frgavin on February 9th, 2012

A Paper presented by the Most Rev. Dr. B. A. Kwashi to MERE ANGLICANISM conference in Charleston, SC Jan. 18 -21, 2012

INTRODUCTION : APOSTOLIC MISSION AND MINISTRY

From its birth on the Day of Pentecost, the church, continuing the mission as commanded by Jesus, did not find it difficult to respond to mission. Having been with Jesus, learned from Jesus, and understood what the mind of God was and what God is about in the world today, Pentecost provided the apostles with what they had been waiting for – the promised Holy Spirit. Thereafter, the Acts of the Apostles provides us with snapshots of key moments in the life of the apostles and in the development of the mission. We hear of how they proceeded when they were faced with new situations, or with problems which could either thrust the gospel forward, or retard its growth.

The Anglican Church has always claimed the inheritance of apostolic succession. If this is to be more than just an academic “text book” type of claim it must be substantiated in our generation, and be seen in the life and witness, the ministry and mission of the church today. If we are to rediscover the urgency, the dynamism, the fire and the zeal which clearly characterized the life and work of the apostles, then we need to look again at what they did and how they did it, and we need to see how these characteristics can once again become the hallmarks of the church’ mission and ministry today.

In Acts 6 we hear how a particular problem arose, and we see how it was dealt with. We should note in particular how the mission of the church was preserved. Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:1-7)

At any point in time the church needs leaders who are visionary and discerning, who will stand up to safeguard the mission of the Church. The apostles in acts 6 verse 2 were quick to see the hand of the devil; they discerned the situation and made a clear distinction of the issues involved; they could see what was going to bring distraction and destruction to the mission. The apostles had a clear vision and knew what their most important task was, and they were not going to bargain about priorities which had been clearly set by Jesus. They would NOT be distracted from the mission of the church. In the presence of everyone they declared that they were not at liberty to neglect their primary task of preaching and taking the gospel to the whole world. This was nonnegotiable, but they made a proposal that the people select seven men to take on the responsibility of administering tables.

This would leave the apostles free to PRAY, to PREACH and TEACH, and to CONTINUE THE MISSION with a clear mind and focus. The quality of the people selected for any such new task can either solve or increase the problem (verse 3). The apostles therefore set down certain criteria. Those to be chosen must be full of the Holy Spirit; they must be full of wisdom; they must have a good reputation. We should note that it would have been impossible for the apostles to have laid down in clear terms God’s principles of service without themselves being good examples. The known character of the apostles and the manner in which they now proceeded was most important and provided necessary teaching for the community at large, and in particular to those who were to be chosen. That they were visionary and discerning elders was one great example for the seven to follow.

Moreover they were not distracted by the devil’s tactics from their primary task of preaching the gospel. This was a great lesson that was later to be copied by Philip and Stephen.

Notice that both the twelve and the seven were described as “servants”. All of them served, whether as administrators, food attendants, teachers or preachers. All who serve must be full of the Holy Spirit, of wisdom and must be of good report. What the apostles did was full of significance: they prayed for the seven and laid their hands upon them (verse 7).

Here is a sign of agreement, and a sign that they were of one mind and one purpose. By acting in this way a principle of passing on the baton was ensured from the very outset. Indeed the baton was passed on with far greater effect than they may have imagined, as several of the seven “administrators” chosen to serve the food, became firebrand evangelists.

Let us therefore look again at the apostles’ priorities, as we seek to rediscover for ourselves the character, fire and vision which was theirs. We shall look at

1. PRAYER
2. TEACHING AND PREACHING
3. MISSION AND EVANGELISM
4. A VISION FOR THE FUTURE

1.PRAYER

Prayer is one thing which the apostles never took lightly. After the day of Pentecost, the apostles were immediately faced with opposition, with challenges and with problems from without and from within the infant community. In Acts 4 we hear how the apostles encountered the Sannhedrin, the religious hierarchy, but they were bold to declare, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). When Peter and John were released, they did not seek redress in the law courts, or look for other ways of addressing the injustice of the Sannhedrin; instead, the whole community immediately went to prayer (4:24-30). In that prayer they begged God so to help them that they be not distracted from the ministry of declaring the word of God with boldness, and that they be enabled to go on into mission, in obedience to the command of Jesus, with the attendant evidence of signs and wonders (v.29-31). The following chapters in the Acts of the Apostles show God’s resounding answer to that prayer.

Jesus was a man of prayer and was recognized as such by his immediate community. The apostles were Jews and throughout their life they had been praying several times a day, and yet they saw something different in Jesus; Jesus achieved so much out of his prayer; he lived a life based on prayer, and so they begged, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). In reply, Jesus said, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name . . .” (Luke 11:2). It is not a matter of “If” we pray, but when or whenever we pray, because in praying we enter into a relationship with God who is our Father. Jesus’ praying was vital and effective because of the closeness of his relationship with God. This is emphasized again in Matthew 6:5-15 ). Jesus questions the motives of those who pray in order to impress others, or who babble on and on, as if length were a virtue in itself. Much of our praying should be in private because it is an expression of our relationship with God:

“But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)

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