Question from the 5Q Community:
“I am currently serving in a legacy/traditional church that has fallen into the same traps of consumerism that most other churches have fallen into these days. We have been working through APEST concepts and understandings of roles for the last three or four years and I have had the vast majority of the congregational leadership take the APEST survey. I need to know how to disciple the apostles in the congregation, of whom the vast majority are successful businessmen who travel quite a bit. How do I work with them as the outliers of the church expression in our community, when most of them probably are better connected and more comfortable outside of the community? How do you do it?”
To restate the question: How do you disciple those with the gifts of an Apostle, when they seem to lose interest in traditional church programs?
Great Question! And we are learning right alongside you.
This is really common question and it’s asked more than you would think. Apostles are really difficult to rally around traditional “church” programming. They don’t like committees, they tend not to stick with new things and it’s hard to get them to self-identify what they would be interested in.
The way that we, and other leaders, are seeing positive momentum is by finding ways to move apostles out toward initiatives that aren’t in the traditional four walls of the church, that demand their particular focus and use their particular skills.
If you are looking for a starting point, ask open ended questions of Apostles: “As you look around our community/city/region, what is missing?” “What do we need?” “What are the problems that need solutions?” “What do we already have as resources that we could leverage?” “What are the passions and problems of the people in your zip code?” “How can we be an answer?”
Engage the Apostolic Imagination
Are there food deserts in your city? Places that don’t have access to healthy produce and other groceries that just don’t get close enough to low income population density? An Apostle can research that and actually find an answer. An apostle can partner with city agencies (that they may already have working relationships with due to their businesses) and help locate areas that need particular services. An apostle can start dialogue with civic leaders to raise capitol for many service initiatives. Their connections are gold when it comes to kingdom impact!
Find a cause and a purpose to unite #apostles around something that focuses their apostolic emphasis in the local community. This will spark their imaginations and ground their energies. Click To Tweet
Apostles are good at making deals that free up housing for low-income renters, re-purpose empty commercial properties, create infrastructure for food pantries and co-ops, etc. Get creative. Be bold. Is there a need for a really great coffee shop/restaurant in your parish? Apostles can make that happen. If they buy the vision, they are the ones who can find a way to come up with the provision.
Apostles are the people that are naturally quite extraordinary at answering “mission” problems that exist beyond the church building.
We’ve noticed that apostles are, by and large, very willing to use their networks to push the Kingdom into areas that make a difference in their city and/or neighborhoods.
Encourage them to think about how their relational world and work can also be ‘kingdom’.
How does what they do every day create kingdom impact?
How does how they do it speak of the King?
How do they embody the good news of Jesus in their work environment?
Are they looking for, and finding, people of peace and discipling other apostles (or co-workers or team) within their business marketplace relationships?
Could their business engage in charitable giving (of resources, effort, time etc)?
Do they pray for their workplace and work colleagues?
Focus The Apostolic Imagination
Another way to approach their entrepreneurial gifts is to help them think how the Kingdom could come in what they do and what they have: resources, experience, finance, home, etc, so they don’t create a sacred/secular divide where they work hard, earn money and then go to church as an isolated activity.
Find ways to help them discover the answer to questions like: “How does my work in the world make a difference?” “How do I build my team members up and apprentice them in character as well as competency?” “How could what I earn be used for greater kingdom impact?
Shepherding leaders might want to engage Apostles with questions like: “How can we serve the city in ways that are impossible for me? Ways that I’m not even thinking of?” “How can we identify the needs of our communities and build larger partnerships to address those needs?” “How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus in a way that benefits people that don’t believe anything can benefit them?”
Ultimately, it’s all about helping those who lead from the front in their everyday lives, reframe their “mission” as something they are already doing, or capable of doing. How can their vocation serve as an entry point for greater missional impact?
Disciple The Apostolic Imagination
There is also a surprising amount of room to disciple the apostle personally, to help them continue to mature spiritually. Ask them what they need to maintain and deepen their spiritual life as they work hard and maintain a demanding travel schedule. Is it ‘on the road devotionals’? Is it accountability calls for their time alone on the road? Is it an environment that enables them to ask tough questions of themselves, about their faith, their families? What is it that they need?
As you challenge them to think beyond themselves, what do they need as a framework or investment to do this? What kind of peer support can be structured so that one leader isn’t responsible for all the discipling?
Apostles have a deep desire to make a difference in the local community. Help them learn to look for people of peace in their workplace. Equip them to disciple people within their relational and working world. Free them to find a purpose in their work with their resources. Challenge them to engage what they need to in order to mature in their faith.
As the apostle starts to engage a larger vision that will produce a kind of kingdom impact that makes sense to them, there will be more grace and space for them to invest within the church community, too, as a natural by-product.