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The Apostolic Band: Church Planting Initiators, Trainers, and Mission Mobilizers

By Lydia Gingerich, RMM staff writer

The term “apostle” is not one that we commonly use to describe leaders in the church today. There are different ways that the title is used in the New Testament, but the word simply means: “one that is sent.” Jeff Carver, who founded SpiritualGiftsTest.com, writes that the mission of apostles today “is to plant new ministries and churches, go into places where the Gospel is not preached, reach across cultures to establish churches in challenging environments, raise up and develop leaders, call out and lead pastors and shepherds, and much more. They often have many different gifts that allow them to fulfill their ministry. These are leaders of leaders and ministers of ministers. They are influencers. They are typically entrepreneurial and are able to take risks and perform difficult tasks. Missionaries, church planters, certain Christian scholars and institutional leaders, and those leading multiple ministries or churches often have the gift of apostleship."

RMM has initiated the Apostolic Band, “a group of persons designated and commissioned by the RMM Executive Team to serve as apostolic church planting initiators, trainers, and mission mobilizers for the purpose of reaching the least reached in the United States and around the globe,” facilitated by Richard Showalter. These leaders are sent by a plethora of congregations and communities to spread the gospel, and they are joining together to share stories, pray, and learn from each other.

“We know that we want to pray together, encourage each other, and partner in ministry as the Holy Spirit leads… We want to be a blessing to CMC, RMM, and the wider body of Christ as he leads us.”For the past 45 years, Richard and his wife Jewel have been involved in numerous stateside ministries such as providing leadership at both Rosedale Bible College and Eastern Mennonite Missions. They have also been involved with sharing the gospel overseas in East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The work of apostleship is one that they have been fulfilling as well as facilitating in others for many years.

The idea to form this group came from a desire within RMM and Richard to see the role of apostle strengthened in the church. Richard believes “it’s the apostolic function in the body of Christ, and the importance of recognizing and nurturing it, that led us to initiate the apostolic band.” Richard took this concept to Joe Showalter, RMM President and Director of Global Missions, and together they worked out the details of how this group would function.

“We as RMM leaders are enthusiastic about the development of this group,” Joe says. “The New Testament is clear that apostles are foundational in the life of the church. Their gifts are essential for a vibrant, thriving church.”

As Richard and Joe discussed the objectives and purpose of this cohort, they knew that those who would benefit from this band reached beyond CMC, and beyond Americans. Richard reveals that “increasingly, apostles are coming to the U.S. from other parts of the world, and a big challenge is for us in the American church to receive them, bless them, and integrate them into our church fellowships here--specifically in CMC.” As the group began to form, the Apostolic Band gained members from here in the U.S. as well as Africa and Asia. Richard explains that “the apostolic band provides a place for them to connect, a ‘home’ within CMC.”

In August of this year, the Apostolic Band met for the first time at CMC’s Annual Conference in Delaware. It was a rich time of getting acquainted as a group and briefly sharing their stories and testimonies. The group plans on meeting twice a year in person (at Pastors Conference and the Annual Conference), but to stay connected during the year through email, phone conversations, and prayer.

Richard hopes that the Apostolic Band will be able to support and promote the role of apostle in the church. This is “a fellowship group which exists to strengthen, nurture, and challenge these particular members of the body of Christ in what we have been given to be and to do.” While the group is still in the initial stages of formation and figuring out the details of their focus, they do have a clear vision for interacting with each other and engaging the world around them: “We know that we want to pray together, encourage each other, and partner in ministry as the Holy Spirit leads… We want to be a blessing to CMC, RMM, and the wider body of Christ as he leads us.”

For more information about the Apostolic Band, contact info@rmmoffice.org.