Summary: An apostle is someone from outside the local church. They help groups to learn the process of making Christ the functional Head. They also help make Christ the center and circumference of the group’s existence. God designed this role on purpose as protection for His body from its individuals supplanting Him as the functional Head.
In the last post, we learned that if Christ is to be the functional Head of church meetings, groups need special training and practice at the beginning. To do this, they need someone that can gently guide the process until they are ready to do it on their own.
It’s someone from the outside
But this person or persons should not be a member of the group. They should be someone from the outside who doesn’t stay for the long term. They also shouldn’t get involved in the content or daily workings of the group.
Why not you ask? Because if they have any “skin in the game” so to speak, the temptation to manipulate and control processes and situations to their advantage is too strong.
What may have been intended to be facilitation turns into manipulation and control. It’s not necessarily a conscious-intent thing. It’s just what happens when you provide humans with the opportunity.
Even the holiest of Christians are too fallen to truly facilitate Christ as the Head when they are also a stake-holding member of the group.
Take the apostles in the New Testament for example. When they were present in their home churches, they weren’t in charge. They were just another brother or sister.
It’s only when they traveled to help other churches that they operated as apostles, part of which is facilitating the group process.
You are either a group member that stays, or an apostle that leaves. There are no group members that leave or apostles that stay.
One reason God developed this pattern was to protect the body against its individual members. He’s brilliant, isn’t He?
They guide the process
Really what an apostle does is help groups navigate through common problems that keep them from accomplishing their true purpose together.
When a church forms, there are a myriad of mindsets and emotional issues that are obstacles to allowing Christ to express Himself how He wants to through the group.
Just read the New Testament letters to churches. There were some major challenges and problems those groups needed help navigating through. No group is any different.
For this to work correctly, the group stays responsible for content and decisions. But they look to the apostle for suggested guidance and direction.
The apostle guides the process of how to let Christ be the Head, as well as the center and circumference of all they do.
As the group gets a handle on this process, the apostle can back away more and more.
The apostle-church relationship is like a parent-child relationship. When they are young, children need more guidance when it comes to the process of growing into maturity. This helps them stay healthy and protected.
As they grow, the parents don’t have to guide the children as much. They’ve better learned how to navigate through life on their own. The parents are there whenever they’re needed. But the children are now executing life processes on their own.
This is why you see the apostle Paul talking about churches like they are his children in his letters. They are not his children. So they have their autonomy and complete authority over what they do. They are like his children. This means he provides guidance and care as needed to help the church grow into maturity.
A lot of pain can be avoided
The absence of truly gifted apostles at the beginning of church functioning is one of the biggest sources of failure and pain in the church life experience. (Remember, an apostle is not pastor or small group leader.)
An institutional model can largely get away with it because vital Kingdom principles that can lead to these types of problems aren’t present.
They’ve been substituted with worldly principles so life together is easier (not better) and the cross can be avoided.
This presents a whole other set of problems, but I won’t get into that here.
If we’re going to get back to a Kingdom experience in the church, the role of the apostle will have to be re-discovered.