Renewal of Christianity in America and the West will come. Probably Not in the Way You Think.

Get ready, for no one knows the hour.

Renewal of Christianity in America and the West will come. The Holy Spirit is the author of renewal. But renewal will not come by persuading people to come back to church. In the matter of renewal Christian leaders probably have no idea how to bring it about. Renewal, or revival, will come in ways no one on earth cannot coerce. That it will come we can be certain, so get ready for we do not know the hour of its appearing. But know this for certain: the Holy Spirit will raise up men and women who fear God only. They will be fearless, and their prophetic voices will command the people of God to live out “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). Fearing God only: that is the way Paul and Peter lived; that is the virtue of the early apostles we need today. My colleague Dick Scoggins has written on the topic, “Nurturing a New Generation of ‘Pauline’ and ‘Petrine’ Apostles.” His main point:

If the Western church is not going to die out, we will require new expressions of Kingdom communities. It will require a recovery of Petrine apostles – creative pioneers who will explore Kingdom communities appropriate to our post­modern world. 

You can read the entire article here. Dick Scoggins writes:

The meaning of apostle is “an authorized sent one” or “messenger.” Apostles are mobile, dy­namic groups of emissaries of the Kingdom. They are called to minister as bands or groups – at the very least in twos, as Jesus taught, and sometimes with helpers: “When Paul and Barnabas arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them.”Acts 13:5). Apostles function in teams or networks of teams (for example, Paul’s networks of teams on his second and third journeys as well as during his imprisonment).

The key mark of apostleship is not a big personality, but rather big suffering. When Paul is forced to defend his apostleship (on account of the arrival of false apostles in Corinth), he cites his suffering (2 Cor. 12:7-10)[2] before his signs and wonders (vs. 11,12). He wears his suffering as the badge of his apostleship and only acknowledges his signs and wonders when forced to do so.

Pauline Apostleship. Pauline apostleship is exercised by pioneering, mobile communities which start local communities dynamic, mobile communities, not solo personali­ties nor bishops who remain “over” churches. It seems there were many apostles (some true, some false) wandering around in the first century – so many that Paul bumped into a lot of them and took care to go to Spain to ensure that he was build­ing on new ground. My work and thinking have focused primarily on Pauline apostles who usually cross cultures to proclaim and reveal the Kingdom of God. But there is a second form of apostleship, what I would call Petrine apostleship.

Petrine Apostleship. In Galatians 2:8-10 Paul describes two types of apostleship. First, Paul states that Peter recognized his (and Barnabas’) call­ing as apostles to the Gentiles, Second,  Paul and Barnabas recognized Peter’s (and James’ and John’s) apostleship to the circumcised (Jews).

So we see that there is an apostolic ministry to the unreached (the Pauline), but there is also an apostolic ministry to the existing people of God (the Petrine). What does Petrine apostleship look like, and why is it important today?

Needed today: New Apostles and New Ways of Doing our Christian Faith. Jesus appointed (Pauline) apostles to the Gentiles and (Petrine) apostles to the Jews. “The Way” ( a better term than the English word “Church”) would need both apostolic forms, the first to establish Christian faith in the regions beyond; the second to make disciples where Christian faith has been established. These are the two kinds of apostleship in the first generation of Christian history.

I believe we are seeing a similar pattern today. Western Christendom is in a key transition, perhaps undergoing as large a cultural shift as occurred during the Reformation. The world is changing, and the Western forms of church, birthed very much according to modernity, are not keeping up. I believe that the world has changed so much that simply adapting existing church structures will not enable appropri­ate expressions of the Kingdom to come forth for new generations.

What is needed is a whole new way of doing “church” (and I think we actually need to drop the word, but that is for a different article). New types of communities of the Kingdom need to be envisioned and created to be Good News in a new era. I believe that apostles are the creative agents sent by God to bring about radical, creative forms of the Kingdom. Pauline apostles will seek forms appropriate and indigenous to the new cultures to which they are bringing the Kingdom, not merely exporting Western church culture, as has often been the case.

But apostolic ministry is now needed in the West as well. If the Western church is not going to die out, then we will require new expressions of Kingdom communities. I think this will require a recovery of Petrine apostles – creative pioneers who will explore Kingdom communities appropriate to our post­modern world. These apostolic families will blaze the trail to new kinds of communities and structures suitable to high-powered, mobile, and technologi­cal society, as well as communities for the poor and disenfranchised who will largely miss out on the very things that power the new world.

The pioneers we need now are not called to make further adaptations to faltering models; we need to move away from old formulations in a journey to the new. Such a journey will be every bit as radical and terrifying as it must have been for those early Jew­ish believers who watched the destruction of their nation and traditions. Today’s Petrine apostles will bear the same primary mark of apostleship–perse­cution, for their ministry is bound to be misunder­stood (at best) by existing churches.

What is needed today is an explosion of apostolic ministry. God is calling Pauline apostles to bring the Kingdom to unreached peoples. God is also calling a new generation of Petrine apostles to forge new communities in the West (and where Western churches have become the normative expression of the Kingdom in other cultures). It is my hope that these Petrine apostles can bring the Western church into a new era of fruitfulness where Kingdom communities reflect the glory of the Living God and impart faith, hope and love to those in darkness.

Dick Scoggins is a founder of the Fellowship of Church Planters (Rhode Island, USA) and has served as a trainer for Frontiers. He is the author, with George Patterson, of Church Multiplication Guide.