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Restoration or Revolution?

Frank Viola

In the latter part of the 20th century there has been a small surplus of books written on the restoration of the apostolic gift. Many of these books claimed that the 1990s would be "the decade of the apostle." They asserted with absolute certainly that God would raise up "thousands of apostles," restoring the apostolic ministry to the Body of Christ on a grand scale.

The 90s have passed us by and none of these high claims have come to pass. Nevertheless, some of these authors continue to carry on quite loudly about the "restoration" of the apostle and the other "five-fold ministry" gifts at some nebulous date in the future. You may not realize this, but this same "prediction" has been with us since 1948. The literature, claims, exact rhetoric, and "prophecies" that were put to pen in that year are identical to what is being said today.

Some have called the "movement" that emphasizes the restoration of the ministry gifts—primarily the apostle and prophet—the Restoration Movement. This "movement" has been tried and found wanting. Instead, what is needed in the Body of Christ is not restoration. It is not even revival. What is needed is revolution—a complete and radical change from top to bottom. Revolution in our practice of the church. Revolution in our modern "Christian" mindset. And revolution in our ideas of church planting. Consider the following table that isolates the key differences between Restoration and Revolution:



19"Apostles" are seen as wielding official authority over pastors and congregations. They typically engender fan-club followings, are treated like celebrities, and happily sport the title "apostle."

"Apostles" are largely hidden and broken vessels who sport no titles or offices. They usually work for a living. Most have a distaste for the word "apostle" and never use it to describe themselves.

Emphasizes the victorious living of the individual Christian.

Emphasizes the corporate life and Christ-centered experience of the community of believers.

Emphasizes "spiritual gifts," "power," "signs and wonders."

Emphasizes the eternal purpose of God, the deeper work of the cross, and the centrality of Jesus Christ.

19Measures success by large conferences and crusades that draw thousands.

Measures success by quality; ignores the size of the crowd.

Stresses the spectacular things that God is "going to do" in the future.

Stresses the unsearchable riches that are available in Christ now and shows God’s people how to appropriate them today.

Focuses on spiritual warfare and triumphing over the devil. (The devil gets almost as much air-play as the Lord does.)

Focuses on the glories of Jesus Christ. The devil is viewed as defeated and is largely ignored.

Led by pastors, high-powered teachers, or all-powerful elders who do virtually all of the spoken ministry.

Led by all the brothers and sisters. They have been equipped to function and care for the church by extra-local workers who leave them on their own.

Singing is led by professional worship teams; the congregation simply follows the pre-arranged song selection.

Singing is led by all the brothers and sisters that make up the church.

Much talk about "equipping the saints" where they will be ready to minister in some elusive date in the future.

"Equipping the saints" is not a buzzword, but a reality. God’s people minister now in the church meetings.

Sees the church as a fighting army, yet in reality it is an institution that requires a church building, a pastor, and a Sunday morning order of worship.

Sees the church as a free-flowing, beautiful woman—a new species, "the third race" that is inseparable from Jesus Christ Himself. The church building, the modern pastoral office, and the Sunday morning liturgy have been abandoned.

Embraces an old tiresome mindset that is rooted in Western individualism and 1800 years of ecclesiastical tradition.

Embraces an entirely new mindset that is rooted in the first-century story and the fellowship that exists in the Godhead.

This article has been excerpted from Frank Viola's book So You Want to Start a House Church? First-Century Styled Church Planting For Today.