What's the difference between discipleship and apostleship?

November 6th, 2019

What’s the difference between a “disciple” and an “apostle”? The word disciple comes from the Latin discipulus, meaning scholar. A disciple is a student of Jesus’ whose primary focus is on mastering his teachings so that he or she can live out Jesus’ way.

An apostle, however, has a different focus. The word apostle derives from the Greek apostolos meaning envoy. While disciples are students, apostles are proactive agents who act on behalf of the one who has sent them. In today’s language, we might say that disciples are followers and apostles are leaders. But there’s more to it than that.

The biggest difference between disciples and apostles is that apostles possess a qualitatively different kind of faith than disciples. Disciples have faith in Jesus. Apostles, on the other hand, have the faith of Jesus. Otherwise, there’s no way apostles could do what Jesus did.

When the Twelve functioned as disciples, they followed and learned from Jesus, asking him many questions. However, when they functioned as apostles, they walked on water, multiplied loaves and fish, healed the sick and oversaw the multiplication of the church.

Disciples ask WWJD? Apostles answer this question by stepping up into courageous faith and miracle-making action.

Making the leap from discipleship to apostleship is a key part of Creating a Culture of Renewal. It comes with developing the capacity to dream like Jesus, to steward the Kingdom dream.

In recent years, the United States has experienced a retrogressive wave of hate rallies, fueled by fear of the other and inflamed by divisive rhetoric. Neo-Nazi rallies and Ku Klux Klan gatherings signal that something many of us thought had died had simply been buried. At the same time, public shootings have become increasingly common. Not even churches, synagogues, hospitals or yoga studios are off-limits. These bursts of hate-mongering and violence are deeply troubling.

Where is the Kingdom dream in the midst of this?

Countless congregations are themselves polarized by politics, hamstrung by conflicting loyalties and lined up behind political leaders — however glaring their shortcomings — rather than Jesus’ own teachings. Congregations have confused the visions of political leaders and their fight for power with the Kingdom vision of Jesus, their own chief visionary.

This capacity to be easily fractured points to a conspicuous lack of a unifying vision. Both in our country and in our churches.

I’m not suggesting that Christians in America abandon democratic ideals or revert to some sort of authoritarian theocracy. However, I am suggesting that we let Kingdom-based ethics shape our politics rather than the other way around.

The time to dream like Jesus is now. The time for apostleship is now.

Ready to learn how? Register for the online workshop DARE to Dream Like Jesus® now.

The above blog is excerpted and adapted from Dream Like Jesus: Deepen Your Faith and Bring the Impossible to Life, © 2019 Rebekah Simon-Peter.

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