The third function or role of an apostle is to encourage or strengthen the church. We see this in several places in the book of Acts.
After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned again to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, where they strengthened the believers. They encourage them to continue in the faith, reminding them that they must enter into the Kingdom of God through many tribulations. Acts 14:21-22
So they traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia to strengthen the churches there. Acts 15:41
Throughout Paul’s ministry we see him strengthening the churches – both those he had a role in founding as well as others with whom he had a relationship. He did this in a number of ways.
He certainly did this when first entering an area and founding a new work – often staying up to two years to establish them in the truths of the faith.
He wrote letters to the local churches to help them understand the revealed teachings of their new faith. The letters were either in answer to questions being raised or were to give advice about a practical situation the local believers were facing. At times, it was Paul who initiated the correspondence due to a recent visit and, having seen events and situations that he needed to address, he would write to bring correction and change.
As well as writing letters – he, at times, revisited churches that he had founded and raised up or where he had previously visited and been received favourably.
In partnership with Barnabas, Paul toured through Asia Minor and revisited all the churches he had established (Acts 15:36) simply to encourage and strengthen them in their faith after working with the other leaders of the early church in the Jerusalem Council.
Acts 16:4-5 Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe. So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.
- Apostles establish churches and networks – often giving oversight to them
Because apostles are called and released with a specific message from the Lord – a revelation from the heart of the Father – God uses them to start organizations as a means of presenting and spreading their specific message.
As they travel to spread their message they will start new churches and ministries within areas where they preach and teach. As people hear their message and are saved they will then create a structure that will enable this new found spiritual life to grow and be nurtured – a local church. As the apostle moves about spreading the message other local churches are established. As the number of churches grow they then begin to oversee and work with a network of these churches that have received them and their message. The network is often made up of both churches the apostle has planted and others that have been raised up under someone else’s ministry but are looking for connection and covering.
- Apostles evangelize
Apostles are gifted and called to go into areas that have not been open to the Gospel and preach the Good News. They are also to go into areas that have heard the Gospel but are currently spiritually stagnant . They are to preach the basic ‘salvation through Jesus only’ message and see the lost saved and then discipled and planted in a local church.
Acts 13:47-48 For this is as the Lord commanded us when he said, ‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’ ” When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were appointed to eternal life became believers.
Apostles also go in to local churches that are not spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom and teach so as to bring balance and order to that local church. The apostle will teach about The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) to bring the believers back to one of the basic foundations of the faith – seeing the lost saved and thus bring correct order to that assembly.
- Apostles are to raise up leaders
These leaders will be raised up from the local church to minister both locally and, in the case of some, trans-locally.
Apostles have the anointing and the calling to see leadership giftings and five-fold ministry callings upon God’s people. As they work in a geographical area they see the grace upon people for ministry, they call them out and raise them up for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. They are set into ministry as directed by the Spirit of God and in His timing.
Some of those raised up as leaders will serve the Lord in the local church. Here they will feed and care for the sheep as well as guard and protect them from harm that comes both from within and outside of the church (Acts 20:29-30).
Part of this work will be done in the form of mentoring others who will be able to take their place on the trans-local level when their work is done. Apostles must have their ‘Timothys’ and ‘Elishas’ in ministry so that the work of the Lord will continue and expand after they have gone to be with the Lord.