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Apostles and prophets Part 2: Working together in teams


Mural on the ceiling of Santa Prassede Church, Rome Credit: Jean Louis Mazieres/Flickr/Creative Commons

Mural of Jesus and the Apostles on the ceiling of Santa Prassede Church, Rome   Credit: Jean Louis Mazieres/Flickr/Creative Commons

[by Keith Hazell] When I was a young man of 18 and living in England I received a letter in the name of the Queen of England telling me to report for two years of service in the British Military. This was an irresistible request, backed up by the full power of the state. From some points of view this was the worst two years of my life, yet on reflection I learned many lessons in that two years that have stood me well in my life and ministry.

We were verbally and sometimes, physically assaulted by drill sergeants who spent their time making us learn how to follow instructions so that we would know how to move together and not simply to respond to our own instincts.

One particularly windy day as we marched across the square in the face of a strong wind, our sergeant who was way behind gave an order. Due to the wind, this order was lost to all but those nearest to him and we landed up going in three different directions! As you can imagine, this nearly caused apoplexy in the drill sergeant and we suffered for several days.

What does this have to do with Apostles and Prophets?  Simply God has not designed them to work in isolation or in opposition to one another, trying to take the church in different directions at the same time. God’s intention is for there to be a working relationship between them that is profitable to the whole Body of Christ. And, we can be thankful that we do not have a harsh task master giving directions! However, we do need to be close enough to the Master to hear His leading. And there needs to be agreement among the team about what direction we are being led.

Ephesians 4:16 says, “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”. (NIV) God’s design for the church is a Body which is functioning in such a way that the Body is being built up and that the five gifted Ministry plays its proper part in that process.

In Ephesians 4:12, we find the part of the five gifted Ministry which is “to prepare Gods people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith”. (NIV)

In the preceding verse (Ephesians 4:11), there is a list which sets out the primacy of authority amongst the five Office Gifts. This sets first the apostle and then the prophet in an order of importance with respect to authority.

It is vital therefore that there be cooperation between the two primary members of the Ministry Gifts Team in the Body of Christ. Their failure to cooperate and build together will result in a weakened and ineffective church in the future.

Finding keys for cooperation is crucial if we are to have the full value from those called to this ministry in the Local Church and beyond. We look to the Scriptures and find examples to help to us.

“Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, helping them. (Ezra 5:2 – NIV)

Here in the rebuilding of Jerusalem we have apostolic men like Zerubbabel and Jeshua, who are a type of Apostolic builders, working closely with a prophet and the indication is that there was cooperation and help between them to assist in finishing the task.
In the same way today, Apostles and Prophets must work together in order to assist in the finishing of the task of seeing the New Testament Church properly built.

“Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers.” (Acts 15:22 – NIV)

The Apostles in Jerusalem met with Paul and some others and decided the wider church needed to know some decisions that they had made regarding circumcision and other matters concerning the law. Their cooperation with Judas and Silas who were prophets (see v32) was a key to having this latter message and its application made very clear to the believers throughout the area.

While there was Apostolic authority in the Church in those days, the leaders instinctively realized that the best people to carry the message of new direction were the Prophets, who also had a role in mapping out the future for the fledgling church.

We see from both Old and New Testaments the value of cooperation between Apostles and Prophets, in completing and advancing the growth of the Church which they serve. These men recognized that both apostle and prophet have responsibility in planting and building churches.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22 – NIV)

From these verses, we can recognize that apostles and prophets working together under the direction of the Head of the Church, were given responsibility to ensure the Church was firmly grounded and could have and sustain growth in an effective way.

Working it out when working together

If a prophet or apostle is (or becomes) isolated and independent, scarcely trusting anyone, and/or is feeling there isn’t anyone they could interact with on a peer level, they are in a dangerous condition. They are frequently open to being misled and deceived since they have no one they can look to for support or adjustment.

No doubt about it, the twelve Apostles were very strong personalities and they had frequently been criticized in their interpersonal relationships.

For example, in the book of Acts we see friction between Paul and Peter and also between Paul, Barnabas and Mark. This is not an excuse for us in our day to continue in independence and walking in our own counsel, as Prophets or Apostles. Rather we should follow their example in resolving conflict. We know this happened because we find Paul, Barnabas and Mark again working together later in Acts.

There is much to be learned from the application of principles we see in the New Testament, and there are also analogies in the Old Testament which will assist us in our understanding of the relationship that can and should exist between Apostles and Prophets today.

“Now Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, ‘We are setting out for the place about which the LORD said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us and we will treat you well, for the LORD has promised good things to Israel.’ He answered, ‘No, I will not go; I am going back to my own land and my own people.’ But Moses said, ‘Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the desert, and you can be our eyes. If you come with us, we will share with you whatever good things the LORD gives us.’ So they set out from the mountain of the LORD and traveled for three days. The ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them during those three days to find them a place to rest.” (Num 10:29-33 NIV)

This is a delightful passage of Scripture showing us how there can be an inter-dependency between two men with powerful ministries. There is much to be learned from the relationship which they were forging between them at a pivotal time in the history of Israel.

Moses here is representative of an Apostle who had a job to do which was to bring the People of God to a destination and to inherit many promises given them by God. The other character here is Hobab, who was already in a relationship  with Moses because  he was Moses’ brother-in-law.

By Moses appeal and description of Hobab’s gifting he seems to have been “to be our eyes”. This makes him a type of seer which is another word used for prophets in the Old Testament. These two men were able to stand in their own right regarding their personal  needs.  Hobab was inclined, like many prophets, to simply go back to live and work “with his own people”. Prophets are prone to seeking people of their own kind with whom they feel comfortable and understood. Because of this, they need to make an effort to stay in relationships which include those who are able to look at things in a different way.

Moses’ Apostolic vision included this and he made an appeal to Hobab based on the greater concern which was the safe arrival of the people of God at their God-appointed destinations. You can almost hear Paul writing to the Ephesians in chapter 4 as echoing these sentiments and saying that the purpose of all the five gifts is to bring a people to maturity … God’s destination for the Church. In Moses appeal and Hobab’s response we have a pattern for Prophets and Apostles in the Church today.

What then are the keys to building this kind of relationship?

1. Moses was not threatened by Hobab and his gifts and skills.

Those in apostolic ministry today need to check for insecurities in themselves and they need to ask for help in this and stay accountable to their team.  Especially in North American culture they are the heads of dynamic organizations or chains of churches. The “Hollywood” nature of their role in the eyes of their followers makes them have to appear to be sufficient in every area of ministry. Anyone else operating around them may be seen as subsidiary and lower in the “pecking order”. This creates an atmosphere of distrust that mitigates against a team relationship with other ministries of a complementary nature. Apostles need to take active steps to break down this wrong view.

2. Moses recognized the value of the other man’s gift

Moses concern was that the people of God reach their destination not that his own ministry or role be the centerpiece of God’s purpose.  He saw the gifting of Hobab not as something to be exploited for his own benefit but as something that needed to be harnessed with his own to bring maximum benefit to those he led and shepherded.

3. Moses was able to impart the vision to Hobab that God had given him and to show him a place in it.

Prophets need to catch the heart of the Apostle for a group of people or churches and throw their weight into that vision to enable the Apostle to lay foundations and find specific direction for the churches under their mutual care.

Moses was able to offer a partnership not a “job on staff” to Hobab and show him his own valuable contribution. There has to be a shared vision that does not relegate the Prophet to a person who simply having his Gift exploited for the benefit of another man’s ministry.

An architect who can show you a holographic concept of a home you have commissioned him to build for you, will cause your enthusiasm for the project to arise. The Bible tells us that  “Jesus seeing the joy set before him  endured…” The Apostle can project the vision of the church in terms the Prophet can understand and be ready to sacrifice to achieve.

4. Moses recognized that Hobab needed to have practical and financial support if he was to continue to fulfill the valuable role of “eyes” for Israel.

In Numbers 10:29, Moses makes a commitment to Hobab; “come with us and we  will treat you well.” Apostolic Teams need to avoid the temptation to be happy to have the “use” of a Prophet without making a contribution to his living and traveling expenses on a long term basis that is beyond the minimum.

If Apostles and Prophets are to truly flow together and minister effectively they need to clearly define the willingness of the Apostle’s help to raise and offer support for Prophets. They have a more open door to raise the finances than Prophets by very nature of their Apostolic call.

Released from “obligatory travel” to sustain their families, prophets may then contribute effectively to the life of a family of churches alongside Apostolic ministries.

5. Moses took the initiative to invite Hobab to come alongside him as a partner.

There was security in this invitation, because it came from someone with whom Hobab had both experience and relationship.
Prophets respond well to Apostolic invitation, since they sense in their own inner being that they are team members and like to have a sense of identity and belonging.

As apostolic ministries reach out to those with prophetic gifting they begin to have a united sense of purpose and delight in the other’s ability to complete tasks which they themselves cannot.

Working together

As one who is a Prophet working with Apostolic Ministry I have always felt most comfortable  and secure in situations where I knew I had  an invitation from an Apostolic ministry who trusted me and whom I could trust.  With these things established I can work in their “field” with confidence and freedom

I believe there are some other things that can act as a spur to those seeking to find a meaningful place of ministry alongside others who are apostolic or prophetic.

1. Mutual Attraction

In the Scriptures we see that not all people can work well with just any other person.  What I call mutual attraction may signify a certain  “something “ in another person that is put there by God and which finds an immediate response in our own spirits.

“Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. Then he selected twelve of them to be his regular companions, calling them apostles. He sent them out to preach.” (Mark 3:13-14 NLT)

We see this dynamic between Jesus and his Apostolic Team:

a) He called the ones he wanted to be with Him

This revolved not around a lottery but around a choice that Jesus made of the kind of people He wanted to be surrounded with. This may not have been those we would have chosen but from the 120 or so disciples that He had, he chose the Twelve, whom we sometimes refer to as the Apostles of the Lamb.

Looking in the context Jesus chose them after being “on the mountain” which indicates that He spent time alone seeking God. The other Gospels also indicate this and Luke 6:12 indicates this choice was made after a night of intense prayer to the Father for guidance.

Without mutual attraction there would be no choice to walk together. Perhaps this is what originally drew Barnabas to Paul making the trip down to Tarsus and seeking him out. He could have chosen others but recognized there was a divine spark in their relationship together.

Later on in Acts after a season when Mark and Barnabas had gone their own way from Paul, he was to write, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Tim 4:11 NIV)

b)  They responded to the call

There was no hesitation on their part!! To sense the choosing of God gives an immediate response.  When there is a sense that we want to be together we respond immediately. Just as the disciples responded to Jesus so Paul would also respond to Barnabas in his quest to bring him back to Antioch to function together.

This response is as much activated by prayer and the direction of the Spirit as was Jesus in His choice of the Twelve.

Their willingness to respond was an act of faith. As yet, Jesus could turn out to be another of the many “messiahs” who arose in Israel and whose flame would falter and die as had others.

An act of faith accompanied by a sense of the direction of the Spirit of God is a powerful impetus to any team building procedure.

c)  He initiated a true relationship “that they might be with him”

He was looking for friends and fellow-laborers. Later he was to address them as “friends” they were not supernumeraries. Apostles and Prophets must relate as friends together as coworkers. There is to be no sense of an imposed hierarchy in the relationship

The Prophet will acknowledge the sphere of the Apostle’s authority and support him in it, but at the same time expect an equal support and recognition of his own authority and sphere of influence in the churches to which they relate.

This is so important and cannot be overlooked. The relationship cannot be functional alone; spending time around a table like a board of directors with each one bringing his gifting to the table.

Jesus spent many hours with these people not discussing agendas and plans but enjoying life and living with those of a same disposition. The Apostle and Prophet are members of the Body of Christ exercising their gift together with one purpose.

d)  He gave them support of his Apostolic Ministry as they went out

“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” He sent them with these instructions, “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt 10:1, 6-8 NIV)

In like manner, we see other Apostles supporting their team:

“As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ.” (2 Cor 8:22-23 NIV)

Here, Paul was not just commending a ministry but recommending a person anointed by God Himself. This was a man known and related to Paul not a salaried staff member but on the “team”.

Likewise Paul would join Peter and the Jerusalem Apostles in sending out two Prophets from Jerusalem.

“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:  You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.30 The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.” (Acts 15:27-28 NIV) 

The Apostle has a certain power and authority within his own sphere of operation that allows him to make a way for the Prophet and give him or her credibility where they are not yet known.

“But we will not boast of authority we do not have. Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us, and this plan includes our working there with you. We are not going too far when we claim authority over you, for we were the first to travel all the way to you with the Good News of Christ. Nor do we claim credit for the work someone else has done. Instead, we hope that your faith will grow and that our work among you will be greatly enlarged. Then we will be able to go and preach the Good News in other places that are far beyond you, where no one else is working. Then there will be no question about being in someone else’s territory.” (2 Cor 10:13-16  NLT)

The agreement and support for the Prophet working in the Apostle’s particular field is vitally important and gives a legitimacy to the ministry among those churches.

 “James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. (Gal 2:9 NIV).

The failure to recognize and do this may cause friction between the Apostolic and Prophetic ministries leading to spin-off’s, broken relationships and unfruitful disputes.

2. Mutual  Respect

There must be mutual respect for one another as people and not just for the function they fulfill.  It is not enough to simply have “respect based on the office”. While Abigail respected Nabal out of principle alone, clearly his heart and actions resulted in no relationship of any value.

Moses and Hobab had a mutual respect and their relationship was not built on any pressure but rather on an appeal to stand and work together in a mutual pact of cooperation. Marriage may carry a legal form but this could never produce respect where relationship was absent.

The Apostle and Prophet need to be able to agree together in recognition and respect with regard to their specific operations in the field in which they operate.

This will result in yielding to the other in recognition of the specific expertise and gifting when things are being dealt with.

We are to “submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.” (1 Cor 16:16  NIV).

Such respect carries with it the thought of speaking well of one another and not taking a moment of weakness and misusing it to criticize their coworkers over things that are insignificant.

3. Mutual Commitment

At the heart of Apostolic/Prophetic relationships is the matter of covenant properly understood and carried out in right relationship. This must be done with hearts like Jonathan and David towards one another. We must avoid being controlling and be able to recognize when seasons change and willingly release one another into God’s next plan. Covenants are always to be undertaken willingly out of a full heart not mechanically in order to achieve a goal.

“Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. 4 Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.” (1 Sam 18:3-4 NIV)

Jonathan made covenant with David because he loved him and saw the anointing on him that was greater than his own. It was a response of respect and of commitment to a greater goal than his own kingdom. In like fashion, the Prophet needs to be joined to an Apostle in a committed relationship which springs from recognition the person’s specific anointing and call.

In the process of covenant Jonathan took the initiative to offer all the symbols of his own office and strength into the agreement. All this was a personal action that sprang from his own initiative, and was not a “requirement to enter the field” made by the Apostle.

These three factors are valuable in the building of a strong team relationship between Apostolic and Prophetic Ministries. The need for such relationships to be established is urgent since the Scripture exhorts us that “two are better than one because they have for their labor a good reward”.

_____________________________

Copyright Keith Hazell — Used by permission

Keith, now deceased, traveled internationally as a prophet and teaching ministry. For more than 35 years he has traveled among the nations demonstrating the Prophetic and teaching and raising up new generation prophets. He was one of the most accurate prophets that I have personally known.

 More in this three-part series by Keith Hazell:

More in this series on the Ministry of Apostles:

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