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April 9, 2020

Apostles in the Workplace

Dr .Peter Wagner • Entrepreneurship
The church, as we would all agree, is not a human institution. The church was designed by the eternal God and instituted by Jesus when He came to Earth. This is a very important assumption because, throughout history, church leaders have tended to deviate from God's blueprint quite radically. The rest of this chapter profiles God's design for the church.

Apostles in the Workplace

The church, as we would all agree, is not a human institution. The church was designed by the eternal God and instituted by Jesus when He came to Earth. This is a very important assumption because, throughout history, church leaders have tended to deviate from God's blueprint quite radically. The rest of this chapter profiles God's design for the church.

The Design for Building the Church

In Matthew 16, Jesus mentioned the church to His disciples for the first time. At that point, He had been with them for a year and a half. It took that long for the disciples to become thoroughly convinced that Jesus was, indeed, the Messiah that the Jewish people had been waiting for. Peter expressed that for the group when he said to Jesus, "You are the Christ [in Hebrew, "Messiah"], the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). In response, Jesus said, "On this rock I will build My church" (v.18). This was the first time Jesus ever mentioned the word "church." He finally could tell them why He had come, because they now knew for sure who He was.

Jesus declared not only that He would build His church here on Earth but also how it would be built. When He first began to reveal His future role, it caused quite a fuss among the disciples. They had probably assumed that Jesus would be with them forever and that He would lead them as a team to build the church. But, no, that was not to be. The same day that Jesus told His disciples that He had come to build His church, He also revealed that He would soon be leaving them. The immediate implication was that they would be doing it on their own. Peter didn't like that idea at all, and he made the serious mistake of getting into an argument with the Master. The reason we know it was quite a fuss is that Jesus had to use some of His strongest language in correcting Peter: "Get behind Me, Satan!" (Matt. 16:23).

Later, when things calmed down, Jesus explained to His disciples why He needed to leave and why it would even be to their advantage: "If I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7). The Helper, of course, is the Holy Spirit. This establishes an important theological axiom that many have not seen as clearly as they might: For the purposes of building the church, the immediate presence of the Third Person of the Trinity is more important than the immediate presence of the Second Person of the Trinity.

Power from on High

That is why Jesus told His disciples that when He left them, they should not go out and start evangelizing immediately. Even though they had received three years of the highest quality training from the Master Himself, they were not ready to start building the church. The first thing they were supposed to do was to "tarry in the city of Jerusalem until [they were] endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). Without the power of the Holy Spirit, their best efforts, even based on impeccable training, would be fruitless.

In fact, Jesus reiterated this in the very last words He spoke here on Earth. After He was crucified and raised from the dead, He spent 40 more days with His disciples. The last thing He said to them was this: "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Immediately, He was taken up into the clouds and He was gone. He is now at the right hand of the Father making intercession for those of us whom He left behind to build His church.

Fortunately, the disciples obeyed Jesus and went to Jerusalem, where they received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Jesus' disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit, have been building His church ever since.

The Government of the Church

But that was not all that happened on the day that Jesus ascended into heaven. Jesus also revealed the government of the church that He had instituted. Since the church is not a human institution, but a divinely-designed institution, it is essential that we understand and accept at face value what Jesus did. We do not get these important details from Acts, but rather from what God revealed through Paul in his letter to the Ephesians.

Paul brings us back to that same ascension day when he writes, "When [Christ] ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men" (Eph. 4:8). On the day Jesus ascended, He left behind men and women who had become His disciples and whom He had endowed with spiritual gifts. They were the ones who would represent Him from then on, as the Body of Christ, and through them Jesus would build His church, as He said He would.

Paul goes on to tell us that Jesus gave these gifted men and women to the church to work on two levels. Let's call these levels the governmental level and the ministry level, for want of better terms. Paul describes Christ's establishing the governmental level like this: "He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers" (Eph. 4:11). The chief responsibility of these church leaders is "to equip the saints for the work of ministry for the edifying [or "building"] of the body of Christ" (v. 12). This takes us to the second level, the ministry level, which is supposed to be done by the saints in general under the equipping ministry of the first five types of leaders.

Allow me to pause a moment and say how surprised I am that most of the church has not understood the fivefold leadership of the church until fairly recently. When I went to seminary, I was taught that we need evangelists, pastors and teachers in the church today, but the ministry of apostles and prophets had supposedly been discontinued after the first century or so. However, since I started to take this passage in Ephesians 4 literally a few years ago, I began to realize how flawed that teaching really was. The very same chapter of Scripture goes on to tell us how long we need all five: "Till we all come to the unity of the faith, . . . to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). No one I know would claim that we have yet arrived there, so I would conclude that we still need apostles and prophets as well as evangelists, pastors and teachers.

The Church's Foundation

Sentence? Equipping the saints is one thing, but some will say that is not necessarily governing. True, so let's go back a couple of chapters to Ephesians 2:20, where Paul describes the church as the "household of God." He explains that the church is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone" (v. 20). In a broad theological sense, Jesus is, of course, the foundation of the church because, as I have discussed, He came to Earth in order to institute it. However, according to this Scripture, after He ascended and sent the Holy Spirit, He left the nuts and bolts of building the church to the leadership of apostles and prophets. Jesus is still there, but as the cornerstone, not as the foundation itself. The cornerstone holds the foundation together, but the foundation itself is clearly apostles and prophets.

If any doubts remain as to the divine order of leadership in the church, we need only to go to the most detailed chapter on spiritual gifts in the Bible, namely, 1 Corinthians 12. There the gift of apostle is listed along with many other spiritual gifts. The governmental order comes in verse 28: "God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues." Churches that fail to recognize the position of apostles and prophets, not in a hierarchy but in a divine order, cannot expect to be everything that God originally designed them to be.

The title of this chapter is "Apostles in the Workplace." I have taken time at the outset to explain, as concisely as I am able, the place that apostles have in the church in general. Unless we are convinced that there are such things as apostles and that apostles are active today, we cannot begin to understand how they are supposed to function in the workplace.

Fortunately, much of the Body of Christ has begun to recognize the leadership of apostles and prophets, although it has taken a while for things to get in order. I personally believe that God started doing a new thing, at least in our churches here in North America, after World War II, around the middle of the last century. The biblical government of the church had been out of place for so long that the process of reestablishing the government of the church took many years; and at the beginning, some of it was a bit messy.

The Second Apostolic Age

Soon after World War II, a restoration stream called the Latter Rain arose, along with the Discipling Movement, or the Shepherding Movement. The Latter Rain advocated the contemporary offices of apostle and prophet, but the leaders were so severely criticized, particularly by classical Pentecostals, that they lost strength. The Discipling Movement eventually imploded because of a misunderstanding of authority and submission, with some of its founding leaders publicly apologizing for the movement. Many of these leaders made their share of mistakes, but God nevertheless used them as significant forerunners.

During the 1980s, the Spirit began speaking to the churches once again about the gift of prophecy and the office of prophet. During the 1990s, the gift and office of apostle began to be better understood and appreciated. What I have called the New Apostolic Reformation began to gain definition and recognition, and by the end of the century it was listed as the largest segment of the worldwide church outside of Catholicism and the fastest growing of all.1

The First Apostolic Age, which characterized the first century or two of Christianity, recognized the gifts and offices of apostle and prophet as the foundation of the church. This biblical church government subsequently fell into disuse until 2001, which I estimate marks the beginning of what could be called the Second Apostolic Age.2

The upshot of this is that we are currently living in the time of the most radical change in the form of the church's leadership since the Protestant Reformation, and the implications of this are huge when we begin to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches about the kingdom of God and the transformation of society.

Spiritual Authority

Of all the changes involved with the emergence of the New Apostolic Reformation, the most radical of all is the following: the recognition of the amount of spiritual authority delegated by the Holy Spirit to individuals. Previously, church authority, whether in local congregations or in denominational structures, invariably rested on groups, not on individuals. The groups were called church councils, sessions, vestries, presbyteries, conferences, synods, deacon boards, annual conventions, districts, cabinets, general councils, or what have you. With the exception of those leaders who stepped out of their traditional molds and founded whole new movements, individuals were not to be trusted to make final decisions. However, this is not true of churches that find themselves as part of the New Apostolic Reformation. The acceptance of individuals who are entrusted with a great deal of spiritual authority plays out on two levels in today's apostolic movement:

   On the local level, the pastor is the leader of the church; he's not an employee.

   On the translocal level, the apostle's leadership is welcomed and appreciated by the churches and ministries that voluntarily place themselves under the spiritual covering of the apostle.

What, then, is an apostle? An apostle is a Christian leader who is gifted, taught, commissioned and sent by God with the authority to establish the foundational government of the church within an assigned sphere of ministry by hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches and by setting things in order accordingly, for the growth and maturity of the church. I will explain this definition in greater detail as we continue.

Apostles in the Extended Church?

If God has given apostles to the church today, it follows that He has given them to both forms that the church takes, namely, the nuclear church and the extended church. If the church in the workplace is part of the legitimate church (in the previous chapter I argued strongly that it was), it will certainly have a biblical foundation. That foundation, of course, is apostles and prophets (see Eph. 2:20).

Earlier in this chapter, I mentioned that during the 1990s, the gift and office of apostle began to be better understood. Since then, a tremendous amount of quality literature has been coming from leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation. At this writing I have 71 books on apostolic ministry in my personal, and I am sure that there are many more out there. However, almost all of them deal with apostles and apostolic ministry in the nuclear church, not in the extended church. One notable exception is Bill Hamon's book The Day of the Saints. In it, Hamon dedicates no fewer than 82 pages to the ministry of not only apostles but also prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, all in the workplace. Two others are Rich Marshall's God@Work, Volume 2, and Os Hillman's The 9 to 5 Window.

Even after I began writing on apostles some years ago, it took me quite a while to convince myself that God had assigned certain apostles to ministry in the workplace. One of the things that had hindered me was lacking a convincing, biblical role model. Paul was my role model of an apostle in the nuclear church, but I had none in the extended church. It was back in 2001, only after I heard God tell me to pay attention to the church in the workplace and I agreed to obey that He suddenly opened my eyes to the obvious. Luke was a workplace apostle. Why hadn't I seen that before? And then Lydia entered the picture as well.

Luke and Lydia as Workplace Apostles

When I researched and wrote my commentary on the book of Acts, Acts of the Holy Spirit, back in 1994, I began to suspect that Luke could well have married Lydia. Let me hasten to say that none of the classic commentaries on Acts that I know about suggests this, so I must admit that my hypothesis may be a bit on the speculative side. Even so, let me summarize my rationale.

Luke was a workplace person, a physician (see Col. 4:14). Let's use our imaginations. As many physicians would be, he was more than likely well educated, cultured, well traveled, rich, handsome and single. Luke was a Gentile God-fearer and also the author of the book of Acts.

At one point in Acts, Paul, Silas and Timothy embark on a missionary journey, and they end up in Troas. There Paul receives the "Macedonian vision," by which God directs him to Philippi, the major city of Macedonia (see Acts 16:9-10). When they depart from Troas to Macedonia, the narrative in the book of Acts suddenly changes from third person ("they") to first person ("we"), indicating that Luke, the author, had joined the missionary team in Troas (see v. 11).

When the four missionaries arrive in Philippi, they locate a group of women who regularly conduct a prayer meeting by the river. One of them is Lydia, a seller of purple. The phrase "seller of purple" implies that she is an international businesswoman. She probably has an import-export business, which would make her very much involved in the marketplace. Let's use our imaginations again. As a businesswoman, she is more than likely well educated, cultured, well traveled, rich, beautiful and single. Lydia, like Luke, is also a Gentile God-fearer.

Extraordinary things happen in Philippi. The missionaries preach the Gospel, people are saved and healed and demons are cast out, so much that the whole city goes into an uproar. Paul and Silas get thrown in prison, there is an earthquake, they are supernaturally released, the jailer is saved, and a wonderful congregation of believers is planted. After all this happens, the last place we see the four missionaries is in Lydia's house (see Acts 16:40). Then, when they finally leave for Thessalonica, the narrative in the book of Acts changes back from "we" to "they," indicating that Luke stays there in the house of Lydia (see 17:1). I admit that I can't prove beyond any doubt that Luke and Lydia actually get married, but I can say, with some pardonable romantic enthusiasm, that it is not unlikely. These two marketplace people would become a vital part of the nucleus of that strong congregation in Philippi.

Luke's Apostolic Characteristics

If, as I am advocating, Luke is a prototype of a workplace apostle, what would some of his apostolic characteristics include?

Luke' foremost apostolic credential would be his divine anointing to write two books of the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. I have already mentioned that one of the responsibilities of an apostle is to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Luke took hearing from God to the limits by writing under such a strong inspiration of the Spirit that his writings became canonized and considered the Word of God by the church in general. While subsequent apostles, such as those recognized as apostles today, will never write holy Scripture, what they do hear from God should nevertheless be taken very seriously by the churches.

Let's make note of the fact that Luke, an extended-church apostle, wrote inspired New Testament Scriptures on exactly the same level as the other New Testament authors, all of whom we would likely consider to be nuclear-church apostles. I point this out to defuse any notion that extended-church apostles are, somehow, junior apostles or not quite on as high a level as clergy-type, nuclear-church apostles.

A second apostolic credential for Luke would be the fact that he was a missionary and a church planter. I have already mentioned that Luke was on the missionary team that planted the church of Philippi. But that was not the only time he did missionary work, as we know from the other sections of Acts that were written in the first person "we." For example, Luke was with Paul on a trip from Philippi to Troas to Miletus (see Acts 20:5-21:17); he joined Paul on Paul's voyage from Jerusalem to Rome (see Acts 27:1-28:16); and quite probably he did other missionary work that he did not choose to record when he wrote Acts.

A third credential might be Luke's close, personal relationship with the apostle Paul. I surmise that they were best friends because Luke visited Paul twice when he was in prison in Rome. During his first jail term, Paul penned the letter to the Colossians, in which he wrote, "Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you" (Col. 4:14). It would probably also be fair to assume that as a part of their relationship, Luke would have provided ongoing medical care for Paul. During Paul's second jail term, he wrote his second letter to Timothy. In chapter 4, he wrote, "Only Luke is with me" (2 Tim. 4:11), after lamenting that others, such as Demas, Crescens and Titus, had left him (see vv. 9-10).

A fourth indication that Luke was an active workplace apostle was his access to wealth. If, indeed, he and Lydia were married, she could have brought considerable wealth to the family, given the fact that her private house was large enough to accommodate the four missionaries while they were in Philippi. And since like attracts like, if Luke and Lydia were the leaders of the Philippian church, it could well have been that the upper class of Philippi was well represented among the believers.

Paul's letter to the Philippians is essentially an extended thank-you for financial provisions. Paul was in prison when he wrote it, and Luke was in Philippi. In the letter, Paul addresses Luke as his "true companion" (Phil. 4:3) (the New King James Version translates the title as "true yokefellow"). He reminisces about the time when "no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only" (v. 15), when Paul had left Luke in Lydia's house and had gone on to Thessalonica; and he expresses joy that the church had again sent him money in prison ("your care for me has flourished again" [v. 10]). Apparently, Paul had received a substantial amount of money from the Philippians, because he wrote, "I have all and abound" (v. 18).

Moving Beyond Finances

I need to make an important disclaimer here. While Luke, as a workplace apostle, provided financial support for the ministry of his friend Paul, his support of the nuclear church did not end there.

For too long a time, many nuclear-church leaders have expected that the principal role of their marketplace people, especially business leaders, was simply to provide the funding for their church-related programs. Megan Doyle, a prominent workplace leader who has thought these things through in a very practical way, writes,

Another finance-related area of division between the church and businesspeople occurs in the area of fund-raising. In this area it has often been pastors and ministry leaders who have hurt many businesspeople. Fund-raising for church and ministry definitely needs to occur with tact and sensitivity. The problem for businesspersons is when they are targeted for their money to the exclusion of anything else they have to offer-even to the exclusion of relationship. There are many businesspeople who believe their only purpose for the Kingdom of God is to provide funding. This leaves them frustrated and unfulfilled. The Christian businessperson can do much more than offer "provision for those with vision."3

Luke's relationship with Paul provides an outstanding example of a relationship between an extended-church apostle and the nuclear church. Luke was a provider of funds for a nuclear-church ministry, but at the same time he was a "true companion," a fellow missionary and an apostolic peer.

The Crucial Role of Extended-Church Apostles

When I suggested that Luke was an apostolic peer of Paul, only those who have made the paradigm shift that I am talking about will grasp the implications. For example, many pastors who have gone through seminary, passed ordination examinations and received a call to pastor a church would have a difficult time considering a lay member of their church, who happens to be a physician or whatever else, as a religious peer. At the root of that attitude is the assumption that the only true church is the nuclear church. However, once we recognize that the extended church is just as much the church as the nuclear church, our attitudes will begin to change.

We will then begin to recognize that for many of the purposes of God, such as the transformation of society, the apostolic role of workplace leaders will prove to be far more influential than that of nuclear-church apostles.

What do I mean?

When the people of God are gathered in their local churches on Sunday, the characteristics of a particular congregation or denomination or apostolic network are very important. The church might be Lutheran or Baptist or Word-Faith or Assemblies of God or Willow Creek or Presbyterian or what have you. However on the other six days of the week, when God's people are in the workplace, those distinctions are not nearly as important. The most important thing out there is that they are believers and that they are brothers and sisters in Christ.

Most brothers and sisters in Christ out in the workplace realize that they are supposed to be salt and light. They are supposed to influence their workplace environment. They have heard it in sermons time and time again. Yet they feel frustrated. They wonder if they are spiritually impotent. They may have tried to be salt and light in their workplaces for 15 years, but nothing may have changed. In some instances, the atmosphere of their workplaces may be worse than before.

What is going on? Why haven't their small segments of society been changed or transformed? It is clearly the will of God that His kingdom comes to the workplace, but something is preventing it. What could that be?

in detail in the next chapter. Meanwhile, even though God's people are out there in the workplace, they have no government. Apostles are not yet setting things in order in most workplaces as they should be. Not many nuclear-church apostles could do this, one reason being that most of them represent just one denomination or apostolic network or megachurch, and the believers from other streams might not be inclined to follow them. However, extended-church apostles, when they are identified and recognized, would be the ones to establish the government of the church in the workplace. Once this happens, Satan will be in trouble!

The sooner we understand that there are extended-church apostles and the sooner we allow them to take their God-given place and respect them for doing it, the sooner we will make significant strides toward transforming society.

Characteristics of Workplace Apostles

It goes without saying that just as not every believer in the church is an apostle, neither is every believer in the workplace an apostle. The characteristics of nuclear-church apostles are fairly clear, but not the characteristics of extended-church apostles. Undoubtedly, there is a large degree of overlap between the two, but they are not the same.

However, the character traits of all apostles will be the same. Integrity, humility, holiness, godliness, respectability and blamelessness are essential to both. Both will meet the requirements of leadership that are listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Both will have been given the gift of apostle (see 1 Cor. 12:28), and consequently they will know how to set things in order (see Titus 1:5).

Apostles are distinguished from other leaders, more than anything else, by their God-given authority. As I already mentioned, apostles have the authority to establish the foundational government of the church within an assigned sphere of ministry. The spheres of ministry within the workplace would include family, religion, business, government, education, arts and media. Each of these of course could be subdivided, but we need to be looking for apostles within each of the seven spheres. Perhaps a few workplace apostles could function in more than one of these spheres, but not many.

For example, Stephanie Klinzing is mayor of Elk River, Minnesota. She is a part of a broad-based movement, Pray Elk River, designed to bring social transformation to the city. Although the term "apostle" is not yet used, Klinzing is functioning with the authority of an apostle. Here is what she says:

We have also discovered that I have spiritual authority in the city as well as civic authority. I have stood, in the spirit, against things that I believe God does not want in my city, and I have also opened, in the spirit, the city gates to things that I believe God wants in the city. This has had powerful results.4

Since the understanding that apostles are present in the workplace is new, much more obviously needs to be done in helping to identify them. One who has moved strongly in this direction is Rich Marshall, author of the foundational work God@Work. Marshall has now released God@Work, Volume 2, in which he lists characteristics of marketplace apostles. He uses the term "marketplace apostles" sparingly; mostly he uses "marketplace ministers" so as not to alienate readers who may not as yet accept the idea of present-day apostles. Marshall's signs of workplace apostles are as follows:

   Perform signs and wonders

   Exhibit authority

   Break bondages

   Transfer wealth

   Hear the voice of God

   Function as biblical entrepreneurs

   Reach nations5

The role of apostles in the workplace is so important that I believe they provide the key to two enormously significant gates that must be opened if we are to see the kingdom of God manifested as it should be. Neither one will be opened apart from the active involvement of workplace apostles. One is the gate of social transformation, and the other is the gate of the great transference of wealth. These are the subjects of the next two chapters.

Used with permission. Chapter 2 of The Church in the Workplace by C. Peter Wagner, Regal Books. To order this resource click on faith and work resources.com link to the right of this page.

Visitor Comments (1)

Nuclear church vs extended church

Peter Wagner has got it the wrong way. Your nuclear or the primary church is the weekdays church, the one you start at the workplace while the extended church is your Sunday church. Paul calls the Corinthian church as "my work" 1Cor. 9:1; while with the Jerusalem church he had only a handshaking relationship. Galatians 1:17,18. The sooner we make this paradigm shift, the faster the secular world will be kingdomized. Shalom, Victor Choudhrie

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