An honest comparison of Christianity as a whole today, with the same 100 years ago, reveals huge contrasts, and the change continues. We can trace the roots of much change to Christ himself. From the time of the reformation onwards, God has worked with His people and brought significant adjustment to the doctrines and beliefs of the Church, and now to the heart and structure as well. Church reformation is still under-way, and seems to be increasing.
The Church is changing from being institutional to being relational. The implications of this are profound. God is looking to move beyond an organisational structure for His people. As outlined in Ephesians 4:11-16, God is working to bring the Body of Christ to complete maturity. Here are some of the things that the Holy Spirit is working to bring to pass.
Apostles will not only take their place again, but regain authority. This is not simply about restoring a position to the Body of Christ, but about the whole way the Church is structured, governed and works. This implies big shifts in the way everything occurs. The people of God will learn what apostles really are, about their grace, place, purpose and nature. Many preconceived notions will be changed in the process.
The people of God are becoming apostolic in nature. The Nicene Creed describes the Church as “one holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic Church.” God's people are going to see that being apostolic is not “just having apostles,” but is the nature of being His people. Jesus was apostolic, He was sent, and we too bear His image. The Spirit is preparing the wider Church for greater intimacy with Christ, greater love for each other, greater trust of leaders, greater willingness to serve, and more that we don't conceive. We will become like the early church, but more than they were.
God is raising a covering for His people, and it is apostles. This is a new concept for many, but it is through His anointed leaders that God wishes to cover and protect His people. The covering of Jesus (his actual robe) was seamless, and likewise God wants to raise leaders for the Church that are so united in love and purpose, that it presents a seamless covering for the Body of Christ. What we previously saw in terms of denominational or organisation “covering” is going to be superseded. Something much bigger and better is on the way. Power is on the way.
The Church will become one body. This is not outward unity such as ecumenism, but something of the heart. It's more than cooperation for a cause, but a true uniting of mind and feelings. It's the answer to Jesus' prayer in John 17:21 where he asked God “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” The prayer of Jesus was for the kind of unity that Jesus and the Father had. We have yet to see such unity, but there can be no doubt that Jesus will have His prayer answered.
We will see a New Testament eldership in each city. The early church didn't have multiple sets of elders in each city, that is our modern construct as a result of denominationalism. As God's people become one in heart and mind, it may not necessarily result in one congregation per city – there may still be many congregations – but it will result in one church per city. And one eldership. This eldership will not be elected men and women, but drawn from the existing senior leaders of God's people in the church. We are talking about an eldership different to anything we have seen or experienced. In the New Testament, the apostles appointed elders such as this.
We will see Father/Son relationships in the ministry. This is something akin to Jesus and the disciples, Paul and Timothy, Elijah and Elisha and also Moses and Joshua. As the nature of the Church becomes relational, so the ministry will become like the ministry of the early believers. It will reflect the model of Father and Son. Jesus (God) was a son to a Father, and God was also a Father to a son. This ultimately will not (and should never) be legalistic, but is a relationship of the heart. It is for true maturing of God's people.
We still have no complete concept of the fullness of God's plans. Still, it excites us that His hand is on the helm of the Church to guide. Jesus has saved the best wine for last.