I am given all authority and power in heaven and on earth. Therefore I send you to the nations to make disciples out of them. Ma 28:18b-19a
Lately, I have been talked to about apostolic centers quite often. Most of the time, apostolic centers have been compared to local churches, and questions arose as to the different, complementing callings of local churches and apostolic centers. Let’s have a look on what sets such an apostolic center apart.
First I thought that the „center“ part was pretty clear, but I will say a few words to that later as well. For now, let’s have a closer look at the word apostolic.
Actually, we are going to start with the noun apostle and it’s roots. Apostolos means to send or to be sent. Just as Jesus was sent by the father, he sent us. An apostolic centre therefore has to do with sending.
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. … through whom [Jesus Christ] we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations. Rom 1.5
But before Jesus sent out the disciples, he lived with them for more than three years. He taught them, invested in them, equipped them. Then he trusted them with the church.
But before leaving he gave them gifts. His gifts? People. People with special anointings and callings. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers.
Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” … And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers. Eph 4:8.11
Paul, an apostle— not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. Gal 1:1
And here we find the word again: apostle. This time as a noun.
Apostles in ancient Rome where very important people with great authority. When Rome conquered a province, the army usually went on to the next. When coming back, they realized that the people had gone back to their way of living, their culture. Sounds like some evangelistic crusades, when the evangelist returns after some time and the same people give their life to Christ once more, having lived their old life again in the meantime.
This is where the Romans sent apostles.
Apostles did not come on their own. They brought with them an „army“ of craftsmen, artists, merchants, philosophers, teachers, politicians, you name it.
And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 1Co 12:28
They founded cities and trading places, public baths and theaters. They brought Roman culture and way of life and thus bound the province to the Roman empire.
Apostles were sent by the senate or the caesar with great authority. Just like Jesus was sent by the Father to establish Kingdom culture on earth with great authority. And just as the Father sent Him, he sends us.
But as I said: apostles rarely come on their own. To do their task, they need others. God gave men many divers gifts and abilities, and each of them is a part of the puzzle.
Back to the five gifts Jesus gave to the church. He gave them, so everybody could develop their abilities and giftings, to become what God planned for them. So all could contribute to the task to establish and strengthen the Kingdom of God. Here.
The five are not called to do everything on their own. On the contrary: it is their assignment to foster, facilitate, sponsor, equip others and give them vital parts of the overall assignment both in the church and the Kingdom. To equip and set people free to come into their God-given calling – whether in church or not.
… to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Eph 4:12
Prophets’ main task therefore is not to hear the voice of God, but to teach others to hear more clearly. Evangelists train people to evangelize, overcoming their fear of men. Pastors show others how to care for people. And teachers teach people to learn and teach, to reach their sphere of influence without having to point people to the teacher each time they have a question. And apostles? They show people how to grow into the authority that Jesus gave us. And keep the ship on course.
Apostles – as everybody else – have a sphere of influence. It includes
- Churches: Paul founded some churches, like Ephesus and Corinth, but in others he had a totally different task and demeanor, like in Rome. He brought correction to Corinth, but sound theology to Rome.
- People: we know the relationships between Barnabas and Paul, Paul and Timothy, Titus, Silas. Or think of Barnabas, Paul, and John Mark.
If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 1Co 9:2
That is why my assignment includes you in Rome as well, who are called by Jesus Christ. Rom 1:5-6
To Timothy, my true child in the faith. 1Ti 1:2
By now, I think I have established the base ideas about the word apostle. But what about apostolic? Our first definition might be: whatever belongs to an apostle. And we would be dead wrong.
Nothing belongs to an apostle. The earth is the Lords, and all that is in it.
So what does apostolic mean? It means everything that has the same sending, the same assignment as an apostle. Of course that is the company of gifted men and women complementing the apostle, just as the merchants and craftsmen in the Roman empire. But it includes the necessary tools and provision as well – we know well that money for example has ears and assignments.
An apostolic center therefore is a place where a likeminded group of very divers people invests themselves into others to further the Kingdom by developing gifts and anointings in people and sending them out. Just as Jesus sent the disciples and Paul, and Paul sent Timothy, and told Timothy to invest himself into people that would do the same again. A never-ending story of complementation, succession, multiplication.
Now it is clear that the word center does not mean centralized. It is not even the center of the action. It just signifies location and builds a base for the apostolic team to work out of. There will be many apostolic centers in a organically grown network of churches, serving the whole body.
- Do you want to be part of an apostolic people, belong to the sphere of influence of an apostle and his team?
- Do you want to get equipped for your service and assignment, and equip others?
- Do you want to grow to become sons of God?