When I think about explaining the roles of apostles, apostolic ministry, “the apostolic” or however you might say it, there is a particular question that comes to mind. For me, the vital question is this:
What makes an apostle tick? Or what is in the heart of an apostle?
It is logical to pinpoint apostolic deeds and use them as a guide to guess who the apostles of our time might be. However, we know that evangelists can also perform miracles, prophets too can call down heavenly realities, teachers can also plant churches and pastors in the same way, can father people.
It seems to me that identifying what apostles do and who they are, within my scope of experience, is further advanced by defining what makes the apostolic heart beat.
What makes apostolic people tick?
To cut to the chase, I will share my observations from scripture. This is not an exhaustive study, but I think it is helpful and better still, easy to remember.
The Apostolic Heart: 4 Traits Beginning With “T”
There is the common thread that I notice amongst Jesus and His first apostolic team. These guys are motivated, compelled, infuriated and willingly vanquished with a shared expression of core values. These common themes and traits are echoed in the letters of Paul, Peter, Jude and John and also in the recorded sayings of Jesus.
1. Tender Affection
…we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.7 But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.8 So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. (1 Thessalonians 2 v 6 )
To be tenderly and sacrificially affectionate. To foster genuine emotional attachments and to long for those distant from us within the family of God. I believe this is the bottom line, the real deal identifier of God given apostleship. Paul compares himself to a nursing Mother, Jesus likens Himself to a Mother hen and Moses laments that The Lord has appointed him like a nurse to take care of disobedient kids. What does this tell us? These expressions drive home the pivotal feature that apostolic leaders are first and foremost Mums and Dads. Those who expect to clean up messes, have sleepless nights, show up when there are failures to cry about or advancements to celebrate. Not because there is a title but because there is heart connection. Tender affection is vital and foundational to a functioning apostolic culture.
2. Tenacious Concern
You find out that someone is introducing some off-kilter teachings in one of your churches and you think “well, lets see how that plays out over the next five years”. Chances are, your apostolic calling is on the back-burner. Being apostolic is not about control or suspicion or micro-managing, but about the drive to labor and fight for the preservation of sound doctrine. God Himself has given some to the body of Christ who are compelled to deal with false teaching “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4 v 14).
The apostolic expression of tenacious concern is revealed in a passion to keep the doctrine of the church healthy, the morality of the church pure and the activity of the church fruitful and effective. We see this evidenced in Paul’s frequent laments, rants, exposures and warnings regarding false teachers. (1 Tim 1 v 20) Jesus does the same. (Matt 23 v 27) Tenacious concern regarding doctrine naturally follows into open alarm regarding the morality of the church as the two are symbiotic in nature. Peter, Paul, Jesus, Jude, these guys are not afraid to speak their minds about what is being done and who is doing it. They care about training and equipping and releasing high caliber leaders. They may be tenderly affectionate, but they are also tenaciously concerned.
3. True Grit: Tearful Commitment
What do Jesus, Paul, Peter, Jude and James all have in common?? Unwavering commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I like to call it tearful commitment, because I notice that through heartache, beatings, imprisonment and up until the eventual moment of execution these guys do not shrink away. In contrast with the unfortunately canonized Demas, a one time associate of Paul who sauntered off when the going got tough because “he loves this world” (2 Tim 4 v 10). It seems to be the case that those who are called as apostles have been given a grace for true grit. In it to win it, the first apostolic team showed a kind of fastidiousness that is less visible in my scope of North American Christianity. We see how Paul chose to defend his own apostleship to the church at Corinth, not by a resume of signs and wonders, but of some jolly good beatings, sleepless nights, malnourishment, dangers and more. And besides all that, the daily, unyielding burden he carried for the church at large.
(2 Cor 11) I am not making the case that the life of an apostle is always unhappy and hard. What I believe is this: If and when apostolic life becomes unhappy or hard, there is an apostolic grace that produces joy and enables steadfastness. True calling, true grit.
4. Thoughtful Expectation
A theme I see present in the lives of Jesus, Paul, Peter and John is that of thoughtful expectation. Thoughtful expectation that soon, they could see the return of The Lord. I believe that those who are called to an apostleship have within their devotional meditation an expectation that The Lord may return in their lifetime. This produces a personal value of wakefulness, sobriety and devotion (1 Peter 4 v 7). I am not saying that apostles ought to be delivering rousing messages about the near return of Christ every Sunday, but, I see tucked into the letters of Paul, Peter and in the exhortations of Christ himself, encouragement to “watch therefore”. I believe that the apostolic heart craves the return of The Lord and produces a ministry that stirs up love and longing in the heart of The Bride. (Revelations 22 v 17).
In this atmosphere, the fruit of holiness and hope rises up and dispels the nonsensical fear that so often infects various teaching regarding End Times. I see within the apostolic writings a deliberate focus upon everlasting life to the tune of ‘heavenly rewards are better than earthly rewards”. (Romans 8v18) I believe that thoughtfully expecting the return of the Lord coupled with a healthy emphasis on eternal rewards is another hallmark of the apostolic heart.
To sum it up
Tender affection, tenacious concern, true grit (tearful commitment) and thoughtful expectation. These are some of the main themes that rise up within the apostolic heart. These traits and passions create momentum pulsing through the body of Christ bringing divine order, signs, wonders, visitations, dreams and visions, revivals and healing, sound doctrine, training and maturing, purity, unity and worship. All of this and more will become the fruit of churches where the apostolic and five-fold ministry is functioning as The Lord intended.