An Interview with Graham Cooke
February 25, 2002
by Dan Siemens
Dan Siemens: Relative to the apostolic, Graham, we were talking and kind of stumbled into the way that you look at the five-fold ministry and especially the office of pastor. What do you call the leaders in your church?
Graham Cooke: When we look at five-fold ministry, we absolutely do not believe that they are titles to be taken to yourself. They are merely job descriptions. So someone actually putting apostle, or pastor, or prophet in front of their name seems to us unbiblical and quite bizarre. Anyway, they are cultural terms that are in the bible. They were the cultural terms of their day. So I think we can have cultural terms for our day as long as we have the qualities of an apostle, or a pastor, or an elder, or a deacon, and so on. Then what we call them needs to be contemporary.
But in terms of ministry, we believe there are three titles that are clear in New Testament scripture. The first is that we’re all supposed to be servants of the Lord. So we’re training all of our people to be servants in the kingdom, servants in the house, and so on. And then when you become a really excellent servant, you can get promoted to stewardship. And your stewardship is where you take responsibility for other people’s lives. So you take responsibility to bring other people into what God has brought you into. You take responsibility for discipling, for mentoring, for assisting other people to grow and develop. And when you become a really excellent steward, you get promoted to slavery. Because bondslave is the highest designation of ministry that exists in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus called himself a servant, a steward, and a slave. Good enough for him, I kinda think it’s good enough for us.
What’s interesting though, is if you check out Acts chapter 16, verse 16, you find that Paul and Silas were being followed around by a slave girl with a spirit of divination. And she began speaking out prophetically, “These servants are bondslaves of the most high God.” She did not say, “These men are apostles of the most high God.” She said, “These men are bondslaves of the most high God.” My question is, why is it that the demonic realm can recognize something that the church can’t? And if you check out the opening greetings in all the epistles, every single apostle used the same language: “I, Paul, bond slave of Jesus, called to be an apostle…” See, bondslave was his real designation; apostle was simply his job description. In the last two years, I’ve been handed six business cards with the word “apostle” on them. So I just drop them in the bin. It’s not something I want. To me, it just seems so unlike Christ to take titles like that when Jesus made himself of no reputation, wouldn’t even let people call him rabbi. In fact, in Matthew 23 he says, “Don’t let anyone call you rabbi, or teacher, or even leader.” And then he railed against Phariseeism which takes titles to itself, which wants recognition and everything else. He taught consistently and constantly about the process of servanthood that’s required to advance the kingdom.
So I think what we’re looking for are servant leaders who are giving themselves for the sake of other people – for their growth, for their development. So we’re looking for servants. We’re looking for key people to exemplify what servant leadership is really all about. This whole idea of pastors or apostles or CEO’s is so foreign to scripture. It’s such a secular spirit that’s in the church right now, where you’ve got things like “set man,” “point man,” “CEO,” all that kind of stuff. It’s all the language of the business world. It’s not the language of heaven. I apologize if I’m offending anybody there, but I think, actually, it’s quite pharisaical. If you have a title, you’re going to defend it or you’re going to pull rank on somebody. But if you’re a servant, you’ve no need to. So just by taking titles, you actually rob yourself of one of the prime characteristics of real leadership which is humility. There’s such a lack of humility in many of these networks, such a lack of fathering.
For us, what would distinguish a real apostle from a false one would simply be the whole fathering issue. An apostle is someone who has produced sons and then allowed them to become fathers and produce their own sons. There is a three-generational punch in the body of Christ. God often described himself as “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” That’s three generations. So apostles have a patriarchal anointing upon them. They’ve been fathers and produced sons. They’ve allowed those sons to become fathers and they’ve allowed those fathers to produce their own sons. So they become patriarchs in the move of the Spirit that they reside in. So we’re looking for that patriarchal anointing that doesn’t want anything for itself. A real apostle does not want to acquire anything. He just wants to bless something and he wants to build something. But he wants to enfranchise people around him. He doesn’t just want to be the top dog over a whole bunch of people, and churches, and so on. There’s a corporate spirit there that’s not good and two generations from now, we’re going to have to tear that thing apart to do something real. So why not let’s build it properly from the ground up right now and get the right levels of humility and sacrifice and servanthood and excellence into the whole thing.
I guarantee if you came to our church, Tony Morton is the senior team leader in our whole network. Other people would call him the chief apostle. If we called him that, it would have to be a joke. We’d have to be teasing him, because he would be so sorrowful if we called him that. I reckon that if you came to our meeting on Sunday morning, everyone present, I would give you fifty guesses to try and figure out who the main leader of our church was. And I could put a thousand dollars down and say, “If you guess, you can have this thousand bucks,” and my money would be safe. Because you’d never know who he is. You’d never guess. I might even stretch it to a hundred guesses. But with fifty, my money is definitely safe. You wouldn’t guess half the apostolic team that’s in the church. Because we’re absolutely convinced that Jesus is the pattern for apostolic ministry, not Paul. Paul followed in the pattern of Jesus.
It’s interesting, you know, in the whole debate, the whole issue of “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos”. Paul’s whole take on that was extremely interesting because he used an agricultural metaphor for the apostolic. He talked about planting and watering. He said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” And then he says, “What then are Paul and Apollos?” – not who. But what then are they? Just servants of the Lord. They’re not anybody. We’re not anyone. Who are we? We’re nobodies. In II Corinthians 4, he talks about apostles being the scum of the earth. Sometimes Tony used to open our team meetings with “Good morning, fellow scum.” And I think there’s a great safety there. We have to save ourselves from pride and position in any way that we possibly can. Set ourselves free from that because once you take it, you’ve got to hold it and someone’s going to get damaged by you doing that.
This is an excerpt from the morning session of our Pastors’ Day on February 25, 2002. Graham Cooke has been involved in prophetic ministry since 1974. He has written two excellent books, Developing Your Prophetic Gifting and A Divine Confrontation: Birth Pangs of the New Church. Graham is on the leadership team which oversees a network of over 8,000 churches around the world.