One of the key places to study the ministry of the apostle today is found in the Book of Acts, chapter 13. In the next few blogs in this series I want to look closely at Acts 13:1-5 and see what we can learn about apostolic ministry and apostles today from the work of the Church in the city of Antioch.
Many sincere Christians would vehemently contend that apostolic ministry is no longer needed in the Church today, yet they are strong advocates of missionaries being sent out to work in areas that have not heard the Gospel of the Kingdom. This is somewhat amusing, when we remember that the Greek word for “apostle” (apostolos) means exactly the smae thing as the Latin word from which we derive the term “missionary” (missionari). Both words mean “ones who are sent,” and the Latin word simply came into prominence when Latin became the standard language of the Roman Catholic Church.
Now, I am not suggesting that all ‘missionaries’ are apostles. No more than I would suggest that all those who call themselves “apostles” are truly apostles. I am simply stating that when properly used these two words – missionary and apostle – should both refer to the work of those called to be apostles today and are not two separate ministries within the Church today. And, I am not suggesting in any ay that the work that most missionaries place their hands to today is “apostolic” because a lot of it is not due to the misunderstanding of what it really means to be a “missionary” in the Church today.
Once we can recognize the apostolic nature of genuine missionary work, we can begin to evaluate modern missions from the standpoint of what the Bible says about apostolic ministry. Without this foundational understanding, how could we ever come up with with a Biblical approach to missions? The Bible says nothing about “missionaries” who are not involved in apostolic ministry because the root of the word apostle is the same as the root word for missionary – truly they are one and the same when correctly understood.
So, point #1 is simply that true “missionaries” today must be doing apostolic work. If they are not then they are neither missionaries nor apostles.
I believe that it would be good to go back to the Greek biblical word for this ministry – apostle – and no longer use the church Latin word missionary. Then we can approach apostolic ministry with a correct biblical mindset and hopefully avoid all the religious trappings that come along with the term “missionary.”