Thursday, November 1, 2007

Miscreants & Misfits

Not so long ago, I had someone come up to me, with the question of how I would "envision apostolic ministry in the 21st century" on their mind. As I've been part of the Vineyard shoal in the larger charismatic pond for the better part of two decades, it's not a question I take lightly. At the same time, it can also be a "run screaming into the woods" type of question, as well.

Although, I must confess that I'm somewhat surprised at the assumption most people seem to make about apostolic ministry – namely, that it involves a pretty powerful anointing coupled with a position of respect, authority, and people submitting to you.

I can't help but think of St. Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 4 regarding how he was treated by people – and if anyone could confidently assert his/her genuine standing as an Apostle (which I don't believe 99% of those currently trying to posture themselves as modern-day apostles have any claim to), it would have to be the man formerly known as Saul of Tarsus.
"But sometimes I think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor's parade, condemned to die... Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed." (1 Corinthians 4:9a, 10 NLT)
In this passage, where Paul is belabouring the point that elevating one human being over another is a sign of spiritual immaturity and "worldliness", Paul makes it look like being an apostle in the biblical sense is that last “position” anyone would want to aspire to.

I remember someone breathlessly asking a friend of mine, "You and Robby are totally like icebreakers, breaking new territory for the Kingdom! What does that feel like?"

After a moment's pause, my friend responded, "It FEELS like we're strapped TO the icebreaker, getting our faces mashed into the ice over and over again."
"Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world's garbage, like everybody's trash — right up to the present moment." (1 Corinthians 4:11-13 NLT)
Let's see what we’ve got so far…
  • hungry and thirsty
  • not enough clothing
  • enduring beatings
  • homeless
  • working hard at manual labour
  • cursed
  • abused
  • slandered
  • treated like garbage…
The New International Version ends this passage with the phrase "we are the scum of the earth..."; why anyone thinks that being "apostolic" means power and prestige is completely beyond me.So, when asked how I would "envision apostolic ministry in the 21st century", maybe it was a Holy Spirit moment of inspiration behind the immediate answer that came to mind:
"Remember St. Francis of Assisi? Picture St. Francis, walking barefoot in the snow, followed by a small band of brothers, also walking barefoot in the snow, on their way to serve the poor in some village. That's how I would 'envision' apostolic ministry in the 21st century."
We went on to have a great talk, late into the night, about re-envisioning the five-fold ministries (not "offices") of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, and Teacher through the lenses of a Servant Motif à la Philippians 2:5-11 and John 13:1-17.

Who knows? He may yet become another miscreant with an apostolic bent, but hopefully he'll never equate it with an ivory tower and a cushy job description!


  1. *looks at massive scaring and contusions*

    ahhh... I feel better now. Thanks!


  2. Great post. I've just linked to it on my blog as well.

    Jesus tells us if we want to be great, we need to learn to serve everybody. Of course it then makes sense that the "greatest" of the five fold ministry gifts should be about service...and not about being served.

    Thanks for the post!

  3. thanks robbie, its always good to have our feet on terra firma and not just leave our head in the clouds

  4. Once someone claims the position and title of apostle, I become highly skeptical. Perhaps a bit reactionary on my part, but most of the people that I believe truly function in apostolic ministry don't seem too concerned about their "office."

  5. Hey Mr. Mac!
    In the past year, I have been a prisoner, I have been condemned (although not to die) without trial, I have looked like a complete fool (for mostly valid reasons, I admit) and feel weak, dishonored and ridiculed.
    I have been hungry and thirsty. I have gone to food banks regularly, yet still gone without food. I have drunk water when my only option was through a vessel that was another man's trash.
    I have been injured needlessly by those in authority. I have spent more than one night on the street in inclement Winnipeg weather.
    I have been slandered, and abused, and would not doubt that I have been cursed by a baker's dozen.
    I also feel I have been thrown away with yesterday's trash.
    I guess I may imply, at least in some measure, that I am on the right path.

  6. Toadster,

    Yeah, I think you probably are! :)

    Weird... weren't you just talking with Wendy on the phone?

  7. Yes. Thank you for consistently asserting and protecting things that are true.

  8. Hey Rob,

    Can you elaborate on your thoughts, "about re-envisioning the five-fold ministries (not "offices") of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, and Teacher through the lenses of a Servant Motif à la Philippians 2:5-11 and John 13:1-17."

    I've been thinking about it myself and we've been wrestling with it within the group of christians we meet with weekly, so I would love to know what your thoughts are...