I never intended to do all this on missional communities, but I am enjoying it.
Apostles! Well I will give you my own perpsective on what I think about the apostolic role within missional communities.
Firstly I don't think apostles are necessarily fathers, apostles are "sent ones" Paul was a father in a number of situations but the whole idea of titles and position which some how give status and power and an unatural right for someone to manipulate another grouping is wrong.
Matthew 23: 8- 12"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
So when I think about the word apostle I think servant.
Romans 1: 1 "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus...."
I have my own issues around this, where I have seen apostolic ministries basically going on a territory hunt and it has almost been about "how many churches can I gather to me to feed my ego." I have also seen them put on a pedestal and treated like superstars, not necessarily because they wanted it more because our church culture is often looking for a king!
So you end up with these extremely gifted church consultants who roam the planet, get treated like Gods and live very unaccountable lives, sadly for me that has been some of my experience of apostolic ministry. Thankfully this style of apostolic ministry is dying out.
You then have the recent Todd Bentley mess, where a band of mature christian leaders who have apparently abandoned the gift of discernment and are seeking to get a bit of the lakeland glory, set a guy apart as an apostle to the nations and get it very very wrong. This further undermines the roles of the apostolic today. Believe me despite their explanations and apologies these guys have something to answer for.
Anyway putting all that aside, I have to get over my own issues and recognise that missional communities need apostolic input
In 1 Corinthians Paul talks about laying a foundation as an expert builder, in Ephesians he talks of God's household being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. When you read the epistles they were foundational. This is where we need apostolic input to ensure the foundations that we are building on are strong.
There has to be a humility on the part of small community leaders, they have to be willing to ask for help. If they don't ask for help or receive apostolic input they leave themselves vulnerable.
What does it look like? For me it could work in two ways
1. The person who travels in regularly from outside, keeps in regular contact, offers support, correction and training. They don't necessarily do it all themselves they can be a sign post and connector as well as a consultant. This is close to the old school method but done out of servanthood and held lightly it can be very effective.
2. I would like to see more like this one: older church leaders who have got their congregations ticking along nicely being financed by their church to go and live with small communities for 6 months and help them put some foundations in place, love and encourage the group without leading it then step back into the role mentioned above. Sent ones.
One of my concerns is that most of these new communities are so far out on the edge that they don't know who to ask for help. We also come up with the question, who appoints the apostle? especially if they are a very disconnected group...
Anyway please don't read this as a set of conclusions, just thoughts I haven't fully landed yet.