By: Staci Stallings
So what kind of Christian are you? And no, I’m not talking denomination.
Today during the sermon, something hit me. In Sunday School we’ve been talking about The Apostle’s Creed and The Nicene Creed. In the Nicene Creed, the early Church Fathers laid out the 4 marks of the church. They are:
1) One — the church is ONE. Not splintered.
2) Holy — as God Himself is holy
3) Catholic — that means universal. The church in Africa is the same church as the one I go to in Texas.
4) Apostolic — (remember this one)
This year in Sunday School, we’ve talked a lot about being a disciple of Jesus, a “follower.” So why does the fourth mark say “apostolic” rather than some variant of “disciple”?
In fact, in the Bible there are disciples and there are apostles. So what’s the difference? Is there a difference? If the 12 Apostles were the ONLY apostles possible, why does the Creed say we are to be an apostolic people?
Here’s how I explained this new understanding to my kids.
Think of Christianity as a pyramid:
At the bottom are the many non-believers.
Next up are Christians. These are people who are Christians in name only. They SAY they are Christians, check that box when asked, maybe have even accepted Christ, but that “affiliation” really means very little to them. They hardly ever go to church–once or twice a year. Reading the Bible is boring and so they never do. They do nothing in their relationship with God–in fact, some use their “profession of faith” as a “Get out of jail free card” and proceed to live however they chose with no accountability to God visible in their choices.
The next level (and notice the levels or number of people represented by the level gets progressively smaller) is Disciples. Disciples are people who go to church regularly, are working to keep the Ten Commandments. They read the Bible though maybe not frequently. They have a relationship with God, but it is a very personal relationship only. Disciples “follow” Jesus. I believe in the Bible there were 72 disciples at one point. It’s relatively easy to be a disciple. Your faith is your faith and although you may believe deeply, that faith begins and ends with you.
Here’s where the Nicene Creed’s admonition to be “apostolic” comes into play.
Next up are the apostles. Being an apostle is very different from being a disciple (though being a disciple is a great place to start, it is not great if you just stay there). Apostles “go out to all the world and tell the Good News.” The Apostle Paul, the Apostle Peter… these men went out. They were ACTIVE in their faith. Their faith wasn’t JUST about their relationship with God, though that was a great starting place. No. They wanted to TELL everyone. They used their talents to spread the Good News.
At the top of the pyramid are the saints. These are the people who literally lived only for God. Their life’s focus was/is God. The early 12 Apostles became saints. The saints were/are single-minded in their devotion to God. As St. Theresa the Little Flower said, “I will cut carrots for Jesus.” It really didn’t matter what they were doing, whatever it was, they did it for God.
Now, here’s a question for you: What level are you on? What level are you aspiring to? If you’re a Christian, maybe it’s time to ramp that up to becoming a disciple–get serious about going to church and deepening your relationship with God. If you’re a disciple, maybe it’s time to get a little more active with your faith. Maybe you could join the choir or the ladies guild, maybe you could teach Sunday School or help out at VBS. Maybe you’re more of a gardener who would like to help keep the church grounds. Maybe you would rather go out to a homeless shelter to give out meals and Bibles or even volunteer to go on a mission trip.
If you’re in the apostolic group, how far away is being a saint? Do you let God help you through every rough spot? Do you fall on His Grace at every turn? Does your life reflect Him and only Him?
These are very personal questions, and only we can answer them for ourselves. But take a little time to reflect on these. Maybe it’s time to venture out of your comfort zone and into another level of your faith journey.