IN GOD: From church centre to apostolic centre
To be passionate about something you need to be willing to sacrifice for it. I know I have lost my passion when I am more concerned about the price I have to pay than the glory that Jesus will receive! ~ Floyd McClung
The fivefold ministry exists to release the church. There is much talk today about apostolic leaders, but what God is really after is an apostolic church! ~ David Shibley
This paper focuses on a spiritual transition that God is unfolding within His Church for His kingdom purposes. We are standing in a major spiritual paradigm shift that is challenging us in how we view church and do ministry.
A paradigm is ‘a set of rules and regulations [written or unwritten] that does two things:  it establishes or defines boundaries; and  it tells you how to behave inside the boundaries in order to be successful.’
Every paradigm will, in the process of finding new problems, uncover problems it cannot solve. It is those unsolvable problems that provide the catalyst for triggering a new paradigm shift.
Some people, though, assume that sooner or later the paradigm they are presently practising [which has been mostly successful] will solve all the rest of their problems. It seems only a matter of enough time and money. People without a future will revert to their past!
Note the following insights:
A paradigm shift, then, is a change to a new game, a new set of rules.
The optimal time to search for a new paradigm is while the old one is still successful. ‘Once plateau and decline have set in, the energy and resources needed to move to the new paradigm might be harder to marshal.’
Paradigm paralysis occurs when an individual or organization holds on too tightly to one paradigm.
Projecting the past into the future proves fatal to those who want to survive. Plans that perpetuate the known present into the future are deadly because they lull an organization into a false belief that it is prepared for the challenges and opportunities on the way.
Paradigm pioneers usually arise from the edge, not from the centre of the existing paradigm. Often the future of our ministry exists just outside the boundaries of the prevailing paradigm, impossible to see.
When a person offers us a paradigm-enhancing innovation – one that improves upon what we are already practising – we see that easily.
But when someone offers us a paradigm-shifting innovation, we find ourselves resistant to it, because it just doesn’t fit the rules that we are so good at.
We need God’s wisdom to anticipate the future and embrace a new paradigm shift. As Barker points out: ‘It is in the future where our greatest leverage is. We can’t change the past, although if we are smart, we learn from it. It is in the yet-to-be future, and only there, where we have time to prepare for the present.’
‘When a paradigm shifts, everyone goes back to zero.’ Whatever your position was with the old paradigm, you are back at the starting line with the new paradigm.
Paradigm shifts are opportunities for significant reflection, adjustments and change. They are reflected in the historical biblical account, as God journeyed with His people, both corporately and individually:
Abram, called from Ur of Chaldees to be Abraham, the Father of faith [Genesis 12:1-22:19]
Joseph, from son of Isaac to second in command in all of Egypt [Genesis 37:1-41:45].
Israel, from captive people to possessors of the Promised Land.
Israel, from a tribal confederacy to being ruled by a King [1 Samuel 8].
Saul, from son of Kish to King over Israel [1 Samuel 10].
From the Old Covenant to the New Covenant.
From the ministry of Jesus with the disciples to the establishment of the early church.
As we examine the broader panorama of God’s history, Hans Kung demonstrates that paradigm shifts have characterized the growth of Christianity. He identified six key paradigm shifts in the history of Christianity:
Early Christian apocalyptic paradigm.
Early Church Hellenistic paradigm.
Medieval Roman Catholic paradigm.
Reformation Protestant paradigm.
Enlightenment modern paradigm.
An emerging paradigm that he has tentatively called the Contemporary Ecumenical paradigm.
THE PARADIGM PROCESS
We should not be frightened that the church is emerging into a new or different paradigm. This reflects the reality that the body of Christ is a living organism, able to impact any cultural or historical era.
What we need to ask is: Where is the impetus for the ‘paradigm shift’ coming from?
All God’s work begins with His Word!
God’s Word launched creation and continues to precede His work, even to this day [Genesis 1:1-3; John 1:1].
God sent His Word to meet the critical needs of society and bring the dark Ages to an end. God gave the word justification [Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17] to Martin Luther.
Another need arose and God gave the word sanctification [1 Thessalonians 5:23] to John Wesley.
The word that sparked the Holiness movement was separation [2 Corinthians 6:17].
Power [Acts 1:8] came to the Pentecostals.
Renewal [Romans 12:2] to the Charismatics.
In each of these ‘moves of God’ there is a combination of the prophetic and the apostolic [Ephesians 2:20]. It is how the Body of Christ has responded and handled these moves of God that needs to be examined! Each revelation was important because it changed the course of Church history, which in turn influenced the destiny of generations.
As Edwin Cole highlights: ‘Immediately following the word, the pattern of revelation and the process of crystallization begins. Nothing is wrong with any true word from the Lord, but everything is wrong with the crystallization of it.’
There is a principle that we need to learn before we examine the pattern and the process:
IT IS EASIER TO OBTAIN THAN TO MAINTAIN!
Cole sets forth the following pattern and process:
Revelation ► Inspiration ►Formalization ►Institutionalization ►Crystallization ►Secularization.
Revelation: Understanding God’s word always comes by way of revelation. God does not explain Himself, he reveals himself!
Inspiration: Inspiration is the result of revelation. Revelation inspires change through the forceful power of a new affection. The fresh affection drives out the old and brings in the new.
Formalization: The changes brought by inspiration are developed, codified and formalized. A desire develops for acceptance and association with those who have received a similar revelation and share common goals and purpose. It is at this point that denominations can develop.
Note: At this critical point of development people need a fresh revelation from the Lord. A new ‘word’ will incorporate new inspiration and stave off the degenerative tendency [reformans reformanda].
Institutionalization: Over time, formalization will evolve into institutionalization. People move through the motions without passion. ‘Doctrines and creeds congeal, and desires arise to maintain the status quo. It is here where, if new revelation is not sought and embraced, which in turn produces progress, then technical and mechanical procedures set in and men commit to maintaining the status quo of the initial thrust.’ At this stage the political can replace the prophetic.
Crystallization: The result of institutionalization is crystallization. New revelation is no longer integrated because of a hardened, unresponsive and negative attitude. At this stage, prejudice and faultfinding intensifies and people can become cynical.
Secularization: Crystallization leads to secularization. There is a return to what existed before the initial revelation
God needs to intervene!
Kung notes that ‘a massive crisis in Christianity makes a massive answer urgently necessary. Christianity should become more Christian. A reform is radical, it ‘goes to the roots,’ only if it brings something essential to light again.’ This insight is reflected in Wagner’s comments: ‘The New Apostolic Reformation is an extraordinary work of God at the close of the twentieth century, which is, to a significant extent, changing the shape of Protestant Christianity around the world.’
We need to note these realities:
The current reformation is not so much a reformation of faith, but a reformation of practice. Luther’s great rediscovery of ‘the priesthood of all believers’ never resulted in ‘the ministry of all believers’. The priesthood of all believers became a theological principle rather than a ministry transforming principle in the Protestant Reformation.
This current reformation is not so much against corruption and apostasy as it is against irrelevance.
The first Reformation returned the Word of God to the people of God. Now a second Reformation is needed to return the Work of God to the people of God. This is reflected in the renewed focus on Marketplace apostles and the commissioning of people into their world Monday to Saturday to fulfil their God given callings.
In this reformation of ministry practice Wagner notes the following characteristics of Apostolic Churches:
The church is driven by vision and values.
The pastor leads the church.
The formation of Apostolic Networks: issues of organizational purpose and structure.
Contemporary worship styles.
The church is outwardly focused.
Ministries evolve and develop within the local church.
Finances and faith are proactive.
EXAMINING THE PARADIGMS
Using the insights of Loren Mead, The Once And Future Church: Reinventing The Congregation For A New Mission Frontier, we will examine three paradigms that have been evident through church history:
The Apostolic paradigm
The Christendom paradigm
The Emerging paradigm
THE APOSTOLIC PARADIGM [33AD – 320AD]
This church was a local community, a congregation ‘called out’ [ekklesia] of the world. It was a community that lived in the power and values of Jesus [Acts 2:42-47].
The world outside of this community was hostile to what the church stood for. The world was not neutral; it was opposed to what the community stood for.
The church came to see that its front door was the frontier into mission. This defined their reason for existence. The church’s people were required to engage their world and witness to their Lord right in the midst of the hostile environment.
The roles of the believers fit their mission to the world. The power to engage in that mission – the crossing of the missionary boundary – came from the Holy Spirit.
THE CHRISTENDOM PARADIGM [320AD – 1900’s]
This new paradigm began to emerge with the conversion of the Emperor Constantine in 313 AD and progressively grew as Christianity became the official religion of the Empire.
In this paradigm, by law the church was identified with the Empire. There was now no separation between church and world in the Empire. Citizenship has become identical with one’s religious responsibility.
Since the boundary between ‘church’ and ‘world’ was blurred, the missionary frontier disappeared from the doorstep of the church and became a task of foreign policy, far off.
Mission was no longer the direct responsibility of the ordinary person. The missionary frontier on the edge of the Empire became the responsibility of the professional. Imperialism and mission, in this paradigm, were inseparable.
Within the Empire there could be no distinction between sacred and secular.
The local representation of church in this paradigm ceased being a tight community of convinced, committed, embattled believers supporting each other within a hostile environment. Instead, it became a parish, comprising a geographic region and all the people in it. No place in the local arena was seen as ‘outside’ the church.
The parish pastor became a community chaplain, a civil servant and a local holy person.
The vastness of the Empire/church demanded a unity of administration and order. To assure unity in administration, theology and politics, discord had to be minimized and standard structures developed. In Christendom, there could be only one church within one political entity.
The ordinary person did not join the church as a matter of will, but as a matter of birth; to be born into the parish was to become a part of the community and the church.
The ordinary person’s Christian responsibilities were defined: be a good, law abiding citizen; pay the required taxes; support the efforts to enlarge the empire and reach the pagan world; be obedient to one’s superiors; support the system with one’s prayers and life.
As Mead notes:
‘The paradigm’s importance for us lies in the fact that most of the generation that now leads our churches grew up with it as a way of thinking abut church and society. And all the structures and institutions that make up the churches and infrastructure of religious life, from missionary societies to seminaries, from congregational life to denominational books of order and canons, are built on the presuppositions of the Christendom paradigm – not the ancient, classical version of the paradigm as it was understood centuries ago, but the version that flourished with new life in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.’
THE EMERGING PARADIGM [1900’s - ]
The death of the Christendom paradigm was heralded with the introduction of the phrase ‘ministry of the laity’. This phrase recognizes that the laity does have a direct call to ministry. A ‘lay person’ is not the same as a ‘citizen’.
It can no longer be assumed that everybody is a Christian. In any geographic area the majority of people may have no interest in the church whatever. Congregation has forever separated from parish.
People can no longer assume that the community is a part of the religious world, living out values derived from the Gospel. Christians now have a responsibility to address issues in the community.
The front door of a church is once again a door into mission territory, not just a door to the outside. Everyone who moves through that door is personally crossing a missionary frontier and is involved in mission [whether they recognize that reality or not].
The outside boundary of the congregation is porous and permeable; people move in and out with little awareness of their responsibility for mission and little knowledge of what the congregation is all about.
The culture that used to pretend to teach the faith no longer does so; the congregation has not discovered the patterns and disciplines for nurturing its people or newcomers to the faith.
The environment beyond the boundary is ‘ambiguous’. Ambiguities from the environment have migrated into the congregation itself.
Key questions: How will it constitute itself for the new mission that this new world calls for? How will it communicate the message of good news? How will it differentiate itself from its environment? How will it address ambiguity in its own life and values?
THE NEW APOSTOLIC PARADIGM
In the new Apostolic Paradigm the focus is on the whole people of God expressing their apostolic identity, as a sent and commissioned people, in their relationship with the world.
The distinction between clergy [senior pastor etc] and laity has been abolished – all believers are a part of the whole people of God.
The church is viewed and reconfigured as an ‘apostolic centre’; it is not the central focus for the people of God – the place where they traditionally gather on Sunday and build their life around. The central focus of the apostolic centre is the equipping of the people of God for works of service in the world – their primary mission context.
Within the whole people of God, God has gifted and established the five-fold ministries, to equip, empower and release the people of God into their missional callings.
The apostolic centre is planted within its mission context. Both the church gathered [Sunday] and the church scattered [Monday – Saturday] are in mission. Mission shapes their reason for existence, their ministry training and their lifestyle through the week 24/7.
There is a dynamic engagement between the people of God in mission and the ever present and accessible mission context through the recognition of market place ministries and the commissioning of people into their callings and destiny.
The apostolic centre [church] is a teaching/training centre networking with other churches, which are like minded, forming a learning community.
The emphasis on Empire [Christendom paradigm] has been replaced with a focus on Kingdom of God – the declaration and establishment of the king and His kingdom in the world – the ever present mission context – through the commissioned people of God.
TRANSITIONING INTO THE NEW PARADIGM
The New Apostolic paradigm is not simply a cosmetic makeover of the Christendom paradigm or a re-badging of a former ministry model. Simply, the former ‘pastoral centre’ model, which has existed in various forms since 320AD needs to be severed and put to death.
In the transition from the pastoral centre to the apostolic centre there are significant mindset changes that need to be embraced and built into our lives. ‘Mind-sets are the thought processes of people groups who have developed a way of thinking over centuries of time. Mindsets are not easy to change.’
Note the following transitions:
PASTORAL CENTRE ► APOSTOLIC CENTRE
PASTORAL CENTRE [MINDSETS] ► APOSTOLIC CENTRE [BIBLICAL
Church [Inward focus] ► Kingdom [Outward focus]
Heritage driven ► Vision driven
Maintenance focused ► Mission focused
Building walls ► Building Bridges
Q: How big is your church? ► Q: How big is your influence in the
HIERARCHICAL STRCTURES ► FUNCTIONAL STRUCTURES
Pastoral ► Apostolic
Hierarchical ► Team
Position/power ► Function/servanthood [5 fold]
Bureaucratic ► Pioneering
Holding ground ► Taking ground
Imitating procedures ► Applying principles
Shepherding ► Releasing
Gathering ► Empowering
Nurturing ► Equipping
Sustaining ► Sending
Maintaining ► Strategizing
Containment ► Conquest / breakthrough
Control ► Commissioning
Maintain order ► Establish order
Spiritual carer / shepherd ► General / father
Siege mentality ► Faith confession
PEOPLE OF GOD
CLERGY / LAITY ► WHOLE PEOPLE OF GOD
Attending church [Sunday] ► Being church [24/7]
Encouraging the saved to ► Equipping the saints for works of
attend the service service
Measuring attendance ► Measuring impact / influence
Involved ► Discipled
PROGRAMME ► MISSIONAL CALLING
Programme ► Calling / destiny
Ritualistic prayer ► Warring prayer
Serving the community ► Transforming / redeeming the
MISSIONAL ENTERPRISES ► MISSION AS A LIFESTYLE [24/7]
Mission committee ► Missional attitude / awareness
Church controlled ► Spirit initiated through the whole
people of God
Doing mission ► Being a people in mission
Condemning the city ► Blessing the city and praying for it
As leaders reflect on these paradigm shifts, Carol Childress of Leadership Network has suggested some key questions that need to be asked:
‘What perceptions about the past keep us from seeing the present? What perceptions about the present keep us from seeing the future?’
‘Do our present paradigms allow us to fully minister to the diversity of our congregation and reach the unchurched population?’
‘How do our theological paradigms shape our methodological paradigms?’
‘Where is our church most vulnerable to be by-passed if the rules change and we go back to zero?’
There are major paradigm shifts that must occur in our churches as we respond to new ministry opportunities in this new millennium:
The shift to an apostolic leadership model for church leaders.
The shift from a refuge mentality to a mission mentality in church ministry approach.
The shift to a kingdom focus away from churchianity.
The adoption of the learning community as a methodology for ministry preparedness.
As Reggie McNeal notes:
‘Like first-century leaders, new apostolic leaders face a new world. The shortage of experts and an increasingly challenging ministry environment serve to place them in similar situations. Motivated by the mission, coached by the Spirit, resourced by prayer, and encouraged by each other, this new breed of church leaders spells hope for the future. The exploration of this new learning frontier for church leaders is just beginning.’