“The most exciting time in my life was when I was part of an apostolic team serving God in a Middle Eastern country with others.” My missionary friend was lamenting that, now that his assignment brought him back to the U.S., he no longer has that sense of being part of an apostolic team—and it was a big loss for him.
I believe we are all feeling this loss, but we often don’t recognize it.
The primary reason that we, as followers of Jesus, have lost the sense of adventure is this: the church has institutionalized itself around the pastoral/teaching gifts. We have neglected the apostolic and we carry this dysfunction into all areas—whether we are in or out of traditional, institutional churches.
Now, let me hasten to mention that we define ‘apostolic’ far too narrowly.
The apostolic is not just missions to other lands. It’s not just ‘missional living.’ It’s far more than just evangelism.
The apostolic is the shape the church takes when it is going, influencing the world, and making new inroads.
Let me repeat myself. This is not just another word for ‘missional’ or ‘evangelistic.’ We need new words to give us new ways to understand original meanings.
I prefer to think of apostolic in terms like: entrepreneurial, adventure-taking, change-agents, movers and shakers, ministry catalyzers, initiators. It brings to mind both Jesus’ and Paul’s compulsions to see the power of the Good News touch every person in every segment of society in ways that are relevant and need-meeting through both words and actions.
I believe this apostolic shape is meant to take many different forms throughout our neighborhoods, workplaces, and contexts around the world. I believe we have not even begun to see the creative ways the apostolic is meant to be expressed.
But this shape is essential. The church is built on the ‘foundation of the apostles and prophets.’ Therefore it is designed to listen to God and move out to influence the world in many, varied, powerful Kingdom ways. This is what keeps the church truly alive and on the edge of the Holy Spirit’s power. This does not diminish the need for the other gifts to operate, but it creates a shape, a foundation, around which all of the gifts are organized.
“But, I’m not entrepreneurial, catalytic, or an initiator. What then?”
Then, we bring our gifts alongside those who are so that, together, apostolic teams are formed that are changing the world.
Two things are needed:
1. Those who are more clearly apostolic and entrepreneurial and catalytic need to step up with confidence and initiate new ventures, dream new dreams, and go for it.
2. Those who are less adept at being initiators need to come alongside to help create fully functional apostolic teams. It takes a team!
As these two things happen, the new, and original, shape of ‘church’ will again emerge: fruitful, impacting, simple, organic, powerful, and relevant.