There is a fascinating passage in Ephesians chapter four:
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
(~Ephesians 4:11-16 NIV)
The idea is that God places certain gifted individuals to sharpen and upgrade the rest of us. The outcomes in these relationships tend toward a dramatic increase in unity, knowledge, maturity and stability. We grow up to a point of love where we really love, not just telling people what they want to hear… but setting the broken bone when needed. If we don’t get this right, our works of service are of diminished value.
These equipping gifts and their influence are the very foundation of our ability to speak the truth in love. As Timothy Keller pointed out throughout his career, only love will try to avoid hurting the beloved at all costs - and only truth can be harsh and cold while being completely correct. Only when we have both do we find a depth of meaning and real relationship that lasts.
So, starting with apostle (and their biblical examples of Peter, James, Paul…) what can we say about this gift?
- Apostles will be great at starting things
This gift will tend to serial entrepreneur endeavors. They will see the opportunity no one else sees and they will get it started in some form faster than anyone would believe. They will be excellent at beginning and adjusting on the fly. And they will have to resist the urge to stay with the new work too long. The new faith organization they begin will be exceedingly vulnerable in the beginning; this is the nature of anything new. They will tend to be quickly pulled to the next new thing so leadership development and transition planning will be paramount for their success (and sanity!)
- Apostles will defy normal demographic boundaries
This one is really fun.
These guys will have connections with churches from Ethiopia, the Philippines, Mexico City, the local Farsi community and will be teaching a class of Chinese immigrants English, using the Gospel of John. It will be bananas! They will be surrounded by a storm of very weird intersections, pretty much all of the time.
Things that would normally be a barrier for connection, communication and stability related to culture, language or particular ethnic expression will be all but a non-issue for the apostolic gift.
Their connections, while incredibly diverse and chaotic, will feel like the most natural thing in the world, and God will kick open doors for them.
Something to consider here is giving them excellent second level support. Here’s what I mean by that in terms of direction:
Why is God connecting this particular group with our Apostle?
What do they need? Or what opportunity for something amazing do they represent?
Because of this gift, they will make excellent cross cultural missionaries - leaving behind a leadership network of indigenous and trained ministers in their wake. They will also spark unusual connection between need and resources - so look to jump in and help where you can!
- Apostles will be highly attractive to a variety of people
When they start something, they will almost magically have 20-50 people who will appear to help them or be a key part of the new group. Leaders will want to support them (and sometimes, exploit them for their own agenda). New leaders will find great work to do as they grow and develop. People looking for purpose and calling will be pulled into orbit almost by default. Again, this is really fun and we should look to support the Apostle in downstream effort to stabilize, fund and train the new wave of people.
- Apostles will be overloaded with opportunity
Make them take a day off and be unavailable. They’ll be more effective with a true Sabbath to power down than without one. But they will feel tremendous pressure to talk to one more person on the day that they really need to just spend with their family and friends.
This is the dark underbelly of the amazing ability to see and connect cross culturally. The reality is that there is a ton of heavenly opportunity around us all the time, but Apostles will be unusually connected to see it and do something about it. If they can find a balancing idea… something like, “we can’t do everything, but we can do something” it will help greatly.
Resist the urge to process them to death to reduce the chaos. They will flourish with the blank, undefined, open page.
- Apostles will have unusual gravitas, and will often be local in activity
Watch them in a group of leaders. When they speak, everyone will stop and listen, perhaps without even knowing why. And to be sure, they make excellent national class leaders with corresponding gifts of administration and experience managing groups of people.
The thing to remember (with say, Paul as an example) is that of lot of their activity will be most fruitful in the mode of the small business owner, “boots on the ground” sense. They will roll into a city, walk around, talk to some people and get a lay of the land. Then they will form a plan and people will appear to help them flesh it out. Sometimes this will be Peter on Pentecost with a huge revival of thousands that jump-starts the work in a generation.
But more often it will be tent-making and helping the small church core get going over a period of months to years. They will be the warm and personable “Mr. Mayor”, the guy who knows everyone, who everyone loves, who will have a meaningful conversation with a guy at a stop light with his window rolled down. They will comfortably hang with the corporate execs and the janitors coming in for the night shift to clean. The apostle will be extraordinary in making one to one connections with people, so be careful to keep that opportunity for connection as a key part of their weekly set.
This took an interesting turn as I was writing it. We can inspire leaders to lead. We can give permission for leaders to speak deeply into our lives and influence us for the good.
So my question for me and for you is this.
What can you do to help, encourage, and respond to the Apostle in your life and orbit?
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.