When I was growing up in San Francisco, we lived across the street from Golden Gate Park. And in the park, there was a mountain of stones my friends and I would play on most days. I only found out later why that pile was there.
Decades before, park leaders decided to build a castle as a tourist attraction. They went to Germany and purchased a beautiful castle and carefully dismantled it, keeping a meticulous blueprint of the placement of every stone. Stones went into crates that were shipped to San Francisco, and they were all carefully transported to the park. However, when they went to unpack the crates, they realized they had lost the blueprints, and they were unable to rebuild the castle. All that was left was a pile of stones that were eventually used to line the flowerbeds.
The story gives a picture of the body of Christ. In the Scripture, there are many passages which speak to us about the church as a building. We are living stones being built together as a spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:5). We are being built on the foundation of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11). Sadly, somehow, we've lost the biblical blueprints, and in many ways, the church of Jesus Christ has become a pile of stones. How could this happen?
In the book of Acts, the church began as an apostolic force to be reckoned with. Jesus sent us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to make disciples of all nations. But over the centuries, there was a gradual shift from an apostolic foundation to a foundation based on the pastoral gift. What began as a dynamic body where every member was functioning fully, gradually drifted into the separation of priesthood and laity. This shift over the centuries produced a spectator church filled with spiritual consumers. Living stones that were intended to have a functional position in the house became a useless pile of stones.
The protestant reformation that rediscovered the timeless truth of the "priesthood of every believer," failed to redesign church to produce this result. At the end of the reformation, a few people did all the ministry, and everyone else came and watched.
The apostle Paul declared that the church is to be built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, but we have built it on the foundation of pastors and teachers. Pastors are anointed to care and keep, but apostles are invited to train and send. Some would argue that apostles no longer exist and that Ephesians 2:20 was speaking about the original 12 apostles of the Lamb and the Old Testament prophets. But this argument contradicts Paul's later declaration that the mystery is now being revealed to His holy apostles and prophets (Eph.3:5).
In Ephesians 4, this becomes more clear in the controversial passage about the five ministry gifts of Jesus. Many believe these gifts have passed away, but the simple reading of the text indicates otherwise:
— These gifts were given at the same time (the ascension of Jesus).
— These gifts were given for the same purpose (the equipping of the saints for ministry).
— These gifts were for operation until the same time (when we come into complete unity and maturity).
I don't think we've arrived there yet, so we must assume these gifts are still in operation. And these gifts are not limited to functioning in the church but can operate in every expression of leadership in every sphere of life.
In order to shift back from a pastoral to apostolic foundation, we must first acknowledge that this change is not about titles or positions, but it is about function and fruit. Apostolic leaders have a certain approach to leading others that is energized by a vision of individual and organizational potential. The root word, apostle, means to send. A simple, biblical definition is this: An apostle is a sent one who sends others. Apostolic leaders see what is possible, and they are able to assemble the right people and resources to produce the outcome.
3 Characteristics of Apostolic Leadership
Apostolic leaders are builders (1 Cor. 3:10). They receive the blueprint of God for what they are called to build and steward the blueprint on to completion.
Apostolic leaders are trainers. They help shape each living stone to fit into the house they are building. Like spiritual parents, they raise sons and daughters into fruitful maturity in Christ.
Apostolic leaders are mobilizers. They unite diverse members with different giftings and capacities to work together to fulfill the purposes of God.
It's time to raise the leader-level of the body of Christ, so we can fulfill the ministry of Jesus on the earth. This is why Leader's Alliance exists. Visit leadersalliance.org.
Editor's Note: 3 Characteristics of Apostolic Leadership is part of the Kingdom Leadership series by Michael Brodeur. Below are the previously published articles in this series.
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