The Apostle is a controversial role/gift in most of the church today. I honestly don't know why. If we read carefully Ephesians 4:11 and some of Paul's other letters, in particular 1 Corinthians, we can plainly see that the apostle has a place in the contemporary church. If we reject the notion that the pastor is the quintessential calling, and look at the 5-Fold as a necessary entity; a sound church model, where all are on equal footing, we've made some real progress. Like our beloved triune God who is three-in-one, the church structure is five-in-one. Each facet of the 5-Fold is necessary, and presents a different, but equally important face of the Bride of Christ to the world.
I'd like to take a moment and say what I don't think an apostle is.
- He is not specifically a missionary, or church planter, yet the actual word in Greek means "sent."
- He is not a pastor, although he may take that title for a period time to get a church started.
- He is not a person with all 12 spiritual gifts in 1 Cor 12!
- He is not "over a region" such as a Cardinal in the Catholic church.
- He will not be offering us any new "governmental" revelation-- but hopefully he will set sound church government in place.
- A person is not a 5-fold minister, pastoring, prophesying, evangelizing, teaching and apostling. The is simply contrary to the idea of being a body with many parts.
I think to understand the apostle, first we need to see him (or her) in light of the other 4 roles in the 5-fold ministry. Second, we need to see him as foundational as Paul recorded in 1 Corinthians. Third we should see him as the "sent one" as his title implies; not sitting in a local church for years and years, and lastly to see him in light of things that the apostles did in scripture.
If we look at the mission of the church "to go into all the world and making disciples," then we need to divide that mandate up into the five segments; the Ascension gifts.
- Someone needs to bring in the harvest. This is the evangelist.
- Someone needs to care for them once they are there. This is the pastor.
- Someone needs to teach them about Jesus. This is the teacher.
- Someone needs to provide direction to the church, the local body and the individual. This is the prophet.
- Someone needs to have vision for the church (how it all fits together), and the ability to gather believers for the purpose of fellowship, healing, casting out demons and the like. This is the apostle.
Together these "someones," work as a team to equip all the church for the purpose of unity and the work of the Gospel. If we take a look at the current number of denominations, we can quickly see that we have failed. Unity is not everyone agreeing on everything, but working together to gather the harvest.
Foundationally, the apostle is the one that overseas that the teachings of Christ are not compromised. He is responsible for doctrinal integrity. They are the ones that warn when the church is adding something to the scriptures.
In business, most large companies have a brand which is identified by a logo, a specific font, and other elements of perception to create "the brand." Having worked in marketing on and off, there is usually someone in the organization that is prescribed as the "brand police." It is their job to make sure all advertising and marketing efforts adhere to the brand objectives. The apostle is like that in the church. Christianity has elements that set it apart from any other religion. IE: A living God, communion, spiritual gifts and sacred text to name a few. One of the tasks of the apostle is to make sure that what we do and teach in church, adheres to biblical principals and the law of the covenant. The apostle is not a legalist, but sort of an attorney for God. He is the authority on doctrinal errors and corrects them. (You could think of this series as that sort of correction.)
A New Testament apostle is "sent" by a some sort of local church expression. I believe that he is sent, most often with a prophet, so that he can establish a work, that will become a local expression in a new location. The church at Antioch (Acts 11:22-24) is a great example of the interplay of the 5-Fold working together which was sent from Jerusalem. I have found a number of good commentaries on this subject, so I won't get into any detail here. The point is that an apostle gets a work started, for which the prophet provides direction, so that a pastor can take over and care for the sheep, with the help of the teacher, while the evangelist brings in new converts to be discipled. It is not intended to be a one man show, and never will be. The church is always looking for new terms to provide insight to basic principals. This is probably best known as an "apostolic team" in the contemporary church.
If we look at the acts of the apostles we can get an idea of the fruit of this particular role in the church. I like to look at what Paul did, because he was not with Jesus from the start of His ministry, and he was not there at the crucifixion. And yet, he was an apostle, called by God, who had a tremendous impact on the New Testament church. Here are some bullet points.
- They are responsible for doctrine. Paul wrote most of the NT addressing errors, and giving us knowledge of the purpose of the Old Testament, and it's relationship to Christianity. He addressed critical issues in the church in terms of practice, law and grace. And he helped us identify the works of the Holy Spirit, and pointed out false teachings, false prophets, and false apostles. This is a governmental role of sorts, and has a very specific type of authority.
- The fruit of their ministry is supernatural. The 13 apostles performed healings, miracles, and power backed up the things they taught, and the life they lived.
- They brought impartation (Romans 1:11). The apostle is meant to leave a deposit when he is sent to a another place.
- They are generally strategic, and seem to have revelation about how the pieces fit together. They are often the folks that identify the gifts and leaders in a local church setting. If they are prophetic, it usually to in terms of a strategy.
- The apostle is a big picture person, using his view of the kingdom to set foundational elements in order. Generally the prophet will provide the insight and detail for the placing of these elements.
- Because they are sent, they travel. These are more than missions. Each trip has a purpose and an impartation to leave. A true apostle called of God will have lasting fruit, not the biggest church.
- They are taught by God through revelation. This is not to say that they shouldn't have a commanding grasp of the scriptures. To the contrary, it is their job to see that the Gospel is preached, and that the church refrains from activities that bring in worldly influences that will compromise the mission of the church. The are the sound doctrine police.
- I also believe they are supported by offerings, not by paychecks. In truth, I believe that all workers are worthy of their hire, but when it comes to salaries, I am not so sure.
In the end, our 5-Fold ministers are not to sit down and see which title they should put on their business card, but what is their role, and how can they support the work of the church and adnceve the kingdom of God. The apostle will be concerned about what is next, while he sets in place a sound biblical foundation for the futrue work of the local church.
HERE IS THE ENTIRE SERIES