I love planting new communities on university campuses all over my geographic area. It is a thrilling experience to meet students, empower them, and start missional communities that produce renewal. I often get labeled as an “apostolic” person, but my heart wants something more than being one apostolic person… I want to start movements that are apostolic!
But first, there has been much discussion about what it means to be apostolic. A few of my colleagues and I have landed on a phrase that encapsulates the idea of an apostle. “An apostolic person is sent by God’s Spirit to expand the Kingdom across boundaries into new places”. I like this definition for four reasons.
1. Spiritual Entrepreneurship – Apostles lift up their eyes to new places and see opportunity. They see over the horizon and seize the “kairos” moment. They start new communities! A difference between the evangelist and the apostle is that an evangelist leaves behind conversions while the apostolic gift leaves behind communities!
2. Space Making – Apostles create spiritual space for people to be empowered and sent out. Apostles believe in teamwork and desire to see all the other gifts activated. Apostles have no problem giving away power to rising leaders and making space for them. Multiplication, not addition, is the name of the game!
3. Extending and Connecting – Apostles extend, connect, and grow the Kingdom of God. They are like an arrow shot from a bow toward a location. They are sent to connect to new people and establish new places. They extend resources lavishly. Apostles cross physical, ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural boundaries!
4. Spiritual Sensitivity – Apostles only go where the Spirit of God goes. Apostles do not start communities out of boredom or selfish ambition, but because they hear the call of God. They have a robust sense of God’s presence and want to embrace His move to a new place. Go boldly because God goes before you!
If you do not possess all of these attributes, then does that mean the game is over? Absolutely not!
Diversity in Teams
Recruit people onto your team that possess the attributes that you lack! For example, one of your teammates could be spiritually sensitive, another is an extender/connector, another knows how to create spaces for others to thrive, and yet another able to seize strategic opportunities! Together, you can accomplish apostolic work!
This is what I believe to be an “apostolic movement”. It is a movement that acts like an apostle. How do you create this kind of team? Currently, I lead this kind of team. Here are 5 practices that I recommend to unlock the potential of an apostolic movement:
1. Identify the apostolic imprint in others.
Apostolic people can sometimes be mistaken as insubordinate or troublesome because they get frustrated with status quo very easily. Instead of squelching their passion, consider which of the above-mentioned attributes need to be developed in this individual – then create a development plan for them (especially for Millennials)!
Also, as you meet quiet, introverted, and/or methodical people, do not quickly place them in a “non-apostolic box”. Consider which attribute they possess and group them with others that need that attribute. As you do this, you will create momentum for all people to play a role in extending God’s Kingdom.
2. Expect healthy risk-taking in others.
Apostolic movements must be OK with failure. As you mobilize a community to take risks, you must simultaneously reframe failure. Failure should be seen as growth and experimentation. Empower people to be “mad-scientists” in ministry. This type of culture enjoys the mission as they engage in it.
Encourage creation and innovation! Create new methods for evangelism. Employ these methods. Learn from your experience. Share the data and lessons with everyone in the community. Celebrate this effort! South Asian students in my area created brand-new evangelism tools to help other South Asians understand Jesus better. I love that kind of risk-taking!
3. Assume that high accountability is normative
Cultivating an apostolic movement requires commitment – not simply commitment to the mission but to one another and to God. Commitment breeds more commitment. Energy is created when a group of men and women give 100% to one another and to God. No one likes to be a part of a group that is half-in, half-out. People want to make a difference, so stay committed – see it through!
When someone says that they are committed to other things, then let them go and serve there. It is OK to say NO to you – release people to do other things. Someone that is committed to everything is actually committed to nothing. Help people in your movement to pick and choose to what/whom they are committed.
4. Empower others anytime, anywhere
Apostolic movements disciple, empower, and send out others. The important thing is to do this constantly – don’t wait for a specific season to appoint leaders. Release leaders as needs arise or spaces are created. This method may feel chaotic, but it will encourage a culture of development and deployment.
I’ve heard it said that opportunities of a lifetime are only found in the lifetime of the opportunity. If you do not seize the moment and appoint leaders to take responsibility, you may miss the chance to expand God’s Kingdom into new places. Don’t be afraid to give power away.
5. Encourage prayerful dependence in all things
Apostolic movements are not afraid to pray boldly. Do not allow your prayers to be contained by the current circumstance, but allow your faith to embolden crazy prayers. If your prayer is something that you can already do yourself, then you are praying too small. You pray because only God can do it! Start a prayer meeting that focuses on the mission of God in your location. God will open doors!
My area was experiencing stagnancy in vision, expansion, and development. I implemented the above-mentioned principles into my leadership, and God has produced unprecedented growth. Check out the growth of the area in the graph below.
There is nothing special about me, but there is something spectacular about our God. Go in prayerful dependence and boldness across boundaries to new places! God will open doors because His Kingdom is for His glory and fame. Don’t miss the chance to be a part of it. Start leading this kind of movement today!
What do you think about the idea of leading apostolic movements? Share a story of when you had to lead growth and change. I’d love to hear what you want to add to this list. Please comment below.