Monday, April 19

Apostolic jurisdictions

Are we free to assign people where we think they need to serve? Whose business is it to designate where God-called individuals will go, and what they do?

While the answer to these questions seems obvious, what I am seeing more and more is organizations, institutions, and churches assuming this role. In many ways we are moving in the direction of usurping the role of our Lord in assigning people to tasks, territories and mission fields.

In Wolfgang Simson's Starfish Manifesto many pages are spent defining, defending and restoring the long lost and highly misunderstood (and abused) role of the apostolic.

I would be quick to say that not all missionaries are apostolic. Most in fact are teacher/pastoral, evangelistic, or administrative-types. But if one accepts that the apostolic and prophetic roles are still legitimate and needed roles in the planting and establishment of Jesus' Church and if, God continues to appoint in the church, "...first apostles, second prophets, third teachers..." then what right do we have to usurp this appointment process?

We cannot go where we want to go and do apostolic work at our own will and whim wherever we feel, but we have to learn to respect the territoriality of God’s plans. [Starfish Manifesto, p.230]

Paul clearly establishes that apostolic work is measured out by God according to geographical territories, a mission field, a “man’s territory,” magistrates,a parish in this sense of a geographical sphere of influence. I call these apostolic jurisdictions, an area of legitimate apostolic function. And just like human governors or the police have only delegated authority in certain political districts...the same is true for spiritual work of the Kingdom of God. It follows specific geographic or ethnic borders as it is meted out by God (and never by a human) to certain people in order to become their kanon, their legitimate field of work, their turf. [p.230-231]

Apostolic jurisdictions, the kanons measured out by God today for apostolic purposes, can encompass geographical areas, often with natural borders like deserts, rivers, seas, lakes, valleys, and mountains, or can encompass an ethnic a classical apostolic task in the advancing of the Kingdom of God. [p.233-234]

It grieves me to think that what is driving our missions enterprise is vision by a few for all; rather than regional, apostolic vision. Stan Meador writes,

The apostle’s calling will be to a people or place. The apostle’s vision will relate to that place or people. The apostle’s vision will be larger than any one “church”. Denominationalism does a great deal to complicate the work of the true apostle today. Many churches follow party lines, denominational leadership, and have no ears to hear the voice and vision of the true apostle. Centuries ago we lost the truth of the interdependence that exists between apostles and local churches.

So what do you think about apostolic jurisdiction? Is God still the one appointing, or do we place people in positions based upon predetermined criteria?


Strider said...

I agree with your post here. Of course, the Body is, and should be part of the decision making. Years ago when the FMB was young people went largely where they were asked to go by other people. For a while, (especially the 60's and 70's) they were limited to where the already set up missions requested them to go. New Directions adjusted our organization's structure so that anyone called to almost any people group could be facilitated to go there. Now, with shrinking resources we could fall backward in this regard. I hope we do not.

Second comment! The problem we have with the word apostle and the actual position is that we are still working in a worldly authoritarian model. The presumption is somehow that Paul was some kind of king of the churches and everyone bowed down as he walked passed. Yeah, he wished! He was not so treated nor honored. He did not have authority to command the churches to do anything. He tried to persuade them to stay loyal to Christ and seems to have had a tough time managing that much. No, apostolic authority is the God-given call to work in an area or among a specific people. Peter to the Jews, Paul to Gentiles and so on. As apostles go and SERVE by sharing, teaching, and empowering local leaders to lead they do the work He has called them to. Until we get servant leadership right we will not make any progress in our understanding of any of the biblical callings.

Third comment! A few people have come to Middle Earth and said, 'we don't feel called to a specific place or people, we just want to do this job.' Those folks get mad when I suggest that they need a specific calling to a specific place. Those people are not here anymore. Gondor is too hard a place to serve in without a confirmed call from God.

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for the insightful comments. I realize you might see things a bit differently coming from your side of the world, but we are basically saying pretty much the same thing. This has been a huge issue with us in our region, but it has been hard to get people to open up and share their thoughts about the directions we are headed as a convention, churches, organizations, etc. Seems we are seeking to go in the opposite direction of letting Jesus be the one to appoint, call, and send to where HE deems best. I could go on and on about this post. Hopefully others will begin to add their voices to the dialog.

Pamela said...

Your article here is so timely!

"In many ways we are moving in the direction of usurping the role of our Lord in assigning people to tasks, territories and mission fields."

This very statement was the catalyst behind me (and my family) listening to the Spirit for where to go, what to observe, and the direction we should go. I don't believe it's surprising that men desire to tell the Holy Spirit their plans. And while men may see persecution as 'bad' it could merely be God's way of scattering the flock to preach the gospel, expand the church, etc. Jesus said it best: "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

At this season of my life, my greatest desire to is keep in step with the Spirit, and to look "intently into the perfect law that gives freedom." (James 1;25)

Great post!

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for stopping by and sharing these good thoughts. For me this is a timely subject too. For all the talk we give to listening to the Lord and following His leadership and voice, it seems we do very little of this kind of thing. There are other voices out there that seem to speak louder than His. As has often been said, either HE IS LORD, or He is not Lord. It can't be both.

P.S. You have such a beautiful blog site! Wish mine looked half as nice as yours, and great content! I read through several of your posts.