Jesus gave very clear instructions about the way that an apostolic team should do its work (Luke 10).These are probably the most ignored words in the entire New Testament.
When they are sent out into a new area, Christians should seek God to find the right neighbourhood.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go (Luke 10:1).
Jesus appointed the seventy-two and sent (literally apostled) them out. They went everywhere he was going to go. Now that Jesus has gone and the Holy Spirit has come, apostles should go where the Holy Spirit is about to go. Being in Jerusalem is pointless, if the Holy Spirit is moving in Antioch.
Some neighbourhoods and nations are spiritually tougher than others. Jesus said,
When you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near' (Luke 10:10,11).
Apostles should not waste their efforts where they are not welcome. They should move on and find a place where the Holy Spirit is moving. Antioch is a good example of such a place, but apostles initially missed out on the opportunity (Acts 11:20-24).
Person of Peace
When they move to the chosen location, the apostles should try to establish contact with an influential person or "person of peace" in that place. Jesus commanded the seventy-two to stay in one home and not go from house to house.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you (Luke 10:1,2,5-6).
He had said something very similar when he sent out the twelve.
Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you (Matt 10:11-13).
The Holy Spirit will lead the apostles to a "worthy person" or "person of peace". This is someone who is open to the gospel and who has contact and influence with other people in the area. Sometimes that person might be a Christian with a burden for their neighbourhood. The new Church will usually meet in the house of the person of peace.
Paul often went to the local synagogue to identify the worthy person. This was how he and Barnabas started a Church in the house of Lydia.
One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. When she and the members of her household were baptised, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." And she persuaded us (Acts 16:14,15).
Lydia was the person of peace and influence and the first convert in Philippi. Paul and Barnabas established a church in her house.
Sometimes the person of peace or influence will be a town official or key business person. Publius, the chief official of Malta welcomed Paul into his home (Acts 28:7). Lydia was a successful businesswoman. In Paphos, the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God (Acts 13:6,7). Winning a person in authority for Christ will open the whole neighbourhood or village up to the gospel.
The fact that he person is at peace may be a sign that the forces of evil are not strong in that locality. This will make it an ideal place to establish a spiritual stronghold.
Stay in a House
In most cultures, the apostles would go and live in the house of the person of peace. Jesus said,
Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house (Luke 10:7).
Jesus had said the same thing to the twelve when he sent them out.
Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town (Luke 9:4).
Paul and Barnabas went to stay with Lydia. Paul went to stay with Publius. Ideally an apostolic team would accept customary offers of hospitality and stay in the house of the person of peace.
In western cultures, staying with the person of peace or influence might be too intrusive. The apostle should rent or buy a house as close as possible to the person of influence, but they would still have their meetings in the home of the person of peace.
If the rest of the apostolic team are single, they could stay with the apostle in his house. If they are married, they should find houses close by.
The apostolic team will focus their chosen locality. They will build a spiritual stronghold and form a Christian community, in which they share and care for each other. This will be a tremendous witness to the people who live around them.
Healing the Sick
Once contact has been established with the person of peace, the apostles should look for opportunities to heal the sick. Jesus said,
When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you' (Luke 10:8,9).
An apostle has authority to heal the sick, so someone should be healed, when the apostolic team moves into the new neighbourhood. The healing will often crack the neighbourhood open.
At Malta, Paul prayed for Publius's sick father and he was healed (Acts 28:8-10). The whole island came and were healed (many would have been saved). The proconsul in Paphos believed the Gospel, when he saw a sorcerer struck blind by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:8-12).
When people in the neighbourhood hear about the healing, they will be curious. Many others will come wanting to be healed. The apostles will take the opportunity to share the gospel and pray for them.
In most cultures, a crowd will gather. The apostle or the evangelist will preach the gospel and pray for the sick. God will confirm their preaching with signs and wonders (Mark 16:20). Jesus regularly used this method.
The apostolic team will disciple the new Christians, teaching them to live in obedience to Jesus. They will mould them together into a Church, based in the home of the person of peace. The new Church will become a community in which the life of Christ is visibly demonstrated. As households are converted, they will be drawn into this community. Seen from this perspective, becoming a Christian is becoming part of a Christian community.
Starting with the End in Mind
Apostles will start the new Church with the end in mind. The first priority of the apostolic team will be to get to the stage where they can appoint a team of elders from within the new Church to take over its leadership. Most of their energy will go into those whom they expect to become elders. The apostolic team will intensively disciple them and start to replicate their ministries in them. They will focus on developing a team containing the full range of ministries.
People with influence are important because they are likely to become leaders in the new Church. A person of peace is less likely to have a lot of personal problems that need to be sorted out before they can grow into leadership. A person with both influence and a peaceful spirit should have potential to become an elder.
The ideal is for the apostle to live with the person of peace. This would increase the intensity of their discipleship. They would see everything the apostle does and be able to join in all the apostle's activities. Having an apostle, and perhaps a prophet, living in their house will also provide a high level of spiritual protection. These benefits will help the person of peace grow very fast.
The apostolic team will not be concerned about gathering a large number of new converts. They will be busy with those who have leadership potential, so they will not have time to disciple a large number of new converts. They will not want a lot of new converts until some of the first batch of local Christians is ready to disciple them.
A work is "unfinished" until local elders have been appointed (Tit 1:5). When a local eldership team is in place, it will be easier to bring people into the Church.
Apostles will not be interested in church buildings. Their focus will be on growing to the point where they are able to send out apostles again, so they will not waste time and resources on buildings. Sending out apostles and starting new Churches is more important than a place to meet. The members of the apostolic team will usually rent their houses, as they will want to be free to move on when the time is right.
Summary of the Apostolic Way
- Go where the Holy Spirit is moving
- Seek the person of peace
- Get established in a house
- Heal the sick
- Preach the gospel
- Make disciples
- Establish a Church
- Train elders
- Go out again.
Jesus spelt out a very clear strategy, but implementing it will require a radical change in the mindset of the church. For a long time the goal has been to get people to come to the church to hear the gospel. The problem with this approach is that in many cultures, most non-Christians will not come into a church service.
Jesus never said we should get people to come; he always said the church should go to where the people are (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). The advantage of the New Testament way outlined here is that the Church goes to where the people live. They will see real hard-core Christianity being lived out in their living room or in the house next door.