Do you feel restless? Do you catch yourself imagining what could happen if there was a widespread movement of God in places of great spiritual need? Do you find yourself drawn to stories of unreached people groups, spiritually void urban areas, or “missions impossible”? Are you someone who refuses to give up on people others call a lost cause because of your deep awareness of God’s love for them?
If any of those resonate with you, you may be living with a measure of apostolic gifting. (Find out more here: “You Know You’re Apostolic When…”)
If you’re ready to go deeper in what it actually means to be apostolic—and wanting to find your true fit in the mission of God—we have a tool to help.
First of all, let’s be honest, understanding apostolic gifting and fit can be a challenge because it’s not discussed that much in most local churches. And to further complicate things, not all apostolic people look the same or are called to the same type of work.
One person might be gifted and called to live in a challenging cross-cultural setting. Another might create new strategies for reaching complex urban environments. You could be an apostolic mover-and-shaker that remains connected to local church and whose focus is those near neighbors who are far from God.
What’s common about those with apostolic gifting is that they are “sent ones” (think “sent” as in “launched out of a cannon”). They are those who have the vision and skills to cross barriers for the sake of the good news of Jesus, whether the barriers are cultural, linguistic, socioeconomic, or geographic.
Sometimes, people with apostolic gifting and calling can be described in three ways that might help you find your niche.
Each apostolic type is named after a biblical apostle who best illustrates it. These types aren’t boxes you have to squeeze yourself into (you might fit more than one!), but they can help you better understand yourself if you have apostolic gifting, as well as the differences and strengths of others not like you. Together, these “types” give us a bigger picture of what God is doing through apostolic people, a window on how God is actively on the move and spreading his Kingdom in our midst.
1. Pauline Apostles
The Apostle Paul was a driven, focused personality. He was all about the mission. His task was bringing the gospel to those far from God, which he faithfully did throughout much of the Mediterranean world. Dedication to this calling led him to make tough choices; he parted ways with his partner Barnabas when he felt it was in the best interest of the mission. He stayed the course through all kinds of opposition, including beatings, imprisonment and shipwreck. He summed up this specific calling and motivation when he wrote, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation” (Romans 15:20).
Pauline apostles carry a call to the unreached. They pioneer “local communities of the Kingdom where they do not exist” (Dick Scoggins, Mission Frontiers magazine). According to CRM’s president, Sam Metcalf, “Those with Pauline gifting will tend to be the most radical. They will force the structure to stay focused on their task and to push the boundaries of calling.” Pauline apostles are bold, daring, risk-taking, driven, committed, and confident leaders, overcoming barriers and obstacles to bring the good news of Jesus where he is not known and loved.
Many of history’s most well-known missionaries had these Pauline tendencies. William Carey, David Livingstone and Jim Elliot are just a few that come to mind.
2. Petrine Apostles
While Paul was called to the gentiles (the outsiders), Peter was called to the existing people of God, the largely Jewish church in the first years of the Christian movement. Peter did not operate in a merely maintenance capacity within that church structure. He was on the forefront of working within and alongside the Church to see the mission of God move forward.
Petrine apostles strive to form and multiply new expressions of Church that can expand in any cultural setting, challenge beliefs or attitudes that retard the missional impact of the Church or that don’t line up with what God’s Spirit is doing, and lead the Church into effective mission. “Whereas Pauline apostles tend to cross cultures to pioneer new missional communities, Petrine apostles tend to mobilize existing communities to become and remain missional” (Hirsch and Catchim, The Permanent Revolution). They work to “renew” the Christian movement from within.
3. Johannine Apostles
Though less widely discussed in mission circles, there’s potentially a third apostolic type named after the Apostle John. John was the “disciple of love.” He was in Jesus’s inner circle, and the only one of the 12 disciples present at the crucifixion. It was to John that Jesus entrusted the care of his mother from the cross. John was a pillar of the early Church, was involved in the preaching work of sharing the gospel, and had a strong contribution to the teaching and encouraging of the Church, writing about 20% of the New Testament. Love of God and love of brother are the major themes in his letters to the Church. His understanding and personal experience of the love of God profoundly shaped his life and impact.
Johannine apostles are apostles of God’s love, or, as Metcalf puts it, “Those highly relational individuals who excel in loving and caring for others.” Johannine apostles carry a unique calling and ability to love others towards deeper knowledge of God, even expressing God’s love toward people whom others lack the patience or vision to love. They may dislike structure or strategic plans. “They break out in hives when inspirational or task-oriented leadership trumps the relational. But they love people intensely and bring balance and heart to ministry” (Metcalf). Those people with a strong mercy gifting or compassion for the poor or marginalized (such as CRM’s InnerCHANGE order) are often gifted this way.
Examples of this type of apostolic gifting could be Mother Teresa, with her ministry of compassion to the poor, and Barnabas, who chose the encouragement and mentoring of young John Mark over the strategic missionary vision of Paul.
We’re in This Together
It’s not uncommon to find a combination of these apostolic giftings coming together in the same person. In different ways, Jesus lived out all of these apostolic types as the key messenger from God to the world.
As messengers of the good news of Jesus, apostolic people have an essential role to play in the health of the Christian movement to further the mission of God. That’s why they are cited for special attention in Ephesians 2:20 as those who are foundational and upon which the Church is built.
REFLECT AND ACT
- How would you identify a person with apostolic gifting? What are the characteristics?
- Do you resonate with any of these apostolic types? How do these categories help you define your own sense of missional calling and what God might have had in mind when he designed you?
- Learn more about apostolic calling (for yourself or those around you). Sam Metcalf’s book, Beyond the Local Church: How Apostolic Movements Can Change the World goes much deeper in exploring the role of apostolic people and apostolic structures, and how they are essential to movements of the gospel. You can order it online.
Interested in reading more? You can download a free chapter from Sam Metcalf's book that explores what it means to be apostolic in greater detail.