Recently Dave Cox, an elder in our church, shared with our team some of his insights on following apostolic leaders. As an apostolic leader myself, I found his thoughts and wisdom to be beneficial for our team to as we equip and serve our church together. You likely have apostolic leaders in your life or are an apostolic leader yourself, I pray that these words from Dave Cox serve you as you work together toward gospel saturation where God has placed you.
I’ve had the fortune to follow several apostolic leaders over the last decade or so. These are individuals who are excited about starting new works and are (by the nature of the way God has wired them) gifted to lead in visionary kinds of ways. It can be exciting to be around people that are building something new and demonstrating significant creativity, enthusiasm and passion for God in specific ministries. It’s been my habit to befriend individuals like this and have enjoyed that in many different instances and circumstances.
But following a leader that is primarily of an apostolic type can have its downsides. Let me walk through some helpful and unhelpful ways to serve under and alongside these kinds of leaders. These are a list of statements that I’ve thought myself or have heard others say that may clarify how healthy you are in the way you interact with your apostolic leader.
Helpful Thoughts and Responses To Apostles:
When an apostle starts a new thing, you should prayerfully consider whether you should join them or not. You may be tempted to follow them implicitly without prayerful consideration. Some people will chase after an apostle, following them around from cause to cause or ministry to ministry and even place to place; but that is often an idolatrous posture in the motivation for doing so. I’ve found that it’s better to respectfully hear the new idea, but not to blindly jump in. It’s ok to say no to an apostle when they start a new thing … you have to follow God’s call on your life! But it’s also very exciting to join them in that new work, should God call you to it. Regardless of what you decide, advocate for your apostle and encourage others to decide for themselves through prayerful dependence on the holy spirit on what they should do.
When an apostle is discouraged, remind them of God’s calling on their life instead of condemning them for doubt or fear. Perhaps others aren’t joining them in the new work, or the ministry has some flaw or problem in it. Encourage them that they need to listen and hear what God has called them to do regardless of how well it turns out; help them see it as a good learning opportunity for how to improve in the next thing that God calls them to do. God wants them to get stronger, wiser and more dependent on Him.
An apostle will be surrounded by people who want things from them instead of serving them. Be the kind of friend and fellow leader that doesn’t need anything from them (in an ultimate sense) but primarily be someone that is going to invest in your apostolic leader. You will be a rare type for this person, as again, many people will want to be around apostolic leaders for their charisma and excitement and leadership, but (sometimes unknowingly) can easily turn into demonizing them when they don’t live up to the expectations we have for them.
Apostles can be tempted to drift and work outside the scope of a healthy breadth for their family and ministry. They can have so many new and good things that need to get started that they can overwhelm those around them with the various causes and efforts that need to happen. They need to be gently reminded to take responsibility for ensuring their family and ministry team are feeling loved and known on the go. It will take significant energy, but they will need to be curious about the other and ensure they are surrounded by people with other giftings to help them see these opportunities and situations more clearly.
Unhelpful Thoughts and Statements:
When people moralize the starting or stopping of ministries, they may be tempted to feel that the old thing is wrong and the new thing is right (or the other way around). A dangerous thought that puts tremendous pressure on the apostle to be perfect in the new things they want to start; an impossible place for a leader.
You may consider your apostle to be flighty, that they keep changing things and that frequency seems immature to you. You’re likely a prophet and so ask the leader about how they pace their level of change … assume the best!
You may consider your apostle to be insensitive, that they aren’t understanding the impact of what they do on others. You’re likely a shepherd and ask the leader about how they think they are coming across to certain people and if they’ve asked the others how their relationship is going.
You may consider your apostle to be unorganized and irresponsible. You likely have a strong teaching or prophet gift. Ask the leader how you can help them with the wake of administrative detail that they are undoubtedly leaving behind them; or if they feel like they have enough help with those details. You can be helpful to them by asking them questions around priority and focus; as you dialog, your apostle will clarify themselves and you can be catalytic in that clarification.
You may consider your apostle to be doing the wrong ministries. You are likely an apostle yourself and feel burdened by a unique calling to start other ministries. Instead, embrace the diversity of the body of Christ and celebrate that God has called many apostles to start many new works across this world.