Where Are The Apostolic Leaders? #bgbg2

I was in online conversation today with friends as part of my mentoring group for the church planting network we are now part of, New Thing.

Dave and John Ferguson started off the huddle by talking about how we should be actively looking for and recruiting apostolic leaders, before helping us think about creating systems to train such leaders to plant reproducing churches.

I love that stuff, live and breathe it. Friends in the USA and some other nations seem to have this just thinking come naturally. It’s something of what we’ve been trying to do here at Ivy and I know others are doing similar things. It’s what I believe the church in the UK desperately needs. It’s why I have dared to believe I can try to be part of the solution in some small way during the time God gives me, so I’m starting to dream about helping form a network of reproducing churches across the nation – NewthingUK.

The question I pondered out loud this afternoon was whether we actually have much of a stock of such potential leaders for  starting and growing reproducing churches here in the UK?

What do you think?

I’d love to hear from some more, and I do relate to some, but I look around and don’t see too much of that love for the church combined with fire for winning the nation to Jesus, to be honest.

I do see people who start out with that fire having it doused over time. They’re ‘deradicalised’ to be able to fit into our existing paradigms of church leadership (incremental collaboration toward small dreams of little impact and the non rocking of boats), or giving up on church completely because it’s so caught up in questions nobody else is bothered about, becoming that emerging church that never quite emerges, or taking that entrepreneurial zeal and gifting to work away from sterile ecclesiastical settings for risk taking parachurch organisations daft enough to believe in them, or even using it to make new apps for more money, rather than making disciples for Jesus.

I’ve seen it in India, Africa, and Haiti but here in the UK I don’t see that many young leaders standing up and being counted saying, ‘I will do whatever it takes and make whatever sacrifices I have to, to grow into the leader God can make me, to make a huge difference in my generation, by growing great churches that change the world, one life at a time.’ 

And even when some do, I don’t often see those young leaders being raised up, apprenticed, mentored and given responsibility so they believe that’s a possibility not a pipe dream.

I hear a lot about why all of that is really important if the church is to have a future here, I just don’t see structures, priorities or budgets changing so it can happen. I see a lot of playing it safe – the most dangerous thing to do.

My concern was heightened by the recent report following the 18 month study into the CofE I have recently blogged about.

I am always part of the wider church, while leading a small ‘non-denom’ network of churches and my heart for the CofE comes as a still ordained and licensed but often befuddled prayerful onlooker to the vagaries of the established church.

The report raises concerns for me because of course it speaks to that wider church in the UK too; though the way it was reported seemed to indicate it does not disturb the authors or the Church Commissioners, as they publicly highlighted the good news (of which there was little – 18% of churches grew), while the troubling (54% ‘remained stable’ i.e. plateaued, and 27% declined) is very politely brushed over. Try doing that with a business report and see what happens.

I was just getting over the report when Peter Brierley’s Future First newsletter  for this month tore the scab off yesterday, summarising the report on its front page with the cheery title Anglican Church Growth.

The section on Leadership reports:

‘Growth comes from a) having specific skills and qualities (those who motivate, energise, innovate) – no doubt confirmed by the Depart of the Obvious

and b) an intention to grow…only 13% of clergy said they had an intention to grow numerically.”

Hang on. I can’t have read that right?

“Only 13% of clergy said they had an intention to grow numerically.” 

Yes but didn’t Jesus say ‘Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations’?

“Only 13% of clergy said they had an intention to grow numerically.”

But aren’t at least some of them getting paid for their ‘work’?

“Only 13% of clergy said they had an intention to grow numerically.”

If you’re going to be a robber, at least put a mask on.

And while 82% didn’t, 18% of churches grew.

Ah! Now I see why that is slightly encouraging.


Because it means that 5% of those churches grew DESPITE their leader not wanting them to (because more people of course just means more hassle. If we add people I can’t get on with my stamp collection and deliberating over where we can get the cheapest custard creams for the deanery synod meeting)!

So if you’re in a church where the one who is called its leader seems to be doing his or her best to help it slowly die, maybe there is still hope.


Mark 2:22And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.”


3 thoughts on “Where Are The Apostolic Leaders? #bgbg2

  1. A few thoughts in response to your ‘what do you think?’ near the beginning of the article…….

    Firstly; the root of apostle, one who is sent out. I believe apostleship is a gifting which God uses when He sends His appointed person to break specific new ground; either where there isn’t a church or where a new way of being church will bless a particular segment of a community.

    I don’t actually believe it is possible to recruit or train apostolic leaders. You can see a need for them to come, and intercede day and night for God to send them, but I don’t believe a job ad is going to do it. There is a wildness, freedom and requirement to be able to disappear for unscheduled days on end to sit at God’s feet in an apostle that just cannot work alongside being on someone’s payroll. Equally, you can train people who have the apostolic gifting in all sorts of Kingdom building ways, but ultimately you can’t train them to be an apostle; for them to live their apostleship you need to release them and bless them.

    Secondly, the role of the apostle is to pray the Kingdom in to an area, to find the people of peace (‘go into their houses, but if they don’t welcome you shake the dust off your feet’) and to pray for God to reveal His prophets for that time and place- the next in the list of those God puts in place to build the body for that time and place according to Ephesians. Together, the apostle and prophet lay the spiritual foundations for this new work; they then pray in the teachers, pastors and evangelists who will bring it to fruition, so that the apostle, like Paul, can move on to begin the next work.

    In relation to the church of England stats, I’m now in Scotland where the church scene is quite different, but unless things have changed down there, I can imagine why vicars wouldn’t want their congregation to grow, and that is to do with utter exhaustion in maintaining a system full of demands and expectations and with almost no support. Praise God that congregations are growing despite this. Even the most rigidly engineered church structures can’t stop our hearts yearning for our maker and looking for Him in every place no matter how unlikely. Pray for burnt out vicars and new ways of living together that do not have exhaustion as a primary requirement.

    So, what can we do? Pray. Believe wholeheartedly that God has the answer and that despite our pretence otherwise, mankind’s deepest desire is to know and live that answer. And if your heart is crying for apostles, maybe it’s time for the question ‘where next Lord?’

    1. Hi Kathy
      Thanks for sharing, personally I think there’s a lot more to being apostolic than being sent, or go to people of peace (that’s just being on mission like Jesus said to). I agree they’re hard to spot but you can train an apostolic spirit so that the work does not in fact become so tiring you don’t end up in ‘utter exhaustion’ – which sounds more like the uncommanded labour I’ve seen too many people fall into by propping up systems or expectations that need to be challenged or changed.
      And I am ALWAYS crying out ‘where next Lord’ – and one place he’s telling me to plant is Scotland – so please pray for that 🙂

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