16 April 2022

Apest: Apostles

Bible study by Captain Callum McKenna

Captain Callum McKenna highlights what it means to be ‘sent’ with God’s message.

This Bible study series explores Apest, the fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4 (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, Teachers). For more information, visit theforgottenways.org

Key texts

There's a whole genre of historical fiction that I’ve recently become fascinated with called ‘alternative history’.

It started a little while back when I got hooked on the BBC One drama SS-GB. The premise of the story imagines what might have happened if, during the Second World War, the UK had come under Nazi occupation. Each episode explores how history could then have taken a different turn.

Pause and reflect

  • When you think back over your life, what key decisions have shaped the course of your future?
  • What would have happened if the disciples made different choices in the days following Christ’s resurrection and ascension?

We read, in Matthew 28:19, Jesus commanding them to: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations.’

Luke’s commissioning story in Acts 1 records Jesus, similarly, exhorting the disciples to be ‘witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth’ (v8).

Stock image of someone reading the Bible

Matthew 28:19

'Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.'

Read the full chapter

It’s a big ask from Jesus.

He’s sending his disciples to the edge of the known world, beyond their comfort zones, to places they’d never dreamt of going, where people speak different languages and have vastly different cultures. He’s entrusting them with the task of bearing witness to his resurrection and making disciples of people who view the world very differently.

Pause and reflect

  • How would history have turned out if the disciples had made different choices in the Church’s early days?
  • What would have happened if they hadn’t viewed Jesus’ command as being literal?
  • What would today’s Church look like if, instead of moving out from Jerusalem to the ends of the Earth, the disciples insisted on staying in the comfort and familiarity of Jerusalem?

Of course, the first disciples were willing to push out from Jerusalem. In fact, this arguably gives them the title ‘apostles’, which comes from the Greek apostolos, meaning ‘the sent one’.

Apostles are those who are sent forth with God’s message of salvation for the whole world.

We’d be naive, however, to think that this was just about geography and taking the gospel to other locations. So much of our own culture is alien to the gospel and apostles are also required to bear witness to the transforming resurrection of Jesus in these places.

Pause and reflect

  • Which parts of our culture seem foreign to the gospel?

I remember a slightly awkward holiday encounter in France a few years ago with a police officer at an airport. Flustered and struggling to remember any GCSE French, I just spoke louder and more slowly in English, hoping in vain that the bemused Frenchman would understand me. Increasing the volume made no difference to him being able to understand me.

It’s the same for the Church.

We can’t simply keep repeating our message more loudly and more slowly in the hope that the world will understand. Instead, like the first apostles, we should take the time to learn to communicate in languages that our communities speak.

Salvationists, of course, have a great tradition of this. Our heritage is one that left behind the comfort of cathedrals for disused skating rinks and the open air, swapping hymns for songs set to popular tunes and rolling up our sleeves to get involved with the realities of life.

There’s a cost, however, to being sent.

The first disciples discovered that being sent means not staying where you are. Similarly, if we are to bear witness to new people, in new places, in new ways, then we’re going to have to leave behind some of our home comforts and preferences.

Pause and reflect

  • What examples can you think of from your corps where you have tried new things to communicate the gospel to new people or in new places?
  • How did it go?
  • What did you have to let go to do it?

In the commissioning story of John’s Gospel, Jesus makes clear the cost of being sent. He shows the disciples the cost of his commissioning – the wounds in his hands and side – before saying: ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’ (John 20:21).

We are called to be apostles, sent by – and like – Jesus to foreign frontiers in our communities. When we arrive, we will discover that God is already there.

This Bible study was originally published in Salvationist magazine on 26 February 2022.

Let's pray

Lord Jesus, as you sent out your first disciples to proclaim your gospel, you promised you would always be with them. Help me to realise that, when sharing your good news, I am never alone.


Bible study by

Captain Callum McKenna

Captain Callum McKenna

Tutor and Pastoral Support Officer, William Booth College

Discover the rest of the series

All devotions

Major Matt Butler highlights those who bring correction and challenge to God’s people.

Bethany Munn asks whether we walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

Major Vikki Burr considers what we can learn from the Shepherd’s Psalm.

Major Ian Mountford encourages us to identify those called and gifted by God to teach.

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