In The outcomes of disciple-making I wrote that Christ’s ministry to the world flows through his body on earth, implying that the outcomes of disciplemaking are transformed lives and transformed communities. Paul even teaches that this transformation is not only personal, but has cosmic proportions precisely because it is the work of the exalted Christ.
Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim describe in “The permanent revolution” how the DNA of the church is found within the ministry of the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers. By restoring the first three in the list to the team the church again can fulfil its purpose as God intended. In a church where any one of the five dominates the others, the ministry of Christ towards the world is stunted and the results are seen in painful disunity and dysfunction of the church. In my mind some of the most interesting implications of Eph 4 are:
- The gifts are not abstract characteristics, but actual persons given to the body
- Every believer who is a member of the body is given as a gift in order for the whole body to function as Christ incarnate.
- Those dicipling the body of Christ towards maturity are not a small group of leaders but the whole of the body. Although the gift of leadership is recognised elsewhere in Scripture in general s well as Paul’s letters in particular, here the gifts are distributed in the whole body. Wherever the body gathers (even two or three), there the DNA of the church is.
- It seems that the gifts are much more of a functional nature than an office, formal ministry or title.
- It seems that the interdependent and mutual discipling ministry of the apostolic DNA, APEST, becomes the generator that eventually leads to transformation of the world. It is the unity in Christ and mutual expression of love, which makes apostolic teamwork possible.
For mobilisers working with a framework that includes disciple making it raises a few questions:
- Are we as mobilisers exhibiting the APEST characteristics in our teams?
- Do we immerse ourselves in the unity with Christ and expression of mutual love to each other so that we really function as one body directed by our Lord?
- Do we establish disciple making spaces like fellowships, groups, churches etc. that is based on APEST from day one?
- Do we intentionally use these disciple making spaces as energetic springboards for Kingdom transformation in response to the great commandment?
My gut feeling is that I do see some of the things above happen. But I am afraid that very often our immaturity in Christ forces us to individualism, thinking that the dynamics of apostolic teamwork is not needed any more.
Recommended read: Hirsch & Catchim: The permanent revolution. Apostolic imagination and practice for the 21st century church.