I am sure it was not accidental that I picked it up, but the result of a divine appointment. I was putting the Christmas decorations back in their place in the garage on Wednesday 6th January 2021, when my eyes were drawn with an insistent curiosity to an opaque plastic storage box stored behind me. One of several. It hadn’t been opened for over 20 years. What on earth was in it?
I opened it and straightway pulled out a large brown envelope from among the files, only to discover that it had been sent to me when I pastored in Bradford, by the then National Leader of the Apostolic Church (UK), Pastor Teddy Howells. His accompanying letter, dated 1st January 1992, was still attached by paper-clip. The paragraph in his letter, introducing the contents of the envelope read as follows: “In sorting out my books and papers so as to fit into a very much smaller study in this house, (he had just retired), I have come across the enclosed. I send it to you as it is very interesting and should be part of the Bradford archives.”
Remiss of me, I know, to have it in Scotland after all this time – and I apologise without reserve to any of my brothers in Yorkshire who may be interested. But it’s so timely to find it just now, after being asked to write some thoughts for the Ascension Forum as it highlights my deepest prayer.
The full title is: “REPORT (including the Word of the Lord) OF THE TRANSACTIONS AT THE VARIOUS MEETINGS OF APOSTLES, OVERSEERS AND ELDERS HELD AT THE GOVERNMENT ROOM, APOSTOLIC CHURCH, ALBERT STREET, BRADFORD”; dated April 1922.
A bound, 44-page, verbatim transcript by T Davies (scribe) of the meetings of the original and founding apostles of the Apostolic Church, uniting and setting up procedures of the church’s main centres, represented in the gathering by apostles DP Williams (Penygroes), HV Chanter (Bradford), A Turnbull (Glasgow), C Rhodes (Bradford), F. Hodges (Hereford) and prophet W Jones Williams, along with a variety of elders from around the country.
What an interesting read! There are probably other such documents archived elsewhere, but this is the one that came to be in my hands at this time and it has stirred these few thoughts.
What struck me most forcibly was the manner in which the functioning ministry of the Ephesians 4:11 prophet was appreciated, sought after, depended on and put into action, sometimes with immediate effect.
It seems so very relevant in the midst of the current maverick prophetic mayhem!
The Report makes it very clear how much the ministry of the New Testament prophet was needed, welcomed and respected by the apostleship. The style and language is certainly dated, but it worked for them then. The important thing was: they heard the Voice.
These were men of integrity, just as we have around us today. They wholeheartedly believed and held tenaciously to the inerrant, infallible and authoritative Word of God, the Holy Scriptures. Yet they recognised the need to hear the Voice of God as well – His voice through the authentic and ordained prophet particularly.
These were Men of the Word … and Men of the Voice.
They submitted totally in obedience to the Word, and they also wisely applied necessary biblical discernment to His voice through the prophet, refusing to stifle it or influence it.
God spoke through Pastor W Jones Williams in the above Report on this matter … “… I have anointed prophets for the purpose of revealing My purposes concerning you, how to move and to act in general …” Further reading highlighted the vital role which the prophets of the day had in bringing divine counsel to the council of leaders for the life of the Apostolic Church.
Therein lies our greatest hope: God has given His church the opportunity to hear and respond to His voice through the prophet.
In a Pentecostal and apostolic environment, God’s voice through the prophet has a creative dynamic which can shed light and revelation on the Word, kindle conviction, inspire vision, stimulate faith, quicken life, unravel confusion, give direction, and generate spiritual movement in the church. But it never takes the church outside the biblical context. And whilst many Spirit-led men philosophise and offer their thoughts, opinions, and suggestions, God has placed prophets in the church to stand, and to declare His voice to His church. They are His gifts to the church.
The I Corinthians 12:10 gift of prophecy, of course, is very different. Its remit is to bring three things primarily: strengthening, encouragement and comfort (– see I Corinthians 14:3).
I have learned by long experience to be extremely wary of personal prophecies given publicly, for several reasons. But the gift of the New Testament prophet to the church carries a unique dimension of ministry altogether.
I remember many occasions when the awesome fear of the Lord descended on congregations and councils, as prophets brought divine counsel and revelation. None of my generation could forget the International Convention of 1988 at Penygroes, when one of the prophets (the late Granville Johnson) prophesied the fall of USSR Communism before it was even being talked about, and the same year prophesied a substantial offering to be raised to send two men into that part of the world within four months in preparation.
It all came to pass.
The two men designated from that convention visited the USSR. It was a memorable marker point in history which, along with so many others, fired great faith and triggered effective action. I saw with my own eyes what the prophet had seen and prophesied … “… You will see the symbols of atheism now atop the buildings in the cities fall, and you will see the symbol of the Cross …”
Just a year or two later, I had the awesome privilege of being photographed, standing in the doorway of The Temple of Salvation, a Baptist Church in Riga, Latvia. Above us was the steeple which now displayed a Christian cross. The church had been commandeered by the communists and turned into a swimming & sports centre. The Cross atop the church had been removed and the Hammer & Sickle put in its place. But now, all had been restored to the church, and the Cross was back in its place. The excitement of the prophetic fulfilment was very real and faith building.
Furthermore, I received sometime later a photograph of Pastor D P Williams standing in that very same doorway with a contact called Pastor Fettler, way back in the 1920s. Talk about a faith-inducing, divine fulfilment of His will! The story is still ongoing.
As I reflect over 46 years in church leadership, some of my most spiritually exciting and productive years were when working together with a prophet in a twinned ministry. There is nothing more spiritually thrilling than an apostle and prophet with all their imperfections, working together in harmony and submission to God and each other in the outworking of divine revelation. It was this dynamic which brought spiritual energy to the early pioneers of the Apostolic Church in seeing growth, outreach and development.
“Apostles and prophets are like two wheels on the chariot [of God’s eternal purpose]; they turn together.”DP Williams
Pastor DP Williams described these two ministries working together as: “two wheels of the chariot, they turn together …” The chariot is God’s eternal purpose; the biblical examples are many.
I am thankful to God for the rich heritage of the Apostolic Church regarding Ephesians 4:11 ascension ministry gifts of Christ to His church and, in particular, for the vast contribution that prophets have made, and do make, to the national and worldwide Apostolic Church fellowship. I want to encourage servants of God today to arise in this calling and make this Voice call distinguishable.
There is after all, only one voice that we need to hear regularly among all the other voices many clamber to hear. It is the only voice which makes any lasting difference: the distinct Voice of God through the authentic New Testament prophet.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
 The Prophetical Ministry (or, the Voice Gifts) in the Church; 1931, page 87-88.