Thursday, 9 September 2010

Unbounded AND Togetherness?

I am coming to believe that we can be both unbounded as a movement of churches and yet also together.

Apostles are key.
I believe that the apostle is the key to these two seemingly contradictory things co-existing.
As far as I can see in the NT, apostles didn't have defined "teams". They had people who would work with THEM as the key ministry. Who these people were that revolved around the apostle was fluid, changing and impossible to delineate (see the changing lists in Acts). It's true that some of them were closer to the apostle and seem to have spent their whole ministry life serving "around" that apostle (In terms of Paul: Timothy, Titus?). Others seemed more loosely attached to his ministry (Apollos, John-Mark?), and some kind of in between (Paul: Barnabas, Luke?). However, when the apostle went (through death) that was the end of that ministry "grouping" around that apostle. New apostles would have been raised by the Lord and they would begin to develop a new and different group of ministries around themselves. Again, as I see it, these new groups would be fluid, changing and unbounded.

The atom.
I do see it a bit like an atom, where the electrons (Eph 4 ministries and local churches) closer to the nucleus (the apostle) are tighter and could look like a defined team/grouping, but they are not. The further the electrons are from the nucleus, the looser their ties are to the nucleus and the more easily they come and go. These more loosely attached ministries might be strongly attached to another apostolic ministry and just ministering with this group for a specific region, time or circumstance. Or when it comes to local churches, a church may want this apostle or someone close to him into their church because of a specific gifting at a specific time, yet they see themselves revolving closely around another apostle. I see this with the Newfrontiers guys in Reading really enjoying and benefiting from Chris Wienand even thought they look to Terry Virgo and have no inclination to change that.
I have used the analogy of the atom at the risk of it seeming that the apostle is the centre of everything. He is not. The local church is at the centre of everything. No apostolic grouping should say, "This is one of our churches". No local church belongs to an apostle or his fellow Eph 4 ministers. The local church belongs to Jesus Christ alone. The "atoms" of apostolic ministry come from "under" the local church to serve the local church and help each individual church be all that Jesus dreams for that church to be. Eph 4:11 ministries are given by Jesus and exist for the local church, not the other way round. Local churches should have the freedom to invite in any Eph 4:11 ministry they choose to without even the slightest feeling of "disloyalty" to anyone.

So how do we express our togetherness? I think this is where the apostle is key. When he comes to town, it is up to the local churches in that region as to whether they want to come to what he is doing or whether they want him into their local church. In the course of gathering around him, relationships are formed and local church leaders begin to know, love and care for each other and their churches. Out of this may flow gatherings that the apostle or one of the ministries revolving around him may organise. Again, this is not to become a named group, but merely to support and love those that we find ourseleves in relationship with through that apostolic ministry at that time.
This sounds quite close to what we had in NCMI and contains many of the NCMI values, and well it should, as much of what we had was good and wonderful. All that was missing for me was the openness and unboundedness. My experience is that closedness and boundedness leads to pride, striving and an upside down emphasis on the apostolic team rather than the local church - more from those revolving around the apostle than the apostle himself.

I also think that we have achieved this unbounded and open model through the NCMI genesis and pilgrimage. Unfortunately it has come with quite a lot of pain and clumsy lurches - yet come it has. Praise you Lord!

May life flow in His church!

1 comment:

  1. Sean - glad you're taking the time to de-angst yourself from the bounded past!
    One of the dangers, especially for local churches looking at all of this, is that "apostolicity" becomes a noun and no longer a verb (as God intended it to be!).
    In talking with people in other places, even other countries, one of the main gripes is that a lot of what was "team", in all the "lurches" as you say, has failed to honour the relationship side of things - a very much parochial-apostleship has developed. It would be a great help to churches if that aspect of the apostle - the relationships - doesn't get lost; NT team "atoms & particles" were always relationally connected wherever they went. It's critical to the integrity of being "sent by God".

    See you soon