“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.”
– 1 Corinthians 3:10
Paul was a missional architect and we see this no more clearly than the way he talks to the Corinthian church. Paul saw his role as an apostle to lay framework and foundation for the church so others could carry out the mission of Jesus. Paul saw himself as a “wise builder” or “master builder” when it came to the church.
One of the main functions of an apostle is the “architect of mission” and the job here is to create, design and oversee the mission of God moving forward through a church or organization.
Think about architects in society today. They do a few things that help us gain insight into the apostolic role.
- Architects design things
- Architects lay plans and designs for buildings and structures so that life can carry out in new ways once this thing is built.
- Architects can see what something is going to look like before it is built.
- Architects have an uncanny ability to see what the final outcome will look like well before anyone else does. It is part of the genius they have. They can dream up and draw out what each room and dimension should look like so others can build towards that end.
- Architects set the framework but don’t necessarily carry out all the plans.
- Architects set the framework for the building and draw the plans. They may even oversee the work. But the architect is no the one carrying out most of the work to execute the build.
Apostles as Architects
Apostles don’t build buildings, but they do build missional communities. They are people called by God to craft and mold how a group of people are called to carry forward the mission of God in context.
Here are three things that I think apostolic architects have. Look for these qualities in the people you lead or even yourself.
1) Set the course, not just the vision for mission
Not all people who cast great vision are apostolic or for that matter architects of mission. I think the ability to lay framework down for mission to take place and be carried out is a key factor in apostolic leadership. Apostolic leaders don’t just cast vision for the ministry, the come up with or implement crystal clear strategies to get the job done. They don’t just inspire you, they show you the way to build.
One of the main ways they show you how to build is by listening to God. The receive the course from God and move forward with him. The gospel of John is full of examples of Jesus “doing what he saw and heard the father doing” and apostles help their community do the same.
I see this in great apostolic leaders like Wesley (Classes, bands, societies), in Alan Hirsch and “The Forgotten Ways”, Mike Breen and 3DM, and Dave Ferguson and CCC and New Thing. Apostolic leaders create systems and structures that help ordinary people carry out mission.
As I look backwards, one of the ways I can see this gift in myself was during my junior year. I not only served on the team to reach the dorms with InterVarsity, but I stayed up many late nights writing plans and manuals to help the dorm team reach more buildings and people. I was attempting to create a strategy that would not only give us more vision but show us the way forward in clear way. The staff was amazed that I had that much foresight. It was the apostolic in me.
2) Make things simple and reproducible.
One thing I have seen in apostolic leaders is an obsession with making things simple and reproducible. As an architect of mission, they want to see the “House” built well and by a team of people. Apostolic leaders are obsessed with the church being built and expanded and they know that if this is going to happen all people need to play a vital role. If all people are going to play then things must be simple and reproducible.
The best person I know at this is Dave Ferguson with Community Christian Church. He is phenomenally gifted at making things very simple and reproducible. The way his church talks about reproducing leaders is amazing. Spend one day there, or better yet, read his book he wrote with his brother Jon, “Exponential”, and you will get a great taste at how much they believe in movements of God and that every day ordinary people can start them. They have a simple and reproducible way of developing leaders to carry out the mission of God.
These are two of the best architects of mission I have met and read about.
3) See the rooms that need to be built before others do
One of the greatest strengths of apostolic leaders is the ability to see what parts of the church need to be built before others can see it. They are fascinated with what has not been done yet and where has not been reached. They want to get to the new area or person that won’t show up “here”. Because of this, they see with faith where we need to go and where God is moving.
I think of Hebrews 11:1
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Apostolic leaders have that insane ability to see what is not seen. God gives apostolic leaders faith for the things that don’t exist. Once again, apostolic leaders “see” what the Father is doing, and move towards that. Just like a master builder, they can map out in their minds the “rooms” that need to be built and they work tirelessly to put that on paper for others to see.
Then they motivate, train, and coach ordinary every-day people to carry that mission vision out!
Apostles are architects and they are called to be master builders of the mission of God.
What strikes you about this definition? What would you add?