There are many aspects of apostolic leadership. This article discusses some of the characteristics of apostolic churches that we are discovering at Relationship Church.
Concept of Family vs Membership
The apostolic is first about being a father.
Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel – (1 Corinthians 4:15 NIV1984)
“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” – (Malachi 4:5-6 NIV1984)
We often pick out a church based on the best programs, location, favorite worship type, etc. We pick and choose from a list of benefits important to us. I propose there is a better way that is about the concept of family and not joining an organization. That better way is to ask God which spiritual familydo we belong to.
God puts us in the physical families He wants. We did not get a vote who our physical father and mother was. I propose it is the same way with spiritual families. God has a place – a church – for everyone. We need to find it based on His desires for our life.
Asking God where we are to attend church and enter into community with them is a radical shift. I do believe it is consistent with God’s kingdom. If the church He leads us too does not have the programs or benefits we are looking for then maybe we are to help build them or realize that He has a more important reason for us to join.
Seeing a church group as a spiritual family radically changes the traditional ministry model. It fosters community. There are 3 stages of relationships in this order: 1st Convenience – 2nd Community – 3rd Covenant. When there is community among a group of people it means there is commitment. When I know you are committed to me in my weaknesses and strengths it will bring about an atmosphere that the world will want to be a part of. We stick together through thick and thin. This leads to covenant.
We have a lot to discover about this characteristic. One small way we live this out at Relationship Church is we have abolished formal membership. We have membership but it is redefined by people being actively involved in the life of the church. You know you are a member when you participate in the lives of others in the church. This mirrors physical family life.
Unity is Based on Covenant not Doctrine
What is the reason for unity in most protestant churches? Often it is based on doctrine – agreement on Biblical theology – a statement of faith. This comes from the origins of the protestant reformation. The protestant reformation separated from the Catholic church because of its bad beliefs. This was justified but it did sow a seed that whenever our doctrine does not agree we separate. There is a balance here, I am not advocating bad doctrine at all costs, but I propose that many times in the protestant church we have gone too far in the other direction. We gather as a community when we agree vs gather because we are a part of a group of people God has put us with.
Here is an example to try to explain my thinking; Politically I am a libertarian, but what if one of my children decides to become a communist? Communism is at the exact opposite of what I believe politically. The question then becomes am I going to break fellowship with my child? As a father I can say, “of course not.” We may have some interesting family meals together in the future but they will always be a part of my family. I will not break away from my family or choose to break fellowship.
The church needs to have the same model. It should be a place where people are allowed to think through issues without the fear of not belonging. This allows people to think and grow up instead of being pressed into a mold of thinking to belong. Biblical theology is important but we also need a place where people can come to the same conclusions on their own. Church is to be a place where we help people think through stuff, a place where it is ok to make mistakes and disagree.
This shows that people are valuable for who they are and not what they believe. This creates a safe place of unconditional love that becomes fun. I am not saying we acknowledge false doctrine but we do value the relationship above their beliefs as we openly share with one another. This concept releases creativity, uniqueness, and individual purpose. Conformity and unanimous agreement are not required.
Traditionally, the church has required that right behavior is necessary to belong. An apostolic church reverses this. We belong to a family. We talk about how to believe, then this effects how we behave.
“In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in both, charity.” – Moravian Motto
Focus on Other’s Call vs Their Gift being Used in Our Church
We have a motto that we enforce rigorously in our church;We use the ministry to enrich people, we don’t use people to enrich the ministry.
This means we focus on people’s calls. This means helping people find who they are, what their purpose is, and where they are to do that purpose. We don’t focus on what people can do for our church.
We never let anyone minister because they have a good gift. We have to know them first and form a relationship with them first. Otherwise, I am treating them like a spiritual prostitute for our ministry. People are not valuable just because they have a gift they can use in the church.
A test of this characteristic is to value people’s character over their gift. Gifts are important but character is more important. An apostolic church focuses on character first and gift second in people.
The sign of success in ministry is not how many come on Sunday morning during a 2-hour period. True success is how many disciples have been trained, know their calling, and found their purpose.
This characteristic will attract people. People are looking for someone to believe in them, mentor them, and release them with no strings attached.
One way we practically apply this principle is when someone joins our church, we don’t assign them to a job or let them minister in a significant way for 6 months. During those 6 months we spend time getting to know each other and developing a friendship.
Focus on Releasing Not Gathering
Ministers without a Father’s heart gather people to watch them do their gift. This creates followers but does not release trained disciples.
Spiritual fathers – the apostolic anointing – send and release as many people from their church as possible based on the calling they have helped them find. Physical fathers don’t want their kids to stay at home forever. Successful biological parents have an empty nest with kids well-adjusted off conquering their area of the world. This is the same of apostolic churches.
Typically, ministers are judged based on their callings, gifts and ability to gather a crowd. But apostolic ministers’ success is based on who grows past them. Apostolic ministers are judged by how many people minister around them while they sit down and watch. It’s not how much I can do but how much I can empower others to do. My destiny becomes intertwined with other’s destiny.
As a Father we give away what we have. So, we end up at the bottom of the pyramid instead of the top. This is how the apostle starts and ends as the foundation.