Staying True To Apostolic Mission

Staying True to Apostolic Mission

Original Post: January 10th, 2019

Getting back to apostolic mission is a part of re-formation. Many in the charismatic and Pentecostal churches have vastly different views of what an apostle is. This actually affects and impedes apostolic mission more than we may know. Even the idea of calling apostles “fathers”, which is in part biblical, has stirred a good deal of controversy. Instead of adding to it, let me attempt to simplify and clear up both.

What is an apostle? The word Apostolos means this according to Strong’s lexicon.

I. a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders
A. specifically applied to the twelve apostles of Christ
B. in a broader sense applied to other eminent Christian teachers
i. of Barnabas
ii. of Timothy and Silvanus

This is pretty simple really. They are not officers over groups of churches or pre-eminent. They simply have been called and sent by the Lord as messengers of the gospel of the kingdom. Paul often introduced his letters as “an apostle appointed for the gospel”. Instead of being lauded for their efforts, apostles actually were the least. The apostle Paul risked his life to birth churches in many regions. Then they appointed elders in those regions and moved on. But instead of being their superstar, he actually had to ask to be invited back in. The idea that apostles rule churches by virtue of their gift is not biblical. They do so if invited back in to help the elders and for continued equipping.

Secondarily we see the title apostle relates to the twelve that Jesus first called to initiate “apostolic mission”. The first apostles were called apostles for this reason: they were Jesus first disciples. They walked with Jesus for three plus years and were directly given the great commission. They would continue to carry it out after Jesus death and resurrection as an apostolic mission. If the title "apostle" was meant to be preeminent, why would the first apostles simply cast lots in choosing between two people for the replacement of Judas Iscariot? Acts 1:20-26 describes this. Think of it, having the title of apostle was so “elevated” they cast lot's to choose one. Mattais never says God called him or that he now had authority over others because of this new assignment.
The third meaning relates to others who were not first. Calling them eminent teachers gives us a clue about Ephesian 4:11 where we see most of the controversy arise from. The “five-fold” ministers are equippers. They are eminent (known, not more special) in ability to teach the foundations of the faith and further it, making converts and disciples.
To sum up, anyone who is sent, a messenger of the gospel, and sold out to God in that purpose, can be an apostle. Besides, Jesus who gave the gifts to mankind that He carried, lives in every born again, Spirit filled disciple. So potentially every saint can on some level operate in any of the five gifts according to the measure of their faith, specific orders from Jesus, and their own obedience. The distinguishing characteristic that separates what kind of minister one is, is this:

There will never be another of “first” apostles or disciples. Second, of those who come after, some are called to equip others in their primary giftings to aide in the maturing of the saints, and others may operate on a more local level or are emerging in their gift.

So, it is basically silly to argue over who is an apostle or prophet or any of the five equipping gifts. It is equally unproductive to call them offices as though they have sway over other disciples. None of the first apostles called these gifts offices. I am not diminishing the effectiveness or value of anyone’s gift, but rather putting the emphasis where it belongs, which is that of serving the body at Jesus pleasure. If you feel you are called as an apostle or prophet, then live like one and be true to your calling. Comparing or wrangling about who is and isn’t is detrimental to your own success and unproductive for the body of Christ. In time your gift will make room for you and other will recognize it.

What is apostolic mission?

The first disciples who were later called apostles got their orders directly from Jesus. “Go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them all the things I taught you.” (Luke 24) We also know from the other gospels this included sharing the good news, healing the sick, and doing signs and wonders. John’s gospel focused on forgiving the sins of others (John 20:19)

They began this mission as sent ones, apostles, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. We see everything described above happening in power and many coming to Christ right away. As the book of Acts progresses, the church grows very fast and the new converts are discipled by living life with this new community of the kingdom and being equipped by the first apostles, even by daily teaching.
Once the church is scattered from Jerusalem throughout the known world, churches spring up and you see others than the first apostles leading the way. One reason is that the first apostles were under death threats eventually carried out.  But also, because the Holy Spirit empowered others not even known by the early church leaders who taught in their homes or synagogues, this new way called Christianity. Both men and women like Barnabus, Timothy, Junias, Lydia, Apollos and likely many we don’t have record of, were converted, discipled, and made disciples themselves. Keep in mind that the writing of the book of Acts, which is our record of what apostolic mission looked like from those who were sent directly by Jesus, took place over more than a 40 year period.  

The commission of Jesus and apostolic mission is basically the same thing. Still today we are to preach the gospel, make disciples, heal the sick and demonstrate the kingdom with power and signs and wonders following. That’s what Jesus did. That’s what the first apostles or disciples did. And that’s what the modern day church should do regardless of cultural changes. Apostolic mission is the reason for Christianity growing at a rate faster than any time in history all over the world. There are over two billion Christians in the world today. We may take issue with the level of commitment and what numbers are actually true followers of Jesus, but keep in mind, many have professed faith at the risk of death world-wide.

Any Christian community of believers that is standing true to Christ and His cause is adhering to His teachings and making disciples. To do anything less is to be unfaithful to Christ and apostolic mission. What-ever structures or ways the saints meet are not as important to what Christ died for. There is no reason to call yourself an apostolic resource center if you do not have an apostolic mission.  As we go forward my prayer and belief is that Jesus Pursuit Church will be true to the name, and apostolic mission. The way we do it is the same as always, regardless of models for gathering and ways to disciple: “encounter God, be transformed, and advance the Kingdom.” It’s an exciting way to live for the King.
~Denny Cline