We all know about the apostles named Peter, Paul, and John, but have you ever heard of Andronicus or Junia? Some are surprised to discover that the New Testament identifies more apostles than the twelve men who followed Jesus around Galilee. That fact raises some interesting, and even controversial, questions. What exactly is an apostle, what does the gift of apostleship look like, and how should we understand an apostle's role today?
Various theological streams and ecclesiastical traditions hold opposing views on apostleship. Some believe the gift was limited to the twelve disciples closest to Christ. Others contend that apostleship flourished during the foundational era of the church but is no longer active today. On the other end are those who believe modern apostles exist and possess the same authority as the Apostles who penned the New Testament.
Somewhere in the middle are those who affirm the gift's activity today but in a more generic capacity. The word literally means "sent one," a designation that may be applied to many believers. But the middle-ground viewpoint acknowledges there is a difference between being gifted as an apostle (little "a") and possessing the authority of an Apostle (capital "A").
Terry King, pastor of Bridge of Life Church in Hagerstown, Maryland, says there are men and women currently doing apostolic ministry all over the world. As the executive director of Leadership Development Resources, a role that has King working with church leaders in over 20 nations, he has seen the evidence. "But," he adds, "very few of them recognize it as apostolic ministry, and they don't call it that."
The aversion to using any form of the word "apostle" is a holdover from the Reformation. "For hundreds of years Protestant ...