Jesus commended the Ephesian church for testing apostles to see if they were legitimate—we should do the same (Revelation 2:2).
Also, for the sake of brevity, I am going to use term “apostle” for the title of each point instead of my usual “apostolic” (I usually use the term as an adjective rather than an office).
In the context of this article, a false apostle is one that has a wrong motive in ministry—it doesn’t mean they are not Christian or that they are not a child of God (it could be they are immature or a carnal ambitious leader).
The following are 15 contrasts between the two:
1. True apostles edify the Kingdom / false apostles build their own kingdom
The mark of a true apostolic leader is that their heart is for the expansion of the influence of God’s Kingdom more than their own empire.
False apostles are only committed to that which benefits their own selfish agenda and ministry
2. True apostles live to serve / false apostles live to be served
The mark of a true apostolic leader is brokenness and humility. Their influence in the Kingdom motivates them to function as a servant leader.
False apostolic leaders have an entitlement mentality and think that because they have an apostolic title they deserve an entourage replete with numerous sycophants whose only goal in life is the serve the “apostle.” Often these followers are guilty of idolatry since they look the other way when their leader uses, abuses, and objectifies others for the sake of building his (the “Apostle’s”) empire.
3. True apostles nurture Christ followers / false apostles only point people to themselves
The greatest desire of true apostolic leaders is to mature people into becoming mature Christ followers (see Colossians 1:28,29).
The greatest desire of false apostles is to produce faithful, committed, loyal followers who will live to serve them. This is because they point people to themselves and not to Jesus (see Acts 20:30).
4. True apostles desire influence for His glory / false apostles desire influence for monetary gain
I have found that one of the main characteristics of true apostolic leaders is that their primary focus is to advance the gospel—sometimes to the extent that they risk their own monetary stability.
On the other hand, false apostles don’t even begin an endeavor without first making sure they will make a profit. Not only that, but they also endeavor to get “sons” in the faith for the express purpose of getting their tithe (hence the primary motivation is finances rather than pouring into their lives).
5. True apostles lay down their life for the sheep / false apostles sacrifice the sheep for their life
I have noticed through the years that those leaders who use and abuse the sheep have only one agenda: their own benefit! Their ambition drives them so much that they will do anything to get ahead, even if it means hurting others. Apostolic leaders with this MO are false apostles.
6. True apostles build others / false apostles tear down others
Apostolic leaders that are committed to the success of others and make room for other people are functioning as true apostolic leaders. Those who attempt to get ahead by attacking (through slander, criticism, and posturing) peers they suspect are their competition are acting like false apostles.
7. True apostles uplift pastors and churches / false apostles usurp pastors and churches
I have seen apostolic leaders live to serve and equip Pastors and churches, but I have also observed a few (a small minority) attempt to add churches to their network by undermining the authority of local pastors. (They usually start off working with a pastor to gain their trust but eventually undermine their authority by working directly with the pastor’s elders and leaders to garner their allegiance.) Such leaders are false apostles.
8. True apostles are accountable / false apostles are unaccountable
Any apostolic leader that refuses to be accountable or be corrected regarding their life, ministry, or questionable teachings are functioning as a false apostle.
9. True apostles work through teams / false apostles work alone
Any time a so-called apostle desires to function as a Lone Ranger without working through teams for maximum effect is either insecure, immature, or at times even worse—they are functioning as a false apostle. (I am not at all questioning the good intentions or motive of a leader who is not good at delegation and who runs a “mom and pop shop”. However, I am here pointing out their lack of true apostolic protocol and or ability to fully walk in the apostolic function.)
To be a true apostle, one must have a propensity to raise up and work through a community of leaders that collectively bear much fruit that can be described as apostolic. One may actually have the apostolic calling and gift, but (because of insecurity, immaturity, or training) the fruit they bear is greatly limited because they refuse to delegate and build teams.
True apostles utilize teams and have apostolic fruit / false apostles lack the fruit that maximizes a team effort.
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