Showing posts with label #Leaders. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Leaders. Show all posts

How the elders of Crete oughta behave.

by K.W. Leslie, 20 July

Titus 1.5-9.

Paul of Tarsus had left Titus on the mountainous Greek island of Crete. Possibly because Titus himself was Cretan; there were Cretans at the first Pentecost Ac 2.11 and for all we know Titus was one of ’em. All we really know about Titus’s backstory is he’s Greek, Ga 2.3 but so was Crete. Still is.

Titus was left there because Crete’s church had a leadership vacuum. I mean, there might’ve been people the Christians imagined were leaders, but Paul considered them inadequate. They lacked spiritual maturity. Titus didn’t. And here, Paul reminds Titus maturity—good fruit and good character—defines a person who’s considered an elder of the church. You’re not an elder without it, and ought not be a leader without it.

Titus 1.5-9 KWL
5 I leave you in Crete for this purpose:
You can straighten out what’s missing.
You can designate “elders” in every city—like I appointed you.
6 If anyone is blameless,
a one-woman man, has children of faith;
has no complaints about his immoral behavior,
nor his refusal to submit to others;
7 for a supervisor has to be blameless,
being like God’s butler.
Not arrogant, not quickly angered, not drunk,
not picking fights, not greedy for “prosperity.”
8 Instead loves strangers, loves goodness,
thoughtful, fair, devout, self-controlled.
9 Holds tight to the faithful word as it was taught,
so he can be capable and helpful with sound teaching,
and in exposing those who object to it.

A number of Christians claim this passage is only describing pastors, ’cause Paul mentioned an ἐπίσκοπον/epískopon in verse 7 (KJV “bishop,” NIV “overseer,” my translation “supervisor”) —and bishops are typically people who supervise a church or multiple churches, like the head pastors in Evangelical churches today. So, they claim, it’s not about just any elder, but the sort of elder who runs a church. But the elders of a church supervise all sorts of things in a church, whether they have the title “pastor” or not, so everybody in church leadership should meet these ground-floor qualifications, no matter what title they have. Got it?

Elders: The grownups in the church.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 July
ELDER 'ɛld.ər adjective. Of a greater or advanced age.
2. [noun] A person of greater or advanced age.
3. [noun] A spiritually mature Christian, usually consulted as part of a church’s leadership, often entrusted with ministerial or priestly responsibility.
[Eldership 'ɛl.dər.ʃɪp noun.]

After Jesus was raptured, his church had to continue without him physically here. Which is fine! He’d already trained apprentices, and designated 12 of them as apostles. One was dead, so the other 11 picked a replacement Ac 1.26 and went back to 12. (It’s God’s favorite number, y’see.)

Running the church with only 12 leaders quickly became unsustainable, because the church immediately surged by 3,000 people, Ac 2.41 and soon after another 2,000 or 5,000; it’s debatable. Ac 4.4 In any event that’s a lot of people to train to follow Jesus. The food ministry alone was chaos, with accusations of prejudice against Greek-speakers. Ac 6.1 The apostles recognized they needed more leaders, and told the people to select their ministers based on their honesty, wisdom, and spirituality. Ac 6.3 In other words their spiritual maturity.

When Paul of Tarsus wrote to Timothy of Lystra about 20 years later, the apostle reminded the youngish bishop that spiritual maturity is still a requirement for leadership. Y’don’t pick leaders because they’re friendly, popular, magnetic, and entertaining. (Or even because they’re family!) You pick them because they’re fruity. Because they’ve been letting the Holy Spirit develop them into people of good character: He’s making them resemble Jesus, and only christlike people should lead and run Christ Jesus’s churches. Nobody else is appropriate.

And arguably only christlike people should run anything. No, I’m not at all talking about Christian nationalism; I’m not saying the only people who should ever run things in this country must be Christian. I’m saying they oughta have good character. “Christian,” sad to say, does not automatically mean good character, spiritual maturity, or even any kind of maturity; some Christians are the whiniest snowflakes you ever did see, throwing tantrums and claiming “persecution!” about the smallest of hurdles—especially the ones generated by their own dickishness. Nope; I’m saying non-Christians can often be as patient, thoughtful, gracious, kind, and self-controlled as any Christian, and any pagan who has these traits is much preferred to any Christian or pagan who doesn’t.

My point is the grownups need to be in charge. That’s especially true in Christ’s churches, but oughta be true everywhere.

The Christianese term for grownup is elder, which comes from the New Testament’s word πρεσβύτερος/presvýteros, “elder.” It’s also where we also get our Christianese word presbyterian, “elder-run,” meaning a church run by elders, instead of by voting members or solely by the head pastor. Yeah, “elder” makes it sound like the church is being run by its old people (and yeah, such churches totally exist). But whenever the apostles who wrote the New Testament discussed a presvýteros, they meant the longtime, devout, spiritually senior Christians. These are the folks they could legitimately trust to give sound advice about following Jesus. The folks we oughta be able to trust.

Christian leaders must be people of character.

by K.W. Leslie, 13 July

The only biblical qualification for Christian leadership is good character.

Yeah, I know; churches pick and qualify leaders for all sorts of other reasons. Usually for two reasons: They’re willing, and they’re able.

Willing means they actually wanna minister. Because so few Christians do! Or they may want to, but they’re timid, or don’t think they’re ready (sometimes for good reason), or they’re already super busy with other stuff… or to be honest, they like the idea of pitching in, but gah, the commitment. Now you gotta actually be at the Sunday morning services every single week; you can’t just decide, “Y’know, I’m taking this Sunday off to sleep in like a pagan,” because now you obligated yourself. Don’t you feel dumb.

Able means you can actually do the job. If the task is to run a Sunday school class, you actually know how to keep the kids’ attention, maintain order, and legitimately teach them something. Or, y’know, you know how to stand back and stream the video which does all the teaching for you, and be available in case any of the kids made a boom-boom in their pants—or know how to text their parents. The way some churches work, the “job” might be something a chimpanzee with a hammer could do… but hey, so can you!

But even if your church throws up their hands, contacts the zoo, and gets that chimpanzee: According to the scriptures, that chimp had better have good character. Otherwise she’s not qualified to minister whatsoever. And neither is any willing ’n able human who wants the job.

Character matters. Always has. Because when your leaders have bad character, you can’t trust ’em. They’ll be hypocrites and lie to cover up their misbehavior. They’ll break laws, get the other leaders to back ’em up, and take the entire church down with them. They’ll seize power and exploit people. They’ll abuse them, manipulate them, rob them of their time and money and dignity, and give ’em the worst advice about how to follow Jesus. In fact characterless leaders would much rather have you follow them than Jesus. And when you won’t—when you no longer serve their purposes or their lusts—they’ll threaten you with hell, drive you out of the church, or even convince you to quit Jesus. Because they’ll get you to believe Jesus is sending you to hell; or at least that Jesus is immoral, because how could a good Lord permit such evil people to run his churches?

Character used to matter in other positions of leadership as well. Namely secular leaders: The heads of corporations, the people who run clubs and civic organizations, the people we elect to office. Unfortunately, our larger society seems to have forgotten why character matters, and figure it’s more important to put people with talent and skill—capable people—in charge. ’Cause these folks get stuff done, and isn’t that what we want? And while yes, it’d be nice if our leaders were actually competent… you realize what happens when you put an evil but capable person in charge? You get even more evil, y’know.

Churches want capable people to lead ministries. I don’t blame ’em; it makes sense! So when they pick leaders, they tend to go with people with skills and talents. You want a pastor who’s taken counseling classes and knows how to empathetically guide and pray for lost and wayward people. You want a preacher who knows how to correctly research the bible, present a practical lecture on the findings, and not bore the listeners to sleep. You want musicians who can play an instrument well, remember the spotlight is supposed to be on Jesus not them, and grows in ability instead of playing the same 20 songs and nothing else. You want a facilities manager who knows how to keep the building in good, working condition. You want janitors who realize the little kids of your church touch everything, so make it clean! There oughta be job descriptions and expectations, and degrees and certificates where appropriate. And of course all of them need to believe your church’s faith statement, ’cause everybody who works for a church is gonna be seen as a leader, and therefore oughta know Jesus and his gospel, and basic doctrine.

But without good character, their skills and talents aren’t gonna contribute to God’s kingdom. They’re gonna use those abilities only to further themselves. At the expense of God’s kingdom.

When Christian leaders become control freaks.

by K.W. Leslie, 30 June

Some years ago I read an article, written to Christian leaders, about how to make sure your small groups don’t go heretic. I guess that was a big concern for the author.

I don’t know how valid a concern it is; when you put people in charge of a small group, shouldn’t you have pre-screened ’em to make sure they’re not heretics? But then again, when we’re talking about the H-word, you do realize there are a number of Christians who are really loose with that definition: They think every error we make about the bible and Christian doctrine is heresy. And, yes, they actually wanna police every error.

This is why you’re sometimes gonna find a church with no small groups at all. Or a few—but every single group is either led by the head pastor, or must have the head pastor in attendance. It’s not that the church doesn’t want (or need!) small groups; it’s that Pastor must be there to directly supervise, because “the shepherd’s job is to protect the flock.”

Yep, it means Pastor’s a control freak.

And there are a lot of churches run by control freaks. Because they don’t believe it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to lead us to truth; Jn 16.13 they’re pretty sure it’s the pastor’s job. They might acknowledge it’s the Spirit’s job… but either the pastor’s pretty sure only he knows how to hear the Spirit correctly, or he doesn’t actually know the Holy Spirit ’cause he thinks the age of miracles is over. So either he, or his wife, or some very trusted lieutenant, has to be at your small group meeting. As your “covering.” Just to make sure.

Yeah, this behavior is far more fearful and cultlike than Spirit-led.

Two of the Spirit’s fruits are gonna be fearlessness—you’re not gonna worry about every little thing, ’cause you trust God to have your back—and self-control. Not pastor-control, self-control. The Spirit’s trying to develop our ability to govern ourselves. When others won’t let us do that, and insist they gotta wield the reins because no one else can do it properly, it doesn’t help the Spirit any!

Control-freak behavior is a character flaw, and if your entire church leadership is structured in such a way that the pastor controls absolutely everything, it means your pastor is deficient in self-control, grace, patience, and often love: They’re too afraid of what may happen, to love the people they gotta serve. You may realize these character defects disqualify people from leadership; you might also notice these defective pastors are pretty good at concealing this fact, or changing the subject (or even the definitions) whenever it comes up.

So if you’re part of a church like this, what can you do about it? Sadly not much. Control-freak leaders rarely listen. So yeah, you’re gonna have to start looking for a better church, whose pastor trusts the Spirit to handle the reins. And the whip.

Spiritual morons: Christians who won’t grow up.

by K.W. Leslie, 22 April
MORON 'mɔr.ɑn noun. A stupid person.
[Moronic mə'rɑn.ɪk adjective.]

The word moron comes from an ancient Greek word we actually have in our bibles, μωρόν/morón, which means the same thing. Scientists began to use it to describe “an adult with the mental age of about 8 to 12 years old”—someone of limited intelligence. Problem is, people love to use such words to insult one another, and now many people consider “moron” a bad word. So they’re gonna take offense at my using the word “moron.” Doesn’t matter that Jesus used it. Mt 5.22, 7.26, 23.17, 25.2, 25.8 And the apostles. 1Co 1.25, 1.27, 3.18, 4.10, 2Ti 2.23, Tt 3.9

Thing is, whenever the authors of scripture write of morons, they don’t mean people who can’t help it; who are of limited intelligence or are incapable of wisdom. They always mean people who are wholly capable of growth—and choose not to grow.

(I mean, if they did mean people who can’t help their condition, it’d be mighty cruel of them to condemn foolishness so often. And kinda psycho to suggest caning them for it. Pr 26.3 But cruel and thoughtless people regularly take such verses out of their grammatical context.)

So whenever I write about spiritual morons, I don’t mean people who can’t grow in spiritual maturity. Because maturity is tied to the Spirit’s fruit, and everybody can grow the Spirit’s fruit. Absolutely everybody. No exceptions; the Spirit can work on anyone. Even humans with profound mental limitations can grow in love, peace, joy, and grace; in fact many such people clearly exhibit more such fruit than “smart people.” Whether it’s because these smarty-pants folks are overthinking things (or, more likely, looking for loopholes), I leave it to you to determine. There are plenty of reasons why Christians don’t grow as fast as we should.

But again: When I write about spiritual morons, I never mean people who can’t grow. For that matter I don’t even mean people who are growing slowly. I only mean people who won’t grow. Who refuse to grow. ’Cause they figure they’re good as-is. Or they presume they have grown… and have all sorts of excuses why all the “fruit” they supposedly have, can’t be seen, never affects anyone in positive ways, doesn’t grow God’s kingdom any, and continues to make ’em indistinguishable from nice pagans.

The church is people.

by K.W. Leslie, 12 April
Church. tʃərtʃ noun. A Christian group which gathers for the purpose of following and worshiping God.
2. God’s kingdom: Every Christian, everywhere on earth, throughout all of history.
3. A denomination: One such distinct Christian organization, namely one with its own groups, clergy, teachings, and buildings.
4. A Christian group’s building or campus.

If you compare the definition of church I gave, with that of an average English-language dictionary, you’ll notice a few differences. The average dictionary tends to first refer to buildings—because that’s what your average English-speaker means when they say church. “I’m going to church” means “I’m going to a church building.” Or “We’re gonna be late for church” means “We’re gonna be late for the services at the building.”

But when Jesus used the word ἐκκλησία/ekklisía he didn’t mean a building. He meant a group of people. That’s what Jesus’s church is to him: His people. Mt 18.17

The church is to Christianity, what the nation of Israel was to the ancient Hebrew religion: God’s people. The people the LORD rescued from slavery, whom Jesus saves from sin and death. The people he wants to follow and obey and worship him, and build his kingdom out of.

The church isn’t a building, though we meet in buildings, and headquarter our organizations in ’em. The church isn’t our denominations, our leadership structure, our organization church. It’s not the institution, not our leadership, not the time of week we meet, not the mission statement, not the specific things we claim to believe, not the specific things our pastors preach about.

The church is people. It’s us, collectively. We are the church.

Sometimes the leaders of our churches point this out. More often they don’t. Not because they’re hiding anything; it’s just not one of those things they feel they oughta emphasize every single week. But maybe they should, ’cause Christians aren’t always aware we’re the church… and start to develop the false idea we’re not the church; that something else is. Something outside ourselves. Something we could quit, or oppose, or even fight.

Whenever Christians forget the church is people—and we’re the people—the church typically goes wrong.

The limitations of legalists.

by K.W. Leslie, 08 April

Back in college I had some classmates who had honest questions about Christianity. They were pagans who were raised by totally irreligious parents, so all they knew about Christians were stereotypes. Yet here I was, a real live Christian, who didn’t fit those stereotypes, who knew enough to give ’em facts and background, and not be a jerk about it. So they picked my brain.

  • What do you guys do in church? What’s the program?
  • What’s the bible about? What’s in it?
  • What’s the dress code? (They heard rumors about sacred undergarments, so I had to inform ’em that’s only a Mormon thing.)
  • What political views must Christians have?

And so forth.

But as I was trying to answer the questions, another classmate decided he just had to get in on this, and pitch his two cents. He was a fellow Christian, who went to another church than I did—a much more legalistic one. He continually felt he had to “correct” my answers whenever they got too gracious for his taste.

It got annoying pretty quickly—for me, ’cause I wanted to answer my questioners, not debate him; and my questioners, who on the one hand were seeing how all Christians think alike, but on the other hand had deliberately not gone to him, and didn’t appreciate his help.

So I deviously suggested a change of venue. “Hey, you wanna keep talking about this over lunch? Let’s go to the Pub.”

The Pub was an on-campus restaurant which, true to its name, served alcohol. And as I correctly guessed, the legalist would not go to the Pub. He said yes to the idea of talking over lunch—he invited himself along, obviously—but not the Pub, never the Pub; his religion forbade it. He scrambled to suggest five or six alcohol-free options… but the pagans quickly realized what I’d done and gratefully went along with it. So off we went, leaving the legalist behind, fuming.

Over lunch I talked ’em into trying out a church that Sunday, just to have the experience for themselves. And I let the church folks take ’em from there. Pretty sure my legalist classmate would never have got ’em even that far.

Yep, I totally took advantage of his hangup. Good thing we’re on the same team, right? Now imagine if we weren’t. (No doubt he wasn’t so sure we are.)

Burdens which were put on one’s heart.

by K.W. Leslie, 07 April
HEART hɑrt noun. Hollow muscular organ which pumps blood through the circulatory system.
2. [in popular culture] Center of a person’s thoughts and emotions; one’s mood, feeling, enthusiasm, mood, or courage.
3. [in popular Christian culture] Center of a person’s lifeforce; one’s innermost being; the true self, particularly one’s true thoughts and feelings.
4. A conventional heart shape, as found on a deck of cards.
[Hearted 'hɑrt.ɛd adjective.]

I’ve already written on the heart—the blood-pumping muscle in our chests, how popular culture uses it as a metaphor for emotion, and how the ancients believed it did what we now know the brain does. And of course how Christians mix up the biblical idea with the pop culture idea, and therefore misinterpret the bible like crazy: To the ancients, you didn’t feel with your heart; you felt with your guts. You thought with your heart. Or, when your “heart was hard,” you didn’t: Your mind was made up.

Today I’m gonna discuss another Christianese use of “heart”: Whenever there’s something we’re thinking about, and it’s significant, and it’s bothering us. Might bother us a little, like a peeve; might bother us a lot, like a trigger which makes us relive a previous traumatic experience. In my experience it’s almost always a peeve: It bugs us. It doesn’t bother us so much we’re losing sleep or hair over it; it just bugs us. But instead of saying, “That kinda pisses me off,” like good Christians we gotta bust out the Christianese terms for it:

  • “Something was laid on my heart about that…”
  • “That feels really heavy on my heart.”
  • “Would you like to unburden your heart about what you’re going through?”
  • “Sounds like that’s really weighing on your heart.”

This peeve is a burden, a great weight, a heavy thing. And it’s been dropped on our heart, squashing it a bit, causing discomfort—like when the cat tries to sleep on your face; less so like the early signs of a heart attack.

Sometimes it’s not that great a weight—it’s just “been on my heart.” Other times it’s all we can think about. It’s a serious mental or emotional roadblock, it’s “weighing on my heart” or “heavy on my heart,” and if we wanna get it off, we’re gonna have to “unburden” it—dump it on a group of other Christians, who can either fruitlessly worry about it along with us, or tackle the problem and solve it, either with us or instead of us.

Regardless of how light or weighty the burden may be, the fact we use Christianese is a sign we believe one of two things:

GOD GAVE US THIS BURDEN. Supposedly this isn’t just my particular peeve. This is God’s peeve. It’s something which bothers him. And because he thinks exactly like I do I follow him, he’s recruited me to help him do something about it.

I NEED GOD TO TAKE AWAY THIS BURDEN. Honestly, this is just my individual hangup. And I need to deal with it, and I’d like God’s help.

Lemme say right now I much prefer the second idea. A lot of us Christians absolutely do have hangups and issues, and no God isn’t the origin of any of them. They’re unhealthy things we brought into Christianity with us. They need to be purged from our lives. And God can help; Jesus totally offers to.

Apostolic succession.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 January
APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION æp.ə'stɑ.lɪk sək'sɛ.ʃən noun. The action, process, or sequence of inheriting a title and office in church leadership, founded by one of Christ Jesus’s first apostles.

Jesus sends his apostles on various missions, and in so doing, many times these apostles start ministries. Sometimes a church or denomination. Sometimes hospitals and hospices, schools and universities, shelters, charities, or whatever Jesus tells ’em to start.

Sometimes the apostle’s job is to only start this ministry, then move along to the next task; Paul of Tarsus obviously did that with churches and schools. But a lot of times it’s to run the ministry for the rest of their lives. Or until they reach a point where they can’t physically do it anymore, and have to retire. Does this mean the ministry is over? Occasionally yes; the apostle kinda was the ministry, and without that apostle it becomes a shell of itself. (Or worse, a mockery.) But if Jesus wants it to keep going, he’ll send other people to keep it going. Ideally he sends another apostle: Someone he instructs to pick up where the last apostle left off, maybe with a vision to take the ministry even further.

But Jesus doesn’t always have to do this. Because many an organization is built to keep running, even after its founders are gone. True of governments; true of businesses and schools; true of ministries. If its director steps down, one of the assistants—who’s often been doing the bulk of the director’s work anyway—can step in and keep things going, and hire people to do the assistant’s old jobs. Or the organization’s trustees hire a competent successor. Might be an outsider; might be the founder’s spouse or child. Regardless, this person succeeds the original leader, and the organization keeps right on ticking.

With anything Christian, of course people feel we have to have some veneer of spirituality attached to everything we do. It can’t just be us hiring a successor; it has to be God’s idea. Even if it wasn’t really. Even if the ministry was only supposed to last as long as the apostle did, and God’s ready to do something else… but the people on the apostle’s team don’t want things to end, and the next best thing to propping up the apostle’s corpse and tricking people into thinking she’s alive, is to prop up the ministry and do the very same thing. Why, God clearly wants it to continue! Look, the successor has the anointing!

Anyway. The way apostolic succession is meant to work, is where Jesus sends an apostle to start a ministry, then sends another apostle to succeed that first apostle. The apostle Apollos probably started the church of Ephesus; the apostle Paul found it, then spent two years training the new Christians; Ac 19.1-10 he left the apostle Timothy behind to lead this church for a few years; 1Ti 1.3-4 and after Timothy, the apostle John led it for a few years himself. If Jesus wants a ministry to keep going, he’s gonna personally appoint people to run it. He’s not gonna let the ministry’s internal machinery keep it going; he keeps it going.

And those churches which believe in apostolic succession, believe that’s kinda what happens. Not just anybody gets tapped to lead their ministries: Again, it’s gotta be God’s idea, and his appointed successor.

But we’ve seen plenty of cases where an incompetent, unqualified, corrupt, godless, foolish individual gets put in charge of one ministry or another. Something in the system broke down. And it certainly wasn’t Jesus.

There’s a certain amount of prestige to a ministry when it’s founded by a well-known apostle. Simon Peter, Francis of Assisi, John Knox, John Wesley… all these guys were definitely chosen by God, and people recognize the ministries and churches they founded are definitely part of God’s will. But for this reason, there’s a great deal of glory given their successors. If you’re the current pastor of a church founded by a great saint, surely there must be something special about you. (One would hope!)

So if you’re the president of a school founded by D.L. Moody, or the bishop of a church founded by Barnabas and Paul themselves, or the head of a denomination founded by Martin Luther, you must either be worthy of their greatness, or some of their greatness musta rubbed off on you. In churches who are really big on apostolic succession, they believe this in quite a literal way: Their first apostles blessed, laid hands on, and commissioned their successors to continue their work. In so doing, they passed down the charge Jesus originally gave them—in a long, unbroken chain to the present-day office-holders. Ergo Pope Francis has the very same commission Jesus gave Simon Peter to oversee the church of Rome. (And of course all the other churches connected with it.)

What does Jesus send apostles to do?

by K.W. Leslie, 13 January

When people investigate what an apostle is, mainly they wanna know whether Jesus still makes them, or whether they’re just a first-century, back-in-bible-times phenomenon. Especially when they don’t want there to be any more apostles, ’cause they don’t like the idea of Jesus designating leaders himself, with no input from them. (I already discussed this in my article on apostles.)

The rest of the time they’re usually looking for a job description. ’Cause some Christian has claimed, “This is what an apostle does,” and they wanna know whether that’s true. Do the scriptures tell us that’s what an apostle does? Or is this person all wet, and claiming some heretic weirdness instead of something truly biblical?

Here’s the thing: The bible doesn’t spell out an apostle’s job description. Because it’s not actually a particular job. It’s a person.

The word ἀπόστολος/apóstolos means “one whom [God] sent.” That’s a person. An individual. A woman or man to whom Jesus appears, or to whom the Holy Spirit speaks, and is given a mission to go and do. Which mission? It varies.

Yep, there’s not just one vocation, one mission, one job, for all apostles everywhere, to do. Like the military, there are hundreds of missions. The overall goal is to grow God’s kingdom, and the individual mission is gonna contribute to that. (Well, it’d better. Otherwise it may not actually be Jesus who sent this person. Just saying.)

So those Christians who claim, “Here’s what the apostolic office consists of”: Nope. This may be what they do, or their pastor or boss does—and it may be exactly what Jesus wants them and their pastor and boss to do. But is it what Jesus wants every apostle to do? Of course not. There is no single apostolic job description. There are just apostles: Individuals Jesus ἀποστέλλω/apostéllo, “sends out,” with a mission—and missions vary.

Evidence from the bible? No problem; there’s lots. Here, Jesus straight-up declares he sends people with a bunch of different vocations.

Matthew 23.34 KJV
Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city…

Yeah, I don’t like how they end up either. Them’s the risks when you follow Jesus. But set that aside a minute and notice Jesus lists three different types of vocations, whom he apostéllo/“sends out.” Prophets to share with people whatever God tells them; sages to share wise advice, help plan stuff, or judge fairly; and scholars who know their bible, can teach it to others, and can confirm the prophets and sages.

And no these aren’t the only people Jesus sends on missions. I’m not making a comprehensive list here. The bible doesn’t make one either.

Jesus designated the Twelve to apprentice with him, so he could train ’em to proclaim his gospel, cure the sick, and exorcise devils. I should point out that was their initial mission.

Mark 3.14-15 KJV
14 And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, 15 and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils…

Later he sent ’em to evangelize.

Luke 9.2 KJV
And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.

Much later, when the Twelve found themselves running Jesus’s relatively brand-new church of thousands of people, they decided their primary mission was to pray and teach.

Acts 6.2-4 KJV
2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

As our Lord, Jesus has every right to change our mission on us! ’Cause not every mission is open-ended, and we oughta expect to do it for the rest of our lives. Sometimes we actually complete our missions! The Holy Spirit sent Philip to go to a particular Ethiopian; Ac 8.29 Philip did it, shared the gospel with him, and was done. He wasn’t sent to Ethiopia to preach the gospel; the Ethiopian did that, and that’s why Ethiopia is to this day full of Christians. As for Philip, he went off to preach in other cities, Ac 8.40 and apparently stayed in Caesarea and raised his daughters to be prophets. Ac 21.8-9 Missions change—but apostles remain the people Jesus sends on missions. So like I said: Apostles are individuals. Not vocations.

Yeah, sometimes he sends us on big, grand projects. Sometimes he has us found a church, and run it the rest of our lives. And other times, he sends us to go get him dinner.

Luke 22.8 KJV
And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat.

If you’re under the delusion that an apostolic job is a big exalted thing with a mighty biblical mandate, and that apostles are huge important people, you may not be aware how leadership works in God’s kingdom. He once had to correct his apostles about that particular false idea:

Matthew 20.25-27 KJV
25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

You wanna become an apostle? Then get it out of your head that it’s a big important office. It’s a person, who’s willing to obey and follow Jesus. Become such a person. Start following Jesus. Start serving others. He’ll give you a mission.

Apostles: Those whom Jesus sends out to do his work.

by K.W. Leslie, 12 January
APOSTLE ə'pɑs.əl noun. Person commissioned by Christ Jesus to perform a leadership role.
[Apostolic æ.pə'stɑl.ɪk adjective, apostleship ə'pɑs.əl.ʃɪp noun]

Jesus didn’t just have the 12 students. The actual number fluctuated, as some joined the group, Mk 10.52 and others quit in frustration. Jn 6.66 Jesus had loads of student-followers. But he designated the Twelve in particular as ἀπόστολοι/apóstoli, “sent ones.” Lk 6.13 Eleven of ’em—including another student named Matthias whom they promoted apostle Ac 1.26 —became the core leaders of his newly-created church.

And apostle still designates anyone whom Jesus, or the Holy Spirit on Jesus’s behalf, sends forth to do his work.

Well… in some traditions. Y’see, various Christians insist the only apostles in human history are Jesus’s original 12 guys.

Well… okay, they concede Judas Iscariot turned traitor and died, Ac 1.16-20 and Matthias replaced him, so Judas is out and Matthias is in. And okay, Paul of Tarsus counts as aposstle, ’cause he calls himself that a few times; maybe Jesus wanted him to be the twelfth apostle instead of Matthias.

Well… maybe a few more first-century church leaders. Scripture does after all identify Barnabas as an apostle, Ac 14.14 and Jesus’s brother James, Ga 1.19 and Paul’s relatives Andronicus and Junia. Ro 16.7 And probably Jesus’s brother Jude, ’cause he did write a book of the bible. But otherwise that’s all.

Two reasons these Christians insist Jesus stopped commissioning apostles after the first century:

  1. CESSATIONISM. They believe Jesus quit making apostles, and that the Spirit stopped making prophets. (Although evangelists, pastors, and teachers are still around.) The only reason Jesus designated apostles in the first place was to get his church started and the bible written. That done, the apostles died out, and are no more.
  2. APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION: They believe the apostles were given a specific job; namely the supervision of specific churches and ministries. It’s the jobs, the offices which are meant to be passed down from person to person. It’s not so much that any one person is an apostle; it’s the mission, which continues till Jesus returns and ends or upgrades it. So the only real apostles are the people in these particular positions: The bishops, patriarchs, and popes who run certain branches of Jesus’s church. Jesus doesn’t need, and therefore doesn’t create, any more apostles than that.

Either way, these folks claim the apostolic age is over. I don’t agree with ’em, mainly ’cause that’s not how the bible describes the first apostles.