This is part 2 of a series of 4 articles covering the 5Fs that the apostle brings to the church. These Fs are words I have assigned to Biblical principles I see in Scripture. There are obviously not 5 Fs outlined in the Bible. These 5 Fs are foundation, father, family, fulness, and freedom. In this article, we talk about the F of foundation the apostle brings to the church. Here are links to the previous article.
…you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. Ephesians 2:19-20
The apostle has a foundational message and must live a foundational lifestyle.
The apostolic brings a foundational message.
“Apostolic ministry lays the foundation of Christ’s Lordship and the vision and values of His kingdom. We all then build upon that foundation.” Rice Broocks“Every Nation in our Generation”, pg. 192.
The apostle’s mandate is to build a church that points people to Jesus, since He is the cornerstone. The cornerstone is an older building concept. It was the first stone laid on a building that was then used to keep the rest of the building built correctly. If an apostle is assigned an existing church, they evaluate programs, activities, and messages to see if they point people to maturity in Jesus. They will remove or redefine as necessary according to the directions of its head – Jesus.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Romans 8:14 (KJV)
The life of an apostle often looks different from what we think of in Christian ministry. Since they are a foundational gift, they have to live a foundational lifestyle to carry out their mission properly. Here are 5 characteristics of a foundational lifestyle:
A foundation of a building is hidden. It is covered up with flooring, walls, doors, furniture, etc. So as a foundation gift, you will eventually be hidden too as others build on the foundation you laid. Hidden means you are behind the scene. Hidden means you are not the one out front.
Apostle Paul wrote most of the New Testament and started at least 7 churches and he died in a jail cell. He knew his glamor was in heaven. May God raise up more apostles who know how to die, for the church needs them.
I’ve (Paul) worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews ‘thirty–nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather. 2 Corinthians 11:23b-27 (The Message)
As a foundation gift, you are to turn over your work for others to build on. Many apostles don’t because it is hard to give up the attention and take a back seat. So if you are called to be an apostle, can you build something, step back, and let other people run with it and get the corresponding attention?
He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. Ephesians 2:20-21a (The Message)
And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:28
The order of a ministry should first be Jesus calling an apostle to build something according to the vision (the cornerstone) He gives him. Second step, the apostle builds a foundation with the prophet according to this vision. Third step, other 5 fold gifts come alongside the apostle and prophet and build the walls, doors, and ceilings on top of the foundation and cornerstone. These represent the visible programs, anointing, and outreaches of the ministry. Finally, the ministry is in full bloom as it goes out to the people in the style and size that was determined when the cornerstone and foundation was set. The building or the ministry has been built.
At this time in America, the gift of Apostle is often seen as a glamorous and public ministry. But this doesn’t seem right to me if the gift of the apostle is to be the foundation. In a real building, the foundation gets covered over with flooring – wood, carpet, or vinyl. The foundation is always there setting the orientation, width, and height but nobody, sees the foundation directly anymore. Most people never think about the foundation of a building again. The only time some one thinks about the foundation is when the floor is creaky, crooked, or not stable. This does not mean the apostle’s job is not important. It is very important! Besides the cornerstone, it is the most important feature of the building. It determines its values, characteristics, orientation, and many other things. The whole building or ministry is influenced by the foundation whether they realize it or not. But it is hidden!
Over time, an apostle should be seen less and less as the rest of the building is built. If you are wanting to be an apostle to be seen you do not understand the role. The apostle is usually only in the public regularly at the beginning of a work. You can see this pattern in the apostle Paul’s life where he would set the foundations in new churches he started and then leave. But he was always a father, counselor, and guide to that church for the rest of his life. The foundation never leaves and doesn’t come back. He can’t or the building would collapse, but his role changes overtime. The apostle is a platform for others – not the other way around. He lays the foundation for other leaders and 5 fold gifts to build a building on that is then occupied by the people.
You are always a part of the work, but as the church grows you are no longer the main public figure. But your work lives on through others if you laid the foundation well. You will get approval in heaven. In heaven, you will see how your ministry influenced people far beyond what you would have done if you hadn’t allowed others to build. The apostle is to build the platform that Jesus wants others to build on top of.
So can you say that the apostolic gift is one that should be walked on? In a matter of speaking yes!
A true apostle lays down his life and gifts in the foundation. The main people that will know his sacrifice is not the people in the ministry but those few leaders that are nailed to the foundation as walls built on top of it. Few people walk into a beautiful building and say, “This place is great, I can feel a firm foundation under my feet!” Instead, they say something like this, “Wow! I love the color you have painted the walls!”
This is a test of humility for the apostle, to over time get out of the way, and let the other members who are the walls, doors, and ceilings assume the majority of the public duties.
Realize you walk in a powerful gift that influences many but not in the traditional sense. You influence the world by influencing a select few, that then influences the world. Realize the boundaries of your gift and don’t allow the anointing on your life to have to always be seen and in control.
Turning over your work for others to build can be one of the hardest things you do as an apostle. You don’t want others to ‘mess it up’ and the ability to let others take some of the praise for what is going on can be hard. But this is where we realize we are a ‘part’ of the building God is building and not the ‘building’. An apostle realizes that others may get more ‘glory’ for the building than they do. This is where we build for our Lord to get credit and with a view towards eternity and its rewards. Being an apostle is understanding the great role we have but also it’s place.
This doesn’t mean the Apostle doesn’t have an influence. But his influence is as a foundation gift. Sometimes the walls and doors can ‘overhang’ or go in the ‘wrong direction’ thereby not reflecting the foundation and cornerstone. At that time the Apostle would come in to ‘straighten’ up the walls. But this must be done with much prayer and a heart for what is God building and not for wanting to be seen. You will see Paul doing this in almost all of his letters. God has given the apostle grace for the platform but very rarely in all the details. The platform is the core values and emphasis of the ministry.
3. Not Greedy
1 Thessalonians 2:5-12 gives guidance on how to lead as an apostle.
You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed–God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:5-12
I summarize this passage on how to lead from the great apostle Paul:
1. Not greedy and don’t lead for the money or be a burden
2. Gentle like a nursing mother
3. Don’t seek praise but encourage as a father encourages his children
4. Share your life with others along with the gospel
Are you willing to give at all costs and not be paid for your time? Being an apostle costs you much more in time, money, and reputation than you ever get back. Here is another passage from apostle Paul.
Still, I want it made clear that I’ve never gotten anything out of this for myself, and that I’m not writing now to get something. I’d rather die than give anyone ammunition to discredit me or impugn my motives. If I proclaim the Message, it’s not to get something out of it for myself. I’m compelled to do it, and doomed if I don’t! If this was my own idea of just another way to make a living, I’d expect some pay. But since it’s not my idea but something solemnly entrusted to me, why would I expect to get paid? So am I getting anything out of it? Yes, as a matter of fact:the pleasure of proclaiming the Message at no cost to you. You don’t even have to pay my expenses. 1 Corinthians 9:15-18 (The Message)
I do believe we need to bless those who work among us, but when you are the foundation starting things it usually takes a great price.
4. Only Build 1 Way
Build the Way the Cornerstone Jesus Wants
This is harder than you realize. One of the main challenges of the apostle is to ignore their own desires and ambitions. After they filter out their thoughts, they have to filter out the desires of the surrounding people. While a good leader listens to others, the chief direction comes from Jesus. This sounds so spiritual, and it is. But it gets hard when the chief cornerstone wants you to build something neither you nor anyone else wants to do. This is the time the apostle earns his title in governing. It is easy to govern when everyone wants what you are doing.
Apostles don’t set the agenda. The foundation greatly influences how the ministry goes. But he must build the foundation around the plans that the head of the Church – the Cornerstone – Jesus wants built. So the Apostle does not get to determine the foundation orientation, size, and depth. He must build according to what he is resting against – the wishes and plans of the Cornerstone. This requires unselfish ambition.
One of the greatest enemies of the Apostle is selfish ambition. There is good ambition and selfish ambition.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
Good ambition is unselfishly wanting Jesus to get set in the proper place and He be glorified forever. Good ambition is ambition to see Jesus get all. Unselfish ambition is building for our name and plans to be promoted. This is usually unconscious but it is a great enemy. We must be continually examining our motives and comparing the plans to what does Jesus want. Selfish ambition has to be regularly killed.
Moses was an Old Testament foreshadowing of a New Testament apostle. But note, he did not get to build the Tabernacle according to His desires. He had to stay so close to God that He thoroughly understood what God wanted to build. Moses then communicated and organized these plans with the people. This is a good model for today’s apostle.
Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you. Exodus 25:8-9
Paul, followed this same method. He did not decide what kind of church to start. He was the one that had to seek the heart of the Father and build according to his plan in each place God wanted him to go to. I personally doubt that the Jewish, Sanhedrin member, synagogue going background of Paul would have built some of the types of churches we see in the epistles on his own vision.
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:6-10
Take your human need for ambition regularly to the Lord. Realize you are building His kingdom – He is the cornerstone, not you. Ambition, when you are building for him is good, selfish ambition is destructive. This is a heart and motivation issue. At first, only you will know your heart, but it will be revealed by your fruit over time.
Jesus should be the cornerstone of every ministry or building. The cornerstone Jesus sets for every ministry is unique and determines the ministry’s purpose, style, size, depth, and width. The apostle and the prophet then builds a foundation around this cornerstone that the ministry or building will set on. A true apostle does not copy what is built somewhere else. He can learn from others, but in the end the building he has been called to build will have some uniqueness in it. Jesus loves variety and does not build all the buildings the same. Each building has a unique calling and purpose and the building will reflect that.
5. Builds a Team Not a Hierarchy
One of the main jobs of an apostle is to put together a team. The team must have members of the 5 gifts given by Jesus to the church.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13
Notice the 5 results that God wants the Church to walk in – the people know how to serve, unity, knowledge of Jesus, maturity, and and walking as Jesus walks. These 5 results will not happen without all 5 gifts – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. There is no way 1 man could ever be gifted enough to bring about these 5 results by himself. It takes a team. As an apostle you are primarily responsible and gifted to help identify, place, and direct this team. One of the gifts of the apostle as a foundation gift is the ability to recognize the other offices in people. This makes sense since people will be building on what the apostle is doing.
For simplicity of writing I am calling these 5 find gifts ‘Jesus’ gifts. They are frequently called 5-fold gifts. There is nothing wrong with this phrase, but I prefer Jesus’ gifts better because the word ‘fold’ is not in the Bible. In addition, it reminds us that Jesus is the head of the church and these 5 gifts are under him to carry out his will.
Ephesians 4 lists the 5 Jesus gifts to mature the church. Notice it is plural – gifts not a gift. This means that to meet the goal of maturity it requires all 5 gifts. This is not a 1 man, 2 man, 3 man, or 4 man job. One of the main goals of an Apostle is to put to together a team–a group–the second G. A group of Ephesians gifted ministers working together in unity and precision. This is not an easy job. Wherever the team is not complete, there will be an area in the people that will not be mature. The apostolic gift must resist the urge to have to know and do it all. They must know when to delegate, trust, and allow others to grow in their gift.
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles. Matthew 6:12-13 NIV
Your first task is to find people called to be one of Jesus’ gifts, who then want to be a part of the vision God has given you and are team players. There is a lot of work in that last sentence. The work of an apostle! You will need much prayer, books, and wisdom. It takes years to get it working well. This is not a quick pick people out, meet, and do it. You will have the inevitable turnover, character and skills development.
I am a personal believer that most of the group gathered around you will have to be matured, guided, and taught by you before they can turn around and help you lead others. Sometimes God is gracious and trained people show up, but that has been rare in my experience.
An apostle building a group must drop the super man mentality and realize they need others. They also need to understand what each gift does. This is harder than you may think. In a Christian culture where the ‘pastor’ does everything, do we know what Jesus thinks the pastor should do in Ephesians 4? This requires a rethinking at a fundamental level. You then have to teach what each office does to everyone else.
It is imperative to realize that governing through Jesus’ gifts is more of a round table approach than a hierarchy. It is based on the concept of roles and not positions. The question is not whose position is responsible so much as to which gift is best suited for the task. Therefore, it is important to understand the purposes of each of the 5 Jesus’ gifts. Yes, people have positions, but we need to give positions based on the role that Jesus gave them and not just fill a position. This allows for maximum anointing and efficiency.
We will discuss the second F of Father in the next article.