This is one of those words I always associated with the holiness movement. You know, those signs in front of churches that have 14 words to the title of the church. Apostolic is just not in my vocabulary.
Recently, I just finished a book called The Shaping of Things to Come by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. One of the many insights they have in their book is into the role of the gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4. They call it APEPT Leadership. (abbreviations for the 5 gifts mentioned there.) Aside from their deliberate focus upon discovering your gifts, they analyzed what role these 5 gifts play in the life cycle of a church or movement. Implementing the bell curve, they identified Apostles as the initiators of movements. This places them at the beginning of the curve. At the top of the curve are the pastors and teachers.
In case you are wondering, apostles are the people who have a hard time staying in one place for a along time. They are trail blazers, innovators, pioneers, borderline revolutionists. Those with the gift of apostleship have the unique ability to begin new works for God in uncharted territories. In fact, they are down right miserable if they are tied down to one project or assignment too long. They need the wide open fields of opportunity and adventure. Some people are born with roots, and some people are born with wings. Apostles would be the latter. They thrive on new beginnings, new projects, new challenges and opportunities.
In the church, unfortunately, this gift is often marginalized and discounted. It is superseded by the more "valuable" gifts such a pastoring or teaching. This is due in part to our structure as an institutional church. As a result, it has led our seminaries and our ministry training centers to glorify and centralize the gifts of teaching and pastoring. Missions is what we do over in the other countries. And quite honestly, it is left to those who do not "fit the mold" of the glorified pastor.
Ironically enough, there are a lot of apostles who are unfortunatley forced into the role of pastors. Here's how it goes down. Apostles are passionate, visionary people who have a tendency to show up with shock and awe in job interviews at churches. The leadership of an established church is normally impressed and enthralled with their apostolic dynamic and say to themselves in closed meetings, this is exactly what we need here at our church right now. Unfortunately, that is as far as the wisdom reaches. What ends up happening is the apostle is hired for their apostlic dynamic but is immediatley placed in a pastoral position with pastoral responsibilities and expectations. This makes for a highly frustrated apostle, not to mention a confused leadership, who, at first is enamored with the apostolic impact, but secretly wants a pastor to "run the church." The end result is a square peg being forced into a round hole. Either the apostle buckles down and plays the role of a pastor, or they leave. Or the other option is, they get fired for not running the machine correctly. In the institutional church, there is literally not a place for apostles.
Because of this imbalance, our churches are deprived of the vitality and fresh energy that comes from an apostolic movement. The church desperately needs to embrace this gift and create space for it to flourish. The beginning of the life cycle in the Kingdom begins with Apostles. Just look at the book of Acts. Without the apostolic movement within the early days of the church, there would be little to write about in church history.
This is not to discount the gifts of pastoring and teaching. They are critical to the health of the body. However, it seems that these two gifts have been elevated to the point of exclusion of the other gifts. In most cases, when this happens, the church experiences a plateau. It drifts into a self-centered, inward focused atmosphere.
Now, it takes a prophet to point all of this out to the church, but after the prophetic word arrives, those with the gift of apostleship must emerge.
This is where it gets sort of complex. In order for the apostles to emerge, there must be leadership structures in place that can nurture, train and release those with apostolic gifts into their callings. This means that ministry should not be bottle necked to the pastors and teachers. It means that church planting and Kingdom agendas need to take center stage in our vision casting, teaching and ministry efforts.
We need to be revitalized. This will truly take place when the church allows the body to freely express itself through its divinely appointed ways. Operating in our gifts to the glory of God.
Lord, raise up workers for the harvest.