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Restoring Apostolic Ministry To The Church

By The 700 Club - John Eckhardt recently spoke to Gordon Robertson about the shift from pastoral to apostolic ministry and its effects on local churches. There are changes in leadership that he believes will directly affect the body of Christ. As he travels around the world, John has discovered that many leaders are transitioning from a pastoral calling into an apostolic calling. That is, many pastors are realizing that they desire a ministry that encompasses more than one church. It is important that the church body make this shift in order for the church as a whole to move to the next level of power, grace and anointing.

"In the past," John says, "if leaders or pastors left their church for any period of time, their churches would fall apart. In order to move into this new position (of ministry), we are challenging some of the traditional ways we have been taught." That concept includes a church having only one pastor. "There is a need," says John, "for many pastors to help shedherd the flock as churches grow and disciples multiply."

In the book of Acts, churches were planted by the pioneering spirits of apostles and apostolic teams, not pastors. Pastors are not mentioned among the three governmental offices of the church in 1 Cor. 12:28 (apostles, prophets and teachers). God is challenging the church to come in line with His purpose. The cell group movement is a good illustration of this point. There is a need for cell groups, an idea which was birthed out of the need for believers to receive and be a part of a ministry in a small group context. These leaders are called "cell group leaders" but in reality they are doing the work of a pastor. It is possible for a church to release hundreds and thousands of "pastors" in this way. God does not limit the shepherding of a flock to one person or a staff of a few.

An Apostolic church is also a sending church; the local church releases the senior pastor to facilitate the apostolic ministry. By doing so, the people learn to draw from the governing gifts of the apostles, prophets and teachers and not depend on the senior pastor for everything. "The local church becomes more missions oriented and expands at the people take on the characteristics of their leaders," says John.


Another element in the book of Acts church was the prophetic ministry. Many churches today have been robbed of this vital part of ministry. Prophecy is a building gift and means to edify. When we build people, we build the church. Prophetic utterances activate and release the plans and purposes of God. The prophetic, John says, also releases the apostolic. Crusaders Church of Chicago was blessed by the ministry of another prophetic ministry, Bishop Bill Hamon of Christian International in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Through his ministry, Crusaders Church was restored and began sending many of their leaders to conferences to be trained and activated in the prophetic ministry. Now, they have hundreds of people in the church that prophesy and have ordained prophets and prophetic teams that travel to the nations. "By prophesying over people," John says, "apostles can be identified". John received his apostolic calling through prophecy in 1989. At the time, he knew nothing about the ministry of the apostle. He had to pursue the ministry by faith.

Here is more of the conversation between Gordon Robertson and John Eckhardt:

Gordon Robertson: Our next guest says there's a new shift taking place in the body of Christ and one that could have profound effect on the church's efforts to fulfill the Great Commission. Here to share more with us from his new book called "Leadershift," please welcome Pastor John Eckhardt.

John Eckhardt: Thank you. It's good to be here.

Gordon Robertson: Tell me about this. What do you mean about leadershift? What is that?

John Eckhardt: Well, we titled the book "Leadershift" because we felt that there's a shift taking place among many pastors. As we travel around the world, we're seeing many pastors beginning to embrace more of an apostolic calling in their ministries, and many of them sense a shifting, but they don't exactly know how to make the shift. So we're really seeing the ministry help leaders to identify their gifts and, also, to make that important shift.

Gordon Robertson: It seems like this is sort of the next move. You had Bill Hammond, in particular, talking about the restoration of the prophetic. Is this the next stage for the church, and it's more of a restoration back to what we had in the first century?

John Eckhardt: Yes. Yes, I believe that the word restoration is the key word, and we saw the restoration of prophetic ministry in the '90s. And toward the end of the '90s, we began to see more of an emphasis on the subject of apostles and the restoration of apostolic ministry. And I feel that the restoration of the apostolic ministry is absolutely essential in order to fulfill the Great Commission, because the Great Commission is an apostolic commission. It was given to apostles, and we feel that it's going to take an apostolic spirit and dimension in order to really fulfill that commission.

Gordon Robertson: What exactly do you mean by apostle? I think many Christians are very familiar with pastors and teachers and evangelists, but apostle may be a scary word for them. What do you mean by it?

John Eckhardt: Well, the word apostle is a very simple word. It simply means `a sent one.' And as you study the Word of God, you find that there are five ministry gifts mentioned, and apostle is one of them. We've emphasized pastors, teachers, evangelists, but an apostle primarily is a pioneer, a reformer, often planting churches, doing more extensive work than just a local pastor. So we're seeing that even many local pastors have been doing apostolic ministry for years: planning churches, pioneering, mentoring, fathering. And yet they've identified themselves as a pastor because that's, really, all they knew. But now they're beginning to find out that their true calling is really to that of an apostle.

Gordon Robertson: Many people say that we had 12 apostles and they give Paul credit and say, OK, he's another one. But that has pretty much died out in the first century. We did a piece on St. Patrick. Do you consider him an apostle to Ireland?

John Eckhardt: Yes, that's definitely apostolic: planting churches, baptizing as many believers as he did, pioneering into a new territory. He was definitely an apostle, and he had an apostolic anointing. There's no way he could have done what he did with just a pastoral or a teaching anointing. He had to have something greater in order to penetrate that level of darkness and bring Christianity into that nation.

Gordon Robertson: What would you advise pastors who think they may have a calling broader than what they're currently doing, that God wants to move them into a greater role? How would you counsel them on how to do the shift?

John Eckhardt: I think the best thing to do is to follow your heart. If God is leading you to do a greater ministry, then follow it. Often we're comfortable in our present calling, but we know in our heart that God is leading us to something greater, but we're afraid to make that move. Simply follow your heart. Also, seek out others who are doing what you feel led to do. Begin to associate with them, fellowship with them, and then as you do, you'll get an impartation and even a greater faith to move out into a greater ministry. So the key is to follow your heart. Don't be afraid to do what God has told you to do and to obey the spirit of God.

Gordon Robertson: That's easier said than done.

John Eckhardt: It is. It is.

Gordon Robertson: I know many people struggle with that, and it's sort of like, `God has told me to do something,' and then you say, `Well, why aren't you trusting God?' What do you think are the obstacles here?

John Eckhardt: Well, fear, tradition, unbelief. I believe another key is prophetic ministry. Many times, through prophetic ministry, we get confirmation, we get more revelation concerning our callings. And I believe with the restoration of prophets in the prophetic ministry, along with apostles, that you'll find that prophets and prophetic ministry also encourages us to really move out into our calling. Sometimes we simply need confirmation and exhortation in order to really move out beyond the fear and tradition that would hold us back. So when all the gifts of God are operating in the church, it makes it a lot easier to do what God has called us to do.

Gordon Robertson: It does. If they're not operating, how do you get to that level where they are? How do you open yourself up for the possibilities of God?

John Eckhardt: Well, two things. You need to study and read books and also get around those who are already operating in that dimension. I believe that impartation is the quickest and most effective way to begin to move in new anointings. When you get around people who are already operating in a level of faith in a dimension of the spirit, as they minister to you, that same spirit and faith will be released in your heart. Attend conferences. Try to read as many books, inform yourself as much as possible. The more we understand these things, the easier it is to walk in them because our minds don't fight us as much when we understand exactly what we're doing and what we're called to do.

Gordon Robertson: You get into something in the book where you get into a definition of spiritual warfare. Tell us about that.

John Eckhardt: Well, spiritual warfare, I believe, is a major aspect of apostolic ministry. One of the things we talk about is I Corinthians, Chapter 10 and II Corinthians, 10 and 4, which says `The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.' That word, warfare, in the Greek literally means apostolic ministry. And so apostolic ministry is a ministry of warfare because apostles are primarily pioneers. You mentioned St. Patrick going into a very demonized nation at that time and having the ability to deal with the powers of darkness and break through. So we feel that spiritual warfare, contending with the principalities and powers in a particular region, with apostolic authority, power, wisdom and revelation in order to penetrate, pioneer and break through into that region, to plant churches and to build the kingdom of God is absolutely necessary if we're going to really reach every nation that God has sent us to reach.

Gordon Robertson: How do you recognize one? That's sort of been the question I've heard a lot. How do you recognize a true apostle?

John Eckhardt: Apostle. We have five major characteristics we look at. We look at the ability to plant churches. We look at signs, wonders and miracles, especially in the area of deliverance. We look at being able to raise up teams of ministries. We look at prophetic confirmation by proven prophetic ministries. And often the last one is one that we don't generally like to look at: a lot of suffering and persecution. Apostolic ministries are generally persecuted, misunderstood. But there's a grace upon a true apostle to suffer because the enemy hates and fears this is ministry so much, he does everything in his power to attack it. You read the life of Paul -- Paul probably gives us the most information on apostolic ministry in the New Testament. However, Jesus is really the perfect apostle. He was sent by the Father. So by studying the ministry of Jesus and the ministry of Paul, you begin to get some of the characteristics of a true apostolic ministry.

Gordon Robertson: Well, thank you for being with us. John, thank you so much for coming.

John Eckhardt: Oh, you're very welcome. Thank you for having me.

Gordon Robertson: God bless you.

If you'd like to get a copy of "Leadershift: Transitioning from the Pastoral to the Apostolic," you can learn more by calling us at (800) 759-0700, and we'll tell you how you can get a copy of this book.

Order other books by John Eckhardt on

Order books on the Apostolic and Prophetic by Bill Hamon

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