Apostolic Character #1 – Apostolic Evangelism #49

A new day is coming to the body of Christ, the Church that Jesus is building. It will be marked not only by an unprecedented release of God’s power and supernatural gifts, but also by a new level of reality. The Gospel message will be well received because the Gospel will be something we are living. Right now, in many places, there is a great difference between the message we preach and share and the way we live. You know, like someone who is 150 pounds overweight selling a new miracle diet pill that will help people lose 30 pounds in 30 days. There is a disconnect and thus no reality to the sales pitch. Many times it is the same today with the church.

A tremendous impact is released with there is a consistency between our walk and our talk, our behaviour and our beliefs. Neither God nor the world expects perfection from us – but they do expect integrity. Throughout the centuries , nothing has been more deadly to evangelism than hypocrisy. In recent decades this ‘hypocrisy bug’ has bitten many high-profile leaders in the Church. Though they may have had a compelling Gospel message, accompanied by impressive signs and wonders, their ministries were tarnished by scandals in their personal lives. They could have been noteworthy examples of apostolic leadership in the realm of evangelism, but their ministries were instead undercut by a lack of apostolic character.

You can read a lot of books on evangelism and never see much discussion about the need for apostolic character. It is easier to talk about methods and programs, activities and strategies. Yet often our methods have been find, but our ‘fragrance’ has been foul. Instead of projecting the sweet fragrance of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14), we have put out an offensive odour that hinders people from receiving our message. To make things worse, we are usually totally unaware of the ‘spiritual B.O.” we are carrying. Everyone around us notices the B.O. before we do.

A true apostolic perspective is concerned about the spiritual maturity and character of leaders and believers. The objective is not just to turn each Christian into a Bible scholar or someone who is adept at exercising the gifts of the Spirit in church meetings. Rather, Paul made it a high priority to see Christ formed in the lives of his disciples (Galatians 4:19). He told the Colossians of this quest to develop mature believers in Christ:

“Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ. For this I toil, striving with all the energy which He mightily inspires within me.” (Colossians 1:28-29)

A great tragedy frequently plaguing the Church is the disconnect between evangelism and discipleship. A discipleship that develops character as we move from justification to sanctification and thus become more and more like Jesus. Those who are passionate about evangelism (and, as apostolic people we all must be) are often unconcerned about bringing the converts to maturity in character.

Apostolic evangelism bridges this disconnect, linking passionate evangelism to effective discipleship. It recognizes that either one by itself is incomplete. It recognizes not only the priority of seeking the lost, but also of forming the converts into the image of Christ so that they live their lives according to what they believe – when their behaviour and their beliefs line up. Paul spoke of this in very confident terms, saying he as convinced God would complete the good work He had begun in the believers (Philippians 1:6). In fact, Paul said of believers:

“For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the first-born among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30)

13 Essential Characteristics of An Apostle #4 – Apostolic Evangelism #48

As this part of the teachings on apostolic characteristics draws to a close, let’s look at the remaining three of the 13 characteristics that we are to look for in a genuine, tested and true apostle (and his team).

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.

13 Essential Characteristics of An Apostle #3 – Apostolic Evangelism #47

As we continue our look at the 13 essential characteristics o an apostle and thus an apostolic team let’s remember that this is important because Jesus is building His Church. As He does so there is a biblical pattern that has been established but ignored in the majority of the work being done today in church planting. The Bible states in 1 Corinthians 12:28 that in the church “first apostles…” As well, Ephesians 2:20 states that apostles form part of the foundational work needed to plant the Gospel in new territory and to form a strong foundation upon which Jesus then builds His Church. So, with this in mind, let’s continue to look at several more of the characteristics essential in the life and ministry of an apostle today.

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.

13 Essential Characteristics of An Apostle #2 – Apostolic Evangelism #46

Apostles have a number of characteristics in common with each other. Previously we looked at four of these distinguishing character traits…
1< They have a tremendous visioning capacity 2> They know how to bring others to a place where there is ownership of the ministry
3> Apostles have a real heart for the lost and so relate regularly and easily to the lost
4> They are effective at building relationships within their community

Let’s look at four other characteristics…

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.

13 Essential Characteristics of An Apostle #1 – Apostolic Evangelism #45

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.

Paul’s Advice – Apostolic Evangelism #44

I believe Paul would have a fair amount to say to the Church today. First he would comment lovingly that if we really are apostles or prophets, it is likely that someone will figure it out without reading it on our business card. We need more people functioning with apostolic and prophetic impact, and fewer people worrying about having the titles. Paul never called himself “apostle Paul” making his call from God and his role in the church into a ‘title.’ He recognized that it was a job description and so he would write “Paul, an apostle of The Lord Jesus Christ” or simply call himself a bond-slave of The Lord. (Romans 1:1)

Secondly, he would without doubt warn us about the false notion that apostolic ministry is characterized by prestige and honor. He would also point out that apostles are likely to be persecuted, slandered, and treated as the scum of the earth (1 Corinthians 4:9-13; 2 Corinthians 6:4-10)

Perhaps we have heard or read so much on the mighty exploits of the original apostles that we have elevated the apostolic role to a position far higher than God intended. In the biblical record, apostles certainly were dedicated and marvellously gifted ministers – but they also had fears, flaws, and shortcomings, much like many of the men we know in ministry today.

Thirdly, Paul would emphasis the need for apostles in the church today. As he wrote so many centuries ago – apostles are foundational in the Church (Ephesians 2:20) and lead the work of planting the Gospel so The Lord can raise up new churches (1 Corinthians 12:28). He would let us know that God is raising up apostles to serve His Church – and that, if we are wise, we will recognize our need for this role and the input and wisdom these men bring to the work of the Kingdom and the Church. Discernment will be needed, for true apostles are unlikely to come with halos or with the word ‘apostle’ engraved on their letterhead.

Fourth, that the Church desperately needs to regain its apostolic heart – a heart that breaks with compassion for a lost world. Stop playing church and start fulfilling the mandate given to the Church by it’s Founder and Hear to “go into all the world and make disciples.”

So, where are the apostles today? Many with apostolic gifts have purposely steered away from describing themselves with such a lofty term. They may even be serving in more traditional roles, such as a denominational bishop or district overseers. Others have adopted an uncontroversial designation such as ‘church planter’ or ‘church consultant.’ And some ministers known to us as pastors or missionaries may actually have apostolic callings. However, because the role is not recognized in the circles that they travel they have chosen to simply not use the role designation.

Many of the ‘coming apostles’ are still in the crucible of training. Others called to apostolic ministry have chosen the ‘Hollywood version” and gone the way of seeking fame and fortune. Still others have tasted of the adversity and hard work that being an apostle entails, and have backed away from their calling. But God is calling out and raising up apostles in every nation so that the Church can rise up and bring honor to The Lord and people into the Kingdom.

The Scriptural Role of Apostles #4 – Apostolic Evangelism #43

Many today have been taught that after the apostle John dies, the “apostolic age” officially ended and we entered the “church age.” They teach or, at least, imply that therefore all valid apostolic ministry ceased. This view is based on two wrong assumptions.

The first of these assumptions is that the apostolic role was limited the the original 12 apostles chosen by Jesus. A careful reading of the New Testament will show that additional leaders are also referred to as apostles including Matthias, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Andronicus, Junias and Epaphroditus. The original 12 indeed are said to have a special role in God’s purposes (Revelation 21:14; Matthew 19:28), but that certainly does not mean they were the only apostles.

The second assumption is tat there is no need for apostles today. This objection can best be answered by looking again at the list of functions of an apostle (see the previous few blogs under the heading of “The Scriptural Role of Apostles”). Are the functions still relevant today?

1> Penetrating unreached areas. Although the Gospel has gone out to practically every nation, there are still thousands of unreached people groups that, because of geographical or linguistic isolation, have never even heard of Jesus Christ.

2> Church planting and foundation laying. God-gifted, church planting apostles are desperately needed in North America and all over the world. In addition, many existing churches have been built on human traditions and opinions rather than on the solid biblical foundation that apostles can provide.

3> Appointing and training leaders. Today the apostolic function of training leaders has been largely replaced by seminaries and Bible schools. Appointing the leaders of local churches generally has become a matter of congregational voting, selection by denominational hierarchy, or the increasingly common practice of aspiring preachers simply starting their own churches and appointing themselves as the pastors.

Whether they attend seminary or not, today’s young leaders are unlikely to receive the type of personal training and character development that Timothy received from Paul. As in the first century, there are countless tutors today, but the cry of the hour is for true spiritual fathers and mentors (see 1 Corinthians 4:14-17).

4> Addressing unresolved problems. Almost every church encounters an impasse that is difficult to resolve without outside assistance. Who is available to furnish local pastors with wise input about these thorny church problems?

There is still a need today for trans-local apostolic men who work with apostolic anointing and authority who can provide accountability and pierce through blind spots, ignorance, and pride. We still need leaders able to courageously apply the Word of God to areas of sin, imbalance, false doctrine, and division.

5> Promoting unity. The disunity of the body of Christ is still a scandal that robs us of the full blessing of God and undercuts our testimony to the lost. Ministers who have genuine apostolic hearts are burdened for God’s people to care for each other as a united family, ready to reach the world as a united army.

Local congregations frequently are deficient in seeing the “big picture” of the Church around the world and sensing the Lord’s desire for His body to be functioning interlinked. This vision of unity is sorely needed in the Church today, and only those with apostolic insight and authority have the necessary gifts to bring it about in a significant way.

6> Demonstrating and imparting the supernatural. We live in a day when God is working mightily to restore signs and wonders to the Church. For too long we have relied on our intellect, human wisdom, and persuasive words – the very things Paul refused to put his confidence in: “And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

Today more than ever – because of our society’s increased interest in Satanism, the occult, and New Age practices – the Church needs to be able to display and dispense God’s power. The Church without the apostles is like a car without all of its cylinders functioning: It may still move, but it is likely to sputter and lack the power it is suppose to have.

We would be horrified if someone suggested that pastors, teachers and evangelists were no longer valid ministries of the Church. Nevertheless, we often allow ourselves to be robbed of the ministries of apostles and prophets, which are found in the same list of ministries in Ephesians 4:11.

The Scriptural Role of Apostles #3 – Apostolic Evangelism #42

As we continue looking at the role that apostles fulfilled in the early Church we come to the last of the six major tasks that stand out clearly…

6> Demonstrating and imparting the supernatural dimension of the Kingdom of God. Even though it is God’s intention for ALL believers to heal the sick, cast out demons, and perform miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit (Mark 16:17-20), apostles in particular are to bear this credential (2 Corinthians 12:12)

It is noted that God did extraordinary miracles through Paul (Acts 19:11), implying the presence of supernatural manifestations greater than “ordinary” miracles. And it is said that “with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of The Lord Jesus.” (Acts 4:33). Not only did the apostles demonstrate the power of God, but they also imparted it in special ays to other believers (see Acts 8:4-20, 10:44-46, 19:1-6; 2 Timothy 1:6-7)

Although the first-century apostles fulfilled these six general functions we have been looking at, the apostolic role was carried out quite uniquely by each of the apostles described in the New Testament.
Peter was particularly gifted at reaching the lost
Paul excelled in teaching and building believers together into a functional expression of the body of Christ
John was an apostle with a prophetic heart. His passion was that God’s people would walk righteously and in love relationships, both with The Lord and with each other
James, the half-brother of Jesus, also was recognized as an apostle (1 Corinthians 15:7), even though his ministry was apparently more pastoral and primarily localized in Jerusalem.

Having an apostolic ministry did not automatically mean the apostle had the right to exercise full authority in all places and situations. It as a ministry based on relationship and not just on calling. Paul told the Corinthians: “Are you not my work in The Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in The Lord” (1 Corinthians 9:1-2).

Paul had been instrumental in bringing the Gospel to Corinth and laying the church’s foundation there. Because of this, he claimed a special relationship with the Corinthians that enabled him to speak to them with a boldness that might not have been appropriate with the churches in Jerusalem or Rome, both of which had been established by others.

Also, it appears that the authority of an apostle waned in certain ways after the local church was firmly established and provided with the oversight of local leaders. Although Paul intervened without apology to resolve major problems not being remedied by the local leadership (as in Corinth), at other times he seemed to assume the role of a father whose parental authority diminished after his son or daughter reached adulthood.

It is crucial to note that Paul’s heart was not to establish a chain of “we are of Paul” churches, but to see each church function under the headship of Christ (see Colossians 1:18, Acts 20:32, 2 Corinthians 11:2-3).

The Scriptural Role of Apostles #2 – Apostolic Evangelism #41

We are looking at the scriptural roles that an apostle fulfills – without which the Church will not fulfill her destiny nor complete the Great Commission to “go into all the world and make disciples.” We saw that the apostle is involved in:
1> Taking the Gospel to unreached areas
2> Planting churches upon the foundation of Christ
3> Appointing and training the initial leaders of a church

Let’s continue this brief look into the ministry of an apostle as found in the New Testament that is still applicable today…

4> Dealing with specific problems, false doctrines, or sins. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about a number of problems that had developed there: disunity, immaturity, pride, immorality, taking other believers to court before secular authorities, questions about celibacy and marriage, disputes about meat offered to idols, improper handling of the Lord’s Supper, misuse of spiritual gifts, and confusion about the resurrection.

Apostles are serious “defenders of the faith” while, at the same time, being very practical as they deal with ‘people issues’ within the church, especially within the leadership of the church. The understand what the Church of Jesus Christ is called to be and what the role of the Church is in the Kingdom and in the world. Thus, when they see behavior and lifestyles that prevent or hinder this understanding from becoming reality they become involved. Apostles are Master Builders and are deeply aware of what the Church that Jesus is building is to look like and they work hard to bring that vision to reality.

5> Promoting unity in the body of Christ. Paul addressed the need for unity on many different levels. In Philippi, he had to deal with contention between two women in the local assembly, Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2). In Corinth, Paul challenged the church’s citywide disunity, brought about when believers lost sight of the centrality of Christ and rallied around dynamic leaders such as himself, Apollos, and Peter.

In addition to dealing with unity issues in local assemblies or the church in a certain city, Paul also performed the apostolic role of networking the church regionally and around the world. “At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.” (Romans 15:25-27)

At the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, Paul and the other apostles dealt with issues which could have unraveled unity throughout the Church of that day. Other examples are found is Acts 11:27-30, 1 Corinthians 16:14, and 2 Corinthians 8-9.

The Scriptural Role of Apostles #1 – Apostolic Evangelism #40

When we look at the role of the apostles in the early church we see that they served six main functions.

1> Taking the Gospel to the unreached areas. Paul wrote to the Romans, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” (Romans 15:20) Although first-century apostolic ministry was not limited to unreached areas, a central apostolic passion was clearly to preach in places where Christ was not yet known.

2> Planting churches upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11: “According the the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation and another builds upon it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ.”

Not only were the first-century apostles engaged in church planting, but, in some cases, apostolic ministry also included helping established churches return to this scriptural foundation (see Galatians 1:6-10, 3:1-3, Revelation 2:1-5). As Judson Cornwall points out in his book ‘Introducing Jesus,’ “Despite the fact the book of Acts begins with the ascension of Jesus, there is no evidence anyone in the early church perceived Him as ‘gone’ from their midst. Jesus healed persons, raised the dead, spoke, and directed the work of His disciples in the book of Acts much as He did in the book of Luke. About the only difference was the lack of His physical presence in the book of Acts. Even when they preached, the disciples thought of Jesus as present in their preaching. In those first sermons, the apostles asked the listeners to not merely believe facts about Jesus, but to encounter through their words and actions the One who died, rose again, and lives forever.”

3> Appointing and training the initial leaders of a church. When Paul and Barnabas made their second trip to Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch, they prayed, fasted, and ordained leaders in each church (Acts 14:21-23). Paul likewise instructed his apostolic understudy, Titus, to “set in order” the churches in Crete and appoint elders in every city (Titus 1:5 KJV).