Tag Archives: Apollos

Resurrection of the Organism

[Apollos] began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard [Apollos], they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him.
Acts 18:26-27 (NIV)

My local gathering of Jesus’ followers has been studying the book of Acts. It’s one of the reasons I’m journeying through it again here on my blog. Like all institutional organizations, my local gathering of believers has a traditional hierarchy and well-maintained organization. We even have an official prayer ministry and volunteers who have been trained up and will pray for those who ask for it or need it. That is an absolutely awesome thing for which I’m thankful.

In the past couple of weeks, however, something very interesting has been happening. A few weeks ago the teacher of the morning asked anyone who wanted prayer, for whatever reason, to simply stand where they were during our worship song. Those seated around anyone standing were then encouraged to stand, reach out, place a hand on that person and pray for them. Many stood and many prayed. It was beautiful.

Over the coming weeks one could see that after the morning worship there were several small pockets of believers praying over and for one another. This wasn’t some official part of the service. These weren’t official prayer ministers from the prayer ministry doing what they were trained to do by the organization. These prayers for and over one another were happening organically from among those hanging out after the service, unprompted by any leader or individual.

In today’s chapter, we meet three new individuals. First, there’s Priscilla and Aquila (interesting that even Luke references the wife before the husband). The couple were among all of the Jews expelled from Rome by Emperor Claudius (a well established historical event). The fact that they appear to have already been believers means that the Message of Jesus had already spread to Rome, though we have no evidence of Paul or any of the other apostles having made an official missionary journey there at that point in time.

The other individual we meet in today’s chapter is a man named Apollos, also a Jew who was a believer of Jesus. We don’t know much about his background other than what Luke provides here. From Alexandria, he’d been traveling and sharing the Message of Jesus in synagogues much as Paul had done.

The underlying message of today’s chapter is that the Message of Jesus had been unleashed. The concentric circles of the Jesus movement was spreading out further and further. This was not happening by official means led by authorized envoys of the twelve in Jerusalem. It was happening organically. The Message was being embraced and shared by the growing number of believers. Everyone was in on it, and everyone was compelled and encouraged to share the Message even if they, like Apollos, didn’t have a complete understanding.

Notice that Apollos wasn’t discouraged from what he was doing, even though there were some details he was ignorant about. Priscilla and Aquila took him in, educated him, and sent him back out with their blessing. Paul didn’t do that. Priscilla and Aquila didn’t send him to Jerusalem to be educated by Peter and the boys and receive an institutional stamp of approval. This early church was a living organism in which every individual cell was growing, multiplying, and shaking things up wherever it went.

That’s why I’m both excited and encouraged by what I’ve witnessed in my local gathering of believers in recent weeks. For centuries the Institutions of Christianity have encouraged believers to sit quietly in their pews, go about their business, and let the professional, officially trained and approved ministers do things. Suddenly, I find that everyday believers from all walks of life are rediscovering their spiritual giftedness, their personal calling to use those gifts, and Holy Spirit power that fuels and empowers both.

I hear that we have moved into a “post-Christian” and “post-Evangelical” world. Perhaps we are. Yet, from where I sit I’m witnessing something remarkable. As the old Institutional organizations wane and die, the organism is being resurrected.

Sowing, Reaping, and Playing My Role

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.
1 Corinthians 3:5-6 (NIV)

Many years ago, while I was a pastor, I made a visit to the hospital to see a former member of our community who was in the Intensive Care Unit. I had visited this gentleman and his wife in their home when they lived in our town, but they had since moved to a retirement apartment near the regional hospital. He had a reputation of being an ornery person. I, however, always found he and his wife to be quite pleasant when I would visit, though it was very clear that they expressed zero interest in anything of a spiritual nature.

As I visited wit the man in the ICU, it was obvious that something was bothering him. I had an inkling what it was. Give the man’s medical prognosis, it was obvious that his time on this earth was very short. I asked him if he knew that he was going to die, and he nodded. I asked if he knew where he was going when he died, and he shook his head. I then asked if he would like me to share with him what I believed, and he answered that he would.

Over the next few minutes I simply explained, from God’s Message, how Jesus died and rose from the dead to pay the penalty of our sin, once for all. I explained that it is promised that to those who received Jesus, those who believe in Him, that God’s Spirit will indwell them and eternal Life is theirs through Him. When I asked the man if he would like to receive Jesus, he again answered “yes” and I led him in a brief prayer.

When the prayer was finished, the change in the man’s affect was noticeable. Tears were streaming down his face and he smiled at me for the first time that day. He urged me to go, that very moment, across the street to visit with his wife. He asked me to explain everything to her, just as I had explained it to him, and to tell her that he had asked Jesus into his heart. Tears streaming down his cheeks, he was emphatic that I go at that very moment.

I did go across the street to visit his wife. I did just as he asked and offered the same simple explanation to his wife. When I asked if she would like to ask Jesus into her heart, she said she would. I led her in the same prayer as I had her husband. When she was finished there were tears streaming down her cheeks as well.

That night the man died in the hospital ICU. Unexpectedly, his wife also died in their apartment a just a few hours later.

I did both of their funerals together. Both caskets lay before me in the church. The couple were old and had no children. It was a very small funeral, and I shared about my conversations with the couple and their faith decisions during the service.

After the funeral another elderly couple sought me out in the back hallway. They shared with me that they had been long time friends of the deceased couple and had spent much time with them over the years. Over those years they had talked to the friends about their faith and had asked on multiple occasions, but the couple refused to listen and showed no interest in placing their faith in Jesus.

I’m sure some people are cynical of such a story and of the couple’s death bed confessions. I am not the Judge and so I leave such judgements between them and God. I do know that the change in the man’s affect before and after his prayer was pronounced. I know that he appeared sincere both in his prayer and his insistence that I share it with his wife. I believe that when they both died their souls were at peace with God.

I thought about their friends this morning as I read Paul’s words above. For many years these dear people had planted spiritual seeds with their friends. They loved them, cared for them, spent time with them, and diligently prayed for them. In comparison, I did very little. I just happened to come along at the right time to harvest the fruit of their spiritual labor. We each did our assigned task as directed, and it was God’s doing.

This morning I’m reminded that my calling is to fulfill my assigned role. I am to play my part to the best of my ability and not worry about the role of others. Sometimes my role will seem a long, tedious slog. At other times I may experience a brief moment in the spotlight. That’s all up to the Director. My job is to play my part.

[cue: Tom enters SR]

Wise and Persuasive Words

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5 (NIV)

Over the past couple of years our local gathering of Jesus followers has been engaged in an experiment of sorts that, in my experience, is rather unique. The weekly worship and message is not centered around a specific teacher or leader. Rather, a team of 10-15 individuals who are developing their gifts as communicators of God’s Message take turns. I have been asked to take on an informal role as mentor and acts as an anchor for the team.

There are some who felt this experiment would be an utter failure. The norm in our culture is to find people congregating around an individual leader with exceptional communication skills. Will people consistently gather to hear a broad spectrum of teachers who are diverse in their style, experience, and knowledge? The answer appears to be “yes.”

One of the things that I have been observing as I listen and interact with each of the teaching team members is that they each bring their own unique personality and style to their delivery. I want each of them to discover and develop the voice that God gave them. At the same time, there are simple rules and principles of communication from which we can all learn and develop our skills as communicators. I’m learning that there is wisdom required in knowing the difference.

One of the underlying themes that Paul is communicating in his letter to the followers of Jesus in Corinth is predicated on a similar situation that was creating conflict. Apollos was a dynamic speaker in that day who travelled and taught about Jesus. The believers in Corinth had begun to split into factions behind their favorite teachers. Paul addressed this in yesterday’s chapter:

One of you says, “I follow Paul”;another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

Now, Paul continues to address the situation. Compared to Apollos (and perhaps Peter [Cephas] too), Paul knew that he was not a dynamic teacher. There is a story in the book of Acts in which a young man fell asleep during Paul’s teaching and fell out of a second floor window to his death. I have to believe that an experience like that would stick with you as a teacher.

To the people of Corinth, therefore, he is makes it clear that the power of the teaching is not in the skills of the orator, but in Holy Spirit’s presence. A skilled communicator can affect the thoughts and emotions of the masses, but spiritual impact of an eternal nature happens only through the work of Holy Spirit.

The truth of the matter is that different individuals have different styles, personalities, and communication skills. Moses was not a great communicator on a human level, but God used him to great effect. Paul seems to be placing himself in a similar camp. Those who teach should always seek to improve the quality of their communication skills, while acknowledging that the greatest of communicators is dependent on the power and work of Holy Spirit for our words to have spiritual potency or eternal value.

Today, I’m thinking about a message I have to deliver among our gathering of believers this coming Sunday about the unmanageable power of Jesus. As always, I’m diligently trying to prepare to communicate the Message well. I am reminded this morning that my preparations are not complete without acknowledging my utter need of, and dependence on, Holy Spirit.

 

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