Seeking Initiation and Consolidation Among All Nations
Antioch Network agrees – missionaries are best sent through mission agencies. In fact, in the relatively few cases where churches can do or have done this well, they have established their own sending structures or parachurch organizations or sodalities. It is also the case that where churches have done this effectively, there is not an attitude of “we don’t need anybody else” but an attitude of humility and a heart to walk in spiritual unity with the rest of the Church – to honor and learn from, or together with, the rest of the Body. The spiritual pride that produces the “lone-ranger” mentality will not carry the spiritual authority required to penetrate entrenched walls of spiritual darkness. Having missionaries in place does not equal Kingdom breakthroughs. Antioch Network’s most expanded statement on this is in my book Loving the Church, Blessing the Nations. In my serving of churches over these years, I find one of the most difficult areas is the identifying, developing, and releasing of apostolic leaders. (We could also use the term “initiating” leaders, or “entrepreneurial” leaders.)
The process of blessing all nations must be led by leaders called by God to birth new kingdom works – to pioneer. These leaders, like all of us, are gifted by God to do what He has called them to do. These leaders, to begin with, are for the most part found in churches. Their apostolic gifting must be discerned early, then carefully and skillfully developed by older leaders who understand them. A key component to this is their character development, for gifting will dysfunction if godly character is unformed.
Church leaders can play a wonderful and crucial role in this. But so often they find this a challenge. Leaders who are gifted pastorally, or as teachers, or as administrators, can easily shut down younger leaders who are apostolic in their gifting. They don’t mean to – they aren’t “the bad guys” – they just don’t understand what is going on. Younger apostolic leaders scare them, or they don’t “fit in”. Of course they don’t! They are called and gifted of God to pioneer. They don’t fit in with our program – they have their own program!
In writing the book I began thinking I would write one chapter on apostolic ministry and how it relates to the local church. I ended up writing five! It just kept coming and coming. There is a chapter there on apostolic structures. That is my preferred term, although I am fine with the more widely-known parachurch organization, or sodality, etc. In Acts 13 when Barnabas and Saul and John Mark were sent out, they were not a local church. They were an apostolic team. This is the New Testament pattern.
There are two mega-trends in Kingdom extension among all nations – initiation and consolidation. Both have their New Testament form or structure. Initiation is done in the context of the apostolic team. Consolidation is done in the context of the local church. They both, together, make up the Church.
Of course, New Testament apostolic teams were one with the local church in koinonia – in fellowship, community and family. In our day and context we so often get these things confused. Apostolic ministry, and therefore apostolic structures, is one with the local church in koinonia, but different in purpose, and therefore in structure.
On Sunday (or whenever), everybody comes together for the family meeting. The rest of the week, everybody scatters into their own individual callings – housewife, businessman, farmer, cross-cultural church planter, etc. And these calling have their own appropriate structures.
Apostolic ministry is released through apostolic structures.