Sunday, March 04, 2007

On Being Apostolic

Balin tells incredible stories of what happens in his prison ministry. He is a little too charismatic for me and this makes me skeptical about some of his stories. In case you have not run into it before let me just say that charismatics generally have really poor math skills. So, when Balin tells me that he regularly gathers four hundred women together and preaches to them and that they have a small building that they call a church and that they have around twenty five or so women who regularly gather there to worship I don't take any of this at face value. One day I said, 'ok let's go to the prison together.'
Let me tell you some things about Balin. He is young. This means that in our Muslim society he has no respect because he is not married yet and has no children. He is loud and gregarious. This means in our conservative society that he must be immature, unintelligent, and ill-mannered. He is a mad man who meets everyone Jesus first and proclaims Christ in the most inappropriate ways I have ever seen in a Muslim Country.
We pulled up to the imposing prison gates and as we did the whole place came alive. Guards on top of the walls were shouting, "BALIN! Balin is here, Balin is here! Open the gates, call the director, Balin is here!" They were pretty excited to see this guy. We went in and I met with the director of the prison. He was one of the slimiest, most corrupt men I have ever met. He could not stop going on and on about how much he loved Balin and how much they appreciated his ministry with the women. We went in and gathered the women at the church. I played a couple of songs and Balin preached. It was clear these ladies knew the Word. There were a couple of really mature leaders there. Many of the guards crowded around to hear him as well. Then he called out, 'who wants prayer?' Many cried out different request. He prayed for all of them, blessed them, and we went out.

Let me add here that Balin has zero training to do what he does. But there is no one like him in the world. What he is is simple. What he does is anointed by the King. Not just anyone can get physically into the prison. Not just anyone can get permission to put up a room and call it church. Not just anyone can shine spiritual light into what I consider one of the most hostile spiritual places on earth. I believe that Balin is an apostle. An apostle specifically to the prisons of Gondor.

Well, now that we come to it what do I mean? What is an apostle? I could say that Balin is an evangelist and everyone would nod their heads up and down and say, 'hmmmm I think so too.' But he is not just an evangelist. The evangelist is a specially gifted person to be able to speak truth into the darkness of a lost soul and see it respond. I am not one and I appreciate very much those who are. I speak truth and sometimes it seems to bounce off the brick walls of men's hearts. An evangelist comes in and all of a sudden there are tears and repentance all over the place. We have all seen this. We understand this. But what then, is an apostle?

An apostle is a ‘sent one.’ He is given a specific task for breaking down barriers and he carries a ministry across the barricades that the enemy has erected to spread the light of the Kingdom in a previously dark place. The key difference for the apostle from the other ministries is the concept of barriers. Paul was sent to the Gentiles. This was cross cultural ministry. He went (physically) from where he was to a different place and culture with the Good News. Peter was an Apostle to the Jews. He was a Jew. He did not in one sense cross a barrier in that he was who he was sent to reach. But in another sense he crossed an important barrier. The Jews had rejected Jesus. Peter was ethnically a Jew but he became a citizen of the Kingdom and then was sent back to the Jews. He was in a sense re-crossing the barrier he had come across. Crossing barriers is important to apostles.

Another characteristic is the ministry. A preacher can preach anywhere. An evangelist evangelizes everywhere he goes. But they are not apostles. An apostle brings a ministry with him. He is not just a team leader. He is a team empowerer. Because he is called to cross the barrier he is given the authority to do the job that the King has called him to. As with all gifts in the Kingdom it only has meaning as it is given away. An apostle gives his authority to others that they may expand the ministry. I have seen this many times in my own ministry here in Gondor. I go out with the team. We meet with the local leaders in the village we go to. I bless them and give them my authority. Then I move on and get out of their way. If I don’t go in the first place the team is powerless to act. If I stay too long I keep the power to act to myself and leave the team ineffective. I need to go, bless, and get out of the way. We see this over and over again in Paul’s ministry. He lands in a place, shares the Good News, then (usually because of persecution) he gets out and leaves the work for Timothy, Titus, and others. In my initial story above this is Balin’s greatest weakness. He has trouble sharing his authority and acts alone too often. We are working on this.

In our Southern Baptist theology the role of the apostle is not understood or even rejected as unnecessary. This has hindered us greatly in understanding our roles as the King has assigned them. In the IMB we have guys called SC’s or Strategy Coordinators. The original seven SC’s were all apostles. Since that time I believe we have lost our way in appointing and training SC’s but I am probably exceeding my authority in judging such. Never the less, God is raising up apostles to cross the final barriers that exist on this earth. We live in exciting times as the Kingdom is expanding in unprecedented ways around the world. Apostles are needed. Let’s pray they rise to the challenge.

What I have written here I have not seen in print anywhere else. If anyone has better ideas please share them. If you have concerns with what I have said I would greatly welcome a dialogue in the comments section.

9 comments:

GuyMuse said...

Very interesting post! You are right in saying that this is not a common discussion point in SBC life, but is crucial if we are to be out reaching the nations. I agree with you, not all SC's are apostolic type workers. There is a lot of misunderstanding of what/who an apostle is. You do a good job at illustrating one, and describing them in your post. The "empowering" aspect is especially important and the idea of one being able to identify and get around the natural barriers is also interesting.

What we need to be doing is identifying the apostles in our midst, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, the teachers amongst us and figuring out ways to team these people for a more effective ministry. We need to be less corporation, hierarchy oriented, and more geared toward the apostolic functioning we see in the NT.

S.A.M. said...

I have learned that we are not only to be M's where we are, but we are also to mobilize, and encourage others who feel the call. I have experienced this with leaders in this area of my life, and it is partially the reason I am where I am. As you have read, I am not in the field yet, but I look forward to putting all I am learning from the experienced M's in the field. We all need to share what is working and not working with each other in our areas.
SAM

S.A.M. said...

By the way, Tim Patterson's blog- Travle Light- gives a good strategy about CPM's. It may link with what you are writing about here.
SAM

Strider said...

On Being Apostolic is more than just about a strategy or a methodology. We are totally up on the CPM methodologies. They are very helpful. But what I am trying to get at is the spiritual authority that is given according to Ephesians 4. We understand- well, sort of- Pastors, Teachers, and Evangelist but we have no theology in our SB tradition for the Prophet or the Apostle. Paul seems to think we need all of these. Since we have been sent out as Missionaries- the Latin word for Apostle- I am trying to recover this concept of Spiritual authority.
Thanks Guy and SAM for commenting- let's keep seeking. As I look back over this post I feel there are many more concepts to be covered before we have a full picture. I sense another post on this coming soon....

Anonymous said...

Hey Strider, I've never even thought about the differences in the above. I suppose the tendency to simplify has been my rule of thumb for a while, but I did enjoy how you illustrated in this post! There are clear differences and God uses each one in his infinite wisdom if man will learn to listen TRULLY LISTEN to HIM and not themselves. Also I've noticed you are using more and more on Paul hubby has strong opinions on him, in short he thinks he got too carried away with works he was human as we all are. Angie. Sorry I have not been around in a while.

Strider said...

Angie- There is no secret to understanding Paul. Our model is Jesus. If you read Paul through the lens of Jesus he will not steer you wrong. Scripture is dependable. If you read Paul to legalistically make a point out of the context of Christ I suppose you could prove anything you want to. Many have and do.
Jesus is my model for how to be a missionary, an apostle. Paul was the first one to take those ideas on the road so we have much to learn from him!

Anonymous said...

Strider, This makes for very good conversation, as Don and I have discussed over the years he (Don) has major issues on Paul. One of my issues is how he referred to women in my opinion Jesus was totally opposite. Please do not misunderstand neither Don nor myself are looking for an arguement we just believe everyone has their own interpetation no matter how hard anyone tries the human aspect always manages to get in even with Paul. Sometimes it is hard to respond totally in here because I always wanna keep it short but there is much more on this subject that could be said all of course in a respectful way! :) Angie.

Todd Nelson said...

Strider,

I think you're on to something here, despite Bart's protests and prohibition on his blog about using the word "apostle". And I think SBs would do well to address this topic.

I have come to understand the modern-day role of apostle as one who, called and gifted by the Lord, pioneers into new territory and "fathers" a movement, specifically a church planting movement (John Wesley, John Wimber?), but perhaps some other evangelistic ones as well (Bill Bright?). And BTW, if the title is used, it should be one conferred upon him by the ones he serves and trains; not a title he takes upon himself. (Maybe it's never used at all.)

Your friend, Balin, would fit this description if he began training others to do the work so that it multiplies. I hope that, with your encouragement, he catches that vision.

Some argue against modern-day apostles with concern over the finality of the canon. I would simply say, not all apostles wrote Scripture, and not all NT books were written by apostles.

One could define "apostle" by appealing to the various aspects of Paul's calling, his life, and his work. Personally, I think the most important aspect was God's obvious gifting and authority to "father" a church planting movement.

I look forward to another post from you on this topic.

Strider said...

Thanks Todd, I don't know when another post will come up on this subject but in our line of work it is bound to. I agree with what you have written and if you notice my last comment on Bart's blog I stole your 'not all Apostles wrote scripture thought'. Thanks.