To speak of things-apostolic has almost become a fad among us, at least some of us. We insist we once were part of an “apostolic movement,” and we insist that assuming miraculous intervention we shall be again. I concur and, in fact, believe it our only hope, and our world’s hope, insofar as God has mysteriously and awesomely placed a portion of our world’s well-being in some kind of relation to our obedience!
What in the world—or out of the world—do we mean in our use of “apostolic?” What a great question, answerable in so many different ways. And, answerable not only by our FM comrades but also by many others. Let me offer a partial answer.
“Apostolic,” of course, suggests the term “Apostle,” of which we find a few in the NT, a key document for exegeting “apostolic” in our day. To aspire toward the apostolic is to lift up “the apostles” of our NT as models. To do so is to follow a worthy and long history among faithful Christ-followers. More specifically, we identify the twelve (or the twelve minus the one, plus the one—let the reader understand). These were the ones who were graced to be in on the STORY first hand—from the preaching of John to the resurrection, ascension, and beyond; the ones who first obeyed the Lord not to depart the city but stay until something happens, or Someone. These are the ones with whom and for whom, upon whom and through whom it did, in fact, happen, the ones who continued the STORY.
They understood themselves now to be part of the STORY, indeed key players to their amazement, and many others as well. At times, it seemed they were actually propelled, borne along by the STORY. There were not the story-tellers, they were in the flow, carried along by the momentum that had built up and intensified (with little sign of letting up, by the way), so that they were literally not their own, not going where they wished, not living as they preferred, not associating with whomever they chose, but in the company of one another and the OTHER, here and there and wherever the OTHER led.
They were not the story-tellers, but they did tell the story. Or, better, they became the story over and over again, so that to be with them and to observe them was to see what this story was all about, to be drawn into it, and to test it out and verify that it was something very good indeed, something primal, tapping deep down to and into bedrock, into what seemed authentic, beautiful, and possible for whosoever will.
Regularly, then, the first to bear the term “apostolic” found their lives revolving around their memory and fresh re-enactment of the Jesus story, and the Spirit of Jesus who continued that story among and through them. Regularly, then, they learned how their subplot was meant to flow and gave themselves to the flow. Regularly, they heard from the One whose story they were living about the Story’s ongoing flow and how they could best go with it. Regularly, they tarried, waited, listened, and heard, and then obeyed. Regularly, they did such things. From an outside perspective or vantage point, it must have seemed at least curious and compellingly provocative. Regularly!