Apostles, Alignment, and that other “A” word (Part 1 of 5)

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As the call for “apostolic alignment” echoes through the Israeli Body of Messiah, we examine a principle that will determine its success or failure: Accountability.

The apostolic calling is one of the ministries mentioned in Eph. 4:11-13. Is it relevant for today, or was it only for New Testament times? While this question has been long debated in the Body worldwide, it has only recently surfaced among Israeli believers.

In January, Israeli Messianic leader Asher Intrater requested prayer on YouTube because of the “controversy, dialog, and debate within the Messianic community in Israel on the issue of apostles and prophets.” Intrater, who is identified as an apostolic leader by his organization Tikkun International, welcomed the debate: “It’s probably a healthy thing. In fact, it’s great that we’re even having this dialog.”

Part of the “controversy” he referred to is the accountability track record of the modern apostolic movement, which extends to prophetic accountability. This five-part series relates some of that history, which developed primarily among the American charismatic believers but may be largely unknown even to them.

For the record, I believe that the apostolic calling remains as relevant as the others mentioned in the Ephesians passage. Although my research found serious flaws in today’s apostolic movement, Part 5 proposes how these might be repaired. So please stay with me to the end.

Part 1: How apostolic alignment relates to accountability

For the uninformed, alignment is the preferred word in modern apostolic networks for pastors and ministry leaders submitting to someone with apostolic authority.

One of its goals, theoretically, is to provide spiritual safety for leaders and their flocks through mentoring and (when necessary) discipline. The idea of apostles organizing that accountability relationship is reasonable; the New Covenant apostles “appointed elders” (Acts 14:23) and set the qualifications for the “overseers” (1 Tim. 3, Titus 1) who were mandated to “shepherd” God’s people (Acts 20:28).

Leader accountability frameworks already exist in Catholicism and many Protestant denominations. But the massive numbers of independent charismatic and Messianic fellowships and ministries have no organized submission framework, except perhaps a doctrinal consensus required to affiliate with an association. The late C. Peter Wagner, considered a pioneer in the modern apostolic movement (which he called the New Apostolic Reformation, NAR), proposed to bridge this accountability gap by restoring the office of apostle. Although other apostolic structures developed independently of Wagner’s, he became a primary NAR promoter through books such as The New Apostolic Churches (1998) and Churchquake! (1999).

Wagner and his disciples founded the Wagner Leadership Institute (1998), the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA, 1999; later renamed International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders, ICAL) and additional organizations to promote his vision of a global apostolic network as correct “biblical alignment.” Over the next decade NAR groups multiplied, many of them following Wagner in adopting “the Seven Mountains mandate”, the “radical change” of concentrating spiritual authority in individuals, and the message that all Body leaders worldwide should “align with” an apostle.

The influence of Wagner and ICAL is debated. While Israeli apostle Dan Juster estimated[1] that Wagner and his associates “don’t represent even 10%” of the existing apostolic networks, the magazine Ministry Today declared in 2004 that when it came to modern apostolic issues, “it is difficult to find a book or speak to a leader that has not been influenced by the writings of C. Peter Wagner.” My research found quite a few prominent charismatic leaders networked in overlapping relationships that intersect with ICAL apostles.[2] Entire associations that claim ICAL affiliation include USCAL (USA), CNAL (Nigeria), ACAL (Australia) and EAL (Europe).

We will return to ICAL later. First, we’ll look at the Tikkun version of global apostolic alignment that sparked the Israeli debate.

According to Asher Intrater’s 2016 outline, apostolic accountability becomes looser and more discretionary with higher ranks of authority: “As the progression of spiritual authority moves from the personal to the global, the demand of submission becomes lighter.” He divided this alignment into seven levels progressing from “micro” to “macro”:

(1) and (2) – Individuals personally submit to Yeshua’s spiritual authority, and to membership in a local congregation under the spiritual authority of qualified elders.

(3) – These elders work in a congregational leadership team as “equals before God,” one of whom is delegated to lead the team.

(4) – The Level 3 team submits to apostolic/prophetic leadership teams outside the congregation.

The objective outside feedback seen until now becomes more monolithic at Level 5, where apostles are supervised by higher, like-minded apostles: “Each apostolic leader… submitted to a council of senior apostolic advisors for accountability and oversight.”

Level 6 envisions these senior advisors aligned with one another, naturally producing accountability among themselves: “These levels of mutual submission, teamwork and accountability enable the greater community of faith to function in unity, maturity and integrity.” Such accountability is presumably an honor system, with the team’s declaration of its success accepted by others at face value.

At Level 7 (“Jerusalem Alignment”), mutual accountability among the top apostles is similarly implied to be automatic and self-validating across the worldwide Body, with Israeli apostles forming the core.

The Scriptures cited for support indicate that it’s the Holy Spirit who creates this alignment, extends it, validates it and keeps it pure – especially at Level 7, where “the Word of the LORD [goes out] from Jerusalem” to all the world (Isaiah 2:3).

Most believers understand Isaiah’s prophecy to be a result of Israel’s national salvation. Those claiming apostleship in Israel apply it to the worldwide church submitting to the Israeli senior apostolic team. In his 2017 book Alignment, Intrater compared Level 7 to the first-century apostolic council described in Acts 15: “As it is the highest level of authority, it also represents the ultimate pattern of alignment. The international Ecclesia alignment ends up at the Jerusalem council.” (p.105)

Facing negative feedback on this idea, lntrater later posted a YouTube video denying that Israeli apostles would “take over” governance of the global Body. He reframed it as “voluntary, mutual submission” to “the right order of the Lord.” This nevertheless carries implications for those who refuse to submit to that “right order.” Intrater was more explicit in Alignment (p.76-77): “Another picture of alignment is the plumb line [quoting Amos 7:7-8]…. Either we conform to the plumb line or we will be judged.”

Such a stern admonition to “conform” must be accompanied by assurance that those in authority are themselves conforming to a plumb-line standard of effective alignment. A general sticking point for many observers is how these new apostles are identified and approved as worthy for others to align with them. Another is how they define and apply ongoing accountability.

The accountability structure of Wagner’s ICAL is not replicated in Tikkun. But the former is relevant, due to ICAL’s significant but unrecognized influence in Israel. Tikkun’s Dan Juster has been affiliated with ICAL at least since 2001, a 2008 ICAL Resource Directory listed him as a member of the council with whom Wagner personally consulted, and he was a plenary speaker at ICAL’s 2016 conference. Rick Ridings, head of the Jerusalem prayer house Sukkat Hallel, has served on Wagner’s Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders (ACPE) as far back as 2007. Mike Bickle, leader of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOPKC) who regularly teams up with Israeli apostles, appeared on ACPE’s 2003 list and was named by Wagner as an ACPE “charter member” (Apostles and Prophets, the Foundation of the Church, unnumbered page accessed via Google Books). Ché Ahn, Wagner’s designated successor to oversee the Wagner Leadership Institute (WLI, now Wagner University), was honored in 2015 by Tikkun’s Israeli apostles as a representative of the global Gentile apostolic alignment with Israel. Intrater’s book Alignment was endorsed by both Bickle and Wagner’s longtime partner Chuck Pierce. John Sandford, whose “model” was promoted at the Israeli congregation Tiferet Yeshua, is a WLI faculty member and an early ACPE member. Evangelist Todd White, who partners with Israeli believers, is a featured speaker at Ahn’s Revival Alliance conference. Last but not least, the late Bob Jones,[3] whose prophecies influenced many leaders in ICAL and elsewhere, received honorable mention from Intrater in Alignment (p.72) and from Juster in his 2004 report on the IHOPKC Israel Mandate program.

Dan Juster argued that affiliation with ICAL does not mean endorsing their accountability model, which he admitted is deficient. But Scripture teaches us that if we submit to God’s plumb-line accountability ourselves, without requiring the same from our spiritual partners, we can become compromised. How badly compromised? Consider Jehoshaphat’s military and family alliance with Ahab (1 Kings 22, 2 Chron. 18). The godly Jehoshaphat presumably saw some good in Ahab that he believed outweighed the bad and made the relationship worthwhile. But his tolerance brought him personal danger (1 Kings 22:32) and almost destroyed the Messianic line of David (2 Kings 11).

Because Israel’s most outspoken apostles have formed relationships with ICAL-affiliated leaders, and are hoping the Israelis will “receive” the organization as well, we will survey ICAL’s accountability track record in Part 2.

NOTES:

[1] Dan Juster reviewed a draft of this series and responded by email. Unless otherwise noted, all direct and indirect quotes of Juster are taken from that personal correspondence, with his permission. I thank Dan Juster for his candid input.

[2] Some of ICAL’s intertwined relationships: Revival Alliance (RA) is headed by Ché Ahn, whom Wagner personally appointed “International Chancellor” of Wagner University. As head of Harvest International Ministries (HIM), Ahn likewise oversees an “Apostolic Team” that includes Patricia King and James Goll, who also teach at Wagner University along with Bill Johnson and Chuck Pierce. RA apostles Ahn and John Arnott speak at Johnson’s Bethel Church, as do IHOPKC’s Mike Bickle, God-TV’s Wendy Alec, and Iris Global’s Heidi Baker. Baker denies being an apostle, but she spoke at the 2011 Voice of the Apostles conference alongside Ahn, Arnott and Johnson. She also helps lead Ahn’s Revival Alliance. ICAL apostle Pierce, who named Wagner one of the church’s “greatest change agents”, has hosted American Tikkun leader Paul Wilbur alongside Wagner in international conferences and at his Global Spheres center. Ahn’s HIM prophets include Goll (originally Mike Bickle’s partner) and Lou Engle (also formerly Bickle’s partner). Both Wagner and Morningstar’s Rick Joyner have endorsed Bickle’s IHOP projects. Wagner associate Rick Ridings has invited Ahn’s partner Baker and IHOPKC leaders to teach at Israeli youth conferences. Joyner’s MorningStar center has hosted Baker, Johnson and Bickle, and has printed Tikkun apostle Intrater’s articles. These are in addition to ICAL’s Israel connections mentioned above.

[3] Bob Jones’ accountability is examined in Part 3.

Click here to read part 2: Accountability in the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (ICAL)