Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Missionary Call

Lately, I have been giving a bit of thought into the whole subject of the “missionary call.”

On the IMB web-site, it says that applicants for career, missionary apprentice, and missionary associate positions should be called and gifted by God, with a high sense of God’s leading to use their gifts in missionary service in cross-cultural situations.”

When it comes to Masters, ISC and Journeyman workers, however, the wording for this requirement is reduced to “a sense of God’s leadership.”

As far as potential members of mission volunteer teams are concerned, the advice they are given is: "Search our projects to find the overseas project that fits best with how God is calling you."

Several missionary colleagues, on their blogs, have had some insightful comments regarding “missionary call” in the past several weeks. Ken Sorrell, in a post entitled “As the Father has sent me…” Part One made the following statement:

To interpret Scripture in such a way to arrive at the position that every Christian is to fulfill the apostolic calling seems to me to be somewhat of a stretch. While agreeing that every Christian should be involved in activities that are normally associated with missionaries, this is not the same as the call to the apostolic task as seen and described in the New Testament. In fact, in this verse written by John, the word for “sent” is apostello, “as the Father has sent me, and the word for “send”, pempo, so send I you are two very different words and images. However, while meditating on this verse and seeking to understand those who are just as confident in their interpretation as I am in mine, I found myself asking the question, if Jesus is sending us out as God sent Him, as is stated in John’s Gospel, how did God send Jesus out? If everyone is a missionary, what does this really mean for all believers? And, are all believers prepared to embrace the implications of such a position?

In the comment string of the same post, Tim Patterson (a.k.a. “mr. t”), made the following observation:


I agree there are those with a specific apostolic gift... set apart and sent by the Holy Spirit through the church for the work He has called them to do.

However, all believers are commanded to be salt and light in the world. I still believe the Great Commission is for all, not just for the professionals. All can be a part of making disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey. What we tend to forget is that God does not call us to do the apostolic task alone. It takes all kinds in the body of Christ to carry out His commission. As apostles we need to take the church along with us, the mission is for the whole church. We run ahead and hope they will catch up later... when we should be going together. True, not all will go, not all will have the same degree of sacrifice and commitment... but Christ will use them just the same. We all have to take baby steps before we can take longer strides.

Not to be outdone, IMB colleague “Strider,” on his post entitled On Being Apostolic, had this to say:

An apostle is a ‘sent one.’ He is given a specific task for breaking down barriers and he carries a ministry across the barricades that the enemy has erected to spread the light of the Kingdom in a previously dark place. The key difference for the apostle from the other ministries is the concept of barriers. Paul was sent to the Gentiles. This was cross cultural ministry. He went (physically) from where he was to a different place and culture with the Good News. Peter was an Apostle to the Jews. He was a Jew. He did not in one sense cross a barrier in that he was who he was sent to reach. But in another sense he crossed an important barrier. The Jews had rejected Jesus. Peter was ethnically a Jew but he became a citizen of the Kingdom and then was sent back to the Jews. He was in a sense re-crossing the barrier he had come across. Crossing barriers is important to apostles.

Another characteristic is the ministry. A preacher can preach anywhere. An evangelist evangelizes everywhere he goes. But they are not apostles. An apostle brings a ministry with him. He is not just a team leader. He is a team empowerer. Because he is called to cross the barrier he is given the authority to do the job that the King has called him to. As with all gifts in the Kingdom it only has meaning as it is given away. An apostle gives his authority to others that they may expand the ministry.

In recent reading, I have also come across the following thoughts that have stimulated my thinking regarding “missionary call” and, to some extent, challenged my ideas:

Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest, February 2, “The Compelling Force of the Call”

“Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16)

Beware of refusing to hear the call of God. Everyone who is saved is called to testify to the fact of his salvation. That, however, is not the same as the call to preach, but is merely an illustration which can be used in preaching. In this verse, Paul was referring to the stinging pains produced in him by the compelling force of the call to preach the gospel. Never try to apply what Paul said regarding the call to preach to those souls who are being called to God for salvation...

To be “separated to the gospel” means being able to hear the call of God (Romans 1:1). Once someone begins to hear that call, a suffering worthy of the name of Christ is produced. Suddenly, every ambition, every desire of life, and every outlook is completely blotted out and extinguished. Only one thing remains—“…separated to the gospel...” Woe be to the soul who tries to head in any other direction once that call has come to him. The Bible Training College exists so that each of you may know whether or not God has a man or woman here who truly cares about proclaiming His gospel and to see if God grips you for this purpose. Beware of competing calls once the call of God grips you.

Watchman Nee, in The Normal Christian Church Life:

The first principle to note in the work of God is that all His workers are sent ones. If there is no divine commission, there can be no divine work...

Scripture has a special name for a sent one, namely, an apostle...

Who then are apostles? Apostles are God’s workmen, sent out by the Holy Spirit to do the work to which He has called them. The responsibility of the work is in their hands. Broadly speaking, all believers are responsible for the work of God, but apostles are a group of people specially set apart and bear a peculiar responsibility for its conduct...

The apostles were gifted men, but their apostleship was not based upon their gifts; it was based upon their commission. Of course, God will not send anyone who is unequipped, but equipment does not constitute apostleship. It is futile for anyone to assume the office of an apostle simply because he thinks he has the needed gifts or ability. It takes more than mere gift and ability to constitute men apostles; it takes God Himself, His will and His call. No man can attain to apostleship through natural or other qualifications: God must make him an apostle if he is ever to be one. “A man sent from God” should be the main characteristic of our entering upon His service and of all our subsequent movements...

Today those who have been sent out by the Lord to preach the Gospel and to establish churches call themselves missionaries, not apostles, but the word “missionary” means the very same thing as “apostle,” i.e. “the sent one.” It is the Latin form of the Greek equivalent, “apostolos.” Since the meaning of the two words is exactly the same, I fail to see the reason why the true sent ones of today prefer to call themselves “missionaries” rather than “apostles”...

If God has called a man to be an apostle, it will be manifest in the fruit of his labours. Wherever you have the commission of God, there you have the authority of God; wherever your have the authority of God, there you have the power of God; and wherever you have the power of God, there you have spiritual fruits. The fruit of our labours proves the validity of our commission. And yet it must be noted that Paul’s thought is not that apostleship implies numerous converts but that it represents spiritual values for the Lord, for He could never send anyone for a lesser purpose...

There was abundant evidence of Paul’s apostolic commission and the signs of an apostle will never be lacking where there is truly an apostolic call … Endurance is the greatest proof of spiritual power, and it is one of the signs of an apostle. It is the ability to endure steadfastly under continuous pressure that tests the reality of an apostolic call… But the reality of Paul’s apostleship was not only attested by his patient endurance under intense and prolonged pressure, it was evidenced also by the miraculous power he possessed. Miraculous power to change situations in the physical world is a necessary manifestation of our knowledge of God in the spiritual realm, and this applies not to heathen lands only but to every land. To profess to be sent ones of the omnipotent God, and yet stand helpless before situations that challenge His power, is a sad contradiction. Not all who can work wonders are apostles, for the gifts of healing and of miracle-working are given to members of the body (1 Cor. 12:28) who have no special commission, but miraculous as well as spiritual power is part of the equipment of all who have a true apostolic commission...

I, personally, tend to think that all of us, as believers, are “called” to participate, to the best of our ability, in the fulfilment of the Great Commission. The specific way in which each one participates will depend on various factors. I do not deny that God sometimes causes people to have a strong sense of His leading in regard to specific types of ministry, in particular places, and particular circumstances. I believe, however, that God’s “call” in our lives is perceived both through the “left side” of our brain and the “right side” of our brain. I believe that many have made out the “missionary call” and the “call to ministry” in general to be essentially a “mystical” experience. I do not deny the reality of this type of “call” experience in many people’s lives. I myself, on various occasions, have had a deep sense that God was “pricking my heart” in a special way, whenever the topic of world missions was discussed. On various occasions, I have not been able to hold back my tears, as I sensed God speaking to my heart about the need of the world, and His plan to reconcile to Himself those He was calling out from among all the nations and people groups of the world. Upon responding positively to that sense of “call,” I felt a peace inside, or a sense of “oughtness,” that I was doing the right thing.

At the same time, though, I have seen what I believe to be some dangers in over-subjectivity and dogmatism related to a “missionary call.” I have seen some very zealous workers arrive on the mission field, convinced that God had called them to a specific place and ministry, when, at the same time, the majority of their colleagues and national ministry partners could not affirm their effectiveness in the particular ministry to which they were supposedly “called.” I have seen this type of situation end up bringing quite a bit of anguish and heartache to various people, including, but not limited to, the family members of the supposedly “called” workers.

Without discounting the validity of all “right-brain,” subjective, and/or mystical type of “call” experiences, I believe that every one of us, as believers, need to honestly ask ourselves on a regular basis the following question:

Given the particular personality, talents, spiritual gifts, experiences, and life situations that God has placed in my life right now, exactly where and doing what do I believe I can make the most strategic contribution towards the fulfilment of the Great Commission?
Of course, that is a very deep question, which will no doubt require some serious reflection and soul-searching.

*Rick Warren, in The Purpose-Driven Life, has an interesting section about more or less this same basic concept, that he calls “God-given S.H.A.P.E.” (spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences).

For some, this may mean one thing at one stage in our life, and something totally different, at another stage in our life. A change of ministry focus does not necessarily mean one has abandoned God’s “call” on his/her life, though. What is not an option, for any true disciple of Jesus, is looking for the “easy way out” or completely “throwing in the towel.”

I would be interested to hear what any of you have to say regarding the “missionary call.” I myself am very open to any new insights God may have to give me on this important subject.


Bart Barber said...


It might interest you to know that John Hammond in his recent book Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology has noted that the concept of an inward call appears nowhere in the biblical qualifications for the offices.


God's call to ministry was a powerful experience that I recall in detail some twenty-six years (more than two thirds of my life) later. Certainly the narrative portions of scripture indicate that God can and does call dramatically and personally.

The question is, does God always do so? Hammond seems to be suggesting, not necessarily.

I thought this might stir up discussion on this thread.

Alycelee said...

One of the things I have enjoyed here is being able to hear from missionaries, about their work, their perspectives, their heart. It was good here to hear from many. I agree David, for what it's worth, that all 'called out ones' are CALLED to ministry. I also believe there is not enough emphasis or teaching on this and consequently we have a weak and ineffective body. Hopefully this is changing.
During my life with Christ, my calling has changed or should I say, more become more specific.

God called me to reach out to women in bondage. This has taken many forms and turns, but in reality I have worked with single moms, women coming out of prison and women suffering from depression and fear.

This call, I believe came because God had given me specific grace as an adopted child, finding out later in years, had not God provided that family for me, I too would have been in this same bondage.
So for me-grace given, grace extended. "To whom much is given"

In saying this, I also look for and have been given by God, many opportunities to present the whole gospel to unbelievers. On the street, in parks, at shops. I found out around 8 years ago-if you ask God for opportunities, He gives them to you. He can and does also make these efforts effective, by His power and grace. Amazing!

For me, these wonderful opportunities to speak about the goodness of God, are like a life source to me. It fills me up-when I let go freely of what God has given me.

Enough-I'm preaching,
Good morning, David.

Tim Patterson said...


I believe there are a lot of "apostles" out there in our churches that are being called out by the Holy Spirit for the work He wants them to do (Great Commission work). However, the churches do not emphasize this calling or gift, and so these find other ways to channel their calling that may not be as biblical or strategic for extending God's kingdom.

The "sent ones" must be confirmed by the church and sent by the church (with prayer and fasting), if we are following a biblical pattern. The church should be proactively seeking and praying for these folks. Because most churches fail to do this, parachurch and other entities take up the slack. We see a lot of prodigal apostles out there because the church is relinquishing their role in this area.

Once a church sends apostles, these can serve as a bridge for the whole church to get involved through prayer, giving and filling various roles that will lead to multiplying disciples, leaders and churches among their focus people group. We need that key person to be called out and sent by the church to see the whole church obey the Great Commission. Churches must become more intentional in following the biblical pattern for mission and not succumb to the temptation to do non-biblical activities and call it mission.

Bart Barber said...


To add another voice to the conversation:

" fact we are all missionaries in this world."
-To Mr. William Carey, Mudnabatty, near Malda, Bengal, from Andrew Fuller, Kettering, England, 17 April 1798

David Rogers said...


In response to Hammond's comment, do you think that the phrase "all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers" in Acts 20:28 implies a divine call? Do you see another way to interpret this?

David Rogers said...


I think there is a sense in which we are all "sent" by Jesus, just as Jesus was sent by the Father (John 20.21). There is perhaps a sense that this "sending" was related specifically to the 12 in their unique role, as well, though.

However, I think the context of Matthew 28:18-20 definitely implies a commission that goes beyond just the 12: "I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Also, the commission in Acts 1:8, although directed initially to the "apostles whom Jesus had chosen" (Acts 1:2), seems to have been fulfilled in the entire 120 who were all together in one place on the day of Pentecost, e.g. the "church" as a whole. Still, there does seem to be a distinction between the 12 and the rest, and also later on, between additional apostles (Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Andronicus & Junia (?), etc.) and non-apostles.

One question I am uncertain about is, provided we are in agreement there is such a thing as an "apostolic commission" today, should all IMB appointees necessarily have an "apostolic commission"? Does all "cross-cultural" ministry qualify as "apostolic" in nature? Is doing relief work in another country equally as apostolic as church planting? Is "facilitating church planting movements" equally as "apostolic" as directly planting churches?

Personally, I think Strider may be on to something when he talks about "crossing barriers" as an essential part of apostolic ministry. However, isn't there a sense in which we all must cross barriers in order to evangelize in the world in which we live?

Tim Patterson said...

You ask, "...should all IMB appointees necessarily have an "apostolic commission"? Does all "cross-cultural" ministry qualify as "apostolic" in nature? Is doing relief work in another country equally as apostolic as church planting? Is "facilitating church planting movements" equally as "apostolic" as directly planting churches?


I think the apostolic role is a gift of the Spirit (Eph. 4:11). Not everyone will fulfill that role. We see in the New Testament that a variety non-apostle types were involved in the mission that was spearheaded by an apostle. The apostle is the catalyst and others come in behind to further stimulate and nurture the work.

I do believe the primary apostolic work should be church planting. Other ministries can support that but should not take away from the newly planted indigenous church's responsibility for reaching their own people.

Anonymous said...

I think some Christians might "sense" God’s call to missions because they have been convinced it’s difficult or even impossible to truly glorify God doing anything else. In other words, if you “really” want to bring God glory, then go overseas. Some people have been misled to think missionaries have some kind of monopoly on pleasing Jesus. If it came down to a missionary or the local waste management employee - the missionary wins hands down.

I had a very close friend recently say "she loves Jesus too much to go to law school" about a young lady entering the college application process. There are many false (and even dangerous) assumptions buried in that comment, and they are actually quite profound. I think some, certainly not all, might have left the mission field because they went not realizing God’s glory isn’t bound to location.

I think (not know for sure) it must be first a zeal for the glory of God (not exclusively as a missionary) + a real sense of God’s calling to cross cultures + specific giftedness for that kind of task that would be clearly recognizable to men and women who have already proven themselves to be those truly called by God to cross cultures.

God bless,

Patrick Barrett

GuyMuse said...

A timely post, and some good insights from those you quote, along with some good comments coming from your readers.

I have often wondered whether Paul's words to Timothy (3:1) apply to the "missionary call" as well?

In vs. 1 he writes, "if any man aspires" (NASB), "if a man desire" (KJV), "if anyone sets his heart on" (NIV), "si alguno apetece" (SRV).

If true, it would seem that "call" goes hand in hand with our aspiring, desiring, and setting our heart upon following the Lord in this way.

Like you, I'm am still open to learning more about this matter. With more and more emphasis being placed on cross-cultural missions from developing countries like Ecuador, the subject of "missionary call" is just beginning to be addressed and we need some good handles to be able to give solid Biblical support to those "aspiring", and "setting their hearts" upon missionary work.

David Rogers said...

I notice that no one has dared to touch the claim made by W. Nee that "miraculous as well as spiritual power is part of the equipment of all who have a true apostolic commission."

Of course, in the backdrop of this comment is 2 Cor. 12.12 "The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance."

If we understand Paul not to be one of the "12", how do we deal with this? Do we necessarily take a "cessationist" approach, and say that was just for "apostles" before the Canon was complete?

I'm not so much looking to defend a view here as much as to learn from the insight of others, since I don't really know how to answer these questions.

David Rogers said...


So do I understand you correctly to be saying there is room in the IMB for workers who do not have a true "apostolic commission"?

If such is the case, would it be helpful to specify who are truly "apostles" and who are fulfilling "support roles" of the ministry of the "apostles"? Or would this be opening a big can of worms?

David Rogers said...


Excellent point. Kind of reminds me of Catholics making a vow to God, and, as a result, becoming monks or nuns. As a matter of fact, come to think of it, "The Sound of Music" might even have a lesson for us about this somewhere. Maria wanted to be completely sold out to God and serving him, but in the long run discovered that her most effective role was not as a nun, but rather as a wife to Captain von Trapp, and as a mother to his children.

David Rogers said...

Yes Guy,

I think you are referring to the H in S.H.A.P.E.: one's "Heart" for ministry.

Bart Barber said...


Let me be careful not to misrepresent the good Doctor Hammett: His point deals exclusively with the qualifications for ministerial office. Where such qualifications appear, his point is that they never list the inward call as a qualification for these offices.

So, he is not arguing that the NT does not speak of an inward call, nor is he suggesting that NT elders did not receive a calling. Rather, he is saying that the call is not listed as a qualification.

Bart Barber said...

And I should correct my earlier misspelling of the name it is John Hammett. Hammond is our new NAMB president. Oops!

Tim Patterson said...


I am saying that once an apostolic type has opened the way, there is room for other Timothy, Titus, Epaphroditus, John Mark, Aquila & Priscilla, etc. types to play a role in stimulating and nurturing the work that was begun by the apostolic missionary. They are all outsiders and should not do the work of the insider or undermine the job of the newly planted churches to reproduce and reach their own culture.

IMB did the right thing, opening up more opportunities for everyday Christ followers to serve in other cultures. They also did right to focus strategy on apostolic work among least engaged peoples. There is room for all... there are very few from our churches engaged in cross-cultural missions compared to the great need. It is a matter of discovering the right role for each one called out and matching them to where they can exercise their particular gift within a given strategy.

Tim Patterson said...


You also mentioned something about opening a "can of worms"...

I think that we can identify or confirm a person's giftedness after they get on the field and start working. Then after a while, if we need to change their role, it would be appropriate to do so at that time. I think IMB sending everyone short-term to start is helping to accomplish that.

The signs, wonders and mighty deeds can take many forms... in South Asia those things still occur. I have observed that it most often occurs in a pioneer context where there is no gospel presence. God intervenes there to reveal Himself among a people that did not have access to that revelation before. We make the mistake of focusing on the missionary (apostle), when the focus should be on God. The missionary just happens to be there to witness the glory of God.

Strider said...

I have been off traveling around so I am late on this discussion. Never the less I'll bite. The nature of Apostolic work demands spiritual authority and power. It is unfortunate that we are so clever and have come up with all kinds of wonderful systems and methods and time honored strategies. They will not expand the Kingdom. The forces of darkness are quite real and quite powerful to keep people enslaved to the lies of the evil one. Apostles confront those evils and break their hold. I know that I am called to fight a spiritual battle. Our team faces many levels of evil here. We are in a muslim country. Our people worship at shrines that have real power surrounding them. In the village I was at yesterday people are regularly healed miraculously at the local shrine. Which letter in SHAPE addresses that one? Injustice and oppression are national charactoristics. Do you have a program that sets them free? No, Christ himself will set men and women here free and when he does it will be miraculous. That I will be the one standing there at the time may make me 'apostolic' but the reality must be maintained that Christ is building his Church. Barriers are being broken down. His Kingdom is moving forward. As we allow him to be the Lord in our lives he will array his army as he sees fit. If the missionary call has any meaning it at least means that we are acknowledging what God is doing in us and we are moving in obedience to that regardless of feelings or how 'logical' it may appear. As the Church matures we should be able to discern people's gifts and call and help them get to the places and roles that they must have.
Oh, one more thing. I always believed the Stategy Coordinator was the original apostolic position in the IMB. It is unfortunate that it has become largely an administrative convenience rather than recognizing God's calling. I would love to see this trend reversed but I am not holding my breath. The truth is that the authority God gives is best discerned through a relationship with him rather than checking out a guy's job title anyway.

Strider said...

I just read Tim's last comments which came up after I posted my post- even though they are before my post.
Anyway, yeah what Tim said. Very good.

Grosey's Messages said...

David you asked a question
"Of course, in the backdrop of this comment is 2 Cor. 12.12 "The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance."
If we understand Paul not to be one of the "12", how do we deal with this? Do we necessarily take a "cessationist" approach, and say that was just for "apostles" before the Canon was complete?"

As a cessationist, I only see the miraculous signs and wonders gifts being withdrawn, those that authenticate the offices concerned with apostleship and revelation.
I would view Paul as a 12th apostle.
I would also view some in the church (Romans 16:7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow countrymen and fellow prisoners. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were also in Christ before me.) as "Messengers" remembering that the word "apostle" has a primary meaning of "sent one" rather than a primary function of denoting an office ("office" is used as a term to denote "gifted recognised specialised ministry" by most theologians dealing with gift ministry... ie Banks, et. al.).
While I am a cessationist, I do not negate that sometimes God confirms ministry miraculously.
I cannot give a biblical reference to this, only sadly personal experience.
In a time of great challenge to my own ministry the Lord healed 2 people miraculously, one of imminent death through lung cancer (he had 3 weeks to live maximum, after prayer three quarters of the cancer was gone, just gone! to the amazement of the specialist), and one with a rapid onset MS-like disease was healed instantly after prayer 9to the amazement of the specialists).
Cessationism ought not to be equated with atheism.

Strider said...

I really appreciate Steve's comment because I have always associated cessationism with atheism. I am pleased that that is not the case.
But I disagree about Paul being the 12th Apostle. Judas place was filled by Matthias. He was regarded as the 12th and had a great ministry before his own martydom- if we can believe the traditions.
The canon is closed and no one will be writing any more scripture but apostles are still being raised up because they are still needed to go and shine light into the dark places of this earth. I hold to my original premise that apostles cross spiritual barriers that must be beat back. They do not do this in their own strength- well, too many do but that is another matter- but they strive with all the power that He so powerfully inspires in them.

Strider said...

David suggested earlier that all of us cross barriers to take the gospel to the lost. So, how is that different from what an apostle must do?
I think that this is hard to quantify but their is a very real difference between someone who is lost and a spiritual stronghold. I know that there are some who have spoken about strongholds in a way that makes us all roll our eyes but that does not mean they are not there. Pioneer M's have had to deal with a lot more than just outdoor toilets. Going to a new unreached, untouched place will cost you and your family. There are spiritual forces there who do not want to give up. One translation team here in middle earth has had a terrible year. A woman got life threatening cancer, the team leader's son was diagnosed with MS, and the third family lost all of its funding so they could not come back to the field. This all happened within four months.
It is no platitude to say that we need prayer. I was no platitude for Paul either. I don't know much about the spiritual world but I know that if we are not covered with prayer and gifted by God with superhuman endurance it will kick our butts.
There are M's working in the harvest fields. They are gifted and they are called. But what they do is not the same thing as what an apostle does. We need to recognize the apostles and send them out. Everyone is called to be a part of the work of the Kingdom. But we must discern what parts we are to play and move in obedience to the King or we will continue to be discouraged about the state of the church.

David Rogers said...


I appreciate very much your contribution to this discussion, and concur in the big majority of what you have to say.

However, in the interest of deepening the discussion a bit more, I would say that, in regard to the special spiritual battles an apostle will find himself enmeshed in, that perhaps this is related in some way to the "S" in S.H.A.P.E.: "spiritual gifts." I think some are probably more prepared for this due to their gifting, though, no doubt, a good part of this preparation comes as a result of spiritual discipline and intimacy with the Father, as well. Yet, Watchman Nee says: "The apostles were gifted men, but their apostleship was not based upon their gifts; it was based upon their commission."

Do you agree with Nee here? Is it possible that some of these gifts come together with the commission?

Also, I imagine some of our brethren working in the so-called "harvest fields" might take exception to not truly being "apostles." Would you say there are degrees of the "apostolic" nature of a missionary's ministry, depending on the severity of the barriers to be crossed?

Grosey's Messages said...

Wow strider, i didn't realise you regarded me as an atheist.
I am deeply hurt by this attitude.

David Rogers said...


1. Strider never said he regarded you as an atheist.

2. I read Strider's comment "I really appreciate Steve's comment because I have always associated cessationism with atheism. I am pleased that that is not the case" as tongue in cheek.

3. Your original comment "Cessationism ought not to be equated with atheism" seems to me invite such a comment. Who ever (at least around here) ever implied anything close to cessationism being equated with atheism?

4. I am tempted to read your last comment as tongue in cheek, as well. However, past history of other exchanges on this blog leads me to think perhaps this is not the case.

5. If I am right about this, can we not just continue to discuss the issues without judging other people's motives and being so easily offended?

Strider said...

David- I will let stand your response to Steve and move on to what you rightly called me out on.

First- I reacted against SHAPE because I am at a point in my own life where I distrust all programs and systems. This is unfair as SHAPE may be a great blessing from God to many people. Yes, S for spiritual gifts sort of covers what I was getting at. However, I do indeed agree with Nee on the point you raised. God calls us to go do something and then His Spirit empowers the worker to accomplish. I think it is not always a good idea to see what you're gifted for and then assume that that is what the King wants you to do. Many times in my life, and I will bet yours as well, God has called me to do something that I had no experience doing, no training, no 'gifting' but then he empowered me to accomplish greatly.
Conversely, I agree with Nee that He gives us all the gifts we need to accomplish the task. With the commision to go and do comes the authority to accomplish the mission. This point is under stressed today.

Secondly, I overspoke concerning the harvest fields. The apostolic role is different there but no less real. Pioneers take the gospel to new places and see spiritual forces defeated by the ministry they bring. Harvesters come along and stand on their shoulders bringing a new ministry to the area and break down barriers that keep people in bondage to the evil one.
There is more but I had better stop here.

bryan riley said...

I want to dig into this, but I have just been trying to catch my wind after travel and am getting settled in here in England. I hope I can take time to think about this and respond. Good looking post and comments, what I've read.

David Rogers said...


I can appreciate the perspective you are taking on this. Certainly God often calls us to do things that go beyond our natural ability and talents. And, certainly "His power is made perfect in our weakness."

Yet, at the same time, I see the "wise stewardship angle," as evidenced in verses such as:

1 Peter 4.10: "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."

I suppose we are both looking at the same truth, just from different angles.

Paul heard an audible voice from heaven. He was also "caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." Are "apostles" today to expect this type of "call" experience? I'm definitely not saying it can't or doesn't still happen today. But, I don't see how or why it should always be like that, either.

Although I don't consider myself to be real big on programs and systems either, I think the general concept of S.H.A.P.E. (which was something I was talking about, without the catchy acronym, way before Rick Warren "took it to the bank") can be very helpful as each one of seeks to determines God's will for our lives in terms of ministry.

I guess there is nothing that says God can't stick round pegs in square holes, though. He does things that seem to confound our human wisdom on many occasions.

I guess the balanced view is to look at this from all angles, and not put God in a box.

David Rogers said...


Take your time getting settled in. When I was first in England, they warned me about driving on the left-hand side of the road, but no one told me that a white stripe in the middle of the road was just as good as a stop-sign. I almost got myself and a car load of people killed before I figured that one out. So, take care.

When you catch your breath, I would be interested to hear your perspective on this.

I was also hoping to hear something from Ken Sorrell. I notice over at his blog that he has been a bit out of pocket as of late as well. Maybe he'll check in on us sometime soon too.

Ken Sorrell said...


After what appears to be successful eye surgery, I’m beginning to get to where I can focus again. Thanks for your prayers and the heads-up to this discussion on your blog. I’m also honored that I would even be quoted as part of an introduction to this topic. Since I am late jumping into the fray, I will attempt to be as concise as possible. Yeah right!

One of the main reasons that I began the my own missions focused blog was a personal desire to put forth a voice and position that was and continues to be very much a minority viewpoint in the SBC concerning missions and the missionary task. I believe it was our Baptist statesman, Dr. Roy Fish, who several years ago stated, “If everything we do is evangelism, then nothing we are doing is evangelism.” I feel the same way about missions. If everything we are doing as Christians is missions, than nothing we are doing is missions. From an everything is missions position, one does not have far to leap to then claim that everyone is a missionary.

To be perfectly honest with you, I would not be as concerned with voicing this position if we saw a wide-spread obedience to the commands of Christ and Scripture. However, when someone travels to another country to help renovate an orphanage and befriend orphans, then returns home believing that they have fulfilled the Great Commission and are indeed a missionary, I simply do not find any evidence for this position in Scripture. They have not done anything wrong and such a ministry is a valid one for the church.

First, I do believe that there is strong biblical evidence in an apostolic call and commissioning which can only be fulfilled by being a “called”, “set apart”, and “sent out” one, (Acts 13:1-3). Sent out ones do not remain at home nor do they settle down with believers. They keep moving to the edges of lostness, (Romans 15:20-21). The missionary strategy as given by our Lord in Matthew 28:19-20 is that of evangelizing, baptizing, discipling, in such a way that leads to new congregations, and then teaching others to do the same. Here in verse 19, I personally interpret the verb “poreuomai”, translated as “go”, as a command to go to the nations by leaving home, for those with an apostolic calling.

I agree too with those who say that the Great Commission was given to the church and to individual believers. However, for those who do not sense this apostolic calling, it seems more appropriate for “porueomai” to be translated “as you are going”. Thus, for believers and in the normal life of the church, to fulfill the Great Commission is to participate in this missionary strategy in the normal course of being witnesses where one lives and works. With the migration patterns we are seeing today, you do not have to travel far to touch the nations. The church will at the same time participate in many areas of ministry and work that the “missionary” simply will not do. For example, a local congregation may feed the hungry every Saturday. This is a task of the church, but not an ongoing task of the apostle / missionary.

The difference between a missionary and other believers is partly what they do, but more importantly, it is where it is done. I believe this is an important difference and that Scripture over and over again bears out these differences in the practices we see in the New Testament. Paul “left behind” elders and overseers for a specific church task. Paul’s calling and work was not the same as these he appointed. But even though both are certainly valued and needed, they are not the same.

A church becomes “missionary” in her efforts when she moves beyond her oikos, sphere of ministry influence to not only share the Gospel, but to begin a new congregation and develop new leaders. As long as a church’s efforts are geared only toward her own growth, she may be participating in evangelism, discipleship, and leadership training, but she is not participating in the fuller understanding of the Great Commission and the missionary task which as we see over and over again in the New Testament resulting in new congregations. This is a critical distinction to make.

A prime example of a church planting another church outside of her oikos, without the participation of “missionaries” is found in Acts 11 when the Jerusalem church sent Barnabas and the Men of Cyprus and Cyrene to begin a new work in Antioch. This was prior to Barnabas’ commissioning as a “missionary”. I find this interesting because our first model does not include the apostle. Both are needed to take the Gospel to all nations and all peoples.

It is difficult to truly gauge the harm done all over the world when churches and “missionaries” alike move into a new area with the Gospel with only the intention to “get people saved” and then leave behind only new believers. In my most humble opinion, this is not biblical missions as seen in the first century, nor does it adequately describe the work of those who would call themselves missionaries.

The parable of the sower speaks to this issue directly and clearly. Missions is more than just sharing the Gospel and missionaries should do a lot more than just share the Gospel.

Every believer can participate in the missionary task and be obedient to the Great Commission. But this is not the only criteria that needs to be employed when seeking to define what is missions and who are missionaries. I would by the way agree with W. Nee that it might be better to drop the name missionary and return to apostle.

Just to keep the waters stirring concerning another issue raised. I am coming to the position that the disciples were disobedient when they named Matthias as the new 12th disciple. Here’s my thinking. First, they were told to wait by Jesus for what the Father had promised. We know this to be the coming of the Holy Spirit, but it is also important to note that they made this decision to replace Judas prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit. So Jesus has ascended and the Holy Spirit has yet to come. Who is guiding Peter and the others through this process? Peter, using Scripture that Judas’ position be filled, then moved away from Scripture as he listed the qualifications for this person and described the process in which he would be chosen. They put forth two names, prayed, but then cast lots. Casting lots? Isn’t this what the Roman soldiers did at Christ’s crucifixion? Add to this the fact that Paul considered himself to be an apostle, could it be that the 11 were too hasty in their decision and that Paul all along was to be the new12th. I’m still thinking through this one and would hear what others think if this is the time and place.

GuyMuse said...


Your comment is worthy of doubling as a post entry on your own blog!

David (and all commenters),

Great discussion going on. I am learning from you guys. Keep it up!

Grosey's Messages said...

A careful study of 1 Corinthians 15 adds fuel to Ken's position :
3 For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to • Cephas, then to the Twelve. 6 Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time, most of whom remain to the present, but some have fallen • asleep. 7 Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one abnormally born, He also appeared to me.
9 For I am the least of the apostles
, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective. However, I worked more than any of them, yet not I, but God’s grace that was with me.

"Abnormally born".. Paul is emphasising something about his apostleship which he equates with the other 11 apostles' apostleship.
"I am the least of the apostles"
Well he is an apostle, one of that class of apostles here before mentioned.

Rev 21:14 The city wall had 12 foundations, and on them were the 12 names of the Lamb’s 12 apostles.

There is something significant about the 12 apostles.
I guess they are different from any other idea of apostleship that might be floating about. This is why Inrig and others view the gift of apostleship as foundational.
Eph 2:19 So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone.


bryan riley said...

Let's go to scripture and I will assume that this audience knows these passages.

2 Peter 1:3-11. We need to exercise great diligence to make our election and calling sure. By doing this we will see the reality of verses 3-10. What may be uncertain is what exactly calling means in this passage.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21. We are all called to a ministry of reconciliation. This is probably just an exposition of the fact that we are all called to share the good news, which reconciles man to God. But it is clear evidence that all have that calling beyond quoting the Great Commission.

I think the difficulty of talking about apostolic giftings is that in our heritage we have so often been taught cessationism, either overtly or subtly, that no one in traditional SBC circles even knows what an apostle is today. I know I have never been taught this. I have been reading some literature that equates missionary with apostle, but I am not even sure if that is fair. I simply do not know. I'd like to spend more time studying this and asking.

Steve, we see others referred to as apostles in the scripture. I think it just depends on the author and to whom they are referring to at the time. They definitely did use that term to refer to the original 12, but then it also was used to refer to other sent ones. I also find it hard to understand listing gifts and compelling their use in Ephesians 4 and including one that no one else would ever get.

Ken, interesting thought on Matthias. I like to think about it but the problem is that there is nothing in the scripture to build any application therefrom. And, there is nothing in the scripture that condemns casting lots. In fact, in Proverbs it tells us, (also a note on the sovereignty of God), that lots are cast into our very laps (very individual), but their results come from the LORD.

I think I tend to agree all in all with David, assuming I understand all that is written here, that we all are called to the Great Commission and are gifted in varying ways to fulfill it. I am unsure what it means to be an apostle, but I do feel called to go across cultures to share the good news and to mobilize others to do the same. If that makes me an apostle, great. If not, I know I am where God called me to be. I just don't know the term He would use. :) I also feel called to mobilize Christians every where to their ministry of reconciliation and to be missionally minded.

Great discussion. It makes my heart long to be locked up in a room with bibles and a guitar and you guys as my mission work is only just beginning and i could so soak up your counsel.

bryan riley said...

I just read Ken's post from March 6th, and it spurred me to write this:

Would it be as simple as saying that the term "missionary" and "apostle" are not the same? Would that help this discussion? We are all sent by Jesus. We are all called to share the good news. We are all called to the ministry of reconciliation. We are all called to ministry. While not all are called to be apostles, all are called to the above. The real question is what is an apostle...

David Rogers said...


Glad you are doing better. And thanks for joining in the discussion.

As we have discussed earlier on your blog, I believe the "missional" movement among churches in the States and elsewhere, mostly in the "West," is, for the most part, on target. The Church at large, whenever we get entrenched in our "attractional" modus operandi, and in-house cultural norms, fails to be salt and light in the community around us, and fulfill the "calling" God has given us as ambassadors of His grace to the lost and dying in our midst.

However, as Strider has reminded us, there are always some in our midst who are "called" to cross barriers in a special way that perhaps not all within the Church are "called" to cross. These barriers may be of different natures. You will recall I posted a link on your blog awhile back to a Powerpoint presentation I prepared in Spanish on Missions: Overcoming Barriers to the Fulfillment of the Great Commission, in which I mention the geographical, linguistic, cultural, social, spiritual, communicational, and logistical barriers. Eventually, I hope to get around to making this available in English, and, even perhaps, developing it more in the format of a thesis or a book, or something else.

In any case, I believe that the work of missions involves our efforts to cross each one of these barriers, but not isolated from the other barriers. The end-vision and over-arching aim of our barrier-crossing efforts must be making disciples of the Lord Jesus.

Some churches, even in the U.S., will be faced with some of these same barriers in their efforts to make disciples on a local basis. Other barriers will be more specific to international missions, and other forms of cross-cultural missions.

The idea of not distinguishing between the terms "missionary" and "apostle" is attractive to me, as they are etymologically synonyms. However, given the reality of our current situation, I can also see some value in making this distinction, as there does seem to be a specific "apostolic" role that is not the same as everything that is understood as "missionary work" by most people today. Also, I think it is very legitimate for the IMB and other "mission agencies" to support workers who may not be strictly "apostolic" in this sense.

Regarding Matthias, I tend to agree with Bryan that there is nothing in Scripture that teaches that he was not the legitimate 12th apostle. I think it is significant that Paul described himself as an apostle to the Gentiles, but the 12 apostles have their names written on the 12 foundations of the heavenly city of Jerusalem alongside the names of the 12 tribes of Israel written on the gates.

Also, (in response to Steve here as well), in 1 Corinthians 15, it clearly says that the Lord appeared first to the 12, and later to all of the apostles. It is apparent that Paul did not number himself among the 12 here, but does number himself among "all of the apostles."

This does not mean, though, that I consider apostles today to have the same authority to transmit God's revealed will to us by means of Scripture as Paul had. He seems to have occupied a unique role, in this sense.

David Rogers said...


Overall, some very good observations.

I think that 2 Peter 1.10 is referring to the call to eternal life, and even perhaps, to the call to discipleship in general, but not specifically to what I am calling the "missionary call" here.

I agree that, in 2 Cor. 5.17-21, the "ministry of reconciliation" as well as the call to be "ambassadors of Christ" is given to "anyone" who is "in Christ" (v. 17).

I also agree that cessationist interpretation in general, and particularly the idea that "apostolic" ministry ceased with the passing of the 12, gets in the way of a biblical understanding of the role of apostles today.

Thanks for your insights. We may not all be able to lock ourselves up in a room with Bibles and a guitar, but I am coming to feel more and more that blogging may almost be the next best thing. I'm glad to have you as a partner in the journey.

Ken Sorrell said...


I would like to use your last comment me to me as a springboard for a post. I hope to make this response later this week. Thanks for a great discussion. As iron sharpens iron . . .

bryan riley said...

Thank you, David. I am enjoying being able to sit at the feet, at least electronically, of many who have gone before me some time before I have begun this journey.

And, yes, I agree that 2 Peter doesn't necessarily denote calling as that word gets thrown about today and may be more general given the context, but I like the idea of it being more specific and wonder if it is possible that it was intended so. I wonder how many people do not experience the reality of verses 3 and 4 of 2 Peter 1 due to ignoring the calling of God on their lives?

Anonymous said...

Hey David,

I don't know if you'll even get this, but I couldn't get through on your email address.

You might have already seen this, but I ran across this article by John Piper on the missionary call. I know it's been a couple of weeks since this post, but I thought you might like to take a look.

Thanks so much for this blog.

Patrick Barrett

David Rogers said...


Thanks. I loved the article from Piper. I think he is very balanced, and completely on target here.

By the way, my e-mail is:



Anonymous said...

awesome. I'm glad you were able to get the article!

Patrick Barrett