“… Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them…” Acts 19: 1b - 2a
Original, primitive apostolic evangelism had set priorities. When Paul came to Ephesus, the very first thing he did was hugely significant. We are not sure whether it was a spontaneous “accident” that he met a dozen men who were serious about following God, or whether he arrived in the Ephesian suburbs hungrily looking for some men who were ripe, to be discipled for Christ. Certainly, after reading the text of those first few verses of Acts chapter 19, it does sound like a “spur of the moment” thing in Paul’s mind, but undoubtedly a circumstantially predetermined incident in the mind of the Almighty. It was a “God moment”.
The account in Acts 19 strongly suggests to us that before the apostle could address any of the unsaved in Ephesus, God Himself had decided that he needed to meet these men, the number of which the scripture mysteriously says, was “about twelve”. “About…?” Surely it was twelve, or it wasn’t? One cannot really have an approximation with such a small number, can one?
Paul “bumped into,” or, “sought out,” a nucleus of believers who had within themselves a desire for growth, and to be used in evangelism. These men would receive ministry input from Paul that would facilitate them being empowered to achieve their maximum potential in Christ. Mentors are important. The spiritual experience of the “about” twelve was catapulted forward by their submission to the God given apostolic anointing that sat on the life of the apostle to the gentiles. Paul was aware that the impartation of his anointing to others would pierce through the darkness of the society in whatever culture they were to be ministering in. These existing disciples were found by God’s providence even with an incomplete theology.
Throughout the New Testament, the Apostles are seen to be functioning, at least in pairs, and often in teams. It is clear throughout the book of Acts that Paul did not function at his best whilst he was left to work alone. He seems to be in a kind of strange morass when ministering alone. Paul served best in tandem or in team. I am on safe ground in asserting that Paul always emerged as the man in charge. True authority in God always surfaces in Christian groups. Because of what Paul says and does with his fellow workers, I also conclude that the entire twelve original apostles had the same modus operandi as he. Jesus didn’t send workers out alone, and neither should we. Jesus mentored people in groups of 3, 12 and/or 70 and then He sent them out in two’s (Mark 6:7). Jesus sent each one out in good company.
Obviously part of the apostolic anointing is the ability to minister to a body of disciples, educate them in God, and to impart to them whatever can be imparted in the Spirit, thereafter putting them to work as an extended body of the group. From these “about” twelve he formed a radical apostolic team that together experienced an incredible outpouring of the Holy Spirit over a 2-3 year period that took an entire sub-continent for Christ. From this move was built one of the strongest churches in history, with strong autonomous satellites all around the same provincial spiritual honey pot of Ephesus.
My point is that formulating team was putting first things first. A Mentor requires protégés. Anointed leaders need followers. Exemplary ministers require to hand the baton on to diligent disciples for the next generation. The heart of a true minister is to posture his followers to go even further than he (or she), a statement that opens our eyes to the example of Christ. “Greater works than these shall you do,” is what He said.
Western culture calls for complete individualism. New Testament biblical culture calls for individualism firmly embedded in the context of a body of believers.