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The Restoration of the Office and Ministry of the Apostle By Michael Barrett
How important is the full restoration of the entire five fold ministry to the Church? Are we seeing the continuing progression of this restoration gift by gift? Do we understand that this restoration will in time produce a "functioning body." In other words, that the Body of Christ (the saints) will be raised up to do the work of the ministry until the whole Body comes to maturity. What an awesome vision and hope we have for these things to actually come to pass! I am glad to be living in this generation and to watch this tremendous drama play out. You are a part of these wonderful things too!!
As we consider the full restoration of the five fold ministry and a functioning Body, we need to consider some of the specific components of this process. In the past 15 or more years we have watched as the Lord has progressively restored the prophetic office and ministry to the Church. There has been a strong emphasis on this area of restoration (and rightly so) until we have now come to a time of transition. (Having said this I want to also say that my comments are generally regarding the Western Church. Members of our apostolic / prophetic team have just returned from Mexico and Central America where we observed a very different condition regarding the progression of apostolic and prophetic restoration.)
The last of the five fold ministries to be restored to the Church is the office and ministry of the apostle. We are now in the early seasons of this restoration but we will see this gift and ministry fully restored. How can I be so bold? Acts says that Jesus is held up or retained in the heavens until the times of the restitution of all things. This simply means that everything that is in the heart of God will come to its full expression before Jesus is released from the heavenly realm to conclude the greatest drama of all the ages.
Navigating the Transition
As the transition from the prophetic to the apostolic continues, it will be very important for leadership to know how to navigate this transition. We haven't been here before. The shifting emphasis from the prophetic to the apostolic by no means should be confused to mean that the prophetic is diminishing. No! It means that the foundation of the prophetic in God's continuing plan of restoration has been laid. Once a foundation has been laid, it's time to build on it, not continue to work on it. The shifting of the emphasis from the prophetic to the apostolic will, in the early seasons, be misunderstood and resisted by many. Because we are typically adverse to change, we tend toward one of two responses. The first response is to resist, if not altogether reject the new offering. Jesus said, "No man who has drunk old wine immediately desires new, for he says that the old is better." Our human tendency is to resist change, particularly if our recent experience has produced favorably results. We have seen much fruit in recent years as a result of the restoration of the prophetic but it is now time to take the next step in this Divine Continuum. The prophetic is perhaps more important in this season than ever before. We must see these gifts and offices work together.
The second response is to embrace the new and reject the old. This can be just as, if not more, destructive. We have a responsibility to walk in God's wisdom and perspective regarding His mind and plan. God is not rejecting the prophetic; we must not. In fact we have to understand that the foundation of the office and ministry of the prophet is vital to the Church coming to maturity just as are all of the other gifts and offices. Now that the office and ministry of the prophet has been offered by the Lord and embraced by the Church (at least a sufficient constituency) it's time to move ahead into the next phase of restoration.
False or Immature?
As we move into the restoration of the office and ministry of the apostle we will notice a typical pattern or cycle of recovery. Initially due to a lack of understanding in addition to the absence of brethren walking in and modeling the true office and function, there is confusion, fear and resistance. As the Church begins to come into some understanding a willingness to embrace the move of God will rise. As a result of this new zeal and excitement there will be a correspondent rise of ambitious and opportunistic men who will attempt to take advantage of this new wave. This is not to say that those individuals are false brethren or even that they are not apostles. It is a serious mistake to make a blanket judgment about these things. We will commonly find a mix of immature and false. In the example of the tares and the wheat, one of the reasons it is difficult to tell the difference is because the true wheat is very immature. We must be careful not to judge the immature as false during the early days of the new season.
This early season is perhaps the most critical. The little fox will always come through the vineyard as the vine is in bloom and beginning to set a new crop of tender grapes. Give the new thing time to grow. In time it will become clear what is false and what is true. Time is our friend not our enemy! Time will allow those who are true apostles to grow and mature while being disciplined and nurtured by the Father. Time will also be an instrument of revelation--it will help the Church see who are the true and who are the false apostles.
We will look more into the subject of five-fold restoration in a second installment of this article in coming weeks. Please pray for apostolic and prophetic leaders to arise and take their place of function in the Body of Christ. Also, pray for the eyes of our understanding to be opened during this season so we can discern correctly. Above all, let's be lovingly patience with one another as we grow in these things. God bless you in your journey.