It is the influence of the apostle that sparks the movement and gives it the wings it needs to fly throughout a region or people group. Paul even wrote a letter to a church that started under his influence (as its apostle) even though the people had never even met him (Col. 2:1). Paul’s foundation was laid without his physical presence being necessary. Hirsch does understand this as he describes the apostle as one who initiates vision and ideas, then steps back.
More than any other gift, the apostle delights most when disciples carry the work on to others, and all he or she does is designed with this in mind. The New Testament describes the apostle as a foundation layer (Eph. 2:20; 1 Cor. 3:9-13; Romans 15:20), which means he or she lays the principles down that will allow the missional DNA to carry throughout the development of the church. It is especially important to understand this quality at this time, when so many people claim apostolic authority, but in fact they expect everyone to be drawn to and directed by him or her. A foundation does not cast a shadow. It is not the most noticed part of a building, in fact it is usually ignored. That is often the response to a true apostle (1 Cor. 4:9-13). Not looking to be the center of attention, the true apostle wants others to be the messenger of the movement. For this reason, I believe that part of the apostolic genius is not so much the apostle’s own hands-on ministry, as it is his or her ability to get others to spread the message. It is not the apostle as a person, but the influence that is the true catalyst of a movement. Granted, it is near impossible to separate the two.
Every pastor should be haunted by the words of Philippians 2:12-13 which says,
"So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."
It is not just letting God work from within his people rather than from the pulpit that is haunting, but the idea that a church can be more obedient in the leaders absence than in his presence that is alarming. When we scan the terrain of American Christianity where churches are built upon charismatic personalities that struggle with succession when that leader falls, dies or moves on we realize that much has been built on something other than an apostolic foundation.
In these coming blog posts, taken from my book Church 3.0, I want to describe some elements of apostolic genius that are the foundation of movements. I will present some of the sociological principles that reinforce the ideas that I have come to believe are necessary to catalyze movements.
Please do keep in mind that I’m not presenting these ideas on this blog like some slick Madison Ave. attempt to create “buzz.” If indeed these ideas are sound than we should see ways that Jesus displayed the apostolic genius that would spread so rapidly and I am convinced that we do. We can see some of the ways Jesus Himself showed His apostolic genius by looking at how and why He initiated baptism and communion in His movement, because I believe these practices and ideas as well as some others are indeed the mark of true apostolic genius.