Questioning SGM Apostles

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.

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12 thoughts on “Questioning SGM Apostles

  1. Thank you SGMnation! These are the right questions to ask. It’s important that we not get tripped up on the validity of current day apostles but demand answers from SGM in terms of the source of their authority, the apostles qualifications and competency.

    • As you know from my post, I think the notion of present day apostles rests on very limited biblical evidence, runs contrary to mainstream evangelical thought, and is not supported by historical church practice. Yet, should anyone still be convinced of contemporary apostles, he/she would still need to be comfortable with SGM corporate leadership exercising such authority and responsibility. Not sure there’s much to convince me to invest that kind of trust in them.

      • i concur. sadly, we are leaving sgm. will be glad to see where the Lord leads, and remain grateful for the things we have gained for our time here. will follow events til we finish obligations. your perspective has been consistently edifying, and so i thank God for you!

      • I understand 2tim224 – I doubt that I would be able to remain if my pastors were not men of integrity and humility. They are working and praying for the kind of reform that will make SGM a better organization. Sadly, many pastors throughout SGM don’t “get it” and are captive to pleasing the SGM power brokers.

        Thanks for participating in this blog conversation. I wish you and your family well – may God bless your way as you find a new church.

  2. I think at the end of the day, the question you pose in this post goes back to the heart of the problems in SGM: integrity. We currently have leaders with unresolved conflicts, not properly dealt with the blackmailing of Larry Tomczak, and failed to bring accountability for the decades of authoritarian abuse, not too mention the deceptive communication that is inherent in the SGM view of transparency. Apostles or no apostles, these problems need to be dealt with properly. .

    Oh, and from what I understand, there is nothing “interim” about CJ’s role as president, and this was not brought for a vote before the new board. Same old story.

    The sad part is that there will be no CJ’s or Dave Harvey’s standing next to local pastors when they must give an account for how they protected their flocks. Many local pastors do not want to stand alone now, but they will stand alone when it counts.

  3. Well said, SGMnation – I can’t think of better questions.

    The relationship with SGM and it’s authority structure was one I once thought of as protective for the local church I was committed to. But when everything came out it was clear that no one was watching the watchers. And if you had the audacity to question their behavior (hypocrisy?) your local church pastor was likely to assure you that you just don’t have all the facts, and he knows and trusts these men (so you should too), and, after all, they’ve done so much good for our church that we’ve just got to forgive them and realize they aren’t perfect any more than we are.

    • The problem is that trust requires that the trusted party has both the competency and character that warrants trust. Trust, like respect isn’t an implicit right – it’s a response in keeping with trusted behavior.

      If people don’t trust me – the first place I should look is in the mirror. Something is amiss and it probably starts w me. Just wish SGM and CJ get that

  4. Answers
    1. The need for CJ and others to have their egos massaged.
    2. They are authenticated by evangelicals like Piper, MacArthur, Dever, Mohler, Duncan, Driscoll, Keller, Sproul, etc who refuse to confront the insanity. If leading evangelistas don’t call them out, they must be right, eh?
    3. Ah, no. Wait, let me think. Nope, still no.
    4. See #3.
    5. They aren’t unless CJ was accountable to Mark Dever at CHBC. This would be a good question to put to the staff and members of CLC: was CJ (and Bob and Jeff and …) accountable to you?

    I am so glad to be out.
    Former SG Pastor

    • FSGP – so you’re happy to be out? Couldn’t tell 🙂
      You’ve provided your answers but putting all of our frustrations aside – I still firmly believe that every member and pastor should grapple w these questions….when you consider the totality of the state of the association of churches, how we got here and the revealed capability and character of these men in charge, it doesn’t inspire trust or confidence.

  5. Here’s a stout book on Ephesians 4 ministry: Stephen Crosby’s “Authority, Accountability, and the Apostolic Movement.” It will have you questioning “authority” on a biblical basis.

  6. This is a rather short, but succinct point on authority in the church—The only authority that a pastor, bishop, elder. or shepherd has is the authority form the Word of God, in other words a pastor has the authority to tell those in an adulterous relationship that they are violating God’s law or those cheating or stealing that they are doing wrong according to the commands of God. Outside of the Scriptures those in leadership have no authority over your lives. Remember, leaders are to be examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:3), as well leaders are to be the greatest servants in the church (Luke 22:16). If you have time take a peek at my blog site Christian Musings;
    http://christianmusings-brian.blogspot.com/

    • brianosisek – absolutely spot on. A church leader’s authority begins and ends with the word of God. A pastor has no authority over the flock apart from the authority of God’s word.

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