In my last post, I discussed why modern day apostolic ministry, something promoted by certain influential leaders of SGM, is actually not consistent with a proper reading of scripture. Much of what is promoted by those who favor apostles revolve around Ephesians 4:11.
Let me cap off the discussion by suggesting that when we read a passage like Ephesians 4:11, and immediately ask the question – “why shouldn’t the office of apostles continue presently?” – we are not approaching the passage from the right starting point. Instead, we ought to begin by asking – “what did Paul intend?” and “how did the Ephesian church understand this passage in their day?”
To those questions – we need to understand that Paul and the NT writers were very respectful and guarded about the definition of apostles – they didn’t use this term generically or randomly. As I mentioned in the last post, over 90% of the time, when used in the NT, the term refers specifically to a special, unique class of individuals – the Twelve + Paul – a group that possess unique authority in the history of the church. In other words, when readers in Ephesus read Ephesians 4:11, they were thinking of unique individuals with unique authority. These individuals spoke words that were similar in authority to scripture and governed the church with unique authority.
Let me put this in another way that might be more palatable to my pro-apostolic ministry friends. I am not unequivocally saying that there are no modern day apostles – I am in fact saying that if any should show up, they better be speaking in equivalent authority to Twelve + Paul. The Bible only allows for two categories of “apostles” – authoritative special office (Twelve + Paul + possibly James, Barnabas) or a general delegate/messenger.
But this post isn’t about whether present day apostles are valid. Instead, we want to followup by asking this overarching question – “even if present day, authoritative apostles are valid, why should SGM leadership be entrusted with such authority?”
Let me unpack that overarching question by proposing a series of pointed questions that every SGM pastor and church member should asking.
1. What is the source of SGM apostleship? From where does SGM leadership derive its authority? All apostolic authority exercised legitimately must answer this question. The Roman Catholic Church answers this by drawing lineage from apostle Peter. Most other denominations exercising a form of apostolic authority will draw authority directly or indirectly from the original Twelve. The fact that SGM doesn’t speak to this represents a logical discontinuity and inconsistency in their argument.
2. What is the qualification and proof of their apostleship? We must not trivialize the role of the apostle – what is the proof and qualification of the men that SGM puts forth as apostles? Since the Bible offers no definitive statement regarding the qualifications of apostles (because the office was unique and not perpetuated), what are the qualifying parameters for SGM apostles? The fact is that there are no qualifying parameters because the kind of “apostle” proposed by SGM, doesn’t exist in the Bible.
3. Have they demonstrated character befitting of apostles? Have they acted in the highest degree of integrity, humility and faith toward God? For instance, are they open to correction? Have they humbly acknowledge errors and missteps along the way or do they have a propensity to respond defensively or minimize their sin or error? Have they been an example in the way they’ve responded to criticisms? Do they speak openly, honestly and plainly? Finally, have exercised authority in amidst the churches with kindness and gentleness or with heavy handedness? These are questions that pertain to the culture of SGM and in my view, the SGM corporate leadership (by this I mean CJ Mahaney, members of interim board as well as the present board) have not acquitted themselves well in this regard. CJ Mahaney’s confession and non-confession stands in stark contrast to the kind of humble leadership we have espoused in SGM. The “stacking” of board composition and the politicking is frankly very sad and disappointing to this longtime SGM member.
4. Have they demonstrated requisite competency? Have they led well? Have they led as servants or in the manner of the Gentiles (i.e. lording over). Do they have the ability to define, organize, envision and lead an organization of approximately 100 churches? This isn’t about whether they are good guys or nice guys – it’s about being qualified to do the job. It is not evident that the members of this present board have the requisite qualifications or abilities to lead this organization. There is little in what we’ve seen in their leadership that inspires confidence – at least not in me or most of my fellow church members. I am honestly not trying to be mean-spirited in any way – I’m simply calling to attention the open secret that most pastors in SGM know but are too afraid or too polite to say – the first and primary qualification is loyalty to CJ Mahaney and the current SGM power structure. That explains why no one of a different view other than that held by the current SGM power brokers have been appointed to the interim or present board or the polity committee – not from CLC, not from Fairfax or from any of the approx 20 churches that signed onto the “Fairfax letter”
5. How are these leaders accountable to the local churches? One primary objection to the autonomy of the local church is that local elders need to be held accountable. Yet, isn’t it ironic that there is no corresponding concern that apostles need similar accountability? In this regard, those in SGM who argue for apostles are remarkable for their lack of self awareness. I would strongly argue that any authority that might be exercised over local churches must be accountable to those same local churches.
I believe and have argued that the office of a present day apostle authoritative over churches in unequivocally unbiblical. But notwithstanding that, should you be convinced of their validity, the questions above still need to be satisfactorily answered. Your answer to these questions will decide if SGM corporate leadership is befitting of apostolic authority over local churches. I’ve concluded my answer.