We are in a season of maturing the apostolic and prophetic foundations that Jesus has restored to the kingdom. We’ve invested a lot of energy in the discussion and defense of the restoration, and now we must turn our attention and invest in maturing what has been restored. This maturing process is absolutely necessary, not a minor adjustment in style or approach, but just as revolutionary as the restoration itself.
We were, perhaps, a bit presuming in our discussions of these apostolic and prophetic foundations being restored since they have never really disappeared from the Body of Christ as much as their function were marginalized from the most obvious and dominating forms of leadership. The restoration of these aspects of the leadership of Jesus has begun to function as foundational leadership dynamics within the kingdom so that a reset of the Ecclesia can occur in this generation.
So, we are in the process of maturing the apostolic and prophetic.
The fivefold ministry is about function: apostle is as apostle does. These leadership dynamics were all part of the Leadership and Ministry of Jesus. He functions in all five aspects of kingdom leadership as the Source and Resource of kingdom leadership and ministry. In this way, He designed the kingdom to produce ministry through kingdom leadership functions bestowing these leaders as gifts to the Ecclesia. It is a bit awkward to speak of these as grace gifts in the same way we speak of charismata, in my opinion, because they are not grace capacities as much as they are leadership functions. Because we tend to view them as grace capacities like speaking in a new language we do not understand or prophesying from a grace gift, or discerning spirits, we seem to see these leadership functions in the same way we do a word of knowledge when they are not capacities of spirit but leadership functions.
In other words, to include these functions in a gifts test seems awkward to me. To measure gift capacities in the same way we measure or distinguish these leadership dynamics appears inconsistent. We may be measuring some form or tendency toward function, but we are not measuring leadership function of the fivefold ministry with such a test. So, we cannot mature these leadership dynamics in the same way we mature spiritual gift capacities.
To mature the apostolic and prophetic we must begin to measure and evaluate them as functions, not simply as capacities of grace flow. (I’m choosing to ignore the concept that they are titles since that is so far from the discussion that we lack any hope of maturing them if they are titles.) We must stand the scrutiny of how well these five aspects of leadership “equip” others to do ministry. We must move way past the idea that they are a new leadership chart and organizational flow. We must embrace the reality that they are each expressions of how Jesus leads so that they properly and successfully represent His leadership in the earth.
Maturing As Fulfillment
Spiritual maturity encompasses several facets of spiritual life including strength, endurance, wisdom, experience, character, obedience, and effectiveness. Spiritual maturity also has a sense of fullness that produces fulfillment: the painting that is moving closer to completion, the building whose construction is being finished, the house that is being furnished, and the assignments that being completed. Strictly speaking, we do not mature the gifts as much as we mature the person and the operation of their gifts by maturing their function in ministry and leadership. It is more about fulfilling through fullness, not merely fullness. Once we experienced fullness, we can experience function, but the maturity of fullness and function must produce fulfillment in order to truly be mature.
Jesus speaks to this understanding with His discussion of the True Vine. Branches that produce leaves are removed. Branches that produce fruit are pruned to produce more fruit. Branches that mature produce much fruit, and reach a maturity in which fruit remains in place on the branch until the fruit is mature. The Father feeds the process from the roots while involving Himself at the branch to improve effectiveness. The Father harvests ripened fruit that doesn’t fall off green and go to waste.
The direct references to maturity in this scenario speak directly to the maturing of intercession; and the maturing of intercession speaks directly to the fulfillment of purpose. Maturing brings the branch to maturity so the branch can mature the fruit. This is the sense of leadership maturity to which we must turn our attention lest we be enamored with appearances and capacities as an end point. Maturing the apostolic and prophetic means maturing the intercession of apostles and prophets and the intercession in which they are preparing and leading people.
The fruit is often misunderstood in this scenario because we tend to mix metaphors of this illustration with other parables. The ultimate point of this scenario is mature fruit, or fruit that reaches maturity through remaining on the Vine. Fruit represents fulfilled purpose: the Vine is set into place to support, supply, and sustain us so we can fulfill purpose.
The True Vine is source and resource, but the True Vine isn’t producing fruit or feeding the roots or harvesting the end product. The Vine is interceding, standing between, providing a connection point between the purposes of God and the production of Father’s purposes. This standing in between aspect of intercession defines “success” for the branches as well as the Vine: the ultimate is not pretty leaves else we are removed; the ultimate isn’t merely fruit because we are pruned; the ultimate isn’t much fruit because Father needs more than quantity to produce a vintage; the ultimate is mature or ripened fruit that stays on the Vine until the vintage is fully available the Father.
That is why Jesus says, “Abide in Me and you shall ask what you will and it shall be done for you by My Father in Heaven.” Prophetic and apostolic intercession may be properly discussed in these terms. The Vine isn’t going to do provide what you need to merely remain in place on the Vine or produce lovely leaves, but the Vine is going to supply what you need from the Father to the branch to the fruit to maturity of purpose! The purpose isn’t going to be fulfilled by Father or Jesus but through the branches. Father isn’t going to do it. Jesus isn’t going to do it. Branches who remain will produce fruit that will remains. They produce mature fruit through endurance, character, and full obedience.
Father’s purposes became Jesus’s assignments. He accepted responsibility to create and redeem what the Father wanted. Now, through intercession He is restoring what the Father wanted. Through intercession. Through intercession. Standing between us and the Father means much more than we realize! Seated with Him in the heavenlies means much more than we realize! Access to the Father is not static, “I love you, Daddy” talk, as a state of being. It is access to the Father who is working us over to get the purpose produced. Sitting on Daddy’s lap will get you cut off if you only intend to produce leaves with the invested capacities of the Vine!
Therefore, we should consider the maturity of the apostolic and prophetic through the maturity of intercession. We measure success by the people and purpose we produce. Perhaps, we need an expanded understanding of intercession in the same way we have expanded our understanding of worship to include warship. In fact, we need to expand both so that we can no longer tell the difference between worship and intercession, a true altar of incense. Maturing Comes through Obedience
Jesus matured by obeying. He learned obedience by His passion. His passion for purpose motivated His obedience. Through this fullness of obedience, He matured in preparation to become the Source and Resource of unending rescue and restoration for those who obey Him. [Hebrews 5:8-10] Fullness of obedience and maturity in intercession walk hand in hand. The immaturity of leaders plays back to a failure to obey fully and intercede passionately, to execute to the extent of fulfilling the purpose. The two play off each other. When 98% obedience seems acceptable, as it did to King Saul, we are exposed by our insufficient maturity in intercession. The only way to fully obey is to produce purpose through spiritual means: through the Vine and through worship and intercession that is our ministry, not for or about our ministry. Having begun in the spirit, leaders attempt to finish or fulfill through flesh, that is, through an accumulation of experience rather than a breakthrough of power and revelation. Immediately leaders substitute human wisdom and strength for the Vine, they begin to redefine “success” as 98% obedience. They even begin to talk about the battles they fought in the past that got them into the position they enjoy in the present as if the battle is over now; “now we are in the Promised Land and eating off the land!” The battle doesn’t even begin until you get into the promise, and the destiny of the kingdom depends upon 100% obedience in ridding the land of invaders, intruders, and interlopers!
Everything a leader is assignment to accomplish in the kingdom demands a more complete surrender to spiritual power, wisdom, revelation, understanding, and the fear of The Lord, not less as we move along because we gained experience, expertise, and honor. And, the surrender grows deeper the further that leader moves into fulfillment, so that his greatest surrenders come at the end points of ultimate maturity, not the beginning.
Measure the maturity of the apostolic and prophetic by any other means, and the leadership dynamics tend toward titles and positions from which to perpetuate “what is” instead of creating and maturing “what is next.” If the leader fails to mature in intercession and worship, the work flattens out into the accumulation of believers instead of the fulfillment of purpose through fully provisioned, prepared and positioned people. Without maturing intercession, flesh gains while spirit weakens. Flesh measures appearances more than the fulfillment of purpose.
In many situations, the acceptance of apostolic and prophetic foundations has done very little to alter the functional leadership dynamics, and the leaders merely scramble to coin phrases and don titles to maintain their ascendency and recognition. No greater kingdom expansion has occurred. No greater preparation of apostolic and prophetic people has occurred. Their cities are still deteriorating amid a few, occasional moral victories and big crowd appearances they use to measure leadership success.
In this way, ministry becomes larger in perceptions, appearances, and human excellence while the purpose of God remains at a virtual standstill. The measure of man moves the machinery but the fullness of obedience suffers by substitution of something accomplished by flesh instead of what can only be done in spirit. If hell cannot keep us from pursuing purpose, hell will work to limit our fulfillment of purpose by distraction and substitution. We accept something less or something else because it is achievable the accomplishment, by accumulated experience and expertise, and the fleshly measurements of the soul glory in lovely leaves.
Jesus matured. [I know full well someone will take that statement to the gristmill of religion, ignore Scripture and say I have made Jesus less than perfect when I haven’t done so in the least.] The measurement of Jesus’ perfection is that He was perfectly obedient, and that occurred in real time history on a daily basis of saying what He heard Father say and doing what He saw Father do. He perfected His perfection.
Jesus could serve 10,000 people lunch by the simplest of processes or spend the night alone. In solitude, Jesus did more that baskets of bread and fish could ever do. He wasn’t feeding them fish sandwiches anyway. He was preparing them to eat and drink who He is! He wasn’t establishing fish sandwich franchises so the apostolic and prophetic foundations would provide for a fish sandwich center on every corner! He was revealing purpose by a demonstration of power.
Jesus matured by obedience and submission. In this way, His leadership matured, through intercession and worship, not experience and expertise. Learning to accumulate believers and maturing disciples to fulfill purpose are actually poles apart, and flesh celebrates one while tending or even insisting to ignore the other. Most modern American church leaders do not have time to do what Jesus did in intercession and worship, lack maturity in this arena of spirit, and leave that work to someone much less busy than they are. By action and prioritization, they say, “Intercession is women’s work, beneath such a one as I.” They reveal a strong penchant of accepting titles that are void of true function.
Jesus prayed His most mature prayers at the end, because He had matured Himself in obedience, thus maturing the fullness and fulfillment of His assignment through surrender. In this He says, “Father, I have finished the work that You gave Me to do. Put Me into position to intercede equal to the scope of what My obedience has matured Me to do since I am mature equal in the scope of who I need to be to do what You’ve assigned Me to do.” It was what Jesus did that matured Him to be Who He is. The Lamb was worthy because the Lamb was sacrificed. He did something to be worthy! And, Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus “obeyed Himself” into maturity in order to position Himself to intercede eternally. We don’t get to that universal, eternal level, but we do measure our success in terms of the assignment we’ve been given.
Maturing the Foundations
A mature kingdom Ecclesia looks at lot different than the modern America churchanity with which we have become comfortable. However, at any moment this present condition can be immediately and rapidly changed! The momentum of kingdom can be suddenly and quickly restarted! The Awakening Revival that restores can begin functioning with fullness and moving us toward fulfillment!
But, the ways and means by which the kingdom operates must be radically altered to produce this turn this moment into mini-movements into a kingdom movement. We need radical change! Maturity can happen rapidly so that it appears to have occurred overnight (it hasn’t but appears so because the process is mostly hidden until the results begin to burst out of obscurity into observation).
Observe a man with tremendous expertise and experience in churchanity disappear into retirement with an office filled with accolades and trophies of experience and expertise but little or nothing to carry the next generation into fulfilling the purpose of God for his city. Observe that what he has left isn’t in step with what God is doing in his city or generation, but “part of the landscape” of ministry. He didn’t reach the best at the last. He didn’t bring the fruit to full maturity so that it has made a new wine vintage available to the Father. Someone will now need to start over with a make over in order step over to bring the essence God preserved into a greater fulfillment of purpose. That is, the purpose remains available for a faithful generation; nothing can destroy God’s purpose.
That means that the next generation must reload the foundations before they can build. It isn’t built into the foundation for expansion, and apparatus is set for maintenance mode to celebrate the trophies of the past instead of expansion mode so the next generation can “do what I do and do greater.” So, the kingdom is left to resetting the foundations to start over again, play catch up, while the culture moves further away from purpose.
In contrast, observe Jesus living with such passion for purpose – a burning, purifying fire of passion and pathos that makes the gold, silver, and precious stones available to those building upon His foundation, and those building with these materials even more pure in purpose in their generation.
He lives a life that “leaves nothing on the floor” so that He embraces the Resurrection emptied fully of the work Father has given Him to do. Observe how this finishing obedience makes room for nothing but what is eternal, so that even His body becomes eternal through this emptying out of life. Observe that His ministry doesn’t continue in expertise or experience: the origination of that ministry requires a new experience in those He has made the focus of His fathering leadership, that in His “absence” (in the sense of “I’m going away but will not leave you orphans, and you will not see Me but I will never leave you”) the foundations of His leadership will continue forever. Consider that those who build foundations from this Cornerstone have true width, breadth, and height by which to measure the plumb line alignment of their building to the blueprints of His original designs. Observe that His style and strategy produces something trans-generational, as new as tomorrow, as old as Creation, as full and fulfilling as the Wisdom of God.
To mature the fruit, build the highest reaches of God’s building, we must mature the foundations. Or, we are left to reset them again and again. At the same time, maturing the foundations in one generation provides us the opportunity to see the fullness, to experience what the Ecclesia should be, right now, if every generation before us had been properly matured! In the fullness of time by the fullness of Spirit, we will experience the fullness of Ecclesia!
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