[by Keith Hazell] This is the third in a series on the Apostolic Ministry, a ministry being restored today for building the Kingdom of God. In this article, Keith Hazell deals with problems that hinder apostolic team ministry. Click here and here for the previous articles.
“Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:37-41 NIV)
While this passage is not about Apostles and Prophets it does help to illustrate that relationships between senior members are not always smooth and harmonious.
Paul seemed to have a knack for problems with other leaders and we have to confess that they were real problems and that these explosions did sadly happen
“When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.” (Gal 2:11-13 NIV)
In the first instance it seems that Paul’s response to Barnabas was one that the Church endorsed since they then sent him on the way with the blessing of God to continue his ministry with a new partner Silas.
Barnabas and Mark were related by blood (see Col 4:10). Possibly this entered into the dispute which arose. Problems can arise in any team when we allow family relationships to color our decisions and intervene in the relationships that are important in our lives.
Happily, there seems to have been reconciliation between Paul and Mark and Barnabas later on. However, the need to guard against second party offense is clearly seen here and those involved in these kinds of relationships must keep very close accounts in their personal relationships to avoid the divisions the enemy wants to sow among and between them.
In the second incidence Paul is confronting Peter in what was a very real situation that was obviously a problem not only for him but for the whole Church. Peter was being influenced in his lifestyle and doctrine by those who wanted to return to a modified Judaism.
In order for Paul to protect the church, he needed to confront the situation and challenge Peter publicly since his actions were making a problem. I tend to think that Paul had approached this matter privately, without response before this event without effect.
The need to maintain ourselves in unity with those we work with in the area of practical doctrine is essential. If we have a major change in our doctrinal stand we must approach it directly and agree on a solution that does not harm the church. Given the humanity of us all there are certain things that can produce conflicts in our relationships together as we seek to labor in team.
Some of the prime components of division are these simple things that we can easily deal with:
“Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. ‘Which way did the spirit from the LORD go when he went from me to speak to you?’ he asked.” (1 Kings 22:24 NIV)
Contention, arising from ambition is particularly bad in Apostolic and Prophetic Teams. Both are high profile people and are often strongly promoted by their respective followers until a rivalry develops which is unhealthy.
Either of these ministries is prone to be troubled with ambition, since they both have power over people. Continually re-stating vision and goals is a key to remind of the value of their team contribution.
Jonathan as crown prince of Israel laid down ambition when he chose to work alongside David in covenant relationship. A greater Kingdom than that of his father Saul was at stake. Jonathan recognized the higher call was able to give him reason to let go of his own legitimate succession in favor of a grand and greater Kingdom
“A young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ assistant since youth, spoke up and said, ‘Moses, my lord, stop them!’ But Moses replied, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!’ Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.” (Num 11:27-30 NIV)
Joshua was well established as the servant of Moses. The actions of Eldad and Medad were irregular since they were prophesying outside the camp and not in the tent with the rest. As Moses’ closest aid Joshua felt this to be a threat to Moses leadership and authority.
It is sad for one in Apostolic Ministry today who, because of insecurity, interpret the actions of others to be a challenge to their own spiritual authority. They find themselves threatened by others developing ministry even when it is in a team that they are leading. Once they have a sense of being threatened they lash out; often at people who are not in competition for their job or ministry.
There needs to be security in who we are in God that does not allow us to be threatened by the success of other team members or by the anointing that they carry.
When we cease to have clear communication we have division on our doorstep. Peter and Paul ought never to have gotten to having a division over Peter’s reversion to Judaism. This did not happen over night and it was not something that no one saw happening. There would have been ample opportunity to speak into Peter’s life about the path he was taking.
Some good communication may well have averted the blowup between Paul and Barnabas.
“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. (3 John 9-10 NIV)
This church was not happy to entertain members of Paul’s team. Instead they were trying to produce a division through malicious gossip. This meant they were people of divided loyalties.
Taking sides in disputes and catalyzing around personal issues divides loyalty of team members who have lost sight of the goal.
John the Baptist may have been having each of these things happening in him when he was in prison. “When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see’.” (Matt 11:2-4 NIV)
Perhaps because of insecurity (why hadn’t Jesus acted to get him released from prison?) or ambition (perhaps unhappy that the ministry was going on without him) or divided loyalties (perhaps he was not glad that Jesus was increasing while he was decreasing). Finally, he had forgotten the clear communication of the Father to him which caused him to proclaim, “Behold the Lamb of God”; and lost touch with the present ministry of Jesus. He was no longer able to see for himself the connection between the two of them in relation to their mission to Israel.
None of these things are insurmountable; and walking in the Light every day will help us to avoid the trap or temptation of losing sight of the goal.
Let’s Get it All Together
There is a desperate cry in the heart of God for the Apostle and Prophet to work together in team. Why is this important to the strategy of the Kingdom?
“However, he has given each one of us a special gift according to the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say, ‘When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.’
Notice that it says ‘he ascended.’ This means that Christ first came down to the lowly world in which we live. The same one who came down is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that his rule might fill the entire universe. He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ. (Eph 4:7-13 – NLT)
There is a need for all five of the Gifts of Christ to be manifested in the Local Church and beyond. However, the Apostle and the Prophet are the key to bringing the Church into maturity and out of obscurity.
The Scripture tells us about Joseph who was locked up in prison till the timing of God. “Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them — Joseph, who was sold as a slave. There in prison, they bruised his feet with fetters and placed his neck in an iron collar. Until the time came to fulfill his word, the LORD tested Joseph’s character. Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free; the ruler of the nation opened his prison door. (Psalm 105:17-20 NLT)
Joseph came out of prison, and limitation in the full timing of God. His release was for one reason … Harvest.
If Apostle and/or Prophet need release from a “prison” of misunderstanding, let them ask the Lord for help and choose to be released to work in harmony together. God has spoken many times of the coming of the largest ingathering the church, in our day, has ever seen. Apostle and Prophet are key if the church is to accomplish the goal of being prepared and ready. Already the door has swung open and like Joseph the Apostle and Prophet have a commission to work together to build something.
“Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh King of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt. During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.” (Gen 41:46-49 NIV)
Joseph, like Apostles and Prophets traveled extensively with a commission from the King. It was a commission to oversee the gathering of an unprecedented Harvest.
Today we stand on the verge of such a Harvest and we need to recognize that Apostles and Prophets have a part in the conserving of Harvest just as Joseph did in his days. Joseph built strong storehouse cities, which can be compared to Local Churches today, to house the Harvest and make sure it is of maximum benefit.
To these storehouses people came not only from Egypt and Israel, but from the nations, seeking food and provision. Today God wants there to be such a co-operation between Apostles and Prophets that there will truly be conservation of a ripened ingathered Harvest that will attract and provide for the nations the spiritual life they are longing for.
“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.” (Eph 4:16 NIV)
Let’s get the parts working here so the Church grows and is built up according to the plan and pattern of God so that the looked for Harvest is not only reaped but also retained.
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:
- Apostles and prophets Part I: Five or three
- Apostles and prophets Part 2: Working together in teams
- Apostles and prophets Part 3: The Apostolic Explosion
More in this series on the Ministry of Apostles:
- Are Apostles for Today by Dean Smith
- Ministry of an Apostle — Part 1 by David Wells
- Ministry of an Apostle — Part 2 by David Wells
- How the 1948 Revival impacted the Church by Dean Smith
- Apostles and Prophets Part I: Five or three by Keith Hazell
- Apostles and prophets Part 2: Working together in teams
- Apostles and prophets Part 3: The Apostolic Explosion