Pioneers need to be those who are submitted to apostolic authority, and in turn can receive authority and anointing to plant churches. Some people are scared of giving someone authority to speak into their lives. Terry Virgo writes this about spiritual authority:
“The words can send a shiver down many a Christian’s spine! Yet when correctly handled, true spiritual authority creates security, peace and real joy in the Holy Spirit. Everything depends on how it is handled.” (Terry Virgo)
He goes on to say that when the apostle spoke to the churches, he was led by “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:1). Although he used strong language in very serious situations, he more often implored the believers to hear him and encouraged others to adopt this same loving attitude. “If someone is caught in sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently,” (Galatians 6:1) he wrote, and advocated the same spirit of gentleness towards those who opposed sound teaching (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
Philip was not fazed when Peter and John came down to Samaria and began asking questions about what was happening. Even though a mighty revival was taking place, Philip welcomed their insight and subsequent ministry. This submitting to apostolic authority was not imposed, but it was out of relationship fostered during their time together in Jerusalem. It was natural for Philip to embrace and enjoy the benefits of his friends coming down and getting involved in the church he was planting.
The exercise and application of apostolic authority will change over the development of a church plant. Just as in family life, a parent’s counsel will be different when their child is 7 to when he/she is 27 and married. At the beginning of the church plant, the apostle will probably be more involved, seeing his relationship as a discipler and pro-actively involved in overseeing the new church. As the church grows and elders emerge from the congregation, they will take on the overseeing of the church, and the apostle will carry on inputting to them as a father.
Over the past few years, there has been an increased understanding across different denominations that apostles are as needed today in building healthy and strong churches as they were in the Acts of the Apostles. Even in a stream or denomination that believes in the role of the apostle, we must make sure that the gift is effectual on the ground and with the people. Let us be like Paul, who could say to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2:8), “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”