Apostolic Leaders are Born not Made


[This is part of a series on “How Do I Develop an Apostolic Leader?” You can read the other posts here.]

Apostolic leaders are born not made….

You can identify them, train them, guide them, and encourage them, but you can’t create them.

While you can and should encourage every believer to be committed to and engage in mission, we have to be comfortable with the idea that Paul was serious when he wrote that all God’s people have gifts and they are in fact different from one another.

Too many ministries fall into the trap of believing that being Missional is the same as being apostolic and that any person can be developed into an apostolic leader.  So they press and push people with leadership gifts into attempting an apostolic leadership role that neither fits them nor ultimately advances the mission.  Leaders who are not Apostolic find themselves forced into places where they will face certain failure. Trying to do so will not only harm the individual but also frustrate the purposes of whatever mission you are attempting.

How do you avoid this problem?

By developing a ministry that allows a variety of giftedness to emerge and then particularly identifies the apostolically gifted to be identified and developed.

What does that kind of ministry look like?

It is ministry that recognizes that apostolic giftedness comes in every ethnicity and in both genders.  Leaders must have eyes to that recognize the signs of the apostolic no matter what language or culture is represented.

It is ministry whose leaders are always on the look out for those who demonstrate in their everyday lives characteristics that indicate their apostolic gifts.

You are looking for:

  • Risk takers who are willing to step outside their comfort zones to try a new thing.
  • Men and women who are zealously focused, determined to follow through on their convictions.  In work and play they drive forward relentlessly.
  • Folks who are eager to act out their convictions and are often impatient in their desire to see mission advance no matter the barriers.
  • Folks who, if they don’t see your organization moving forward in they way they think it should, will go ahead with what they want to do anyway, perhaps even starting their own organization to advance what they believe to be essential to the gospel.

Their gifts can be big which means they can be unwieldy tools in the hands of the untutored and unpracticed.  In their youth, apostolic leaders are prone to make mistakes, sometimes outsized ones that match their gifts.  Even though apostolic giftedness that is untrained and un-mentored can be a menace to a group and create conflicts that encourage constant uproar, ministry that develops apostolic leaders must allow its members to make mistakes.  It is the not only the price you pay to allow such gifts to emerge but it is also the way for these folks to learn.  But we mustn’t allow the mistakes to be repeated until they result in real damage.  We must help them both correct and redeem those mistakes so that a greater work can emerge.  Leaders have to be willing to stand for, with, and sometimes in front of apostolic leaders so that they are not only trained but also cared for in the sometimes rough and wild public domain.

It’s important to remember that Apostolic leaders can be abused by their experiences in the world and by others who, overwhelmed by their personalities, believe the only way to exercise control over them is to be heavy handed and sometimes mean.  Apostolic leaders need to be mentored by others who encourage and guide their gifts and honestly care and believe in what they are about.

Those of us who lead movements in the Gospel need to develop environments that allow apostolic giftedness to both emerge and grow.  If we are attentive, we will be blessed by seeing apostolic leaders have kingdom impact and break through barriers in ways we never believed possible.

[This is part of a series on “How Do I Develop an Apostolic Leader?” You can read the other posts here.]

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About Chris Nichols

Chris has been developing apostolic ministry among students for 33 years, first in CA and now in New England. As Regional Director for IVCF New England he is responsible for calling out and developing gifts for ministry that advance the gospel. He's married to Ellen and father to Nate and David.

One comment

  1. Chris can write with authority on this because this is the kind of ministry that he has run, and he has mentored many apostolic leaders. I am one of them, and I know many others. It was key for me (and others, methinks) to have the room to try our crazy ideas, to take lead in new outreaches, and to have Chris supportive in the background (but not micromanaging things). When things got stuck or failed, Chris was ready to help as I asked, but still left the idea/ministry/outreach/project in my hands. That room to fail (and eventually figure it out) was great.

    Chris was also great at helping me sort out the personal messes that come with ministry. Is that person who’s mad at me really mad at ME or at the situation? What did I do that I need to repent of, change, grow from? And what is their issue that’s being projected onto me that I need to not own but slide off my back? Without that help in sorting things out, either I wouldn’t have grown as much from my failings or I would have carried more baggage from others and had my gifts shut down. So, don’t assume your gifted apostolic leaders are doing great and can be launched without mentoring and care–just provide a more open-handed, responding-to-the-situation mentoring.

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