what do you think about apostles … today?

I grew up in Alberta, Canada, for any who might not know. Alberta is one of the wealthiest provinces in Canada due to huge oilfields. The oilfields were mainly discovered after World War II. Prior to that, Alberta was largely an agricultural economy subject to the ups and downs of world markets. And of course, the Great Depression was a huge downer.

During those years, a radio preacher got interested in the theories of Social Credit. He lobbied the government to adopt these policies, but when rebuffed formed the Social Credit party and became Premier of the province in 1935. He was Premier for eight years, but died suddenly, to be replaced by his right hand man.

The preacher’s name was William Aberhart. He was a complicated individual, very insecure as a person in some ways, and very eclectic in his theology, although we would probably think of him as basically orthodox.

When I say eclectic, I mean that he would pick up new theology as he went along, becoming an enthusiast for some new quirk as it came to his attention. He mostly served as a lay preacher, but at one point he led a Baptist church in Calgary to designate him as its “apostle”. Under him, there served a pastor, but he was the “apostle.”

What do you think of that?

What do you think of anyone today who would have such an office?

Doesn’t it strike you as a bit… odd?

Apparently it doesn’t strike some people as odd. Consider this:

Our polity stands upon three principles: plurality among elders, the senior pastor, and partnership with apostolic ministry. We practice plurality of church leadership for the simple but compelling reason that the churches represented in the New Testament were governed by more than one leader. We call this plurality “team ministry.” It is the strength and unity of team ministry that provide the foundation from which elders serve the church and stand accountable for their lives and doctrine. The role of senior pastor is based upon the foundation of plurality, which prevents a drift towards autocracy. The Old Testament offers a gallery of names that remind us of God’s practice of using one to influence many. In the gospels, we are told that Christ chose the Twelve, but ordained Peter to fill a uniquely prominent role. In New Testament times, the Jewish synagogues were ruled by a council of elders, but each council had a chairman, or “ruler of the synagogue.” In like manner, Paul led a growing team of apostolic men. In the Trinity there is a head, in the church there is a head, and in the home there is a head. These examples, and many others, illustrate the notion that biblical leadership, though shared, is most frequently organized and facilitated by a central figure. The senior pastor is therefore called to build a team, not a personal ministry. His effectiveness should be measured by the maturity of his plurality. With regard to the principle of apostolic ministry, we want to be clear that the men identified as apostles within ________ _______ ________ are understood by all to hold a position decidedly and radically inferior to that of the original twelve Apostles. But the label is retained because Scripture appears to offer another type of apostle – one that neither writes Scripture, nor is counted among the twelve. In fact, there appear to be at least eight others, apart from Paul himself, who graced the pages of the New Testament in apostolic ministry. In our view, apostolic ministry can exist today without comparing its authority or impact to Paul or the twelve. Briefly stated, the role of the apostle is to ensure that the gospel is preached and applied in the daily life of the church. Concentrating attention on the writings of Luke and Paul, one might conclude that apostles are devoted to church planting, being set apart for the gospel and sent forth with the gospel, that they might protect the gospel and build with the gospel. They are called to serve churches as spiritual fathers, with primary responsibility during a formative season in a local church (much as earthly fathers do with the formative years of their children), a pattern that eventually transforms into a partnership with mature local churches. [emphasis added]

What do you think about that?

This is another aspect of Sovereign Grace Ministries and C. J. Mahaney that I find astonishing and disturbing, besides the tongues and prophecy.1

Why would conservative evangelicals, much less fundamentalists, want to enter into ministry partnership with … “apostles”?



  1. Section of web page quoted is about half-way down, under the question, “How do you govern your churches?” []


  1. Jonathan Hunt says:

    It seems to me that the first question is, is this claim true:

    But the label is retained because Scripture appears to offer another type of apostle – one that neither writes Scripture, nor is counted among the twelve. In fact, there appear to be at least eight others, apart from Paul himself, who graced the pages of the New Testament in apostolic ministry.

    Who are these eight? What evidence is there that they were called Apostles?

    What about the qualifications for apostleship made clear by Paul ‘as one born out of due time?’


  2. Roger Carlsn says:

    CJ is dead wrong on this one…..there are no apostles today.

  3. Because C. J. Mahaney is so kewl, and he wrote books for humility and against worldliness (Haven’t you heard he’s humble and not worldly?). And dude, like he’s so together for the gospel. And you’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and the gospel makes a lot of sense. And Sovereign Grace has lyrics like Watts, and they are so authentic when they sing, the way they jam on the piano, and close their eyes, really sincere, like they mean it. Don’t act like you don’t understand, Don. You know you do.

  4. d4v34x says:

    +1 to KB for bringing teh “kewl”.

  5. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Jonathan brings up a good point, who are these 8 mentioned? I know that Barnabas is referred to as an apostle in Acts 14:14, but yes, where are the other 7?
    Kent, great wit there in the midst of this doctrinal hash. Within the framework that is charismaticism having “apostles” is nothing new for them.

  6. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Okay, forgot, there is Matthias in Acts 1 called to fill the vacancy of Judas as an apostle. That still leaves 6 to be named.

    • Well, I think Matthias is counted as one of the twelve. Some differ, but I don’t think he is one of the ones the SGM guys have in mind. I think there are a few names in the Romans 16 list and also in those who were ‘apostles of the churches’ carrying the gift to Jerusalem mentioned in 2 Cor 8-9.

      Regardless… I see no warrant for using the term today, especially as the SGM guys are using it. They are using it as if these men are after the order of Paul, planting and supervising churches.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  7. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Agreed, Don. One must also wonder, where are the details in Scriptures by which we (His people) will know that this particular person is indeed an “apostle”? Another thought comes to mind, why is not this “gift” listed in Corinthians? And as far as the planting and supervising of churches is concerned, outside of the account in the book of Acts of the apostle Paul, we have not direct evidence that the other apostles did this kind of ministry. If anything, there is some evidence (in Acts 8) that the original apostles may very well have stayed in the environs of Jerusalem for their ministerial careers. All we have is “church tradition” telling us what supposedly happened to them, and I care not to hang my Bible doctrine on those “traditions.”
    For me, this causes more questions than it answers and creates structures which are not clearly present in the New Testament account.

  8. Don,

    Three more reasons to support C. J. Mahaney:
    1) He’s not Chuck Phelps.
    2) He’s not a fundamentalist.
    3) He’s not a separatist.

    If he was one of those three, he would be savaged.

  9. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I just came back and read though these comments. Naughty fundies at play! Back to your cages!