It was a Wednesday night, of course, because in the ’80s, that’s when you had your home group meetings.
This group was already considered a little aberrant, because we discussed more than merely the Sunday sermon. And we had discovered prophetic gifts. In fact, we’d often put someone on a chair in the middle of the circle and ask God for how to pray for them. We were sometimes quite surprised by how much our prayers touched needs we hadn’t known about.
So it wasn’t completely unusual when the home group leader brought some guests to one of our gatherings. Without any more than just their names, he parked them in side-by-side chairs in the middle of the circle, and asked us to pray for them. We gathered around and laid hands on them.
For a while, the prayers were rather generic Christian blessings. We discerned a significant leader’s calling on the couple, but then we paused and pressed in deeper. We waited in silence for more revelation.
A quiet sob broke the stillness, and then another. These were from an intercessor we all knew and trusted, who heard God as well as any of us. We waited while she wept, and then she shifted her position, grabbed the man’s feet, and wept over them. It reminded me of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. By this time, the man and his wife were weeping as well, and several of us praying for them were near to tears, but we couldn’t have told you why.
Eventually, the intercessor was able to form words, and what she said through her tears has shaped much of my thinking on the topic. She explained she saw an apostle’s mantle on the couple, on the man in particular. That wasn’t what she was crying about: the Lord had revealed to her much of what that calling would mean in his life, the price that he’d have to pay to walk out that calling. She was weeping for the struggles and the abandonment he’d face, for the betrayals and the accusations, for the opposition he’d face, and for the burden of love he’d carry.
She saw the victories, too, and declared them, but that was the day that I knew something of what it means to “count the cost.”
That was the moment that I concluded that the big man on the big stage with his big congregation and his big budget is not the model for an apostle. An apostle is not just a really successful or really well-respected pastor or denominational leader. The image of a true apostle is not the corner office, not the fancy website, or even the anointed business cards.
Paul’s description of his ministry was not the exception; it was a healthy example of what many apostles will face. This is the model that the New Testament gives us for apostolic ministry:
"Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.
I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness." - 2 Corinthians 11:23-30
I've learned that a man, a woman, is not a an apostle that I can trust who does not know tears.
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