Apostolic Attributes

Although there are numerous ways to critique and validate apostolic leaders, there are common attributes that mark many leaders serving in this capacity. It is also important to note that not all apostles minister the same way with the same gifts and calling. In looking at apostolic leadership, we must apply the same scriptural principles found in Romans 12 balanced with their specific job description in Ephesians 4. This balance means taking, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.  But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (Rom. 12:4-7 NASB), while acknowledging “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13). Apostolic (and all five-fold ministry) leaders are first members of the Body of Christ, and then leaders in a specific capacity for the building up, equipping, and health of the Body of Christ.

If we were to survey those men and women who consider themselves apostolic leaders in today’s church, it would surprise us the divergent personalities, ethnicities; political, religious, and social biases; and any number of cultural differences we might find. An apostolic leader is not a “cookie-cutter” mold, waiting to be filled by anyone willing to fit the correct outside form. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,  treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” Many who might look the part, in spite of the diversities, are no more than playing church and deceiving others as they do so. They may have gifts, and they may have followers. But what is their character? Are they showing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), or are they “boastful, challenging one another, envying one another” (Gal. 5:26) in the flesh? A fruitful life on the inside will manifest sweet, healthy fruit on the outside.

Useful lists exist that display the ideal attributes of apostolic leaders. I want to narrow my list to those things I feel are essential basics. I see these attributes as necessary no matter what could or should follow them. Without these essentials acting as a foundation, whatever building done will lack stability and longevity. Here is my shortlist.

1. Humility. James 4:10 tells us, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” We get a clearer picture of what humbling ourselves means in Romans 12:3-5. “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.  For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,  so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Sound judgment about ourselves is not self-humiliation but instead seeing both our strengths and weaknesses that we might fully utilize the one while improving on the other. Apostolic leaders are keenly aware of the work to be done in their lives and make time to do it.

2. Keeping first things first. Acts 2:42 says of the early growing church, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Apostolic leaders model community centered on the word of God, fellowship around the word of God, recognizing Jesus as the living word of God, and making prayer to God a privilege and responsibility of the local assembly.

3. Equipping the body. The job description of every five-fold minister is one of fitting or making ready the body of Christ as a ship is made worthy of sailing the waters in which it will soar. Another word picture is that of a broken bone reset in its proper place, now able to heal and function with strength. Apostolic leaders take their mandate to bring maturity to the Body of Christ seriously. They have an anointing for seeing the big picture, making strategic adjustments, and calling out and placing individuals in ministry positions that will benefit the church in the process of building itself up in love.

Perhaps you have a list of apostolic attributes not mentioned in my shortlist. I’d love to hear what you see as essential apostolic attributes. Please comment and let me know. Blessings.

Biblical Illiteracy in America

“This scandalous problem is our own, and it’s up to us to fix it.” (Mohler) What scandalous problem? Biblical illiteracy. Who is us? According to Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, “This really is our problem, and it is up to this generation of Christians to reverse course.” How big is the scandal?
“Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments.
“Some of the statistics are enough to perplex even those aware of the problem. A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. We are in big trouble.” (Mohler)
What appears most disturbing about recent research is that an increasing number of Christians fall within the ranks of the Biblically illiterate.
“Christians who lack biblical knowledge are the products of churches that marginalize biblical knowledge. Bible teaching now often accounts for only a diminishing fraction of the local congregation’s time and attention. The move to small group ministry has certainly increased opportunities for fellowship, but many of these groups never get beyond superficial Bible study.” (Mohler)
Stating the problem in even more glaring terms is Dr. Kenneth Berding, Ph.D., professor of New Testament at Biola University’s Talbot School of theology:
“I’ve heard people call it a famine. A famine of knowing the Bible. During a famine people waste away for lack of sustenance. Some people die. Those who remain need nourishment; they need to be revived. And if they have any hope of remaining alive over time, their life situation has to change in conspicuous ways.
“Christians used to be known as ‘people of one book.’ Sure, they read, studied and shared other books. But the book they cared about more than all others combined was the Bible. They memorized it, meditated on it, talked about it and taught it to others. We don’t do that anymore, and in a very real sense we’re starving ourselves to death.” (Berding)
Another aspect of Biblical illiteracy is the tendency of church leaders to teach and preach selective passages and themes to the exclusion of presenting the big picture themes that carry us from Genesis to Revelation. Without a connection to the whole, the parts have no place to nest. As Berding says, Christians used to be known as people of one book. But Christians must also be known as people of the whole book.
Dr. J. Carl Laney, Professor of Biblical Literature at Western Seminary offers a way forward when stating, “How can pastors, seminary professors and Sunday School teachers move beyond merely telling the stories of the Bible to declaring the great story of God’s plan for the ages? The key, I believe, is to give more attention to proclaiming the major Bible themes in our teaching and preaching.” (Laney)

Mohler, R. Albert. The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem. 20 January 2016. Article.
20 September 2019. <https://albertmohler.com/2016/01/20/the-scandal-of-biblical-illiteracy-its-our-problem-4/&gt;.

Laney, J. Carl. Biblical Illiteracy in the Church Today, Part 1. 21 June 2016. Western Seminary.
Article. 21 September 2019. <https://transformedblog.westernseminary.edu/2016/06/21/7466/&gt;.

Berding, Kenneth. The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy & What We Can Do About It. Vers. Spring
2014. 2014. Article. 20 September 2019. <http://magazine.biola.edu/article/14-spring/the-crisis-of-biblical-illiteracy/&gt;.

Schreiner, Thomas R. The Problem with Much Preaching Today—And Biblical Theology as the Remedy. 1 March 2010. Article. 21 September 2019. <https://www.9marks.org/article/preaching-and-biblical-theology-101-pbt-101/&gt;.

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