If the church is going to become this embodiment of Jesus in a communal way then there is a foundational issue that must be dealt with. That is our conception of what it means to lead. How do we lead if we have set aside the corporate and the coercive models of power?
Hirsch argues that there is a change in the leadership environment of the church. This means that there must be an embracing of what he calls “Apostolic Leadership”. This kind of leadership he argues is one of function and not office. The concept of leadership as being function and not office is a big deal in the tradition that I come out of. Offices are critical to the leadership of the church in my tradition, those of Elder and Deacon.
To move our leadership beyond these offices is not something that can be taken lightly. However, this idea of function means quite simply that anyone, regardless of office, can lead. So, what are the functions of the apostolic leader?
- The apostolic leader embeds mDNA through the taking of new ground for the gospel and the church. The church is to be dynamic and ever growing, therefore, the leadership must transcend sitting at a desk, to actually engaging in the mission of the church. This means that the apostolic is building into others the mDNA.
- The apostolic leader guards mDNA through the integration and application of apostolic theology. This means that the apostolic leader is not just pioneering new things but she is also making sure that the church stays on course as the dynamic people on a mission.
- The apostolic leader creates the environment for even more ministry to emerge. The apostolic ministry is the one that is the touchstone for all other ministries. This means that a teacher can’t teach if he has no people. A pastor can’t shepherd an empty community. The apostolic ministry creates the environment that brings about the possibility for all the other ministries listed in Ephesians 4 to exist.
Apostolic ministry (this is the touchstone ministry) creates the environment for the prophetic ministry (without this ministry evangelism becomes hollow and God himself becomes an idol) which creates the environment for the evangelistic (it opens the hearer to the message of the evangelist) which creates the ministry for the pastoral (exposes the disciple to their need for understanding) which creates the environment for the teaching (teaching from the revealed will of God that brings understanding).
The apostolic leader is one who comes into leadership not through the appointment of a role but is a leader because of who he is. This Hirsch terms “greatness”. This greatness is organic, inspirational, and profoundly spiritual. The example of the apostolic leader is Jesus. Jesus led with an amazing humility and authority that drew people into not just a follower but a discipleship where they sought to become like him.
Hirsch argues that an apostolic leader is one who can create “webs of meaning”. This means that he is able to bring about the connections of many different people, groups, and agencies by creating the apostolic environment where meaning is brought about by focusing on the mission of Jesus.
There is so much more detail in the Hirsch’s chapter that I can’t possibly cover it all. I think that this is a decent synopsis of the Apostolic Environment. The impact of this is important to keep in mind. Too often the person who is wired for apostolic ministry is seen as a trouble maker. She is never satisfied with the status quo. He is frustrated with the lack of outward looking concern for the people on the fringes. The questions that are before us are simple, are we willing to embrace these people as opposed to shunning them? Are leaders willing to learn how to be apostolic? Are pastors willing to bring others into leadership?
In my tradition where there is a plurality of leadership there is great opportunity. The question is though are we willing to disciple new elders who fit in all five kinds of leaders: apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors, and teachers?