AN INTERNATIONAL MINISTER'S MANUAL
By Rev. Jim and Carolyn Murphy
PART ONE - THE CALL TO MINISTRY
THE MINISTRY OF THE APOSTLE
Let me tell you a true story I recently read. It's about a Chinese minister whom the Western writer described as an "evangelist." The nameless minister, whom we will call Reverend Wu, traveled by foot and on bicycle over a large region of China. As he traveled he gained converts to Christianity wherever he went through his preaching and teaching. After establishing a church, he would set a pastor and elders over the small flock, and then would move on to other, unreached areas to preach. As a result, he had established dozens of home churches.
On one occasion Reverend Wu returned to a region where he had not been for over a year to see how the churches were doing. When he arrived, to his dismay, he found the pastors quarreling and bickering among themselves. With one voice they began angrily explaining their differences, each looking to Reverend Wu for support.
Instead of hearing the arguments and trying to sort out who was right and who was wrong, Wu sat down and began to weep. His weeping deepened to the point that his very spirit was grieving before God. After a long period of unabated crying he began aloud to ask God's forgiveness for his own failure. He sobbed that he had failed to properly teach these pastors about Jesus' spirit of humility and of His teaching that "the first shall be last," and "the greatest among you will be your servant."
Then something happened. One by one the pastors also began to weep, crying out to God and asking His forgiveness. Soon all present were prostrate on the floor in deep repentance. Then they began to go to one another asking forgiveness, even to the point of washing one another's feet.
Looking at Reverend Wu's ministry in light of Scripture, it is clear that he is an apostle. He traveled from place to place preaching, evangelizing and establishing churches wherever he went. Yet the Western writer of this story described him as an evangelist. Why?
I believe the reason the writer didn't understand that Wu is an apostle is because most people in today's church believe there are no apostles today. In fact most believe that only three of the original offices found in Ephesians still function today: pastors, teachers and evangelists. Somehow prophets and apostles have gotten lost along the way.
Concerning apostles, the reasoning goes something like this. "But brother Murphy, apostles were only in the first century church. There were only twelve of them. After those original twelve established the church and died, there were no more after them. Nor was there a need since the church had been well established."
I understand that this is common thinking today, but does that understanding agree with the Scripture? Let's look and see. The Scripture says,
"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people to do works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 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." (Eph 4:11-13 NIV, emphasis added.)
I have emphasized the word "until" in the above Scripture to make a point. Paul's use of "until" imposes the span of time these five ministries are to exist-until we 1) all reach unity in the faith, 2) and in the knowledge of the Son of God, 3) and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Even a cursory observation of today's church makes it clear that none of these three conditions have yet been attained.
I believe what I am saying will make more sense if we closely examine the Scripture and some related comments from theologians and other writers.
Let us begin by examining the original text word for the word "apostle." The word used in the Greek text is apostello. Apostello is a verb and refers to the act of sending. The word apostolos is a noun and refers to the one sent. The use of apostolos as a ministry is strictly New Testament. In fact, it was Jesus who first used apostolos as a title for His disciples. Prior to that the use of the word in secular Greek was narrowly limited to describe ships, or messengers that were "sent forth."
Since Jesus took the word apostolos and began to use it in a specialized, religious application, we need to make a detailed examination of apostolos. Theologian J. C. Lambert3 teaches, "To understand the word as we find it in the NT it is not necessary to go beyond the NT itself." I agree and will confine our examination to Scripture and comments that theologians have made about the use of apostolos as found in Scripture.
With any word that evolves in a language, various shades of meaning are attached to the use of the word over time. Apostolos is no exception. In the early days during Jesus' ministry, apostolos clearly meant the Twelve. But Lambert also said, ". . . the Gospel employs the term [apostle] in that wider sense which it came to have after the Ascension." Hence, the narrower use of the word apostolos means the Twelve while its broader use encompasses all others whom the Lord called as apostles as we will see in the Book of Acts and in other New Testament books.
For those who may tend to reject the wider use of apostolos, claiming it applies only to the Twelve, Lambert further states, "The very fact that the name 'apostle' means what it does would point to the impossibility of confining it within the limits of the Twelve." He goes on to say, ". . . the very fact that he [Paul] found it necessary to denounce certain persons as 'false apostles, deceitful workers, fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ' (2 Cor 11:13) shows that there was no thought in the primitive church of restricting the apostleship to a body of 12 or 13 men. 'Had the number been definitely restricted, the claims of these interlopers would have been self-condemned' (Lightfoot, Galatians, 97)." [Note: Lambert quoted Lightfoot.]
A further, final definition of apostolos with its narrow and broad application is given by Alan F. Johnson in the NIV Bible Commentary:4
"An 'apostle' is one who is sent as a representative of another and bears the full authority of the sender. The word is applied first in the NT to the original circle of the Twelve, who had a special place historically in the foundation of the church (Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14). But the NT further broadens this original circle to include others such as Paul (Gal 1:1), Barnabas (Acts 14:14), James the brother of Jesus (Gal 1:19,) and still others (cf Rom 16:7), The name was applied to those who were authentically and specially called by Christ to be his authoritative spokesmen."
As with any call to the ministry, the initiative is the Lord's. No minister simply decides he wants to be an apostle, (or a prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher, for that matter). He must be called to that office by the Lord Jesus.
The most extraordinary thing about Jesus' call to His original apostles is that they were common, ordinary men. There was nothing that marked any of them as special. They came from various walks of life, some were fishermen, one a tax collector, there was even a disgruntled political reformer!
Notice that Jesus gave no explanation, no sales pitch, no promises or elaboration with his call. He simply said, "Follow me." That isn't very dramatic or compelling, is it? But, to the one whom He calls, it has a powerful impact!
Look at the call of Matthew (Levi). ". . . Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. 'Follow me,' Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him." (Lk 5:27,28 NIV) It is obvious that Levi was wealthy. It took something very powerful to pull him from his lucrative income and comfortable life-style. The call to serve Christ is always powerful. Levi responded as a called apostle, he "left everything and followed him."
As with any of the five-fold ministries, there are certain identifiable attributes. Not all apostles will possess all of these attributes. But most of the attributes will be found in any apostle. Let's look at them.
1. Forceful Personality
By "forceful personality" I don't mean rudeness or pushiness. I define forcefulness of personality as the consistent assertiveness of one's own person, ideas and presence. A person with a forceful personality cannot be ignored. We can easily see this type of personality in both Peter and Paul.
Peter's force of personality was demonstrated by such events as his standing before the Sanhedrin, (Acts 4) his bold preaching on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and his standing against the other apostles concerning his entering the house of the Gentile, Cornelius. (See Acts 11.) Paul's force of personality is equally visible in his indignant demand that a sexually immoral man in the church be dealt with (See 1 Cor 5.), in defense of his apostolic ministry (2 Cor 10), and numerous other places in Scripture as well. Indeed, Paul's forcefulness comes through in all his writings as well as the Book of Acts.
2. Great Authority
In his examination of the word apostolos, K. H. Rengstorf5 says, ". . . the apostle is properly an apostle of Jesus Christ . . . Apostles, then, are not officials of the church but officers of Christ for its up building . . ."
Since the apostle is not technically an officer of the church, he is not subject to the control of the church. This gives the apostle tremendous authority. This authority is further explained by Rengstorf.
"The apostles have special significance as leaders who enjoy the full accreditation of the Lord with a universal commission to what is to be a universal community. The Lord is still behind what they say and do. He himself is the subject of their message. In this new commissioning, however, this is an ongoing message to the world. . . .
"The messengers' authorization is subsidiary to that of Jesus. By the same token, however, it is he who sustains them in their office; hence the importance of the parakletos whom he sends.
". . . the disciples are authorized to use the power of Jesus . . . the identification of the sender and sent presupposes authorization (the one sent is as the one who sends, and what is done to the former is done to the latter). . . their authorization is linked with the person of Jesus. . . [they] have full power to speak and act as Jesus does, this does not confer rights but implies the duty of service. . . commissioning by Jesus means humiliation rather than exaltation. Service and humility purge the apostolate of the claims which might accompany its legal authorization. They make it a commission rather than an office. . . .
"Significant, too, is the linking of the apostles with the proclaiming of the word. . . Full and obedient dedication to the task is demanded. Action accompanies speech in demonstration of authentic commissioning. The works are not a subject of boasting or evaluation but of a joy that expresses a complete ignoring of the person and absorption in the task. The success of the apostles is the success of Jesus himself, and in [their] report it crowds out any reference to difficulties in the discharge of the task. . . .
"The new commission is also of a more lasting character, applying to the whole period between the ascension and return. . ."
Thus we see that the apostle is an officer of Christ whose primary responsibility is to found churches. The authority necessary to do this work is also inherent in the ministry. Jesus' authority is extended through the apostle. We can see the stated purpose of this authority in Paul's writing: "the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down." (2 Cor 13:10 NIV, emphasis added.)
Let's look at an example of Paul's authority in action:
I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. (2 Cor 12:2,3 NIV)
Note however that this authority has limits. Paul told one of the churches he founded, the Corinthian church, "Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! . . ." (1 Cor 9:2 NIV) By this we see that apostolic authority extends only over those whom an apostle has birthed and formed into churches. By implication Paul is hereby relinquishing authority over other churches with whom he had no part in founding.
3. Leadership Skills
Leadership is the ability to inspire others to action. Leadership radiates confidence, ability, control, and vision. Those with leadership have the ability to attract and inspire others, and to motivate mass human effort toward a common goal. A leader also has the ability to read people, determine their strengths and weaknesses, and then place them in the exact organizational position to best use those strengths.
Leadership skills are essential for Christ's apostles since they are tasked with founding and building up churches. Peter demonstrated this kind of leadership when, on the day of Pentecost, he stood, began to speak and thereby took control of the crowd. Paul also demonstrated great leadership in Philippi, Ephesus, and other places through his preaching and church building. (Please note that leadership skills in varying degrees are common to all of the five-fold ministries.)
4. Possess Intimate Knowledge of the Lord
If mature apostles "have full power to speak and act as Jesus does," as Rengstorf says, this means they must possess a special knowledge of and closeness to the Lord Jesus. One way we can observe this intimacy with Christ is by the apostle's being directed by the Holy Spirit on an ongoing basis.
One example of this direction is when Peter and John stopped on their way to the temple, looked at the lame man and Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." (Acts 3:6 NIV) This act was totally unplanned. Obviously the Holy Spirit spoke to Peter and he moved in instant obedience. Some may say that Peter and the other eleven could do such things because they had watched Jesus do them.
But Paul was not one of the original apostles. He obviously gained his intimate knowledge of Jesus by prayer, study, and by listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit's direction. And through the ages every mature apostle has had to do just as Paul did. There is no other way to gain such intimacy with Christ. As the apostle prays, learns, and listens to the Holy Spirit, he is able to do whatever he is directed to build up the church.
5. Signs and Wonders
In 2 Corinthians Paul identifies what could be called apostolic signs. He wrote, "The things that mark an apostle-signs, wonders and miracles-were done among you with great perseverance." (12:12 NIV) Again, turning to Rengstorf, he says this of apostolic signs: ". . . the accompanying works are displays of Christ's power which validate the divine message as fact and not just theory. They are indispensable, not to the messengers, but to the message."
From the above, and from human experience, we know that even today's apostles do have signs, wonders and miracles accompany their ministries from time to time. In my travels among the churches in the emerging nations I often hear of local apostles whose ministry is validated by miracles. I know an African apostle who was translated from one place to another. I know other African apostles who have raised the dead. Jesus is still in the business of validating His word through signs and wonders!
The apostles we see throughout Scripture are men with extraordinary power and authority. But remember, no one is born that way. Nor are the apostles in Scripture infallible. Remember the occasion when Paul rebuked Peter for refusing to eat with Gentile Christians? (See Gal 2.) Indeed, as with every call and every gifting the Lord gives us, an apostle must mature in that call and gifting. And, like Peter, who made his share of mistakes, the apostle will make mistakes along the way. But that in no way diminishes his apostleship. The mature apostle is an extraordinary person who moves in great power in the church.
The mature apostle is and must be very versatile. Remember, his main call is to plant churches. Therefore, at least in the early stages of the newly planted church, the apostle must be able to fulfill all the offices and giftings needed in a church. As the occasion arises he may perform capably in any other of the five-fold ministry offices. He may evangelize, pastor, teach and on occasion fill the role of a prophet as did the apostle John when he received and wrote the Book of Revelation. He also may move in the gifts such as administration, helps, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, and so on.
In other words, the apostle must be able to do whatever is needed at the moment to plant and nurture a church body. This is the work of the apostle. It is foundational to the plans and purposes of God in these last days. God has called on His church to be His hands and feet. And the apostle is a mighty and integral part of those plans.
Apostles evangelize! As we follow the ministry of Paul through the Book of Acts and his own writings, we see his never ending zeal for evangelism. Paul had a compelling desire to preach the Gospel. We see this when he skillfully seized the opportunity to preach to the pagan philosophers at the meeting of the Areopagus in Athens. Paul's zeal jumps out at us again when we read about his intense desire to address the rioting crowd in Ephesus. (See Acts 17, and 19.)
I believe that evangelism is the number one priority of all apostles. Indeed, the evangelist and the apostle have this priority in common. But the apostle's focus is really beyond that. The apostle, once he has a few converts, begins to form them into a church, whereas the evangelist is continually looking to new fields of evangelism. Unlike the evangelist, the apostle senses that his work is not complete until a church is formed. Then he will move on.
2. Lays the Spiritual Foundation of a Church
The apostle understands the absolute necessity of laying a proper spiritual foundation for every church. He forms churches "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone." (Eph 2:20 NIV) Paul seems to doubly emphasize the importance of a proper spiritual foundation for he also wrote, "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Cor 3:9 NIV)
The importance of a proper foundation cannot be overemphasized. I have had the unfortunate experience of observing churches whose foundations were not properly set. Invariably they encounter disaster, most often in the form of doctrinal error. Usually such churches are born in the excitement of revival, or are built around the personality of a strong leader. In either case the numerical growth of the church exceeds the spiritual growth. As a result, proper doctrinal foundation stones are ignored. A true apostle will never permit this to happen in a church under his care.
3. Builds Churches
The apostles I know have pioneered many churches. Some of them have daughter and granddaughter churches numbering in the hundreds. Apostles usually continue to supervise these churches in both their spiritual and material erection. We began this study by pointing out that much of today's church has seemingly abandoned the title "apostle." So many of the apostles of whom I am speaking are called "missionaries." (Note that this is not to say that all missionaries are apostles. Some are, many are not.)
In my travels to the emerging nations of the world, many of the missionary/apostles I meet and observe are non-Western. For example, I have seen a number of African and Asian apostles, all busy building the Lord's church. They are national Christians planting churches in their own nations. Or in some cases, the church's non-Western apostles have gone to nations other than their own and are building churches where they are sent.
4. Ordains Elders
We see in Acts 14:23 that, "Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust." (NIV) Note that Barnabas was also an apostle, for in Acts 14:14 Luke wrote, "But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd . . ." (NIV)
It seems that ordaining elders was the biblical pattern wherever the first century apostles established churches. And so it continues today. Once the apostle has evangelized, taught, laid the foundation, and ordained elders, he moves on to a new territory or city and starts all over again. He also returns from time to time to his established churches to check on their progress, make corrections, and to encourage them.
Apostles, because of the spiritual significance of their work, suffer many hardships. The apostle Paul's letters are literally laced with references of hardships, beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonment, hunger, and trials. (See 2 Cor 4 & 11.) The apostle Peter, in his two letters, makes many references to hardships, trials, and tribulation. In the Book of Revelation we see the apostle John exiled to the island of Patmos, ". . . because of the word of God and testimony of Jesus." (Rev 1:9 NIV)
Apostles are also subject to intense demonic attack. We know that Satan doesn't like to lose his people to Christ. He therefore focuses his attention on those who are successful at "stealing his sheep," chief of whom are the Lord's apostles. Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians church wrote of Satan's opposition. "For we wanted to come to you--certainly I, Paul, did, again and again--but Satan stopped us."(1 Thes 2:18 NIV)
Let us now consider in more detail the lives and ministries of Peter and Paul as examples of biblical apostles. The life style and ministries of these two men are superb examples of an apostle in action.
Peter was a leader among leaders. The willingness of others (including other apostles) to submit to his authority clearly demonstrates his leadership ability.
As already noted, Peter had a very forceful personality. His eagerness to stand and address the crowd on the day of Pentecost, his fearless stand before the Sanhedrin, and his authoritative words to the lame man at the Temple gate all display his force of personality. His demonstrated willingness to boldly preach, rebuke, and stand his ground on issues against the other apostles speaks of the power of his authority.
There is no doubt that signs and wonders accompanied Peter's ministry. The early chapters of the Book of Acts are full of the miracles Peter performed in Jesus' name. Certainly Scripture shows us his close relationship to the Lord Jesus. And as we have already mentioned, Peter's epistles let us know that he was no stranger to apostolic hardships.
Finally, Peter was certainly an evangelist. He preached throughout Jerusalem. He even went to Cornelius' house in Caesarea to preach, though Cornelius was a Gentile. In so doing, he was the instrument used by God to bring about the first Gentile Pentecost! There is no doubt that Peter was instrumental in laying the foundation of the first century church, both in Jerusalem and in Antioch.
Because so much is written by and about Paul in the New Testament, we know more about him than any of the other apostles. Let's overview his personality, attributes and ministry.
We certainly see the force of Paul's personality in his letters. Here is an example:
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Gal 3:1-3 NIV)
Paul demonstrated his apostolic authority again and again. For example, he wrote, ". . . I, Paul, who am 'timid' when face to face with you, but 'bold' when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think we live by the standards of this world." (2 Cor 10:1,2 NIV)
Paul's leadership flows from his forceful personality and demonstrated authority. He founded numerous churches. On an individual level his leadership is seen in the extensive greetings he gives to many, many Christians in areas where he has ministered.
Paul's intimate relationship with Jesus virtually shines through his letters. In his Philippian letter he cried, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Phi 3:10,11 NIV)
We see more apostolic signs and wonders in Paul's ministry than in any other apostle: the blinding of Elymas (Acts 13), casting the demon out of the slave girl, the life-changing midnight earthquake in the Philippian jail (Acts 16), the healing of a crippled man in Lystra (Acts 14), and many more.
Even as the first century church experienced many miracles, Paul's miracles are recorded as extraordinary. "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them." (Acts 19:11,12 NIV)
Paul certainly demonstrated evangelistic zeal wherever he preached which seems to be wherever he went. He founded churches on all four of his missionary journeys. And in Titus he makes references to ordaining elders: "The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you." (Tit 1:5 NIV)
Clearly the apostle Paul is a model apostle. His entire life and ministry may be summed up in this one statement he made: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Phi 1:21 NIV)
From church history we know that apostolic power, authority, and preaching had been dormant for several centuries when Martin Luther came along at the turn of the 16th century. However, from the time of the Reformation on, many of our most powerful church leaders have been apostles. While it seems logical that some of these leaders birthed during and after the Reformation knew they were apostles, I'm sure others were apostles but didn't know it. Why? Because of the absence of an experienced human pattern, ignorance of Scripture (at least in the early stages of the Reformation), and a general lack of understanding of biblical principles, all of which had to be relearned and re-experienced during and after the Reformation.
I have selected an early reformer, John Wesley, and a later missionary, Hudson Taylor, as examples of post-Reformation apostles for us to examine.
1. John Wesley (1703-1791)
Although most of us don't think of John Wesley as an apostle, he certainly was one. Born in England, Wesley was a product of the Church of England. Although he evidenced a great zeal for the things of the Lord, he made little impact in the church until he was truly converted under the influence of the Moravians. Then his preaching to the established church in England began to emphasize holiness. Immediately doors started closing. Undaunted, he began preaching in open air meetings drawing his audience from the common people who gladly came to hear him.
Wesley's message brought great revival to the peoples of Ireland, Scotland and England. He established churches as he went using his "Methodism." We most certainly see the hand of God guiding him in establishing one of the most powerful churches of his day. And the Methodist denomination continues even to this day.
2. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905)
Hudson Taylor was an English pioneer missionary to China between the years 1854 and 1901. He was the first Western missionary to fully join the Chinese society in dress, food, manners, and customs. Because of this radical departure from the lifestyles of other missionaries who maintained all their Western dress, customs and traditions, he suffered social and ecclesiastical rejection. Because of this rejection by his peers his missionary support was withdrawn and he returned to England. But God, and the Chinese, approved of his actions! While in England, Taylor founded the China Inland Mission, and when he returned to China, he did so by depending solely on God for provision.
Upon his return Taylor went into the interior of China, where Westerners had rarely traveled, to preach the Gospel. He began to pray and ask the Lord to send others to work in the harvest with him. Before he left the field in 1901 there were over a thousand China Inland Mission missionaries preaching in every province of China.
As one reads about Taylor it is clear that there were miracles in his ministry. For example, though it took sailing ships months to reach China from England, there were times when Taylor would pray for a specific financial need and the precise amount asked for would arrive by ship at the precise time needed, usually sent from England months earlier!
There is no doubt that God used Hudson Taylor mightily as the founding apostle to the nation of China.
I have encountered a number of ministers in my travels whom I regard as apostles. In order to illustrate the validity and value of apostles in today's church let me describe two such apostles.
I met the first man when he was in his mid-thirties. By that time he had established a very large church in the center of a big city in Asia. His church had 23 daughter churches and many granddaughter churches that had been pioneered by the daughter churches under his guidance.
During my week long ministry with him, I observed this young apostle serving as a pastor, an administrator, a local church leader, a worship leader before large groups, and as a counselor. The day we left he was to begin to preach the salvation message at a seven night evangelistic crusade in a relatively unreached area of his city sponsored by one of the daughter churches. So for that following week, he would be adding the role of an evangelist to his many functions within the church.
During the Sunday that we were with him, he took us to two churches under his care. One of the churches was in the city dump. When we arrived he immediately left us and integrated himself into the people of the church who were living at the dump and making a living by scavenging through the trash. He and the pastor walked through the little community with the people of the dump church. He talked and laughed with them but left us by the car simply to observe. The people shyly looked our way occasionally but that was all. After he said his goodbyes, we left.
Next he took us to another church under his care. This one was a growing church with a very ambitious building program. The people were by and large well educated with high paying jobs in the city. At this church meeting he made every effort to introduce us to the church members and had one of our group greet the church on our behalf in his effort to integrate us very much into the church setting.
In other words, this young man acted absolutely differently in the two church settings. At the poor church at the dump, he seemed to shrink physically and to fit perfectly with the congregation there. At the large, "prospering" church, he conducted himself very much as the host of our group as well as the church people.
Over my week of observing him, this young man seemed to be able to slip into these different church roles naturally. He would change roles as needed. He could be an administrator for a hour, then get up and lead worship, then conduct a meeting of other pastors, then preach an evangelistic message that night.
You see, this man is a called apostle. God has gifted him with all the various giftings as needed to found and run a group of churches. He seems to be able to fulfill any role needed at the moment. And, watching him, I am absolutely convinced he has no idea that he is doing so. I am sure he doesn't think to himself, "Oh, I need to be an administrator this afternoon, then an evangelist tonight." No, he just does it!
Let me tell you about another apostle I've worked with. This man is a native American working here in the United States among his own tribe. I first met this apostle many years ago when he was a pastor. I listened to him pour out his heart for his people and the churches among his tribesmen. I told him that I thought he was a called apostle and I urged him to resign his pastorate and make himself available to be used by the Lord throughout all the churches of his tribe.
I next met him four years later. He had resigned and was overseeing all the churches on his reservation. This apostle viewed the entire tribe as his parish! He knew about every church and mission station on the reservation. He knew who the leaders were, their doctrinal beliefs, and their denominational affiliation. Though he respects all the leaders, their denominational affiliation does not matter to him. If he finds a church or mission station whose leader had to leave without having a replacement, he places a pastor over the flock while waiting for a replacement from the sending church. He told me, "I don't care what denomination the church is. These are my people and they need a pastor. They need a spiritual shepherd. My concern is for the flock. A flock without a shepherd will be scattered by the wolves."
Another remarkable thing about this man is that, although God raised him up from among his peers, the other native American ministers readily submit to his gentle authority. They recognize his authority as given by the Lord.
It is a joy to observe an apostle functioning as an apostle -- to see that strong yet gentle apostolic authority wrapped in Jesus' love at work correcting, instructing and building the church of Jesus Christ. It is time we recognize more fully and publically the validity of the apostolic ministry. Let us free today's apostles to move and act boldly in the execution of their ministry. God calls and ordains His apostles, and we in the church need them as much today as ever before!
It is my hope that we will more and more see, recognize and publically support God's apostles at work, "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." (Eph 4:13 NIV)
3 The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume 1, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Mich., pages 202-204.
4 NIV Bible Commentary Volume 2: New Testament, Kenneth L. Barker & John Kohlenberger III Consulting Editors. Zondervan Publication House, Grand Raids, Mich. Page 1141.
5 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Fredrich, editors, Abridged in One Volume by Geoffrey Bromily, Copyright 1985 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI pages 70-74.