In a recent post I wrote about the apostolic role as planter and how they love starting new things. Especially when it is new things that involve lots of new people that are checking out Jesus.
But a question arose in my head as I was writing the post:
Why does that mean you are apostolic and not just evangelistic? What is the difference?
For years I have been trained, developed and called an evangelist in InterVarsity. I had great language for the evangelist gifts and calling and I would have said everything written above is what evangelists care about. But that was because I didn’t have language for the apostolic.
All apostolic people plant things. Not all evangelists do.
“The evangelist is the recruiter to the cause, the naturally infectious person who is able to enlist people into the movement by transmitting the gospel.”
“The apostle is tasked with the overall vigor, as well as extension of Christianity as a whole, primarily through direct mission and church planting. As the name itself suggests, it is the quintessentially missional ministry, as ‘sentness’ (Latin mission) is written into it (apostello = sent one).” [i]
Trans-local vs. Super-local
Apostles are what we would call trans-local: they are generally sent outside the local group to go and plant things that are not happening. They travel outside of the local area and sphere of the mother/founding church.
Evangelists are what we would call super-local: they are generally very connected to the local sphere and founding church and help build on that. They are the recruiters and they tend to have one foot in the church and one foot outside. They make relationships with outsiders and then recruit them to Jesus and the local church.
Apostles plant new churches, while evangelists tend to build existing ones.
And when I say build I mean they recruit outsiders and lead them to the gospel of Jesus but connect them to what already exists. They help existing churches grow up and become bigger.
Planters create things that don’t exist. Evangelists recruit people to what exists.
The bug to plant and start new communities of faith is the apostolic bug and we cannot confuse this with the evangelistic. I did this for too long and it didn’t help me understand my calling better.
Evangelists are recruiters, and apostles are planters.
Now, you can be an evangelistic apostle and this is what I am. This is part of the reason it was so hard for me to understand the difference, but also why the language of the apostolic, when I finally got doused with it, really hit me and opened up a whole new world of thinking for me.
It was literally like I could hear God ten times more clearly once I finally knew what the apostolic was and how it was different from an evangelistic calling.
Here is how you can tell the difference between an evangelist and an apostle.
- Wants to go outside the local church/community
- Wants to start something new for people “outside” the church
- Doesn’t have a need or intention to bring “the new” thing back to the local community or church.
- They are just fine letting it be its own thing and/or a new church. In fact they may really prefer it.
- Would much rather decentralize and help people move out to the margins and start new things than keep building up one local community or church.
- Is often motivated to go by themself or with a team of people to go start something new completely away from and maybe outside of the local movement. They don’t feel the need for the group to back them up. There can be a “I am going to go do this whether anyone is coming or not” attitude in them.
- Wants to reach people outside the church/community but wants to stay connected to the local community/church.
- Loves sharing the gospel and promoting Jesus to people they know and beyond.
- Likes inviting outsiders to planned events or talks at the church designed for outsiders.
- Likes being in “the know” at the church/community, but wants to spend most its time outside the community with others not knowing Jesus.
- Wants the local community to be really high quality so that they can recruit well to it.
- Like seeing the community grow bigger and more full of new Christians.
- Doesn’t necessarily want to start a new thing or lead something. They are more motivated to troll the edges and make relationships with outsiders and help them feel welcome open to the gospel.
In a nut shell, apostolic people want to start new faith communities for people who don’t know God in areas where Jesus activity isn’t happening. Evangelists want to reach new people who are not hearing the gospel and recruit them to Jesus and communities that already exist.
Evangelists are not driven the same way planters are to start new things. And planters don’t have the ability to recruit and the gospel clarity that a lot of evangelists have.
We need them both, but lets not confuse them!
What do you think of my distinction between apostle and evangelist? What would you add or take away? Please let us know in the comments.
[i] Hirsch, Alan, and Tim Catchim. The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012. Print.