Our Belief

The Shoulders We Stand On

Of course the different writers on this blog share a similar thought process on God and the five fold giftings mentioned in Ephesians, but not all of our thinking has been influenced by the same people. One of the great things about a blog that is written in community, is that you get a diversity of influences and journeys.

It has been said that we all stand on the shoulders of others.  In the same way each contributor of this blog has had our thinking influence by a variety of people.  Beau, Eric and Jon have been influenced heavily by Alan Hirsch, Dave Ferguson and Neil Cole. Another major influence for them is the masters in Evangelism and Leadership and Masters in Missional Church Movements that they are receiving at Wheaton College under Dr. Rick Richardson. Where James really looks to Dallas Willard and John Wesley, JR’s influencers include Lesslie Newbigin, John Howard Yoder, Eugene Peterson, Henri Nouwen, N.T. Wright, Richard Hayes and Roland Allen. Sarah, who definitely has a strong prophetic lean, has been influenced by many of the above but also John Perkins, Kevin Blue, Ron Sider, and Shaine Claiborne.

It is also clear that for the many of us on this blog that are with InterVarsity, the missional nature of our organization and the spirit of International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (our mother organization), has shaped us greatly into who we are.

While we stand on the shoulders of others, we seek to write in our own unique voices, taking into consideration what God is teaching us today.


Setting a Tone

As Alan Hirsch said to a few of us in class one day at Wheaton,

“McDonalds sets a very different tone than the Cheesecake Factory. One invites you to come and go quickly, and another invites you to stay and enjoy yourself. in the same way,  leadership sets tones as well”.

When you say Apostolic Leader, it creates a very different vibe/tone than when you say Shepherding Leader. One sets the tone of mission, risk, advancement while the other sets the tone of healing, hospital, and care. Just to be clear, neither are bad and both are needed.

But it is no wonder that the missional, risk taking edge of the church has really been lost in the West; the apostolic vocation has been practically chopped out of our language and church leadership. But at the same time the shepherd/pastor vocation has been propped up to the point where almost every professional ministry job in a church is called “pastor something”. It is no wonder the church is primarily talked about like a hospital for sinners and it is very caring oriented. This is the role and function of a shepherd!

But we are here to push back and say, lets be shepherds, but more. Lets release the APE vocations back into the church and be fully who Jesus has called us to be. Lets stop calling so many roles “pastor” and lets start calling many more “Apostolic, Prophetic, and Evangelistic”. Lets be the robust Church we are meant to be!

Apostolic is synonymous with Missional

Apostolic simply means “sent” and this is the fundamental place we embed this word and vocation. To be an apostolic leader, to lead and apostolic movement is simply to lead in a sent way. As the Father sent Jesus so Jesus sends us. Because we have ignored, pushed aside, and forgotten the apostolic vocation of Ephesians 4, we (the Western Church) have lost a huge part of our identity as sent people and a missional church.

This blog is dedicated to

Releasing the APE back into the church!

[check out our about page for more of our story]

We need to release the full vocations of the church into the world.

We need to release

  • Apostolic leaders
  • Prophetic Leaders
  • Evangelistic Leaders
  • Shepherding Leaders
  • Teaching Leaders

Unfortunately the church in general has focused on releasing Shepherds and Teachers, but not very well on Apostolic, Prophetic, Evangelistic vocations. Sadly, the church for the most part has cut these out of our language and practice in the Western World.

By function, Shepherds and Teachers are operational vocations. They are not catalytic by nature and they are meant to care for the believer inside the church primarily. Biblically speaking, these two vocations care for and teach the church. They are not catalytic vocations.

The Apostolic, Prophetic, Evangelistic vocations are catalytic so when we take these vocations off we don’t have much growth and innovation.  Because of this total disregard for the APE vocations in most churches, it is not a surprise to us that Churches are declining and many of these types of leaders are going to the para-church and fringe places where they feel like they can catalyze and be empowered to do so.

We will continue to explain more below, but to make it clear here as well, we are not saying any of the vocations are better than others. We need all five! We are advocating on this site to release the APE back into the church!

APEST-Curve

So what happened to the APEs in the first place?

Put simply, institutional Christianity happened. While the APE giftings are all over the New Testament and early church, once Constantine issued his edict endorsing Christianity as the religion of the state, the wider culture became increasingly “Christianized” to the point where the primary function of the church was spiritual maintenance, which is where the Shepherd and Teaching gifts shine. If everyone’s already a “christian” and our culture is “christian”, then there’s really no need for apostolic, prophetic, or evangelistic leaders anymore–we just need to hold our space and take care of what we’ve got.

[as noted in the above diagram ST vocations keep things going and operating as they should. They are not generative or catalytic by form.]

Why do we need to Release the APEs now?

Because the world around us has changed. Christendom is dead or dying throughout the West (in culture, Christianity is no longer dominate), and as a church we are increasingly confronted by a missionary task: engaging non-Christian people and culture with the good news of Jesus. While Shepherds and Teachers excel at helping Christians in their spiritual development, if we are to meaningfully engage an increasingly post-Christian culture, it will require the more generative Apostolic, Prophetic, and Evangelistic giftings (without excluding the role of Shepherds and Teachers).

Church

One way to release the APE back into the world is to start many more churches and places for people to gather in Jesus name. A church does not have to be a certain size to be legitimate. See our bullet point logic below.

“every believer is a church planter, every church a church planting church.”
-Chinese underground movement

  • every person knows about 120 people
    • if just 10% of them convert, you have a church biblically speaking
    • Now you are leading 12 people and therefore a church is in you!
  • all of us can lead a church and all of us are called to lead a church
    • Chinese say, “every believer is a church planter, every church a church planting church.”
  • Church is a group of people gathered in Jesus name. A family
    • Biblical term of church is “eclesia” = the called out ones.
      • Paul uses this amongst Greeks. The “called out ones”
        • they would sit at the city gates and talk about things like “jack was beaten last night, what are we going to do about it.”
          • they were the wise ones who would guard the city.
            • The “called out” ones exististed for the benefit of the city
              • The church is the group of people who exist for the benefit of the city.
  • when the bible uses the word “eclesia” it is seeing a movement.

Different forms of church

Paul in his writings throughout the new testament talks a lot about church (ecclesia). Often times he is talking to small churches (not much bigger than your small group) and he is encouraging them to lead. Why do we have in our mind that church has to be 200+ people with x amount of leaders to be legitimant. Many of Paul’s churches were very small and family sized.

There are four ways paul uses the word church in the New Testament

  1. local – in a house “oikos”
  2. city wide- the “ecclesia” in Ephesus or Philippi
  3. region – the church in Macedonia, etc
  4. symbolic or the theological –

We tend to forget the middle two and then we lose the apostolic and prophetic. The middle two are where movement happens.

HE HAS MADE US COMPETENT

2 corinthians 3:6

every person has been made competent in Christ for ministry and revealing Jesus in the world. We believe in the priesthood of all believers. Our encounters with God should unleash us to be revealers of Christ in the world and bring glory to his name!

The role of the apostolic leader is to be the one who builds this culture of unleashing every Christ follower. The Apostolic Leader is the architect and builder of organic systems that allows for all believers to flourish in ministry. The apostolic leader is in charge of leading forward a movement of every Christ follower bringing the kingdom. Ministry is not to be a professional driven ministry, but an ordinary person driven ministry (more to be said about the apostolic leader later). Apostolic Leaders are stewards of the gospel, custodians and nothing more than that. Apostolic can be seen as synonymous with missional.

What we are not saying

That we don’t need Shepherds & Teachers

The church needs all five vocations to be fully operating for the mission of God to be robust! By focusing on the empowerment of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist we are not saying that we don’t need pastors or teachers or that pastors and teachers are somehow less. I know it can be seen that way or interpreted that way when you focus on part of a whole. But we whole heartedly believe in the five-fold ministry that is APEST.

But we are focusing to strengthen a huge hole in the church. When a football team is weak at QB or RB, or blocking, or catching, the coach runs more drills, teaches more, and encourages the team to focus on executing that position better. We feel that God’s team is weak at APE, so we are focusing here to say, “we must get better” if we are truly going to fully push the mission of God forward. Of course we need all the other positions too! Don’t be silly!

That we are part of the New Apostolic Reformation

We are not associating ourselves with the New Apostolic Reformation and Peter Wagner. We feel the way he and they talk about  about the vocations in Ephesians, especially the Apostolic function, is off based. We do not believe that the apostolic is the highest role, but all five are equally important. We also do not subscribe to a heavy, top down authority. We believe in the ordinary, every day believer unleashing the potential of a kingdom movement through their gifts and calling. We are also not tying the apostolic role strictly to the charismatic and do not believe that apostolic leadership is fundamentally tied to the gifts of the Spirit. We do believe in the gifts of Spirit but don’t believe that the apostolic is always tied to those gifts in every situation. We believe that all people can access the gifts of the Spirit not just apostolic leaders.

That institutions are bad

“Some may consider that thinking about the church as an institution runs contrary to creating a missional culture, but the fact is that institutions shape and mold us in substantive ways and represent an element of stability.  Institutions can be an ally to movements.  The issue is not institutions; they will be with us forever.  The problem is institutionalism, when the institution takes on a life of its own and starts rewriting the story that gave it birth, or when an institution oversteps its bounds and becomes so bureaucratice that death is inevitable.  Families, church and government are good; the wrong us of them is what is bad.

The church is a living organism as well as an institution.  Institutions are necessary for life.   Miroslav Volf, with the help of Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman, defines an instutions as “the stable structures of social interaction” that develops when at least two people do the same thing together repeatedly.  With this definition it is clear the church is an institution”

(From Creating a MissionalCulture IVP by JR Woodward, Pg. 41).

If we can see transformation in the church, we have hope to join God in the renewal of all things, including other institutions.

Ephesians

[Here is a post Beau wrote on how to read Ephesians 4]

We all agree that the book on ecclesiology is Ephesians. Paul sees it as constitutional and uses it to instruct behavior. Ephesians is a root thing, or DNA for Paul and the church. Because it is written to the churches, we have to realize and read it from the basis of an everyday person in that church. This book is not written to professionals, but every day slaves, women, and common people as well as men.

Chapter 4 is clear:

  • verses 1-6 is about unity
  • versese 7-11 is about  APEST
  • versese 12-16 is  about maturity (becoming the church that Jesus designed us to be)

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”[a]

( In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?[b]10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[c] and teachers,[d]

Now, here is the funny thing. When we look at verses 1-6 we easily admit and see that those verses are still true today and written for us as well as the Ephesian Church. We also look at verses 12-16 and apply them to the life of the church today as well. But when it comes to the middle of the text, verses 7-11, we totally disregard it as teaching that was just for the early church. We see this as ludicrous and have to ask why has this happened. It is a horrible reading of the text. We must see verses 7-11 as applicable and necessary for today’s church if we have any shot at the maturity that is talked about in verses 12-16.

The scary thing is that most ecclesiology says that APE is no longer needed and that it has disappeared for today’s church. But why? We still have not found good answers.

However, there are some denominations that do believe those vocations exist for today, but when they say this, they mean for leadership purposes. Meaning, someone may be an apostolic leader, but that is a special leadership calling inside the church. We believe this is a false reading of the text as stated before. The book of Ephesians was written to every day common people, not leaders! If you see leadership in this passage, it is because you are looking through a western lens of leadership and not through the Ephesian lens of the everyday common person who read this letter.

However, we do believe there are leadership roles inside of these vocations. Meaning, we do believe that there are apostolic people, but some are apostolic leaders. There can be evangelistic, but then there are evangelistic leaders. We believe that every person in Christ has a vocation, but not every person is a leader in that vocation.

Therefore, we get our premise and purpose of this blog:

You cannot do the ministry of Christ if we are only perpetuating 2 vocations (Shepherds and Teachers). Christ has given us five vocations  as gifts and they are like a prism that he is revealed to the world through. We have to display all five vocations as a church or we are not representing him fully in the world.

This blog exists to push back against the fascination with shepherds and teachers in the western church and bring to light the very important roles of the Apostolic, Prophetic and Evangelistic in the the church.


*We are not saying that the original 12 Apostles were not special and used in a very unique way for the foundation of the church. We are also simply saying, that the Apostolic gifting didn’t end with them. We know that 8 others are called apostles beyond the 12 in the New Testament. But to be clear, no one is trying to replace the founding 12. They were definitely special!

We need to stop calling every role in every church “Pastor” however. It is overused and we have made this the key term for leadership in our culture. It is puzzling, because the word for shepherd with regards to us, is used one time in the New Testament and that is right here in Ephesians 4. Apostle is used so many more times yet we have built a whole theology around shepherd/pastor and made the churches primary role a hospital for healing (which is not a wrong function) instead of a mission agency for God. We can see how this is easily done when we leave out APE in our language and leadership.

APEST

Please read “The Permanent Revolution” by Alan Hirsch for a great unpacking of these vocations.

You can also check out JR. Woodward’s book “Creating a Missional Culture” as he does this too.

The five-fold ministry found in Ephesians is to be the way we carry out leadership in the church to a hurting world. Let us unpack these terms a bit more here for you.

APOSTOLIC:

Resides over the sentness of the church and keeps that the center of the church. They are fascinated with and obsessed with sentness, and the missional design of the church. They take the gospel and plant it and make sure it stays the gospel and grows. They are a steward, a guardian. They don’t produce the gospel but steward it. They make sure the DNA doesn’t get screwed up. They plant the gospel  so churches will grow.

PROPHETIC:

They are the guardians of faithfulness. They really care about what God thinks more than what you think. They feel God’s justice or ethos. They are inconvenient people, but without them you will get off course. They don’t drink the cool-aid of the church or the common teaching being passed down. they have to have some sense of distance with the body to speak into it properly.

  • These are your call to prayer types: they want to help you make a connection with God. ( 24/7 prayer example)

EVANGELISTIC:

They recruit to the cause. They bring people to the Lord. They are the linchpin of the church. They have one foot in the church and one foot out. They are very localized

SHEPHERD:

They love community, weave people together and make sure that the flock is cared for and heading in the right direction. Their primary role is to care for those inside the church. The body of believers.

TEACHER:

They understand theory and theology and doctrine. They are the ones who are called to teach us the deep things of God and train us in his ways. These are the ones we should be sending to seminary and further education to make sure the church is growing deep in theology and proper knowledge of God.

 

There are some really great YOUTUBE clips explaining the five-fold ministry on JR Woodward’s site.

Here is the overview

Look no further than Jesus

Was Jesus sent by God and a steward and architect of mission (apostolic)? Was Jesus a pain in the but to the Jews, obsessed with the poor, and overly concerned that the people had a proper connection with God (prophetic)? Was Jesus a great herald for the Kingdom of God and did he tirelessly work to get many to know the Father and what it took to be in relationship with him (evangelist)? Did Jesus care for the people, steer them and show them the tender side of the fathers heart (shepherd)? Did Jesus teach the people (teacher)? Obviously Jesus operated in the five fold ministry and he is the ultimate APEST leader. All we are called to do in our ministry as a church is to reflect him into the world through APEST as well.

The Secular

Think about the secular company for a moment. Do they have visionary leaders who set the framework of the mission and keep the company moving forward (apostolic)? Do they have people who ask questions and challenge the status quo (prophetic)? Do they need marketers (evangelists)? Do they need HR people (shepherds)? Do they need trainers and educators (teachers)?

We are strongly calling the church to RELEASE THE APEST fully and what that means is that we really need to

RELEASE THE APE

This whole blog is dedicated to inspiring and informing you about the APE vocations of the church and giving you vision and examples of leaders who are operating out of the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic giftings.

This is our attempt to push the pendulum back to the center so that all five vocations are being used fully, properly and together for the advancement of the Kingdom! (edit)

 

if you are interested in hearing more about this and engaging the topic, SUBSCRIBE to the blog! We’d love to have you in the conversation.

Make sure to head on over to our About Page and catch more of our story

Radio Interview

You can check out this radio interview I did talking all about Release the APE and our intent. Take a listen

Beau’s Release the APE interview (Live From Seattle)

 

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  • http://twitter.com/johnlambert John Lambert (@johnlambert)

    Love it bro! Keep up the good work.

  • http://gravatar.com/seektruth seektruth

    Hey guys – your link to IFES actually points to a different IFES. It should point to http://ifesworld.org/