Understanding Apostolic Spheres
It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. (Romans 15:20)
The apostle Paul talks about “spheres” in his epistle to the Corinthians. The word sphere comes from the Greek word kanon meaning “a boundary or place of activity.” This is the same Greek word where we get our word for canon meaning “a reed or rule to measure something”, much like the criteria used to canonize the Scriptures to determine biblical authenticity and authority. A sphere is a place of activity where you:
• labor or minister to produce lasting fruit.
• have respect and influence.
• exercise spiritual authority.
• have dominion to bring about change and transformation.
For instance, Paul’s apostolic spheres included:
a.) People (Groups) – Gentiles and their kings, and the Jews in Israel (Acts 9:15). He later defined himself more as an apostle to the Gentiles, although he ministered to the Jews quite frequently.
b.) Places (Geography) – Paul’s spheres included areas of geography in Asia Minor (Modern day Turkey), Macedonia, Achaia, Rome and maybe Spain. Paul saturated a large portion of geography with the gospel message.
c.) Personal (Governing Self) – The most important sphere is yourself, which includes your mind, will and emotions. This sphere also includes your calling, gifts and abilities. We cannot enlarge our other two spheres without enlarging our personal sphere since this one dictates the other two. Paul talked frequently about mastering his flesh and subjecting it to God’s will.
Apostles of Another Kind
There are different types of apostolic spheres. For instance, Dr. C. Peter Wagner has identified the workplace as a sphere of activity where apostles function. In his book, The Church in the Workplace, Wagner calls them extended-church apostles. This breed of apostles is a dominant force in the marketplace, which according to Wagner, includes the spheres of the family, religion, business, government, education and the arts and media. For example, a workplace apostle is one who has a kingdom mindset to partner and strategize with the church apostle for city transformation.
Our Founding Fathers were apostles who occupied and dominated in the sphere of government. They were ordinary, law-abiding citizens who emerged as apostles in the political realm at a particular place and time in history to pioneer and establish God’s purposes for a new and free society that would be known as the United States of America. The Founding Fathers were apostles because they rose up in a time that demanded their abilities and talents and they used their gifts to forge a new constitutional government through a time of civil unrest, fear, economic hardships and persecution. They won a general consensus from the cantankerous colonists who banded together to forge a sovereign and free nation. They would do this with great sacrifice to their lives, property and wealth.
The Founders understood and used biblical principles as their guiding philosophy to steer them in their decision-making processes. For instance, the Declaration of Independence states that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Founder’s understood that a constitutional government was essential to protect our God-given freedoms, like the freedom of religion. These political apostles had the ability to take an unstable government and pioneer a new free system and birth a paradigm that has existed for over 230 years. Collectively they had the ability to see and define the blueprints for their posterity something that apostles seem to do. Today, we live under their influence and are known as the greatest nation in history.
We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere, which God appointed us-a sphere which especially includes you. For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment. (2 Corinthians 10:13-16)
It is important that apostles recognize and respect other legitimate apostolic spheres. For instance, in our network one of our apostolic friends is Dr. James Marocco, the senior pastor of Kings Cathedral in Maui, Hawaii. His apostolic sphere includes the Pacific Rim where he has two Cathedrals and over forty church extensions ranging from his home base in Hawaii to Japan, the Philippines, Alaska, French Polynesia, Chile and other places in or around the Pacific Rim. My pastor, Paul Goulet, who has been recognized as an apostle by C. Peter Wagner’s apostolic network, is a personal friend of Dr. James Marocco. They recognize and respect each other’s apostolic spheres of ministry and will not plant churches within their Canosphere (the apostle’s canopy authority over a region) unless they have come to a common consensus and strategy to work together.
This respect is evident in Acts 16:7 where Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to venture into Bithynia, a sphere where the apostle Peter had a work in process or would later on in his ministry (1 Peter 1:1). Although the list in 1 Peter 1:1 has overlapping geographical spheres where the apostle Paul and Peter had both labored, they acknowledged and respected each other’s work (Galatians 2:8). A work within a sphere is permitted if the two apostles of different networks, like Peter and Paul, are in relationship with each other, and when their work is different. Although there were some overlapping geographical locations between Peter and Paul, Peter’s sphere was mainly to reach the Jews while Paul’s concentration was to the Gentiles and their kings.
Enlarging Apostolic Spheres
He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. (Acts 20:4-5)
When you develop apostolic associations or relationships you are enlarging your sphere of influence and ensuring the ongoing supervision and success of God’s agenda. Paul’s network included key leaders from three regions: Galatia, Macedonia and Asia. These areas were provinces or regions where the apostle Paul labored in his missionary journeys. In these three journeys alone he established ministerial relationships. They were:
Galatia – First Missionary Journey
•Derbe: Gaius and Timothy
Macedonia – Second Missionary Journey
• Troas: Luke (See the use of “us” or “we” in Acts 16, referring to Luke the author of Acts and others on the team.)
• Berea: Sopater
• Thessalonica: Aristarchus and Secundus
Asia – Third Missionary Journey
• Ephesus: Tychicus and Trophimus, Greek Christians (Acts 21:29)
We have to ask ourselves, what was Paul doing with this group of people during his third missionary journey? What was the purpose of this gathering? We need to remember that the Holy Spirit would warn Paul about the hardships facing him in Jerusalem (20:23). Later this was confirmed when Paul was tipped off by the Prophet Agabus that he would be bound and imprisoned by the Jews living in Jerusalem (Acts 21:11). Apparently Paul sensed a need to meet with his apostolic network to form a future strategy for the churches in these three spheres. Paul, a key strategist, was probably giving final instructions to his leaders who were apostolic overseers in those areas. Paul was ensuring that his spheres were going to be supervised properly and enlarged by these men.
In summation, we enlarge our sphere of ministry by expanding our spiritual authority and anointing by:
• growing deeper intimacy with God.
• growing in our anointing.
• exercising our authority.
• enforcing that authority to bring about change.
• subduing the works of darkness and establishing God’s works in its place.
• developing new relationships and improving old ones.
• influencing these relationships to partner with us.
Identifying Your Sphere
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
You maybe asking, how do I identify my spiritual sphere of influence? You will need to identify and understand three things about your life. They are your:
• Presents: “Different kinds of gifts.” (1 Corinthians 12:4)
• Placement: “Different kinds of service.” (1 Corinthians 12:5)
• Passion: “Different kinds of working.” (1 Corinthians 12:6)
This passage shows us three distinct areas that are instrumental for identifying our sphere. Your sphere will likely include a blend of all three areas. First, let’s start with your spiritual gifts:
a.) Presents: “Different kinds of gifts.”
The Greek word for gifts is the word charis where we get the word charisma. We all have the potential to display a spiritual charisma to those we minister to by using our spiritual gifts. We just need to identify, understand and use our cluster of spiritual gifts. You can find your gifts by taking an assessment on the internet by googling “spiritual gifts.” At the writing of this book I retook Dr. Wagner’s spiritual gift’s assessment. I discovered that my three dominant gifts are:
My three subordinate gifts are (See the right hemisphere of the Apostolic Canopy):
If you take a closer look at my gifts you will see that I possess three out of the five gifts listed in Ephesians 4:11. I have the potential to operate from the right hemisphere of the Apostolic Canopy paradigm. If I develop these gifts over time I can grow into and function in the fivefold offices of teacher, apostle and prophet. The primary purpose of spiritual gifts is to edify and strengthen the body of Christ. Your spiritual gifts will edify and strengthen those that receive the ministry of your gift. There is a secondary effect and benefit that happens when you use your spiritual gifts. I have discovered that my influence grows with others when I use my spiritual gifts.
Every believer is bestowed a cluster of spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). You are probably using your spiritual gifts everyday without even knowing it, but it would be better if you knew what they were and learned how to operate with them. Some gifts are more demonstrative than others. Once you discover your gifts you will need to develop them over a period of time by learning about them (knowledge) and constant application (understanding).
Mastering these two areas (knowledge and understanding) will hone and sharpen your spiritual gifts and make you more effective and fruitful in the ministry. Gifts that edify believers are found in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. Motivational gifts are gifts that help you lead and build influence with others. They are found listed in Romans 12:6-8 (See Appendix A & B). You can order and take Dr. Wagner’s spiritual gifts assessment.
My current ministry gifts are often confirmed by people who say, “Go ask Pastor Joel, he is a man of wisdom.” Others have said, “Pastor Joel, I just want to thank you for making the Bible easier to understand” (Knowledge and teaching). I have planted a church extension in the south area of Las Vegas (Apostolic gifting).
b.) Placement: “Different kinds of service.”
The word service refers to the Greek word diakonia meaning “a place to serve like a minister, an attendant, an official or administrator.” It can include any of the fivefold ministry offices, the capacity of a deacon or any leadership position in the church. A place of service is where you serve. For instance, I am known as a pastor, and a teacher with a bent toward prophecy. However, my gift cluster reveals the potential offices of a teacher, apostle and prophetic giftings. These gifts fall at the right hemisphere of the Apostolic Canopy (See Appendix C), so my strengths and abilities are keeping and maintaining standards, developing strategy, and equipping people to send them on their mission in life.
c.) Passion: “Different kinds of working.”
Finally, your sphere also has to do with the area in which you labor. Your area of “working” is usually the place where you have a greatest amount of impact and passion. It can also be an area where you have a strong interest in. The Greek word for working is the word energema meaning “a place of operation or working.” It denotes a place of operation that energizes you rather than depleting you. The reason for this surge of energy is because you love it so much, and can’t see yourself doing anything else! Another reason is that it is God’s assignment for your life at the moment. Areas of passion may change when your assignment changes. Let me provide an example to enlighten your understanding.
One late afternoon, after an evangelistic outreach that my team conducted in an impoverished area of town, our team was so pumped up that you could literally feel the energy of God working within each one of us. After this outreach we weren’t depleted nor fatigued, instead we were so full of God’s energy. We felt as if we each drank ten cups of coffee. God provided the energema for us to function in our area of “working” for that outreach. This was a church-planting endeavor, an area of my passion.
The apostle Paul identifies his area of working in Colossians 1:28-29 where he says:
We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Paul’s area of working included the proclamation of the gospel in the capacity of a herald, evangelist, and a missionary or soul winner. Paul excelled in this capacity with power and authority. The apostle was also a teacher according to his three-fold call (1 Timothy 2:11). Furthermore, a place of working can be any place where you minister with a heart of passion. Here are a few examples of “areas of working”:
• Children’s ministry
• Creative Arts
• Inner City Outreach
• Marriage ministry
• Men’s ministry
• Women’s ministry
For instance, my areas of working or passion are developing people (See Appendix D). With this in mind, I am writing this book to help people understand the fivefold ministry. While doing this I am teaching the reader to develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of God’s word in the area of the fivefold ministry.
When I blend these three areas together I can emphatically say that my sphere is developing people through the medium of teaching, prophecy and writing which confirms my current passion. For instance, I am currently taking classes to acquire my master’s degree in Organizational Leadership with an emphasis in Executive Coaching and Mentoring. My life goal is to start a consulting practice for executives, businessmen, pastors and churches. I personally receive great joy by equipping (teaching) and sending people into their destiny (See Apostolic Canopy: teacher + prophet = sending). This is my sphere of influence and I enlarge it by taking steps of faith to move in these areas and God supplies the energy for me to succeed. When you review the Apostolic Canopy paradigm, I currently tend to work more effectively on the right side of Canopy’s hemisphere since my prominent gifts are teaching, apostolic and operating in a prophetic gifting.
 Wagner, C. Peter (2006) The Church in the Workplace. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 32.