Since apostles have a strong sense of being sent, it is usually in their nature to send out others, too. Hence church planting and missions equipping could be considered apostolic work.
Apostles are usually “big picture” people who present a vision of what the Kingdom of God is like. Being around an apostle can be exhilarating, inspiring, challenging and exhausting all at the same time! That’s why the other four functions bring a very necessary balance to apostolic ministry that complements it. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus gave a community of gifts to built up the Body!
Apostolic leaders should be spiritual father and mother figures to the Church, raising up the next generation to take new ground.
The apostle Paul’s letters are a written testimony to the number of people he raised up and released into ministry. Paul never considers that the Church exists to support his ministry; rather, time and again he reminds the churches he writes to how he has worked and suffered on their behalf to help them mature and grow.
Apostolic leadership is not about power or hierarchy. Jesus challenged His disciples about their worldly views on power and told them that to be great in the Kingdom of God is to be the servant of all.
Unfortunately, I am sure that there are many examples of abuses of power and privilege in the Body of Christ that would cause many to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But the response to error must not be more error! Selfishness, pride and greed are not exclusive to those promoting fivefold ministry! Sadly, they are traits found throughout all of fallen humanity both inside and outside the Church.
Alan Hirsch helpfully points out that even the New Testament refers to “false apostles”: that is, people whose claim to apostleship did not seem credible even early on in the life of the Church.
The apostle Paul’s response was not to reject apostleship but rather to point to the authoritative validity of his own apostolic ministry demonstrated by his humble, arduous service and his legacy in the churches he established and nurtured.
I also like Michael Brodeur’s analogy of an apostle as “Builder.” He comments on 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, in which the Apostle Paul is basically saying of his own apostolic ministry:
I’m the general contractor who’s seen the blueprint and who’s hiring the subcontractors to get the work done. Everyone needs to come into this process in a way that honors the blueprint I’m seeing.”
So, apostles know they are sent, they know the authority with which they are sent and they know the mission on which they have been sent. They are builders, culture makers and visionaries. They break new ground and lay good foundations for others to build on.