Honoring God’s covenant with Israel is foundational to successful apostolic leadership
We are considering what God’s ancient covenant with Israel means for tomorrow’s church. In short, covenant means everything for effective leadership.
When believers choose to bind themselves in covenant with God, they are also bound covenantally to one another. This godly unification is the basis for the apostolic church, which I believe is the model we must return to if we are to see a successful church in the 21st century.
In order to maintain a biblical apostolic structure, there must be an apostolic vision. The apostolic leader is one who has a vision from God so great there is no way for him to see it fulfilled on his own—or even within his own lifetime. This is where apostolic team leadership and apostolic succession come in.
The vision might be to transform a city or revolutionize a nation, as it was with my spiritual father, Lester Sumrall, who shook the Philippines with a miraculous move of God.
The problem for many with apostolic vision is that they shift their emphasis from transforming a city to maintaining a church. They may end up changing the color of the sanctuary carpet, but they do not fulfill the biblical mandate to subdue the earth.
I believe that apostolic team leadership will look like the New Testament’s five-fold ministry and be led by a creative, visionary apostle who gives the church a worldview, a world relationship and a world ministry. It will be completed by a prophet, who consistently hears God’s Word to the church; a pastoral team, which tends, disciples and brings wholeness to the body; an evangelist who leads the church in reaching the community; and a teacher who edifies the body as a whole, bringing it to maturity.
As for apostolic succession, I am blessed to be the father of many spiritual children. Of course they are grown up to maturity now, with spiritual children of their own. One of my closest, covenantal life-defining relationships is with my spiritual son Robert Stearns. I could not be more proud of Robert, whose ministry has already far eclipsed mine. I love and share his passion for worship, the presence of God, the apostolic and especially for the nation of Israel.
As a child in the 1940s, I listened to one traveling evangelist after another come to my church and preach that God would indeed keep His covenant with Israel. I also remember picking up the newspaper one day in 1948, and reading the story of the rebirth of the nation of Israel, which I understood to be God keeping His promise.
I find it amazing that God has taken the seeds of love for Israel that have been in my heart, and caused them to take root and flourish in the life of Robert Stearns as my spiritual son.
When he brings me back photographs of him consulting personally with recent prime ministers of Israel, I am reminded of a picture taken of me in my younger days. I’m shaking hands with the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat before his assassination, which was brought on by his brave decision to sign the peace treaty with Israel.
I hold this testimony up to you as an example of apostolic succession. When we give ourselves as covenant people to a covenant God, and when we honor His covenant with Israel, He honors us with a spiritual legacy.
And I couldn’t ask for a better one than that which is being accomplished through Robert and Eagles’ Wings. I know Robert will walk with me the rest of my life, and carry my heart for covenant into another generation.
Tommy Reid is the senior pastor of The Tabernacle in Orchard Park, N.Y., and has planted several churches in the Buffalo, N.Y., area, other U.S. cities and overseas. Tommy also serves on the board of directors of Church Growth International, of which the president is David Yonggi Cho—pastor of the largest church in the world in Seoul, Korea.