Friday, March 23, 2012

The Gift of Apostle Catalyzes Movement

Taking his cue from Brafman and Beckstrom,’s The Starfish and the Spider, Hirsch in The Forgotten Ways Handbook, describes the apostle as the catalyst of apostolic movements. While this is right it is not just the apostle’s personal presence that is the actual catalyst within an apostolic movement. A catalyst maintains its own integrity as it interacts with the other properties to increase their effectiveness without losing its own potency. The influence of the gifted apostle can start a catalytic reaction, but the apostle him/herself does not spread with the movement. For example, as Paul matured in his apostolic gift he traveled less, not more, staying in one place for extended times. By doing this, he let others carry the work in all directions farther than he could ever go—and his influence spread exponentially, and much further than his earlier missionary trips. This idea is elaborated on more fully in the book Journeys to Significance.

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. 


Manny said...

I truly enjoyed your fresh presentation of Paul in your book Journeys to Significance.

Question: Is it possible that Paul did have a wife and a child, which would allow him to be a Sanhedrin, yet we don't hear of them because they may have left Paul due to his new found faith?

I look forward to your next post.

Neil Cole said...

It is possible that Paul had a wife and child. That would be required to be on the Sanhedrin, but it is highly unlikely he could be on the Sanhedrin having not been from Israel but Tarsus. Even just being a good Pharisee would likely lead to this, even if not on the Sanhedrin. That does beg the question: what became of his family? No mention in Scripture so it is all speculation.

Neil Cole said...
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Anonymous said...

As someone who has helped 28 relational housechurches start over the past 23 years, I agree with what you have shared here. It is all about me decreasing and HIm and others increasing. If you plant churches that can't survive without you, you are doing something wrong.

Christopher "Captain" Kirk

Beth said...

"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."

I love this.

Joseph said...

Beautiful and accurate thoughts Neil.

Don Atkin said...

I'm living this, and it is wonderful! I'll be 77 one week from today, and am a "stay-at-home" great grandfather.

It is thrilling to have a small part in the foundation of what might be seen as a global megachurch that continues to expand via multiple generations of disciples.

Thanks for sharing, Neil!