Apostolic Culture

Perhaps one of the greater shifts in an apostolic culture is that the marketplace becomes a valid mission field for the Believer.

A pastoral culture gathers and creates an expectation of attendance at church and upward promotion through the ranks of volunteers, deacons, and elders. There is nothing wrong with that so long as the value system recognises the importance of the day-to-day ministry in the marketplace. I believe that this is very important for us to understand if we are to truly allow God’s Kingdom to impact and control every area of life upon the planet! What is wisdom?

According to our usual understanding and definition (and a simple online search): “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.”

The apostolic looks to ‘go’, which means it ‘sends’ and is directly linked to seeing God’s Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven – not in Church as it is in Heaven. It’s worth noting, however, that if you get the earth, you will get the Church.

We have the great privilege of seeing Christians find fulfilment in every legitimate career and occupation. This is not a new theme. It has occurred at many times in history, starting with the people of Israel for whose work was worship. Other than the priests, there are few examples of what is often called “full-time ministry” in the Bible.

Many biblical figures were bi-vocational, having jobs alongside their ministries. John Calvin made a significant contribution and lasting example of excellence through the Geneva marketplace. I could include also Hans Nielsen Hauge of Norway, who was a 19th-century Norwegian Lutheran lay minister, spiritual leader, business entrepreneur, social reformer and author. He led a noted Pietism revival known as the Haugean movement. He is also considered to have been very influential in the early industrialization of Norway. The point is that this concept isn't new.

A true apostolic emphasis with more than the occasional engaged person or church is vital for the reformation of society, which we pray for.

As ministry extends into the marketplace, one danger is the temptation to appoint ‘marketplace Apostles.’ This is misguided.

Ephesians 4:11-16
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

Ephesians 4 is clear that the fivefold offices are gifts to the Church for the equipping of the Saints for the work of ministry.

The Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher all equip the marketplace worker. Appointing ‘marketplace Apostles’ creates a secular/sacred divide at a higher level and tends towards the most successful Christian in a sphere becoming the ‘Apostle’ without necessarily being apostolic in their thinking and behaviour.

What we truly need is apostolic doctors, nurses, teachers, receptionists, computer operators, government leaders, artists and so on. They would know that they are ‘sent’ into the marketplace to do the work of ministry, whoever they are, whatever they do and wherever they are.

The inner awareness of the teacher in the classroom or the office manager that they are sent, and legitimately represent Christ, even though it will look very different from what is seen on a Sunday in church, will empower and free them to greater accomplishments in their field of ministry.

I would also like to suggest that by being fulfilled in their career choice, they are also more likely to want to contribute to what has been seen as more traditional ministries in the church.

Isaiah 61
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, 3 To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” 4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations. 5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, And the sons of the foreigner Shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. 6 But you shall be named the priests of the LORD, They shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, And in their glory you shall boast. 7 Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs. 8 “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering; I will direct their work in truth, And will make with them an everlasting covenant. 9 Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, And their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, That they are the posterity whom the LORD has blessed.” 10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its bud, As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

Isaiah 61 gives us a powerful foundation. It begins with the statement of anointing – anointing to set captives free and bind up broken-hearted people.

There is perhaps no more universal captivity than that of feeling a second-class Christian because we don’t see our work as a first-class ministry.

Allow me to give you some statistics: Perhaps only 3% of Church attendees are paid to go to Church, which means that 97% find their income elsewhere. If they should feel less valuable, then we will have a disempowered Army of Believers. Isaiah 61 goes on to talk of emotions and experiences reversed and then that they, the previously captive ones, become the restorers and rebuilders, not the anointed priests.

I love this sequence and have many times prayed for the commissioning prayers to be prayed over so-called ‘ordinary’ churchgoers, sending them as glory carriers whether they are police officers, finance managers, computer developers, builders or gardeners, and the list can go on and on…

The apostolic creates an army of ‘sent ones’ and the result will be transformation in the world and in the Church.