"I will come and remove the lampstand from its place..." Rev 2:5
"I have received full payment and more. I am well supplied having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent..."Phil 4:18
"Are you not the workmanship in the Lord... for you are the seal of my apostleship...Do we not have the right to...nevertheless we do not make use of these rights...?" 1Cor 9:1 - 27
This is a beautiful part of the bible story. In the kindness of God we have key pieces from the life of Peter, John and Paul that gives us an inkling into the practical workings of the apostles and the churches they helped establish.
The part we have to get right is the holy tension of between:
* Each church has a specific, God given assignment, mandate [what the bible calls a lamp stand ] for which they are to be accountable and intentional.
* The apostles are to catalyze a togetherness, bringing churches onto a incarnational global stage, enlarging their world, especially where 'together we can achieve more' Terry Virgo.
Both are sacred and have to be upheld, supported and made possible. Many churches find themselves in the lopsided posture, that their church is the center of the universe and the only thing that really matters is what they are doing. Major parts of the text are neglected and ignored.
There is tragedy on the other side also. When the togetherness piece overwhelms the local community and their own lamp stand is ignored, neglected so that the 'togetherness mission' is all that matters, there is no divine smile on this action. This denominational mindset requires conformity to the system and surrender to the sacred lampstand the Father has given. Conversely, when churches place themselves in the center of the universe, not only do they lack the global nature of the apostolic but they will be ruined by their independence. It is a huge tension we simply cannot forfeit.
I love the example of the apostles and elders working together in Acts 15. Here a profound theological crisis is looming. How will these leaders walk out this holy tension on a matter that affects all of them? My love for this story is multifold. Firstly, the apostles do not bombastically assume that they are the 'top dogs' and all have to listen to their decisions. Secondly, the elders are not territorial about their church and hold the apostles at bay. Thirdly, the congregation is in the conversation as all of this does affect them. Fourthly James gets up and wraps up the dialogue holding all the perspectives in place. This is a wondrous example of how this can work - the integrity of the local church, matched with the collaborative involvement of the apostles whilst the congregation are actively present.
This can work, if we are not obsessed with local church territorialism, nor apostolic imposition. Rather through honor and respect, each is Spirit sensitive and appreciative of the value and necessity of the other. I love the way the encounter ends: "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements..." Acts 15:28