Apostles vs. Prophets

Apostles vs. Prophets

Many who focus on the biblical functions of apostles and prophets in the church tend to advice that prophets should give directions, and that apostles should lead the people in that direction. If that´s your governing paradigm, you are up for a long walk in the wilderness.

In any Christian organization, the balance of leading through talents and skills on one hand and leading through God´s promptings on the other hand, is often a difficult one. It can also be a source of tremendous conflict. Those who are naturally skilled as leaders might perceive those with messages from God as threatening, and also the other way around, those with a prophetical insight might often perceive natural leaders as self reliant, and in times of conflict, even as ungodly or lacking in faith.

The Bible is clear that several roles are needed in Church:

And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:28 (NIV)

I will offer up my perspective on the necessary balance between the apostle and the prophet through a metaphor borrowed from simple navigation.

In all navigation, you need to get from A to B, and two much used tools are a map and a compass. If you just use the map, you have a vivid description of your route, but you have no idea on your direction. If you use the compass needle to navigate, you will ultimately end up at the magnetic North Pole (if you know how to swim in arctic waters).

In my metaphor, the map is the Bible. The Bible gives us everything we need for our life in general and our life with God in particular. The navigator is the apostle. The navigator studies the map to find out where we are, and he/she knows where we´re supposed to be going. The compass is the prophet. The compass has no idea where we are headed. The compass has no idea of where B is located. The only thing the compass knows is where north is. Or in case of the prophet, he/she has an amazing feel for where God is, or which choices are in accordance with God´s will. The prophet loves gazing at God - just as uncompromised as the compass needle points to north. That´s of great value! But if you want to get to B, following the compass needle will lead to a long walk in the wilderness.

In real navigation, the navigator puts the compass on the map, aligns it with the direction from A to B, adjusts the compass house with the longitudes, and by the help of the compass and the map, the navigator will help find a good route. This route will also not be in a straight line. Terrain must be dealt with wisely so that you go down the mountain in a safe way instead of falling off a cliff.

So, in any Christian organizations, those called to leadership (apostles) need to find the goal to work towards. To navigate there, the apostle needs the prophet as an instrument of navigation, and also for continual corrections. But: never walk in the direction of the compass needle no matter how good your intentions are.

Powered by Cornerstone