Mar 23, 2011
Ten years ago today we were in the midst of a three-day prayer battle that was called by this rather lengthy name: "He is building effective apostleship."
Emphasis on "effective."
There has been apostleship as long as God has "sent" people and commissioned them to do a work or to speak for Him. The five-fold ministry, including the apostolic ministry, came into the forefront more recently during the Latter Rain movement of 1948-1952.
In fact, I asked George Hawtin personally back in 1993 (shortly before he died) what it was that killed the Latter Rain movement so soon after it had started. George was the main leader of the Latter Rain, and I wanted to know how such a tremendous move of God's Spirit could be quenched so quickly.
When I asked him the question over breakfast, he put down his fork and remarked sadly, "We were just too full of ourselves. We got caught up in who got to be the apostles ruling the others." In other words, it was a classic fleshly power struggle in the guise of establishing spiritual order and proper authority.
Callings are not something to be grasped, but recognized. It is not a matter of taking authority over other people, but serving them in whatever capacity we have been given. The greater the calling, the greater ability we have to serve. Such service needs no affirmation from man. It only asks to serve. Who would resent being served? If anyone thinks he has a greater calling, then let him serve others in a greater way. Let the competition begin!
Where the Latter Rain failed, God is now establishing a new generation of apostles who know (or are learning) how to be truly "effective" according to God's definitions.
We have now come to the ten-year Hezekiah Factor in establishing this "effective apostleship." We have long wondered what would be revealed at this time. What is the key ingredient that makes the difference? And we have now seen His answer in the newly-released book by Pastor Rob Bell, Love Wins.
Last Saturday, when I went to Barnes and Noble, they told me that they had sold out almost immediately but that a large shipment was coming in a few days. I picked up three copies yesterday (two extras for apostolic friends). I read the book in a few hours and must say that I believe this book will change the church more than any other in our generation.
I believe that understanding the contents of this book is the missing ingredient that will transform true apostles into "effective" apostles.
Why? Because an effective apostle is one who succeeds in his mission. Succeeds in what? In revealing the heart of God.
I wish I had had this book in my college days. I wish I had been able to answer the objections of my fellow students at the University of Minnesota, who were unable to see the logic of an all-powerful God losing most of humanity to the devil. They could not see how the very God who had power over both life and death could Himself be bound to cast His children into a burning hell forever once they passed the deadline of death. They could not see how a God who claimed to be Love itself would be forced to resort to infinitely torturing those who rejected Him during their short time on earth.
Believe me, it was difficult making converts in those days. The message that I had to offer was largely ineffective. Why? Because at the time, I did not really understand the heart of God at all, though I had been raised in all the standard teachings of the church.
Rob Bell's book is not a book on theology. He does not approach the question from the perspective of indepth Bible study. Yet the questions he asks are profound. He raises all the questions that college students do. And the answer that comes out clearly is that the church has largely failed to present the Jesus of the Bible. It has failed to present the true heart of God that is burned upon every page of The Book. The fear motive in evangelism has encumbered God's Love with contradictions that have turned away an entire generation of youth.
Rob Bell writes on pages 107-109,
In the third century the church fathers Clement of Alexandria and Origen affirmed God's reconciliation with all people. In the fourth century, Gregory of Nyassa and Eusebius believed this as well. In their day Jerome claimed that "most people," Basil said the "mass of men," and Augustine acknowledged that "very many" believed in the ultimate reconciliation of all people to God.
Central to their trust that all would be reconciled was the belief that untold masses of people suffering forever doesn't bring God glory. Restoration brings God glory; eternal torment doesn't. Reconciliation brings God glory; endless anguish doesn't. Renewal and return cause God's greatness to shine through the universe; never-ending punishment doesn't....
Which is stronger and more powerful, the hardness of the human heart or God's unrelenting, infinite, expansive love? Thousands through the years have answered that question with the resounding response, "God's love, of course." ...
At the center of Christian tradition since the first church have been a number who insist that history is not tragic; hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God.
Simple. Profound. The heart of God. He quotes Scripture profusely, but somehow does not get bogged down in it. (Do I sound envious? No, but I do admire that and see its value for newbies.)
This is the understanding that will make the new apostolic movement truly effective. This is what will change the world and turn the church upside down. Or right side up.
We have a massive job ahead of us. We have been preparing for this task for many years. The key to our success will be to present the Love of God, not the condemnation of God. Paul spoke of us as "ambassadors for Christ," and he gave us the central message that we are to present to the world:
"that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the world of reconciliation." (2 Cor. 5:19)
Yet somehow the Church settled on a new message: "Turn or Burn."
Which gospel do you think will be more effective? Which evangelistic message better reveals the heart of God? Is this why Paul's letters do not even refer to hell (hades) except to establish God's victory over it? (1 Cor. 15:55)
The fact that over 10,000 attend Bell's church in Michigan (largely young people, they say), and that his internet messages are viewed by a vastly larger audience, shows us the effectiveness of his message. The world rejoices in his message, because they are searching for a God who is worthy to be praised. A God more powerful than the will of man. A God who cannot tolerate the thought of failure (Num. 14:16 and 21).
I recall a testimony from a young man in prison who finished reading my book, Creation's Jubilee, on the eighth day of Tabernacles in 1996. His comment was, "Now that's the kind of God I can worship." My message was essentially the same as Pastor Bell's, but somewhat heavier in style and content.
In the two comings of Christ, the first apostles focused primarily upon the work of Christ on the cross and the outpouring of the Spirit. This was the Passover-Pentecost gospel. Our message today has added the revelation of Jubilee and Tabernacles (the second set of feast days). The Jubilee gospel is about setting people free through the Restoration of All Things.
That is the message of effective apostles today.