These grace ministries will function until we all attain oneness in the faith…Ephesians 4:13
There is a bit of confusion over the role of father/mother and apostle. At the outset I would suggest that an apostle is not a father/mother but may be. Every father/mother is also not an apostle, but they may be. One is a specific grace (apostle), the other is a role (father/mother) and they have been confused, largely in my opinion, because of the reluctance in some parts of the church to recognize apostles, preferring the term father/mother instead. The problem is that everyone should be a father/mother and demonstrate the heart of our Good, Good, Father but not everyone is an apostle. You may have a father/mother in your life and he life of your church, that does not mean you have an apostle.
The fact you have this on your screen means there is a good chance I do not need to convince you of the basic need for a church to have an apostle, one who is outside the leadership of the church. In case I do, let me suggest that a large reason 85% of seminary graduates who enter ministry will drop out in a couple of years is that they do not have the grace for frontline warfare, the very grace that apostles carry. Let me quote from Jonathan Welton’s book, Equipping the Equippers.
The green military jeep came to a screeching halt in the mud outside a soggy tent. The General’s boots splashed as he stepped from the jeep into the darkness. He entered the tent to find five officers standing around a large map stretched across a table. The officers snapped to attention.
The General wasted no time: “Tell me what is going on here? Headquarters keeps getting reports that you have a brutally high level of casualties and your units are dysfunctional!”
One of the weary officers exchanged glances with the men and women standing near him. He coughed and then looked back at the General: “Do we have permission to speak freely sir?”
“Permission granted,” the General answered, his face a mask of sternness.
“Well sir, honestly…we were not equipped for this. We were taught to be shepherds. We can fix marriages, help raise Godly children, and teach people how to live healthy Christian lives; but we weren’t built for frontline warfare. I don’t even know what I am doing here! I am constantly asked to do things that are beyond my training and capacity. I am shell-shocked and living on the edge of burnout.”
The General’s expression softened. He scanned the faces of the officers standing before him. In a less harsh voice, he asked, “Is this representative of what is happening here?”
They nodded sheepishly and one said, “more or less.”
The General clasped his hands behind his back. “Where are the prophets who are meant to be in this unit to regularly bring communication from headquarters and encourage you to keep pushing forward?”
The officers looked at each other for a long moment. A woman finally spoke, “We typically have a roving prophet visit us once a year—sometimes less.”
The General asked, “And the teachers who are meant to bring fresh bread and cutting-edge strategies for advancing the Kingdom?”
Another officer answered, “We sometimes read their books….if we can find the time…” His voice trailed off, and he stared down toward the battle map.
“And the evangelists?” said the General “Please tell me that you have some of those to rescue the captives and bring in new soldiers?”
“Evangelists, not really…most of our people are afraid of the darkness. We get together and sing, we take offerings, we listen to familiar messages, and we hope reinforcements will come.”
The General’s gave a resigned nod. “And I’m guessing you have no apostles either. Am I right?”
A woman nodded. “Correct, sir. You are the first we have seen in decades.”
The General leaned forward, “Do you know what an apostle does?”
“No sir, not really.”
“Well, ultimately, I am here to serve you so that you can best serve the Kingdom. To implement my advice, you will need to make some dramatic adjustments, but you will end up better for it.” As the General continued speaking, he looked each officer in the eye. “I will bring in my team, which consists of the five types of leaders. We will raise up prophets from within your unit who can communicate direction from headquarters and speak life and courage into your people. I will train teachers, who will feed your people and make them strong and healthy. I will build evangelists, who will push everyone out of their foxholes and on to the battlefield to advance the Kingdom.”
As the General spoke, the officers’ stance had slowly changed from weary to invigorated. In unison, they said, “Yes sir!”
The General nodded. “By the time I am done here, the shepherd casualty rate will drop dramatically, and you will have the strongest and most well-rounded soldiers available in the Kingdom. It will take a major overhaul, but we can get back to the original blueprint and set up your outpost correctly. Thank you for allowing me to bring these adjustments to you. It is my pleasure to serve you. Let’s begin.”
The officers breathed a collective sigh of relief; they had been waiting decades for new apostles to appear. The last wave of apostles had flunked out of basic training when they tried to control people rather than humbly serving them. For years, rumors had circulated that a new batch of apostles had actually been released into the battlefront. Now they had finally arrived, and together, they could begin to advance the Kingdom.
Apostles are not necessarily the leaders of a local church, they are a resource for the local church. At times you will find the leader of a local church who walks in the grace of an apostle. In my experience, that leader will always have a vision larger than their local church and will have influence beyond their own congregation. Even if the local church has an apostle as their leader, I believe the Biblical pattern is to maintain a relationship with another apostle.
In 1 Corinthians 4 where Paul is describing apostolic ministry, he says “So then you must perceive us—not as leaders of factions, but as servants of the Anointed One, those who have been entrusted with God’s mysteries.”
Brian Simmons describes the word ‘servants’ this way
“Paul uses an unusual Greek word, huperetes, which means “subordinate” or “personal assistant.” The compound word huperetes literally means “under-rowers,” and it is used in classical Greek to describe those who sit on benches in the lower parts of the ship rowing. Apostolic ministry does not mean that an apostle is seen as important and in first place, but as one who will often be in a hidden role of moving a church and region forward as a subordinate of our captain, Jesus Christ.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself!
For this next year, you should get your church an under-rower. But what does that mean? What does it look like to have an apostle? I have been asked that but have not answered it really well so here are some of my thoughts.
Please do not enter a long-term commitment with an apostle because they demand it or because they are an attractive option. Pray and date. Yep, you heard me, date your prospective apostle. Make sure there is chemistry, that you actually like the guy or gal and enjoy having a meal with him or her. Make sure your spouse (if you have one) likes them as well. Even make sure you like the potential apostle’s spouse. And make sure that you are experiencing their grace. You should feel braver and safer around me and if you don't, find someone you do feel that with. Make sure your prospective apostle meets your staff, your leaders, your board. You are not looking for consensus, you are simply introducing this new significant person in your life to those already present.
Once you have both decided it is a good fit, then comes the relational piece. Learning to ask questions, draw from the apostle in many matters, is vital. Just remember it is the apostolic grace you are drawing from, not the pastoral or teacher. It is the grace to be strong and courageous, to build, and to bring unity which in my experience is often about sniffing our disunity and misalignment.
If you have an apostle, you should sow into them each month. I am thankful that it was the apostle Paul who said in 1 Corinthians 9 in The Passion Translation,
"So to those who want to continually criticize my apostolic ministry, here’s my statement of defense. Don’t we apostles have the right to be supported financially? Don’t we have the right to travel accompanied by our believing wives and be supported as a couple?"
He then went on to draw a direct relationship with the terumah or first fruits given to the priests and his apostolic ministry.
"Don’t you know that the priests employed in sacred duty in the temple are provided for by temple resources? And the priests who serve at the altar receive a portion of the offerings? In the same way, the Lord has directed those who proclaim the gospel to receive their living by the gospel."
I love that Paul uses the phrase 'in the same way' which I interpret not only the principle of paying a wage but also where it comes from, i.e. the first fruit or terumah.
My suggestion is that 2.5% of the churches monthly income be given to your apostle. It is a suggestion though, not a law. While there is a 'right' to it, apostles will not exercise this right simply because the passion to do what we do is way greater than any financial 'right'.
I also think that if you have an apostle, you should draw from them regularly, use their strength and authority as your covering, and at least once a year bring them into your body to make a strategic deposit that helps you build what you are building. Learn how to draw from their grace. Learn how to not only talk but draw from their grace. That may differ from apostle to apostle and church to church, but this is a long-term investment and one that is worth it but ultimately, every apostle should impart the grace to be obedient to what you have been called to do. There will be an impartation of courage, of believing you can do what He has called you to do, and ultimately hope.
I actually believe that is should be the apostle that sets the senior leader’s salary and benefits. It removes it from history, petty politics, and also from ‘pastoral humility’ that can plague a senior leader.
So, I would strongly encourage each of you to have an apostle outside of your local body, that you can draw from, and that can help you build. Make sure it is someone you have chemistry with, someone you actually like and please, let it be someone who really is an apostle! If you need help finding one, let me know.