Ephesians 4: 5-13
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
‘When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.’
(What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Colossians 1: 16-20
For in him [Christ] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
This year is the 500th anniversary of what became known as the Protestant Reformation which ushered in a religious revolution. Out of the Reformation, three truths in particular emerged: (i) the exclusive importance of Scripture, (ii) salvation through faith alone, and (iii) the priesthood of every believer.
While the Reformation was powerful and impacting, in some senses it was imperfect and incomplete. Perhaps the biggest shortfall was the fact that the rediscovery of the priesthood of every believer never went far enough. Although Martin Luther and others proclaimed this powerful truth, they never fully implemented the changes or cultivated the culture to make it possible for believers to step into their true priesthood. The theology changed but the practices stayed the same. Religious and ritualistic structures with strict hierarchies remained, creating a clergy-laity divide. The average Christian had no access to the Bible and connection with God came largely through the mediation of their priests. Evangelism and 'ministry' was the job of professionally trained, paid pastors. Thus we ended up with the predominantly pastoral model of church which is so prevalent today, rather than the original apostolic model.
In a pastoral model, the primary role of leadership is to gather, connect and care. On the other hand, the impulse of apostolic leaders is to gather, train and send. Pastors cultivate community, provide resources and bring care and counsel to the flock. Apostles, on the other hand, focus on the mission and provide the equipping and empowerment to mobilise every member according to each person’s design and destiny.
Thankfully, during the past few decades, we have witnessed the beginning of a shift back towards a more apostolic model. The church is increasingly understanding that Jesus is the exalted Lord of the entire cosmos, not just the head of the church (see Colossians 1). Therefore our primarily calling is not to gather for better meetings but to scatter for societal transformation that can lead to the restoration of God’s kingdom principles on earth as in heaven. It is not to fill the church but to fill the city. Christians are being taught who they are in Christ, who Christ is in them, and how they can step into the calling God has prepared for them.
After His resurrection, Jesus said to His followers: "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." (John 20: 21) This recognition of being 'a sent people' is absolutely vital if the Church is to fulfil its primary mandate and mission, that is, to fill all things with Christ's presence and glory.
Christ has already set everything, everywhere free and we, His people, have the incredible commission from Him to proclaim and demonstrate that captives, both individuals and institutions, are released in the name of Jesus. He is already Lord over the city and culture and His presence is penetrating everything, everywhere. We are simply announcing His supremacy and declaring His exaltation so that people can see and experience it.