What is an Apostle? Many books have been written on this, it is used as a title by and for many, and yet I suspect that many are either confused or in some way misled regarding its meaning. Some church cultures title all of their leaders, pastors, and some use the word apostle, and in both cases it can fail to reflect the gift of the title holder, it is merely in many instances giving a title to the leader according to the culture of that organisation.
Jesus is the 1st Apostle. (Hebrews 3:1) That’s a good place to start. The first ‘sent one’, the first sender of others, the model of the supernatural being fully available, the embodiment of prophet, teacher, evangelist, and pastor serving the father’s will on earth. The one who would teach us to pray, perhaps the greatest commission of them all, “on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus, the Apostle, the Eternal Father and Eternal Son, the first discipler of men with the goal of bringing heaven to earth.
In a series on the apostolic it would be remiss of me not to write a description of the Apostle. I will follow this with the other 4 gifts listed in Ephesians 4:11, often called office holders.
The subject of Apostles has been widely discussed and written about and I do not intend to review all of the points of view, theological, and etymological opinions.
It is easy to resort to calling someone an apostle because of what they have built and in some cases there is nothing at all wrong with that. Networks can be formed, church planting multiplied, great influence in a sphere of influence achieved and the title can rightly reflect the great value of the ministry. But are these the primary reasons for calling someone an apostle or for someone to assume the title.
What is striking to me is that the example of Jesus and of Paul would not immediately lead me to what they built, rather to who they were, what happened when they showed up and how they influenced those around them. Both were sent: Jesus by the Father from heaven (John 17:18) and Paul by Jesus (Acts 9:15-16).
My approach to this subject is a list of 5 dynamics which in my opinion are essential.
1. Commissioned: Being sent must be the first dynamic. Sent from somewhere & someone, to someone or something, to achieve change, restoration and redemption. If I use the illustration of the Romans when they occupied other lands, which is the origin of the definition of apostle, we can see that the apostle was sent from Rome to transition that place to become more like Rome.
2. Heaven to Earth: The Apostle must live his or her life from heavens perspective, believing in the supernatural and raising a generation who minister the works of Jesus. Whatever achievements are added to that are of lesser priority, although in the case of an Apostle everything else will be affected by this priority. Just as the Roman ‘apostle’ lived with Rome in mind, so Christ’s Apostles must live with heaven in mind.
3. Whole Body Awareness: I believe that the most qualified Apostles are those who have through their life and ministry demonstrated the other 4 gifts. This equips them to draw the whole body together and for each to find their place.I teach in the context of the gift of administration (Mastering Kingdom Administration) of the way in which the leader can draw on the imagery of the commander in chief role of the President of the USA or the imagery of the human hand, The President gathers the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the hand connects the 5 digits and both examples enable them to function with greater effectiveness and dexterity.The Apostle draws people together and has the ability to see through others eyes with the perspective of heaven.
4. Relational Context: The language of the Apostle is family. ‘God so loved, that he sent his son.’ (John 3:16) ‘As the father has sent me, so I send you.’ (John 17:18) There must be a relational context to the Apostle and the Apostle’s ministry. They must be followed as an Apostle, have peer Apostles and have fathers and mothers who believe in their gift and assignment as an Apostle. These are essential elements of the relational model. They must therefore know that they are ‘adopted’ sons and lead from that place, in humility as those sent to serve. We see this so clearly in Paul’s description of Jesus in Philippians Chapter 2, and in Jesus own words that he came to serve, not to be served. All summed up in Paul’s statement that Apostles are the foundation, serving upwards, not a top down hierarchical model.
5. An Apostolic Culture: The effect of the Apostle on the people around them is that they become apostolic. Jesus chose 12, discipled them, and they transitioned to being Apostles. Do we train people to be Apostles. Of course this is a part of the process, but my inclination is that we create an apostolic culture and watch Apostles emerge. In other words we disciple people in an apostolic culture and watch the Apostles emerge. I don’t consider age or gender to be a qualifying issue although maturity will be. And that of course is a clear goal of Ephesians 4, until we all attain to ‘a mature man.’ The fruit will be apostolic companies or families of people, led by apostolic prophets, pastors, evangelists, teachers, and in some cases Apostles.