If the early church was founded and led by apostles and prophets, should, or can, it still be so? Is their function needed today? Are they ministries that can be emulated today?
The modern church is the result of nearly two millennia of development and growth. It is now made up of tens of thousands of denominations and independent churches, and looks quite different to the earliest church. The early Church enjoyed autonomous leadership, supplemented with external apostolic ministry. This external leadership ensured soundness in doctrine, ministerial conduct (discipline), matters of church order (direction), and the growth of the Church (development). But how do we ensure these things today?
Perhaps the key issues facing the Church at the moment include how we will adapt to a rapidly changing society, which is even now bringing stresses and pressures upon the professional clergy and denominational office bearers. In the midst of such changes, some are distorting doctrines, moral standards, the gospel, and even the mission of the church. These deviations from sound doctrine and godliness are partly the result of the absence of accountability to, and relationship with, God-appointed external leadership.