Apostles have some basic characteristics that are essential to the fulfillment of the call upon their lives. These characteristics enable them to do what The Lord has called them to accomplish.
1> Visioning capacity – they need to be able to “see” what The Lord has called them to accomplish in the ministry they are currently undertaking. This ‘vision’ is part of a wider vision they will have of what the Church of Jesus Christ is going to look like in the future (the end product of the work they are undertaking for The Lord). So, they will have a vision of the local church they are working with or currently planting, a vision of the Church Jesus is building, as well as the bigger Kingdom picture.
2> They create ownership of the ministry. They are able to share their vision and the work they are currently doing in such a way that others can “buy into” the vision and take ownership of the ministry that is on-going and that they are now a part of. An apostle can share their story and their ministry is such a way that others catch the vision, realize that this is what God is currently doing, and come to understand that God wants them to have a part in the fulfillment of this vision.
3> An apostle is able to relate to the unchurched. He is comfortable relating to those who are not followers of The Lord and who may even be opposed to his work of planting the Gospel so The Lord can raise up and build His Church. An effective apostle is neither part of a Christian sub-culture that few can relate to nor has he bought into the culture that he is working to impact for the Kingdom. He does not stand out as odd and irrelevant and does not blend in so as not to be seen as someone offering an alternative lifestyle and a different set of values. As the Scriptures state, he will be “in the world but not of it.”
4> An apostle is effective at building relationships. He enjoys people and is a good listener. By listening he is showing others that he cares and that they are important to him and thus to Who he represents – Jesus. An effective apostle (and apostolic team member) can have hundreds of relationships in the community that he is reaching for Jesus. So, an apostle will not be ‘an office person’ but will consciously plan each day to include time building the relationships he has already established and forming new relationships. He will, as a result of this, be active in his community.
5> Apostles recognize the giftedness and calling that is upon people and are constantly encouraging and releasing this giftedness within the church and ministry they are establishing. Apostles are able to prophetically see the giftedness of people, their role in the body, the supernatural gifts of the Spirit the person can flow in to successfully function within their role and calling. They understand where each person “fits” within the life of the local church and equips and enables the person to fit and function where they belong.
6> An apostle is flexible and adaptable. In fact, one of their favourite non-biblical proverbs is: “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken.” Because apostles recognize that today’s church needs to be fluid because of the rapid and constantly changing culture and society in which we live – they understand that change is a constant in the life of the church, especially in a church plant.
Apostles and apostolic people find their stability in their relationship with The Lord who never changes. They do not find their identity or sense of worth in the ministry that they have or in the on-going life of the church that is being planted. They are releasing the life of God among the people and anything that does not enable or help to release and grow this ‘life’ is removed. So they travel light on the ‘organizational’ and ’structure’ side of the ministry and are very flexible thus enabling them to respond quickly and effectively to the community they are working in. Change is expected and experienced regularly.
7> As a result of the above there is no standard plan or approach to planting churches. Because each and every location is different the apostle will seek The Lord as to the way a particular area can be reached and how the Gospel will be presented. The message never changes but the methods, approach, and the ways of planting the Gospel and thus birthing a church are constantly adjusting to the target community or people group being reached.
Once the work is established the apostle and his team remain very responsive to the community. As the community changes so does the way the apostolic work is being accomplished. The mission to reach the people for Christ and the Kingdom remains solid and firm; Christ remains the cornerstone of everything that is attempted in His Name. However, the way things are accomplished remain fluid and responsive to the community.
8> A true apostle knows how to build group cohesiveness. They are never a one-man show. First, he must know how to gather a team and help them to become one – sharing one vision and one task, one hope and one plan. Withing this plan and the task at hand there are many variables and much room for creative thinking and planning, action and risk-taking. But, there is one goal, one vision, one direction, one desired end result.
This same group cohesiveness will eventually be seen in the local church that is raised up as the Gospel is planted in new territory. The leaders and members of the local church must share the same DNA and vision so as to moving together in one direction to become all that God has designed this local church to be and then do. In other words, like a city bus – this church will have a destination, a route, and a certain speed as it moves through the route making scheduled stops along the way. There will be a leader (the bus driver) and many active members but one common life being shared as they move towards a jointly shared and understood destination.
9> An apostle is committed to Church growth. An apostle understands that healthy disciples are reproducing bringing new disciples into the Kingdom and the local church. He also understands that healthy churches reproduce healthy churches. Thus, true apostles are committed to Church growth and will be constantly sharing the vision of disciple-making and church planting with everyone and anyone who will listen. A true apostolic church will also have disciple making and church planting as a vital part of their DNA. It won’t be a program that is added after the church is founded and established – it is a part of the very life and nature of the church right from the start. A church plant should be immediately planning to plant another church within a year or two of its own beginning. And, a new disciple should be taught immediately how to share their faith and influence others towards meeting Jesus and becoming one of His disciples.
10> If the apostle is married he must have spousal cooperation. Because of the amount of time and attention planting the Gospel and raising up a local church takes the spouse of the apostle will need to be completely on board with the specific task at hand. The spouse must be an active and willing participant in the work that the apostle is called to accomplish and thus an active and involved member of the initial team and a willing worker in the spreading of the Gospel into new territory for the Kingdom. This role may be limited by many factors such as the need to work to help support the household, the care of young children if a family is involved, as well as other factors such as age and health. But, the spouse must be supportive and cooperative.
11> An apostle will exercise his faith. Because of the work that an apostle is involved in by the nature of his calling, he will need to exercise strong faith. As he plants the Gospel with the hope of raising up a vibrant and dynamic reproducing local church body he will be apposed by the forces of darkness. The last thing the domaine of darkness wants is the light of the Gospel shining brightly in it’s territory. Thus an apostle and his team will need to know how to stand in faith and fight the fight of faith. They will need to seriously understand the Lord’s words; “Be it done unto you according to your faith” (Matthew 9:29).
The other main aspect of the apostle’s work is working within already existing churches laying biblical foundations. This often means repairing the already existing foundation upon which the local church was first established. Change is never easy and the apostle will need to stand strong believing God that the local leadership will respond in a positive manner to his correction and direction. Often the apostle will be involved in times of conflict and confrontation during which he will need to stand in faith knowing that he has been called to this ministry and that the Church belongs to the Lord and He will have His way with the local church even if circumstances say otherwise.
12> An apostle needs to have resilience. The dictionary definition of resilience is: the power or ability to return to the original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity. The second definition is the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.
An apostle needs to have a tremendously personal walk with the Lord that encourages him and enables him, regardless of the situation, to ‘bounce back’ and continue his work in the area of the vineyard that he is working. Because of the opposition (both spiritual and human) to his work and the intensity of the work that he is involved in – he will need to be strong and resilient. This needs to be an inner strength because he will often not receive encouragement from others or from any immediate results of the work that he is involved in.
13> An apostle needs to be intrinsically motivated. As a result of #12 an apostle will need to be intrinsically motivated. He needs to be a self-encourager if there is such a thing. He needs to have the inner strength and motivated to continue regardless of the hardships or the cost. His calling from the Lord is the source of this motivation so he needs to be seriously assured of his call and the current work that he is attempting because of his call. He will need to have the inner assurance of being called and commissioned by the Lord and empowered for the work that he is doing in the geographical area that he is working in. He needs to be a self-started so as not to rely on external things to motivate his daily ministry in difficult situations.