I’ve been thinking lately about this whole “Apostolic Reformation” thing, and the similarities that some of the language bears to authoritarian ideas like the Shepherding Movement. I think in general there’s a tendency to misunderstand the nature of the apostolic ministry, which doesn’t help matters much. I think when our first thoughts of “apostles” is of what and whom they are in charge, we’re missing the boat right out of the gate. To mix metaphors, that is.
In poking around the Internet on the subject, I find that I’m not the first or only one to notice parallels, like one listing of apostolic networks with influences from the Shepherding Movement, with an introduction that states,
The NAR [(New Apostolic Reformation)] is the latest attempt. Graham Cooke in his interview with the Elijah List suggests that the NAR is making the same mistakes over again. By focusing on church leadership instead of empowering the laity empires can be built, but the Kingdom itself suffers because the people are not built. I’m not against apostolic networks at all, but just the leader focused mentality that has fueled them. In fact, I think that the original Latter Rain ideal of the 5-fold was revelatory and is needed, but that we haven’t really captured the true spirit and humility of the men who started the New Testament church. I think the idea of an NAR is on the way out, but the idea of the 5-fold is here to stay.
I think this captures it quite well. For the record, the “network” to which my CLB was aligned is on the list — it’s not in the “Shepherding-influenced” section, but could/should be.
Although a community moves on from the shepherding teaching, it can be difficult to remove its effects completely. Those who were in the shepherding movement can take on an almost blind loyalty to their leaders, and uncritically so. The leaders seem never to be completely free of the desire to instill their opinion or will on the people, and tend to have the belief that as leaders, they are accountable for the people in the church and as a result have a more direct ability to hear from God. Many of these ideas may not be stated and may even be refuted, yet the beliefs can be clearly inferred from the actions. This won’t be universal, of course, but it is what I observed in my own context. The shepherding teaching was rejected, and the January/February 1990 issue of Ministries Today bore the words, “‘Discipleship was wrong. I repent. I ask forgiveness.’ — Bob Mumford.” Yet on the ground, many of the people I knew wouldn’t say that it was wrong in an unqualified way… a lot of the statements were to the effect that, “Well, you know, there was some good stuff in there, some good teaching — it just got carried away.” In essence, this is an apology for praxis while attempting to maintain an apologetic for doxis. Essentially, like the kid caught with a hand in the cookie jar, an attempt is made to curtail the behaviour, but not the convictions that led to it. They deserve the cookie, don’t they?
Now, two or three decades down the line, is it the same old, same old, but with a new title? I’m convinced that the apostolic ministry — as all of the fivefold ministries — is valid and continuing for today. What I have begun to question is the Latter Rain doctrine that fuels a lot of thinking on the matter, the one that says that the fivefold ministries were all “lost” to the church during the Dark Ages and stand in need of restoration. I think a narrow understanding of what these ministries are would yield that conclusion, but I’m not convinced it’s accurate — to my mind, it needs a bit of re-examination.