SUNDAY, JULY 1, 2012.
THE MINISTER AS APOSTLE
‘At daybreak, He called together all of His disciples and chose 12 of them to be apostles’ (Lk. 6v13).
THE Anglican Church is one of those churches that believe in apostolic succession. During ordination, ministers are usually reminded to perform the work of an apostle, as one sent to minister life to the congregation.
The word, ‘apostle’, from the Greek noun, ‘apostolos’, is further derived from the verb ‘apostellein’, meaning ‘to send away’ or ‘to send forth’. It also means, ‘a delegate’; ‘an ambassador of the gospel’; ‘one commissioned’; ‘a messenger’ and ‘he that is sent’. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in His earthly ministry, chose 12 men to be His disciples and named them ‘Apostles’. These men were later to serve as His representatives on the mission field. Apostles are sent to proclaim the gospel of redemption and reconciliation back to God.
Notice that a select group became Jesus’ permanent witnesses of His ministry and resurrection. As commissioned missionaries, they were expected to perform the sacrament of baptism so that the sinner would repent and turn to the shelter of the Lord’s house. They used the baptismal formula as they were directed to baptise those who believed in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28v18-20).
Before Jesus called them ‘Apostles’, the Greeks and Romans used the word to describe men who were sent out to advance and establish their empires. These Greek and Roman Apostles were Generals or Admirals who had proven themselves in battle. They were given authority and power and then sent out to advance and establish the Greek or Roman culture everywhere.
Jesus commissioned and sent our His first Apostles into all the earth to advance His kingdom. They went out to conquer and subdue cities, regions or nations. After accomplishing this, they became responsible for governing people they had brought into the kingdom. They also had to instruct, educate and train new subjects in the laws and culture of their kingdom, so they could become good citizens of the kingdom of God! Let it be stated that the early Church was ‘kingdom minded’. The Apostles were not concerned with building their own church or ministry but worked together for kingdom growth.
Ministers of today must ensure that they conquer and subdue cities, regions and territories, placing them under the feet of Jesus. The First Century Apostles were successful because they had a militant mentality; they believed that they had a mandate for global dominion.
No wonder, the 12 Apostles, appointed by Jesus, became, subsequently, the pillars and pioneers of the early Church. They occupied a prominent position and helped in administration, leadership and guidance, under the Holy Spirit. Because of their position, they maturely and tactfully handled matters that could have torn a modern day church into pieces. A contentious issue that arose was a teaching that Gentile believers should be circumcised according to Mosaic Law. This was not only a deceit but also a negation and a subtle burden on Gentile believers. The Apostle Peter stoutly refuted this teaching and gave a graphic account of how God has gone a step further by allowing Gentiles receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when they repented of their sins. According to Apostle Peter: ‘as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning. Then I thought of the Lord’s words when He said, John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit. And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift He gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way? When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said we can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life’ (Acts 11v15-18). The issue of circumcision was rested by Apostle James, the Bishop who presided over the Council at Jerusalem. He noted: ‘and so my judgement is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood’ (Acts 15v19-20).
No doubt, God will continue to send forth to the mission field those who will proclaim His message to the perishing world. In our own time, ministers are to be arrowheads through which God’s desire will be kept on the front burner. Where there are no churches, it is expected that they plant them. Where there are no capable and gifted people to take care of such churches, they are to ensure that adequate personnel are raised to take care of the spiritual needs of members. Notice, the minister must be gifted to discover those who will be useful in looking after these churches. Care needs to be exercised under the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that wolves are not raised to devour inexperienced and young believers. It is no longer news that some people hide under religion and the call of God to wreak havoc on young believers. It behoves a minister, as an apostle, as one sent, to guide the church so it does not fall into error or spiritual depravity.
Therefore, the ‘shift’ towards apostolic leadership in the Church today is not about a new style of preaching or a new hierarchy; it is about fulfilling the will of God in the Great Commission. For us to be truly apostolic today, we must pick up the same mandate the early Apostles had and keep the fire burning.VEN. ERNEST ONUOHA Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.