ARE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS STILL RELEVANT TO THE CHURCH?
First let me say, I support Brian Houston and the Australian Christian Churches -one of which I attend called "Church on the Rise" Maleny. Although I don't go along with all the policies of the ACC, I agree to disagree ,focusing more on 'Body Unity' -which I believe to be more important than doctrine- if we are to survive the test of endurance in these last days. But that doesn't mean to say that I have to except every Sprit!! Rather, the Bible warns Christians to test ALL Spirits. That means ,not always excepting what man says but what the Spirit of GOD is saying -without condemnation.
So then let us reason.
Here in Australia, approximately 1,100 Assemblies of God churches are members of the ‘Australian Christian Churches’ who have joined forces with the ‘World Assemblies of God Fellowship’ which has 67 million members worldwide and is the largest Pentecostal Fellowship in the world.
Among the majority of AoG churches worldwide the non-ordination of apostles and prophets still stands. A manifesto regarding the position of apostles and prophets in today’s Pentecostalism was read out to the General Presbytery of the Assemblies of God (International) August 6, 2001.
In brief the AoG say that Ephesians 4:12 is more a manifold ministry than a fivefold one. That is to say Ephesians 4:12 give to all saints the work of ministry, while 1 Corinthian 12:28-30 and Romans 12:6-8 provide aspects of ministry beyond the designations in Ephesians 4:11-12.
The worldwide AoG doctrinal position in relation to Ephesians 4:11-12 basically means that messengers of Old Testament prophets were more often “forth-telling” rather than “foretelling”.
For instance, Joel 2:28 forth- told of an even that would happen at Pentecost 33CE ; and the apostle Paul foretold it in Acts 2:16 when he said: “No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel” (NLT).
John tells us in Revelations 19:10 that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Hence, those who have the spirit of Christ can affirm, teach, or administer God’s prophetic message through a manifold of believers coined – ‘prophet-hood’. This includes those gifted with deep insight into revelation known as apostle-ship.
Although there is doctrinal differences between AoG international and the New Apostolic Reformation movement, the Australian Christian Churches has implemented a policy called a ‘Certificate of fellowship’ which allows visiting NAR prophets and prophetess to preach: or should I say prophecy, among there eleven hundred affiliate members.
ACC official web site states the following.
“The ministerial gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers as recorded in Epistle to the Ephesians 4:11-13 are all relevant and functional in today’s Pentecostalism”. “…..we do not believe it is necessary to use the titles of apostles and prophets in order for those functions to be active in the world and the church today”
ACC Article 4 Doctrinal Basis Preamble.
“The Holy Scriptures, known as the Bible is the inspired Word of God and our all sufficient rule for faith and practice. These articles of faith of the Australian Christian Churches, grounded in these scriptures, are given as abases for belief, fellowship and ministry” that we shall “preach the same thing” (Corinthians 1:10)
Let’s be reasonable hear, one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to note that Assembles of God and the Word Wide Apostolic Movement are not preaching the same thing according to Ephesians 4:11 & Corinthians 1:10. To prove my point, let’s compare doctrine to see if all are truly in unity of the one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:17)
What the New Apostolic Reformation Movement teach.
(1) The Church is built on today’s Apostles and Prophets whose title and authority exceeds that of a teacher evangelist and senior pastor.
(2) Every senior church should be lead by an apostle who is in touch with what the Spirit is saying: and the position of senior pastor is one of caring for the general needs of the church.
(3) Only apostles can lay hands for ordination of all fivefold ministries: that is to say, the imparting, identifying, bestowing or even confirming spiritual gifts by the laying on of hands and prophecy.
Corporate and individual ‘prophecy’ is prioritized more than the gifts of tongues and interpretation.
(4) The doctrine of “Deliverance” teachers that all habits such as drug dependency and sexual appetite is of direct demonic influence and can be cured instantly by dispersing oppressive demons.
(5) Some Apostolic prophets preach that being drunk in the Spirit and dancing waving flags along church pews is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
What the Australian Christian Churches teach.
(1) The ACC acknowledgers the right and privilege of men and women to have their ministries recognized and therefore are invited under ACC ‘Certificate of fellowship’ to impart, identify, bestow or even confirm spiritual gifts by the laying on of hands and prophesying.
(2) ACC teach that the ministerial gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers as recorded in Epistle to the Ephesians 4:11-13 are all relevant and functional in today’s Pentecostalism.
(3) ACC say that it’s not necessary to use the titles of apostles and prophets in order for those functions to be active in the world and the church today.
What the Assemblies of God (international) teach.
(1) The AoG agree that the ministry of apostle and prophet are important in the functioning of the church on the condition that they are not considered official offices. Rather, a universal “prophet- hood” endowed with one or more spiritual gifts, such as wise, instructive, and edifying utterances”. (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; Ephesians 4:7-13; 1 Peter 4:10).
(2) Physical and spiritual healing can be prayed over by the gift of knowledge and the laying on of hands.
(3) “Prophesying” is a foretelling of events pertained in scripture through the gift of knowledge when testifying or preaching while “prophecy” is administered through tongues interpretation.
(4) Deliverance comes under the umbrella of knowledge and discernment addressed by personal counselling with the aid of a prophet-hood of believers each specializing in their various gifts.
Not all AoG churches need join!
The AoG USA admits that there are often differences in practice among various international members of the ‘World Assemblies of God Fellowship’ (WAGF) - affirming my point that not all Pentecostalism “teach the same thing”.
Truth be told, the Australian Christian Churches can incorporate their own doctrinal policies and still remain a member of WAGF. This then begs the question. Why does the ACC choose to be indifferent from its international AoG cousins? Could it be in keeping with Apostle Peter Wagner’s prophecy - that beginning 2001 the offices of apostle and prophets will be restored?
Let us review the beginnings of the ACC to see whether Brian Houston is in support of Peter Wagner’s prophecy under the pretence of policy change by the international Assemblies of God
The foundation of the Australian Christian Churches.
Senior pastor William Francis Houston was active prior to being dismissed from Hills Christian Life Centre by his father in 1999 due to alleged paedophile activities. Frank’s son, Brain Houston was then president of the AoG Australia (1997-2009) which meant that he along with his father founded the Australian Christian Churches. It should be noted that 'Apostolic apostle' (incognito) David Cartledge was then national executive of Assemblies of God Australia (AGA) for three decades and was a senior adviser to Frank and Brian Houston in laying down the foundation of the Australian Christian Churches.
Brain Houston endorsees his father’s passion.
The late Frank Houston was a New Zealand Salvation Army Captain, who was associated with a Canadian cult named the ‘New Order of the Latter Rain’ which was founded by an apostolic apostle Charles Greenwood. Today, the remnant of the NOLR movement is now called the ‘New Apostolic Reformation movement’ whose chief apostle is Peter Wagner of the Global Harvest ministry.
Please keep in mind his prophecy regarding the restoration of apostles and prophets beginning 2001.
Problems that is associated with apostolic teachings.
I have no problems with worshiping alongside apostolic brethren providing they don’t take over authority to that of the senior pastor or "prophecy" without need for tongues interpretation.-otherwise there would be no need for it.
The position of AoG regarding profits and prophetess as one of a universal 'prophet- hood' makes good sense because it eliminates over lording which I experienced not only in the 1970’s but recently while attending the Gympie Christian Family Fellowship in Queensland.
To the uninitiated, Gympie Christian Fellowship is part of the Brisbane Fellowship (BCFF ) and is affiliated with Peter Wagner, the Global Apostolic Network (GAN) and the ‘Restoration Fellowship International’.
Its Australian roots began in the 70’s with Jay Jackson’s Emanuel church Melbourne Australia and like Frank Houston; Ray Jackson senior was stood down due to allegations of sexual misconduct - to say the least.
Today, BCFF is governed by a chief apostle named Vic Hall who claims to be visited by Jesus Christ. It’s no secret among Pastor Hall's devotees that one of their senior prophets embezzled $850 thousand dollars due to a failed property investment and that Pastor Hall refused to take him to court leaving the congregation to repay the bank loan. Not surprisingly, the unorthodox practices of the Christian Family Church were brought to the attention of the ABC four corners programme in 2008.
Church historians will attest that from the many thousands of Pentecostal and Charismatic faiths the ones who lorded the most were those of the apostolic faiths. The long list includes; Televangelist Kenneth Hagin, Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copland whose Title is either apostle prophet or both - need I say more.
AoG international encouragers only AoG pastors
General Council of AoG August 6th 2001 Page 12v3 says the following;
"Since the use of non-Assemblies of God ministers may bring confusion and problems detrimental to the Fellowship, it is recommended that Assemblies of God churches use Assembles of God ministers"
Why Assembles of God ordained ministers?
What’s typical about a New Apostolic prophet or prophetess is their ability to fish out an audience- likened to psychics of theatrical notoriety. Fishing is when a prophet will ask his audience whether there is someone wearing a particular type of fashion jewellery or distinctive clothing such as the colour pink.
But that’s not all!
Prophets have the influence to convince congregationist in believing they were instantly healed –prompting words of suggestion. “Am I against the miraculous gifts of healing?” No! But what I am against is interfering with one’s faith – as in believing they are out of favor with God should their newly acquired faith wear thin.
The safe policy among these Charismatic psychics is this; “God has healed you, but it’s up to you to confirm it through your faith”. This of course eliminates any judgment as to the prophet’s authenticity if it turns out that your healing was just one of those fleeting moments of joy. (No disrespect to God intended)
Also typical with faith healers, is that it always seems to be the psychosomatic illnesses that are cured but never the real serious infirmities. Let’s be honest, have you personally witnessed anyone being raised from the dead or a cripple walking lately? The only incident known to me was that of Jim Jones from the notorious Peoples Temple USA who in the 1970’s faked a cripple lady leaping out of a wheelchair -mentioned in my book "Tongues on Fire".
"Do I believe in miracles?" Well that would depend on what one calls a miraculous event. In my opinion a “miracle” comes under the umbrella of ‘divine intervention’ having many connotations including answer to prayer.(Ref: chapter 32 Healing and Deliverance in my book Tongues on Fire which is available free for the asking).
It was for the above reasons why the AoG in Canada USA and Australia had a policy change eliminating title of apostle and prophet.
Thanks to Brian Houston, the New Apostolic Reform movement have since cleaned up their act with no pushing while administering gifts of healing – no slaying in the Spirit, no leg growing or teeth being filled with Gold. But some apostolic churches such as the (BCFF) practice 'spiritual birthing' whereby women, and at times even men, claim to be having actual contractions of the womb brought on by the anointing of the holy spirit, while they retch and moan as though experiencing childbirth. In fact ,when I was attending the Gympie Family Fellowship I was told by the senior pastor not to speak in tongues when prophesying.
Brain Houston and the Australian Christian Churches do vet the obscurities of apostolicism; nonetheless - what concerns me and AoG traditionalist is the hierarchy structure of apostle over senior pastor of which the ACC are willing to overlook.
A book entitled “The Apostolic Revolution” written by the late (Apostle) David Cartledge who writes from 30 years’ experience as national executive of the Assemblies of God Australia (AGA) and co-founder of the ACC.
David in his book speaks harshly about the AoG USA ultra conservatism and how they robed power from apostle to senior pastor and reasons why it’s know being restored. In discussing the purpose of the fivefold or “ascension gift” ministries, Cartledge believes it’s the office of apostle that allows the freedom to discern divine direction. David adds that every significant church should be governed by a apostle or at the very least a prophet or prophetess to spiritual guide senior pastors.
Cartledge sums up the history of Pentecostalism in Australia in terms of an original revival (1900 to 1930’s) a decline brought about by institutionalization (1930’s to 1970’s) and the second revival driven by the so called apostolic revolution (1970 to present). He suggest that this later revival resulted from the appointment of an apostolic leadership in 1977, which dispensed with the bureaucratic church structures adopted by Pentecostals as they institutionalized and replaced these with apostolic structures that gave church authority to the senior pastor.
It’s made apparent by David’s comments that the scars still remain when AoG USA banned the ‘New Order of the Latter Rain’ in 1949.
David Cartledge words are reminiscent to that of Apostle Peter Wagner who prophesied a third wave movement (second apostolic age) beginning 2001.
But we of the 1970's can assure the youth of today that there is absolutely no comparison to today’s renewing of His church as it was back then. Yes, God has promised a third and final wave outpouring, but only to those who will seek Him through a prophet-hood of believers of all religious persuasions.
Let’s be reasonable hear, I don’t recall in the 1970’s seeing any apostles and prophets in the Anglican and Catholic churches while God poured out His Holy Spirit – “did you?” You maybe interested to know that today there are 50,000 charismatic Catholics lobbying Pope Francis for change. Yes God’s got his workers everywhere and not just in the apostolic movements.
Granted, David Cartledge was right in saying that the church structure did shift from apostle to senior pastor, but for good reason. I was there and I should know. In fact, many of my fellow believers of the 1970's agree that due to apostolic apostles and prophets theatrical antics, God's "New Prophecy Manifestations" waned due to its grieving. “God will not be mocked!”
As once an ex Jehovah's witness, I believe that the Apostolic hierarchy structure is no different to that of the Jehovah’s witnesses governing body from which theocratic directives overrule congregational elders whose equivalency is that of a senior pastor. I also believe that if ACC allow Apostolicism to influence AoG policy then history will again repeat itself when in the 2nd Century Montanist prophets and prophetesses began prophesying presumptuously.
The bottom line is this;
As born again spirit filled Christians, are we to except that the Pentecostal outpouring was a one off blessing during the 1970’s? Or do we have to admit that the church has been high jacked by the more glamorous and exciting theatrics of prophets and prophetess weaving there magical prowess.
The New Apostolic Reformation movement and alike will not accept the General Presbytery of the Assemblies of God (International) August 6, 2001 resolution that apostles and prophets are not titles but ministries (profit-hood) within the body of Christ. I should think that the NAR are grateful to Brain Houston, Frank Houston, and David Cartledge for supporting their cause, though limited. “Am I saying that Brian and David are false prophet”? Certainly not!
But I do find it disturbing to think that David held Apostolic views for 30 years while holding office as national executive of the Australian Assemblies of God.
The bottom line is this; The Australian Christian churches try as they might will not convince me or many of my fellow believers that a minority of apostolic prophets and prophetess can be beneficial amongst a overwhelming majority of worldwide AoG churches. Could it be said that the old Australian slang: “She’ll be alright mate” has left Australian Christian Churches "up the creek without a paddle?"
What should be the role of a visiting prophet to an ACC church?
ACC invite both Prophets who prophecy, and AoG traditionalist who have the gift of knowledge . That is to say, an AoG pastor has not a title of Apostle, but can have the gift of apostleship in teaching or evangelising- and his message to the congregation is one of knowledge and not prophecy per se. This principal also applies to the laying on of hands for healing, tongues and deliverance.
How does the gift of knowledge work?
The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:8: “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; (KJV)
The word of wisdom, although complimentary to the word of knowledge doesn’t perform the same task.
For instance, the gift of wisdom is to all that receive the Spirit of Christ in order to prophecy God’s Living message of salvation.
John affirms this in Revelations 19:10 saying: “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy”. Paul agrees in 1 Corinthians 2:6 saying: “…among the mature we speak the message of wisdom”.
What about the gift of knowledge?
The gift of knowledge is reserved for the manifold ministries of apostle-ship and prophet-hood within the body of Christ. This unique gift can be used for teaching, counselling, healing and encouragement. But recently I've noticed a trend were the gift of knowledge is substituting the gift of tongues and interpretation. Perhaps, God is allowing it because many churches don't exercise the gift of tongues and interpretation anymore .
How can knowledge heal?
I recall a woman who contacted me asking for ‘healing knowledge’ after reading about ‘intercessional prayer by proxy’ in my book "Tongues on Fire".
In response I was able to discern the origins of her illness and the professional help specific to her problem. No theatrics, no laying-on of hands, no pushing, no claims of being a prophet or faith healer but simple counseling - which by the way worked. To note; this was similar to the methodology used by the late Oral Roberts during the 1970’s. (Ref: Chapter 32 under Healing & Deliverance) .
Satan specializes in faith demoralizing.
I concluded that this sister’s problem wasn’t that she was out of favour with God or lacked faith as many faith healers had implied. No! Rather she was incorrectly diagnosed.
Dear friends, how much time does your physician spend in a consultation, and how much time does the church spend in counseling. “It seems to me that faith healers are a quick fix to a rather complex problem!”
It might be just as good seeking healing from a Sharman or Witchdoctor as it is a Charismatic Psychic who uses the laying on of hands as if it were a magical wand.
I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the Spirit speaking, but Christians need to understand that the laying on of hands should only be applied when the gift of knowledge is being exercised and never for personal or corporate predictions- unless of course accompanied by tongues interpretation.
This point was not made clear in the 1970's when prophets and prophetesses would prophecy over couples to sell their homes, buy investments, to marry or even divorce. Yet on another point; when it comes to deliverances from demonic influences such as fears habits and bondages, it’s only prudent and wise to first sort personal counseling before any exoticism external or internal is considered. The problem could be that one to seek the gift of faith in order to overcome evil habits. But the ministry of deliverance only praises the Devils work. "Have we not already been delivered one and once only when being born again?
I say this from my experience in the 1970’s when epilepsy and bipolar was confused with demonic influences.
Apostolic teaching quenches the Spirit!
According to apostolic prophets and prophetesses, a prophetic Word either corporate or individual can override tongues and interpretation citing -1 Corinthians 14:6: “Now brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? (NIV)
But Paul is not saying that the prophecy to the church can be without tongues. Rather, that tongues alone are of no use unless there is interpretation.
The Australian Christian Churches advocate that whether a prophet has title or not – they are still current ministries whereby the Holy Spirit still moves in mysterious ways. A good point taken, but here lays the problem.
Any person who claims to be a prophet and gives a ‘prophetic Word’ out aloud without tongues and interpretation is defying scripture protocols.
Again I must reiterate; this type of tongue is not prophecy but a Word of knowledge which is kept under wraps until such time is allocated by the church. (1 Corinthians 14:40: “Let all things be done in order”)
Moreover, when one is moved by the Spirit to speak out aloud a tongue, it should be contained until a lull becomes available in worship service so that an interpretation can be heard.
Music is the key to worship.
It’s from this point that musicianship is of the utmost importance. But unfortunately today’s new generation of senior pastors has underestimated the importance of appointing specially anointed song leaders gifted in knowing when the Spirit moves: as was the case when Joshua was chosen to led his musicians around the strongholds of Jericho.
But the trend in Australian Christian Churches is that everyone is trying to emulate Hillsong with musicians and singers taking the lead without pause for the gifts of the Spirit to operate.
It’s my opinion based on past experience with the Richmond Apostolic Temple in Melbourne; for the Assemblies of God Churches to be affiliated with the ACC does leave them vulnerable to more erroneous apostolic teachings. More reason why AoG international has recommended ordained AoG ministers to guard congregationalist from being high jacked by religions such as the World Apostolic Movement.
When I first came to a ACC church I was of the opinion that it was AoG all the way until I heard a prophetess blurt out aloud a prophecy without tongues. When I approached the pastor about the incident he assured me that AoG had a change of policy. But evidence points to the contrary; the ACC is not teaching the same doctrine on Ephesians 4:11-12 as do the majority of AoG worldwide churches.
Today in Australia there exist approximately 500,000 Assembles of God worshipers with 315.000 affiliated with Australian Christian Churches.
When I was attending AoG church’s during the 1970’s -90’s the very notion of an apostolic prophet or prophetess prophesying without tongues and interpretation was unacceptable. Granted, there were those who pushed us over with there over zealousness –but that was a fade copied from apostolicism due to its theatrical attraction. But today we leave all that immaturity behind us and seek salvation by means of revelation through the gifts of the Spirit without the fads that attract large crowds.
Please remember this; God is looking for quality and not quantity.
Prophecy via a prophet or prophet- hood?
For the New Apostolic Reform movement to teach that one has to be bestowed by an apostle to receive an appointment of prophet or prophetess does imply that God’s message to His church is by an individual rather than a prophet-hood of believers.
Dear friend, are we to assume that the 120 in the upper room at Pentecost 33CE each prophesied a message to the church in amidst such noise and confusion? “I think not!”
The question then begs; “why would the church need tongues and interpretation when a prophet or prophetess is readily available?”
The truth which few are willing to admit is that individual or corporate prophecy by one person makes tongues and interpretation redundant from most Pentecostal and charismatic worship services. True, you may hear the prayer tongue being exercised in prayer groups were few attend, but never a tongues interpretation in a full gathering worship service. Could it be said that Satan is allowing the crumbs in order to ward off a full meal?
So what does that say?
The ACC in Australia was formed in 1937 when the Assemblies of God Queensland merged with the Pentecostal Church of Australia under the name Assemblies of God in Australia. In 2007 the denomination adopted Australian Christian Churches as its public name. But the irony is that Brain Houston while president of AoG under direction of David Cartledge was in fact sympathetic to the New Apostolic Reformation movement despite it being denounced by AoG USA and Canada.
But sadly who will defy the ACC when they are so cashed up thanks to Hillsong’s international popularity boasting the largest church attendance of 20.000 in Australia?
It’s obvious that Hillsong’s Christian ethos is more focused on entertainment than the deep things of God. (2 Timothy 4:3: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” NIV).
The facts speak for themselves; not all AoG churches can sign up to the ACC “Cooperative fellowship” policy which includes we of the New Prophecy Church Maleny Queensland.
Dear fellow brethren, wake up and hear the Spirit speaking; Satan is trying desperately to have the gifts of tongues and interpretation redundant by substituting it with the gifts of Knowledge and Prophecy -some of whom are prophets and prophetess.
I believe that it’s my duty to inform all Christians that Frank Houston has left us a very evil legacy - as in quenching the Holy Spirit. (Mark 3:29) Paul says of such men in Ephesians 5:11: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them”.
Tongues interpretation verses a prophetic Word.
As I’ve pointed out, the apostolic movement is not teaching the same thing as the AoG, namely that they can prophecy without need for a tongue interpretation. But many will ask; what’s the difference whether Gods message to His church is via a prophet prophetess or tongues interpretation?
Please allow me to explain.
A prophetic Word via tongues interpretation relies on confirmation of authenticity of what the Spirit is saying. In other words it’s the body of Christ that testifies what is good and what is bad.
Mathew 18:16 says: “But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (NIV). 1 Corinthians 14:7: “If any man speaks in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret (KJB).
But a ‘prophetic word’ by a prophet or a prophetess alone has no witnesses to confirm what the Spirit has spoken: and is the reason why Paul speaks of interpretation as the most important of all gifts of the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 14:27)
At this point let’s look at the instructions of the apostle Paul to see where the administrative tongue of interpretation and discernment (decreeing and declaring) functions in the church.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:5: “One who prophesies [gives a Word] is greater than one who speaks in [administration] tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up” (NRSV).
(Note: Brackets mine for emphasis).
In 1 Corinthians 14:19 Paul says that he would rather speak five intelligible words [of interpretation] to instruct others than ten thousand words in an [administrative] tongue. Why? Because without an interpretation the administrative tongue would be of no benefit-no one would understand it. So according to Paul, although a Word has its place in worship of God, the interpretation needs to be the priority so all can understand. That basically means that a member of the prophet-hood with a directive from God via the gift of (tongues) discernment and/or interpretation has the highest priority including title or not of Ephesians 4:11-12.
Internet Christian Church ( Joel 2:28)
Apologetics article 2 / October 2017.