CM2000 29 December, 2000
Plenary: Acknowledging Church Movements Toward The Unfinished Task

Apostolic Reformation Churches

Joseph Thompson

Acts 8: 1 records the following; ".At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles. Acts 1: 8 indicates that this scattering was the will of God, as it says, "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." This singular event records for us the birth of the Church. It is interesting to note, though, that persecution was what finally caused the Church to disperse from its central base in Jerusalem. This fulfilled the words of Jesus that they would be witnesses to the furthest corners of the earth.

The mandate is still the same today, and the command is still to be witnesses to the furthest reaches of the earth. Christianity, in its modern day application, has tried to accomplish global evangelization through denominationalism. Apparently, this type of outreach has been mostly unsuccessful in many places, due in large part to the rigid structures of denominations and the ever-evolving needs of our largely secular society. As societies have evolved technologically, economically, politically, culturally and educationally, people have determined that the rigid structures of denominational Christianity are irrelevant to the needs of our post-modern society. Many have therefore looked to Eastern mystic religions, New Age doctrines of pluralism and redefined "Christianity" among others, to fill the void left by what they consider to be "dead religion." It is this changing face of society that has motivated visionary Christian leaders to take a long hard look at the "persecution" of our day and see the need for an evolution in the way we do church. This has led many Christian leaders to establish independent churches as well as para-church ministries that have come to be known as the New Apostolic paradigm. Dr. C. Peter Wagner, in his book, Churchquake identifies this movement as the New Apostolic Reformation. He further defines this reformation as an, "extraordinary work of God at the close of the twentieth century, which is to a significant extent, changing the shape of Protestant Christianity around the world." It is significantly changing and introducing new forms and operational procedures in areas such as, local church government, missions, evangelism, prayer, financing, worship, the role of supernatural power and other such vital aspects of church life.

For the first time in the history of the Church, we are able to define the task of evangelism on a global scale and divide the world according to people groups and thus document our progress in effectively reaching the entire world. With the advent of ministries like Global Harvest and AD 2000 among numerous others, we are able to strategically target global evangelistic prayer and harness our resources through places like the World Prayer Center, to do a more effective job in communicating global prayer needs for whole nations. This has made the world "smaller" in terms of completing the task of evangelization, and has made it easier to utilize proven techniques and systems through loosely structured apostolic networks, instead of re-inventing the wheel. This is not to discount the work or the veracity of denominational structures, but to simply say that these changes in our approach to ministry are happening largely among ministries that constitute the new apostolic reformation. Dr. Wagner further states in his book, "In virtually every region of the world, these new apostolic churches constitute the fastest growing segment of Christianity."

In Lagos, Nigeria, Dr. David Oyedepo recently completed the largest church facility in the world, seating an approximate 53,000 people. In addition to this mega sanctuary, their campus also consists of a Bible college, residential quarters and various other facilities that enhance their outreach to the city. Judging by the more than 47,000 attendees in one service, they are doing an excellent job of impacting their region. This phenomenon is not limited to Africa alone. In the United States, Churches like Bill Hybels', Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, TD Jakes', Potters House in a Dallas suburb, Ted Haggard's, New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado and many others too numerous to mention, are all examples of new apostolic churches that have an apostolic mandate to their cities and are changing the spiritual climate of whole cities. In addition to these churches are the para-church ministries that are also affecting the spiritual atmosphere of their cities and impacting people on a global scale. James Dobson's Focus on the Family and Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship are just two of such outstanding ministries restoring hope to the family and restoration and love for the incarcerated. In the United Kingdom, the fastest growing churches are the new apostolic churches such as Matthew Ashimolowo's Kingsway International Church. In only seven years his more than 7,000-member church has impacted the city of London in many spheres of society including the local government. Kingsway has become a significant regional church that is doing a wonderful job of ministering to the African Diaspora in London among many other ethnic groups.

In Kiev, Ukraine, the two largest churches are new apostolic churches. The pastor's of both these churches are Africans. This global perspective of the church with a strong emphasis on world missions is a mainstay of the new apostolic churches. At New Life Church in Colorado Springs, it is standard practice for the youth group to do at least two international missions trips each year. This serves to strengthen their understanding of the global church as well as the value of their tithes and offerings in fulfilling the call to cross-cultural missions. In South and Central America the new apostolic reformation churches are responsible in large part for what the West has come to recognize as an outpouring of revival. Spearheading this movement are people like Ed Silvoso, Claudio Freidzon, Sergio Scattaglini, Pablo Bottari and Carlos Annacondia among others.

Clearly these new apostolic churches have identified the need to become more relevant to the culture and the times in which we live. They are continually exploring new avenues to express Biblical truths that are cross-cultural, and are taking full advantage of technological advancements to enhance the spreading of the gospel message. It is through the use of such modern technology that people like George Otis Jr. have been able to define spiritual mapping. Spiritual mapping improves our ability to pray more specifically for nations and people groups and at the same time measure the effectiveness of our targeted strategic prayer through efforts like praying through the 1040 Window 1 through 4.

The key to the continued success of the new apostolic reformation churches lies in their adherence to the fundamentals of the faith. They are held together by the glue of Biblical methods, not their particular doctrinal statements nor their traditions. Their "new" methods and "new" expressions of worship are not rigid structures that profess to be superior to those employed by denominations, but rather, guidelines to effective forms of communicating the unchanging and timeless truths of the gospel in our continually evolving world.

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