by Jude Hama
The Church in Africa is growing very fast. And like the early Church and the Global Church’s experiences across mission history, it has both authentic and counterfeit church agents. Jesus commends the church in Ephesus, “You have tested those who call themselves Apostles and are not, and found them to be false” (Rev. 2:2). By what criteria were they able to separate the true from the false apostles? They must have had a measure or standard by which to judge.
So who really is an apostle? The suggestion that an apostle is a missionary who has crossed multiple barriers to get the gospel to those who have never heard too quickly confers the office of apostle on cross-cultural missionaries serving ostensibly out of their comfort zones. Some missionaries from North America and the West who have crossed cultures are more comfortable in their new host cultures than those involved in home missions. Outreach to south Chicago for example, may not at all be a “comfort zone ministry” for American missionaries. Most of the original twelve apostles did “home missions”—they remained in Jerusalem. They were involved in cross-cultural missions in other ways.
The Church of Pentecost (COP) is currently the largest Protestant denomination in Ghana, with mission branches in eighty-one other countries on all continents. It has a College of Apostles and Prophets as part of its missions and governance structure. Apostle Michael Ntumy is the immediate past chairman (executive head) of the COP. While a missionary in Liberia, Ntumy suffered dehumanizing persecution at the hands of the rebel soldiers in the Liberia civil war. He was the source of hope to incarcerated civil war captives.
Miraculously released from captivity, he was posted to neighboring Republic of La Cote d’Ivoire, where he strategized and planted about two hundred churches in a few years in that country. He was then affirmed an apostle and called to the office of Apostle in the COP and later served as head of COP from 1998 to 2008. Currently, the head of COP is Apostle Opoku Onyina and Apostle Alfred Kodua serves as its general secretary.
In the COP, a pastor is deemed or affirmed as a gift of apostle to the church when he has had a proven ministry in other gifts as well. The apostolic role is seen as combining “the office of the pastor, teacher, evangelist, and at times, that of a prophet. He is a pastor of a higher level.”
Apostle Kodua identifies five classes of apostles. The first four include: Jesus as an apostle (Heb. 3:1); the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus (Rev. 21:14, Luke 6:13); apostles chosen by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13: 1, 4) and James, the brother of Jesus; and messengers to the churches designated apostles (e.g., Andronicus, Junia [Rom. 16:7]), Epaphroditus (Rom. 16:7), Silas (1Thess1:1; 2:6). The fifth class is present-day apostles. They are different from the second and third classes of apostles in that they are not laying down any foundational doctrines. What they do is to guard and teach what has already been laid out in the Bible.
Apostles must be Great Commission Christians. The foundational command and mandate given by Jesus Christ to the original twelve apostles, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8), remains the same for apostles today. Missions is now from everywhere to everywhere.
Contemporary apostles must have significant involvement in missions, especially to the 10/40 Window and Unreached People Groups through prayer, research, producing appropriate missions materials, sending out missionary workers, and sacrificially giving to support the spread of the good news to people living in the unreached communities and to the ends of the earth. The contemporary apostles are also those who uniquely “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).
The distinguishing marks of an apostle are the fruit of his preaching (i.e., the salvation of souls and establishment of believers), his Christ-like life of holiness and humility (2 Cor. 1:12, 2:17 3:4-6), and his sufferings, hardship, and persecutions for the sake of Christ.
Jude Hama is a missionary, international conference speaker, and cross-cultural ministries consultant. He served as general director/CEO of Scripture Union, Ghana, for twenty years and earlier as staff of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Between 2011 and 2012 he was the national executive crusade director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association crusade in Accra, Ghana.
EMQ, Vol. 49, No. 2, pp. 334-336. Copyright © 2013 Billy Graham Center. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.