Modern Day Apostles

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Tuesday 8:30PM

Today’s schedule was like yesterday’s only more so. Attendance at the medical clinic doubled to 250 people, evenly divided between the regular clinic and the eye clinic. Responses to the gospel also doubled, with maybe 60 people praying to receive the Lord. And at tonight’s evangelistic service we had over 60 people–again, twice the number that attended last night. The picture at the top is of team leader John Payne preaching at the evangelistic service with team translator Jose Vazquez beside him. The tent extends out into the street; the doorway behind leads into the church.

I don’t want to get too caught up in numbers, but I think they’re an indication of how the folks here are responding. This has been one of those occasions where everything works better than anticipated–and that doesn’t often happen in ministry!

Tomorrow we split up. Most will go to a nearby town called Ciudad de Dios and conduct the same sort of medical and eye clinics as here. Three of us, though, will travel back to Trujillo and the Peruvian Baptist Seminary, where I’ll lead two teaching sessions for a combined group of students and local pastors. I’ll talk about “Healthy Pastors” and “Healthy Churches.” A lunch with the Peruvian Baptist leadership follows then we’ll drive back up north to meet the rest of our team for an evening crusade.

One of the key Baptist leaders here in Chepen as well as the nation as a whole is Tito Sevilla, who serves as pastor of a large church in Trujillo but also leads out in mission efforts throughout the northern portion of the country. He’s the one who put our mission trip together, along with a former missionary.

Tito is a soft-spoken man in his fifties who is universally respected–and with good reason. He has a track record of innovative and effective ministries that goes back decades. In fact, his wife and he began their ministry by planting a church in the middle of an area in Lima where single women who had been involved in sex trafficking had settled with their children. The church thrived. Tito went on to pastor other churches. All of them grew and many planted yet more churches. He’s still at it and constantly on the look out for new opportunities to extend the Kingdom.

In the brief time I’ve known him, I’ve recognized an unusual spiritual authority in his ministry, a quality I would describe as “apostolic.” The Bible describes apostles in two ways. First, there were the original apostles–Jesus’ disciples along with Paul–who had personal experience with Jesus. They delivered to the church the authoritative literature we know as the New Testament. I call these men “apostles with a capital A.”

But the Bible also describes a second level of apostles–men uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve the church through extending its ministry into new areas, providing direction for local congregations, and giving  general oversight to gospel ministry in a given region. I call these men “apostles with a little a.” I would place Tito in this category.

We don’t talk much about the gift of apostleship in Baptist circles but I think we should. The reason is that the biblical model for ministry places apostles in a critical position. Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

Wherever the church moves forward in the pages of the New Testament, it’s led by figures like Peter, Paul and others who carry the mantle of apostleship. Later in church history, whether it’s Patrick in Ireland, Benedict in Italy or even Martin Luther in Germany, the gift of apostleship is also evident. These men–and others like them–demonstrate first hand how the Holy Spirit provides for the advancement of the gospel and the care of churches through the special anointing called “apostleship.”

I’ve mentioned a friend of our church before–an Iranian brother named Kambiz–who has this anointing on his own life. Almost everyone who has worked with him recognizes the unique ways he leads people, institutions and churches to advance the Kingdom. You can call his skill set whatever you want but the Bible calls it the gift of apostleship.

The modern mission movement is so filled up with demographic studies, institutional strategies, innovative plans and the latest communication techniques, I wonder sometimes if we shouldn’t simply return to the biblical model of missions. That model is for the church to discern which men the Holy Spirit has gifted as apostles then follow where they lead. Success accompanies them wherever they go.

Tito strikes me as that kind of man. For that reason, I’ll look forward to building a relationship with him and his ministry in the future.

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