by J.R. Woodward
I would agree that apostles are founders of new works, “sent ones” to Unreached People Groups. They understand that their calling is to make disciples of all nations and thus are willing to cross all kinds of barriers to join God in the redemption of all things. The question is: Do we need to focus and narrow our understanding of apostles in order to distinguish apostles from evangelists? Or do we need a more robust understanding of apostles that takes into account the different ways these people-gifts might operate in the Body of Christ for the sake of the world? I would argue for the latter.
While there is clearly a need for more people to answer God’s call to the 10/40 Window, it is important to recognize that North America has become home to the fifth largest mission field, to the point that some are saying the new going is staying. In fact, God has brought the nations to North America, and apostles are Christ’s gift to the body to help create movements that will be witnesses to the nations.
I give apostles the nickname “dream awakeners” because they awaken people to join God in the renewal of all things through creating a discipleship ethos where they multiply leaders, missional communities, ministries, churches, and movements of churches in order to bring the good news to the ends of the earth. Apostles are equippers. A chief way they live out their calling is by equipping all of God’s people to live apostolic lives by helping them answer the question: To whom has God sent me? What people group or neighborhood has he sent me to be a witness?
Peter understood that he was sent to the Jews, while Paul recognized that he was sent to the Gentiles. Peter’s role as an apostle was focused on helping his fellow Jews understand that God had chosen them—not to be exclusive beneficiaries, but to bear the blessing for the sake of all nations. In many ways, he sought to recalibrate his people to join God in his mission to the world, to live out their Abrahamic calling. Paul, on the other hand, was more of cross-cultural pioneer who didn’t just plant churches, but founded a movement of churches bent on being witnesses to the nations.
Examining how Peter and Paul lived out their apostolic vocations helps us go beyond a one-dimensional understanding of apostles. If we were to study out how the Apostle John lived out his calling, we would find yet another example of how these apostolic vocational callings, while having much in common, are diverse, and thus expand our understanding of the role of apostles.
J.R Woodward is co-founder of Kairos Los Angeles (kairos.la) and the Ecclesia Network (www.ecclesianet.org), coordinator for the V3 Tribe (v3churchplanting.org; a missional church planting network), author of Creating a Missional Culture, PhD student at the University of Manchester (U.K.), and serving at The District Church in Washington D.C.
EMQ, Vol. 49, No. 2, pp. 336-337. Copyright © 2013 Billy Graham Center. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.