Even though she didn’t call herself apostolic, Diane always had apostolic traits. Apostolic gifting often goes unrecognized. That’s one reason we’re telling Diane’s story here—to shed light on what it looks like to be an apostolic person in real life, no matter what station or season of life you find yourself in. We’ve already seen how apostolic characteristics motivated Diane to push limits and try new things in the corporate world (read part 1), and how apostolic passion fueled her desire to go to the “hard places” as a missionary—places where no one else wanted to go (see part 2). There is one more crucial piece to explore: what apostolic calling looks like in the local church.
After eight years in Cambodia and one and a half years leading a team in Romania, life circumstances brought Diane back to her home state of Georgia. In this new context, being apostolic took on a whole new meaning. Here’s what it looked like.
An Apostolic in the American Church
Diane caused quite a disturbance at the small church she joined in Georgia. She constantly saw possibilities for new ministries and often found herself challenging barriers that keep others from engaging in mission locally—especially the age-old barriers of the status quo. She came to realize how significantly different her perspective on following Jesus was from many others in the local church.
“I just want us [the church community] to keep moving, and keep growing out, and deep, and going to those places that other people won’t,” she shared. Her apostolic call was still operating in full force, this time to see new possibilities for internal growth in God and external mission to the local community. She was full of big vision for what the church could become, but not everyone was ready to go there.
Diane’s drive to continually go was often met with resistance—resistance to change, resistance to risk, resistance to follow Jesus in new ways. Diane was running into one of the common challenges for people with apostolic gifting—the big visions, potential risks, and new approaches of an apostolic person can be seen as more problematic than helpful. Eventually, Diane realized the importance of finding a local body that was more open to new forms of mission, and connected herself to a church where her gift might more effectively activate others.
Even in the midst of a community that welcomes her passionate influence, the local church has not been an easy place to manage apostolic gifting; there is an openness for Diane to do new things, but other believers aren’t quick to join in. This can be discouraging and lonely. But Diane has been learning how to love people where they are, speak their language, invite them into new opportunities, and invest with people who really want to take new ground in ministry—just like she did in her decade overseas. “I have learned that just like folks in Cambodia, folks in our church here aren’t going to change overnight. It’s going to take time. And I can still love somebody through that.”
What does it look like to have an apostolic calling in a local church context? Here are a few possibilities.
Apostolic people always have a vision for more. In a church, that might mean envisioning new ministries or ways the church can impact others, or seeing opportunities for spiritual depth and growth in new ways in the congregation.
Apostolic gifting is a leadership gift. An apostolic person will often be out front and center, starting new things or taking ministries further than they’ve ever gone before.
Someone with an apostolic call may find themselves in conflict with others in the local church, especially pastoral leadership that has a different focus or different priorities. Often, there can be resistance to change or new approaches, and the “big vision” of the apostolic person is not appreciated.
An apostolic leader may find more room for their gifts in a different setting, like an apostolic (missionary) form of the Church. If they are strong contributors to their local congregation (as many are), there may be reluctance to release the apostle to follow their call to new places.
Always an Apostle
Dreams of new places, new possibilities, and new ministries that could be pioneered around the world still powerfully pull Diane’s heart-strings. She stays actively engaged in world-sized mission work, using her administrative gifts in a leadership role with InnerCHANGE, which has 80 missionaries ministering among the poor in 10 nations. Being connected to this larger body of apostolically driven believers keeps her healthy and encouraged. When the time comes, she stands ready to go wherever Jesus wants to take her. And if it’s to somewhere no one else wants to go, to dream of possibilities no one has ever dared to dream before, so much the better.
What about you?
What kinds of roles and responsibilities do you typically take on in a local church setting? Have you had big visions of ways the church could do more or be more in the community or in the world? What spiritual gifts have you recognized in yourself or have others called out? Have you considered where your gifts would have the most impact in God’s Kingdom?
If you resonate with with the characteristics of an apostolic person, CRM President Sam Metcalf’s book Beyond the Local Church: How Apostolic Movements Can Change the World might give you additional clarity. You can but it on Amazon.