We can be very comfortable in the church in accepting the role of the pastor, teacher and evangelist. To some extent we’re content with the prophet until he/she says something we don’t like, but the apostolic ministry is something many of us have trouble with or simply don’t recognise.
There are three sense in which ‘apostles’ existed/exist.
First, there are those who saw the resurrected body of Jesus and were given the great commission first. We call them ‘the apostles’. I am sure you know the linguistic roots of the word simple means the ones what are sent. In that sense, Jesus was the first great apostle because he was sent from the Father and he then says to the disciples, now I send you. So there is that first pioneer apostles, which included Paul because the Lord also appeared to him and gave him that initial commission.
Second, there are apostles today. Ephesians 4 clearly says that apostles are given for the church today. Of course, not in the sense of ones who’ve seen the risen body of the Lord in front of them, but in the sense that they are called and annointed with a ministry of starting new churches and pioneering in new places with new ways, providing new wineskins for the new wine. In that way, you could say William Booth was clearly an apostle.
Thirdly, there is a sense in which the whole church has to be apostolic without everying necessarily being apostles. In the same way that not all are evangelists but all occassionally do evangelism, I feel the church is called to be ‘apostolicly’ mobile in as much as we’re all sent, we all have that commission upon us. We must be boldly asking the questions ‘what is it you are asking me to do?’ I believe God may have an apostolic task for many of us in the sense of there being some thing he is asking us to do to advance the gospel in the world to stretch the church out and lead it to widen the skirts of its tent (thats Isaiah speak…check it out).
Why do I say all this? I guess Tracy and I are both sensing we’re about to be stepping out on an apostolic assignment. We’re leaving behind our key roles as teacher/pastor (Tracy) and prophet/evangelist (me) to a place which is clearly apostolic. All that God has been teaching us both in recent days and months has fuelled apostolic passion in us both. The appointment to Torry has finally made sense of all that we’ve sensed we’ve been called to begin building. Its an ideal place for creating new wineskines because there is very little at Torry at the moment.
I smile at the ‘the Clarks have been demoted’ school who still live in the world of moving from small corps to larger corps, to medium corps to big corps. I think my mother-in-law (and maybe others) thinks we’re taking steps backwards. Actually, if ever we’ve had a sense of being sent, its now.