The Apostolic City Church
The cloud is moving from apostolic centers (individual ministries) to the city apostolic church being restored. In scripture, the focus was the city church, never denominations or individual ministries. The Lord spoke to the believers in cities such as Corinth, Antioch, Jerusalem, and the seven churches in the book of Revelation. He still speaks to the city church today, because He does not change.
The Lord's definition of the church or the body of Christ is the believers in the entire city or the entire Flathead Valley (for an example of where I live). A church is not one individual ministry as some seem to believe. An individual church is only "a part" of the body of Christ in a city. So when "a part" of the body thinks that they are the church they are not operating in the full counsel of God. Only when all the parts come together in the city or valley can we use the terms "the church" or "the body of Christ" or "a family". An individual ministry cannot be complete apart from the rest of the body in the city. If one part thinks they can "do it" without the rest of the body than they are in pride and deception. If one individual congregation thinks that they can be a "family" without connecting to all the other family in the city or region then they are missing the heart of God.
The Lord is going to build His church. This means He must restore the apostolic foundations before it can be properly built. The definition of restore is: to reconstitute, build up from again from parts, reconstruct; change the form and organization of an institution; restore something dried up to its original state by adding water to it.
This is part of the function of the spirit and power of Elijah that has come to the church in our day right before the "coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord" (Malachi 4:5). This is the Elijah that Jesus says, "is coming and will restore all things" (Matthew 17:10-12). The spirit and power of Elijah is being released in these end times to prepare a people for the Lord. This includes restoring the apostolic city church.
1 Corinthians 12:28 (NKJV)
And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
The Greek word for "first" means: "firstly (in time, place, order, or importance):--before, at the beginning, chiefly, first (of all)." This does not mean apostles are better than any believer. It doesn't mean that apostles are more blessed or favored. It is simply a call by the grace of God. It is a function that must be fulfilled by the Lord's choosing and for His purposes. If one thinks that the calling of an apostle is glorious, please refer to 1 Corinthians 4:9-13. It most certainly is not glorious.
The Greek word for "appointed" also means to settle or to sink down. This word indicates functions that are permanent and remain "in" the church. These offices settle or sink down into the very foundation of the city church. The apostles in Jerusalem remained in the city church for decades. They did not simply plant the church and turn it over to pastors and teachers.
Apostles are an important part of God's leadership in the church. In order for the church to function properly, the scripture must be fulfilled with apostolic authority being restored to the city church. I want to note that the scripture never says that apostles are not in operation any longer. That is "the traditions and teaching of men." Those who believe man over the word of God, will answer to the Lord at the judgment seat for why they believed the teaching of men over the truth of His word.
The current system of ministry boards having authority over a ministry is not of God. Man's system has hindered God's government and His authority. We must move out of this bondage if we want to be the true apostolic church that we are called to be. Satan, through the government, has effectively put a yoke of bondage on the church through the 501 c 3 non-profit tax exempt organization. There are other options that are available to set up a ministry, but that is not the subject of this article.
We will now examine several models of much of the church calls "coverings." The word covering in not actually used in the new testament, so we will use different terminology to discuss the early church model in order to stay more Biblical. The denominational covering is man made. It's basically a mix of God and man. It has some value, but does not have the same effectiveness as apostolic covering. Next we have our current model of apostolic covering. In the current model there is an apostle in one location who is covering ministries all over the nation. Under this model, most ministries have very little contact with the covering apostle. The current model of apostolic covering is diminished do to this fact. It is more effective than the denominational covering, but not as effective as the early church model. Last is the model and the one that is presented in the scripture, is an apostle in a city church or region. All the leaders in the city or region would then have personal contact with a lead apostle. Communication and relationship actually strengthens the grace being released through the apostle, and empowers the leaders connected to the apostle at a much greater level. Apostolic relationship allows grace and blessings to flow to leaders.
For clarification on the error of spiritual coverings, please see my teaching titled, "Spiritual Covering and Authority."
Authority of Apostles
James (the Lord's brother) was possibly the lead apostle in the church in Jerusalem. We see that in Acts 15:13-20, James was the apostle that held the authority to make the final decision at the counsel. He passed the final judgment and issued the decree. In Acts 21:17-18, Paul came to James; indicating that he has a high place of authority.
True apostolic authority will be very freeing and empowering to believers. It will not be controlling and manipulating, as many believers have already experienced in the church. Many leaders in the current church are using believers to build their ministries, and many believers cannot make decisions unless they seek approval from leadership. The focus of apostolic leadership will be to serve believers by empowering and releasing them into their own ministries.
Apostolic ministry is "serving" in it's very nature: “And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.” Luke 22:25-26 NKJV
True apostolic ministry is not called to rule over the church in an authoritarian manner. Jesus makes it clear that the apostles who are "first in the church" will be servants of all. The function of the apostle is not to control believers in any way, or become the head of believers. The scripture makes it clear that Christ is the head of every believer (1 Corinthians 11:3). True leadership is very freeing. It is not the responsibility of apostles to keep believers on a tight leash and make sure they are all accountable. Again, the individual believer is under the headship of Christ, and accountable to Him.
True apostles will be servants of the church. That means that they will be involved in identifying the gifts and callings of believers. Apostles will work to see that believers are being released into the ministries that the Lord has called them to. They will empower believers into leadership positions, so that the church will stay healthy and vibrant. These governors will use their authority to serve believers through empowering them. Leadership that is controlling and holding back believers is not apostolic, regardless of what it claims to be. This kind of leadership will not be tolerated by the Lord and His true apostles in the days to come.
Apostolic authority will also restore judgment in the church. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul makes a judgment and commands the believers to "put away from themselves the evil person" from the city church because he would not repent of his gross sexual sin. Paul also commands believers not to eat or fellowship with other believers who are in unrepentant sin. Holiness and the judgment of unrepentant sin will most certainly be focal points of true apostolic ministry.
It is important to note that the church in Jerusalem was an apostolic driven church; meaning it was under the leadership of apostles. The structure of the current church is centered around the ministry of the pastor. In most cities, the movement of the church is controlled by the leadership of the pastor. This current model is out of order from the scriptures, and the church will never enter into fullness by continuing down the same path she has been on. Pastors are absolutely crucial and a necessary part of maturing and equipping the saints (Ephesians 4). But the point is that pastors are a ‘part’ of the leadership, not the whole. The ministry of a pastor alone will never bring the church into fullness. The ministry of a pastor alone can never properly lead the church in a city. The city church must have apostles and prophets operating in it.
The scripture says that God has appointed first apostles and second prophets in the church. Note that the scripture says ‘in’ the church not ‘over.’ This does not mean that believers should not sit under the authority and grace that flows from apostles and prophets. But it does mean that apostles and prophets are serving in the church by laying foundations. Each city church (or regional church) must be built upon foundations of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20-22). Pastors or teachers do not have the necessary authority to lay the foundation of Christ in which the church is built upon. Living stones must have a living foundation laid by living apostles and prophets. Every city or regional church must have their own apostles and prophets. A visiting apostle or prophet can never lay the foundations that are needed to properly build the church in that area. Only God’s design and order in 1 Corinthians 12:28 can ensure that the church will come into fullness and maturity. This does not mean that apostles and prophets are better than pastors and teachers. It is simply a matter of function by the design of God.
Apostles are declared by scripture to be first among leadership in the church. If we would like to see the 21 century church be all that she is called to be, apostles will have to take leadership of city or regional churches. This could be an issue since pastors are currently leading the churches in most regions throughout America. Pastors may be threatened by the restoration of apostolic authority, because they will no longer be first in the church. However, true pastors who are walking in humility and obedience to the scriptures will submit to the Lord and His word. The first century pastors demonstrated this kind of humility, and I am confident the 21 century pastors will as well.
We must ask ourselves, has the current pastor driven church brought us into fullness? Are the pastors in city and regional churches all walking together in unity and in one accord or division? Could this be because they are not following the lead of apostolic leadership in their area? The only way we will have the change that we long for in the church, is to submit to the Lord’s will and allow Him to restore in the church; first apostles, second prophets, and third teachers.
The current model that the American church uses for elders is deeply flawed and is not Biblical. The eldership of the first century church functioned in the whole city church, not in individual congregations. The eldership was made up of apostles, prophets, and teachers. They did not appoint someone as an elder unless they were an apostle, prophet, teacher/pastor. Here is the scripture:
Acts 13:1 (NKJV)
Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
This scripture is showing us the leadership (eldership) in the city church of Antioch. Staying true to 1 Corinthians 12:28, there were prophets and teachers. We also know that Paul and Barnabas were apostles. Therefore the Lord's leadership was complete in the church of Antioch. Let's look at another scripture:
Acts 15:1-2 (NKJV)
And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
In this scripture we see Paul going to the apostles and elders. Who are the elders? Are they people like we appoint to the church today in America? Did that mean the prophets and teachers weren't invited to the leadership meeting for the church in Jerusalem? I think not. The elders are the apostles, prophets, and teachers. The leadership in the city church. Peter refers to himself as an elder in 1 Peter 5:1. John refers to himself as an elder in 2 John 1:1. It is clear that the apostles were part of the eldership as well.
Currently we have many elders appointed in various congregations who do not have a leadership calling. These elders may be very godly people. This does not matter though, because it is man's design and not Gods'. Man appointed elders who do not have one of the five leadership giftings, will stop up the flow of the Spirit in any congregation simply because it's not the Lord's way. This will change when apostolic reformation begins in city and regional churches. The ideal apostolic city church is an eldership of apostles, prophets, and teachers.
Being in relationship with an apostle is not a requirement. It is not a hard-edged rule that leaders and churches must comply with. It is however, something leaders and churches can choose in order to enter into a greater level of fullness. When a leader or church is in relationship with an apostle, they partake of the apostolic anointing. The apostolic anointing is released through being connected to an apostle, and it has the potential of transforming churches and ministries. The Kingdom is relational and so are true apostles.
God appointed apostles will never require leaders or churches to submit to them. Real apostles will never be "exercising lordship" over churches. Leaders and churches do not have to come into relationship with apostles, they get to. Connecting with apostles can take ministries and churches to a whole new level in the Spirit. Of course, the relationship should never to formed for that purpose. It should be formed with the proper heart motive of love and unity. Then from a pure heart, the Lord will pour out apostolic grace and anointing on those that connect to apostles.
““And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.” Acts 2:42-43 NKJV
“And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.” Acts 4:33 NKJV
As seen in the scriptures above, the believers abided under apostolic ministry. Because they sat under the ministry of the apostles, and continued steadfastly in their doctrine; great grace rested upon them all. The apostolic anointing flowed from the apostles to the believers.
Confusion over Titles
The church in America has had great confusion over various titles listed in the Bible. We will examine the scripture to clear up this confusion.
Acts 20:17 (NKJV)
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.
The Greek word for elder means: presbyter or elder. So elder and presbyter are the same. We must note that Paul goes on to speak to these same elders or presbyters in the following verse:
Acts 20:28 (NKJV)
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God[a] which He purchased with His own blood.
The Greek word for overseers means: superintendent, bishop, or overseer. Therefore elders, presbyters, superintendents, bishops, and overseers are all the exact same thing. They are they leadership over the city church. Apostles, prophets, and teachers.
Excluded from Eldership
There are some apostles, prophets, and teachers that may be excluded from the city eldership. They may still operate in their respective offices within the church. But the eldership is reserved for those whom meet the standards that the Lord sets. It's His church.
1 Timothy 3:1-7(NKJV)
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop,[a] he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,[b] but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
An apostle is given authority from the Lord to appoint elders in the city church. They actually appointed pastors and teachers. This is another clear indication that apostles were in the primary leadership role. Please note that Titus and Timothy were both apostles (2 Corinthians 8:23, 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2:6).
Acts 14:21-23 (NKJV)
And when they (Paul & Barnabas) had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” 23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
When the scripture says, "they had appointed elders in every church," it is speaking of every city church. Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. Paul and Barnabas appointed the leadership of apostles, prophets, and teachers in the churches of those three cities. Paul also commands his spiritual son Titus, who is also an apostle, to do the same:
Titus 1:5 (NKJV)
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—
In this next scripture, Paul counsels another spiritual son who is also an apostle. Paul instructs Timothy how to be the lead apostle in a city eldership.
1 Timothy 5:17-22 (NKJV)
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,”[a] and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”[b] 19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. 20 Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. 21 I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality. 22 Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.
It's interesting to note Paul's words in this passage. If someone is commissioned into the eldership that is not living in righteousness, then the one who commissioned them can actually partake of their sins. Therefore, do not lay hands on anyone hastily.
A Picture of Apostolic Reformation
Ephesians 4:11-16 (KJV)
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
The five offices mentioned above will be in place until we all come to the unity of the faith. This clearly has not happened yet. It takes all five offices to bring believers to maturity...to the mature man. The KJV correctly translates verse 12, "the perfecting of the saints". Other translations do not accurately translate this verse. Christ's primary focus is bringing the believer to maturity. The church in a city or region will not come in to maturity unless believers are sitting under these five offices on a consistent basis. The occasional conference with ministries coming from outside the area is not sufficient. This is why an eldership of apostles, prophets, and teachers in the city church is so crucial.
Once God's leadership is restored, it will be like a refreshing spring to both believers and leaders. Believers in a city will be able to sit under the ministry of apostles, prophets, and pastors/teachers on a consistence basis. This will promote explosive growth and keep believers energized. One leader only has so much to offer any given group of believers. Therefore, sitting under the ministries of multiple leaders will create the synergy and momentum that is necessary for the church to be all that she is intended to be. When the apostolic is restored, pastors will be free to minister to different groups of believers throughout the city church. This will prevent pastors from becoming burnt out, and will keep them fresh.
A pastor of an individual congregation will never bring a group of believers to maturity. This is why the church in America has become stale. A pastor can only bring a group of believers to a certain level, and then they will stop growing. The same is true with any of the five offices. The Holy Spirit says it takes all five offices, so we should listen to the Lord.
In the "ideal" city church, leaders would all be connected relationally to each other. Prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers would all be connected to apostles. The Holy Spirit would then appoint an eldership in the city church made up of apostles, prophets, and teachers. Believers would be free to attend different congregations and different meetings, as lead by the Holy Spirit. Believers would sit under the ministry of all five offices, and over time they would: come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
This new wine skin would be extremely freeing to the believer. They could sit under a pastor until they received the fullness of what the Lord had for them in that certain congregation. Then they could sit under the ministry of an apostle or a prophet for a time. Congregations would have different people in them on a consistent basis. Pastors would stay fresh and encouraged, always having different believers to minister to.
Possibly five-fold ministry teams would rotate through different congregations in a city or regions. Or ministries in a city would have meetings different nights throughout the week, so believers could attend multiple meetings from multiple ministries. These are just snap-shots of how the Holy Spirit "could" direct the reformation of the apostolic church in a city or region. However He chooses to do it, a fresh wine skin is greatly needed.
The Destiny of the Flathead Valley
I see a bright future for the church in the Flathead Valley and for many other regions across the country. I know for a fact that the Lord will build His apostolic church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. It may seem impossible, but the Lord will do the impossible. Even in the darkest of times, the Lord will have a bright remnant church that is transforming cities and regions. The fullness of what He intended for the church will be realized. Jesus will get what He wants.
I see revival breaking out to water the hearts of leaders and believers. I see an apostolic revelation going forth so the people are prepared for what is coming. I see God's leadership of apostles, prophets, and teachers being set up by the Holy Spirit. Coming to the unity of the faith. People sitting under the teaching of many leaders. Meetings six nights a week in different locations throughout the valley. Believers meeting in homes. The whole city church coming together at times. Community being formed. Salvations. Disciples being made. Leaders being raised up and released into their callings. Christian businesses. The valley being transformed by the light coming from the church. Apostles and prophets traveling out of the valley church to other parts of the country and to the nations. Teams going to the nations. Missionaries being sent out. Spiritual sons and daughters being released into ministry. The church stepping into the fullness that she was created for.
- Ty Unruh (2015)