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Mutuality and Itinerant Service for the Gospel

Posted by on Apr 17, 2012 in community, fellowship, missional | 9 comments

Mutuality and Itinerant Service for the Gospel

For the next few days, I’m going to publish a short series on the connection between mutuality and various forms of serving for the sake of the gospel. I’m planning to stick to commands, exhortations, and examples that we find in Scripture relating to mutual service and servants. There is a danger in sole-ministry, expert-ministry, and professional-ministry. In Scripture, service (of any kind) was performed mutually – both with others and for the sake of others.

In this post, I look at the service of apostles or itinerant servants. I’m defining apostles as those who travel from place to place in order to proclaim the gospel to unbelievers and in order to strengthen believers.

Yes, in Scripture, even “apostleship” was a mutual form of service. The best place to begin in Scripture is in the Gospels.

Though he would probably be the only person to not need mutuality, Jesus usually traveled with, taught with, and served with others. After Jesus surrounded himself with others, he then sent them out (i.e., as apostles) together:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. (Luke 10:1 ESV)

When we get to Book of Acts, we often see people traveling together: Paul and Barnabas, Barnabas and Mark, Paul and Silas, Silas and Timothy, etc. In fact, though we often focus on Paul, he was not “called” to travel alone. He was sent by God and by the church in Antioch together with Barnabas as a team:

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:1-3 ESV)

And, while it is also easy to overlook, apparently Peter was traveling with others as well:

So he [Peter] invited them [the men from Cornelius’ household] in to be his guests. The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. (Acts 10:23 ESV)

Now, certainly, there were times when people traveled alone. For example, it seems that Philip was alone when he was traveling around proclaiming the gospel in Acts 8. And, at least once, Paul was forced to travel alone to Athens. But, even in that instance, he asked for Timothy and Silas to join him as soon as possible. (Acts 17:14-15)

However, I think that Paul’s attitude when preparing to travel to Rome can help us understand that even when traveling alone (potentially), Paul still had mutuality in mind. He told the Roman believers:

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:11-12 ESV)

God created us to need him and to need one another. Even apostles need others to travel with them, to serve with them, and to encourage them even as they encourage and build up others.


Series on Mutuality and Service

  1. Mutuality and Itinerant Service for the Gospel
  2. Mutuality and Teaching Service for the Gospel
  3. Mutuality and Shepherding Service for the Gospel
  4. Mutuality: Sharing Life in Christ Together


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-17-2012

    Good points. There has been much harm done by the lone “apostle” who lacks roots in a functioning fellowship which knows him and thus can send him out as one proven in his ministry. That “sent one” then needs to remain in fellowship with folks who keep him centered and accountable. There are too many lone rangers out there, teaching folks how to have fellowship, but without being in or having been sent from fellowship themselves.

  2. 4-17-2012

    We know the real reason they traveled together: there were bandits. We don’t have to worry about that now, so this was really just a cultural thing Alan. Don’t you know all differences between what the church does now and what it did then are just cultural differences? Jeez!

    But seriously, I look forward to the series. Is it possible that in traveling together, these people were not just ministering together toward others, but ministering to one another as well?

  3. 4-17-2012


    Thanks. I appreciate the encouragement coming from someone who is actually living this!


    Not only do I think it is possible; I think it is highly likely and necessary.


  4. 4-17-2012

    Besides serving alongside others, it is likely that mutuality extended between the itinerants and the local saints.

    Examples include: Rom 1:11-12; II Cor 7:13; II Tim 1:16-18

  5. 4-17-2012

    ah, sorry, duplicated Rom 1 ref…

  6. 4-17-2012

    Hey alan I personally think I need God and God alone first and Foremost.for God is my creator and I like to go to him and just hang out, needing nothing, asking nothing, just delighted to be in his presence, trusting, basking, thanking. just to be with him is the most glorious thing I think anyone could have forever and ever. And iam sure his light shines through all this as one goes into this world as an ambassador, representing this wonderful joy with out saying a word.
    My two cents, Howard

  7. 4-17-2012


    Thanks for sharing those passages. I had not noticed the same concepts in 2 Corinthians 7:13 and 2 Timothy 1:16-18 before.


    As long as you are not talking about an isolationist life, then I agree. God is the one who supplies everything that we need. He often chooses to supply that through his children, and we must be open to receiving from him through them.


  8. 4-19-2012

    Hi, Alan,

    What is the difference between an apostle and an evangelist, in your view? The word “evangelist” is not used nearly as often, but but it seems to be an important role distinct from being an apostle, prophets, or shepherd/teacher (Ephesians 4:11). (Note I think shepherds and teachers are one role, but if not, how do they differ, do you think?)

    Some people an evangelist is a person who preaches to the lost (only, does not teach believers). But apostles are sent to preach to all the world as well. I don’t think this defintion is correct. But what is?

    Take care and God bless.

    Don :)

  9. 4-20-2012


    I agree that Paul connects shepherding and teaching in Ephesians 4:11. I think the giftings themselves can be separate, but they are related.

    None of the gifts are ever defined in Scripture, so we can only go by the names used. So, “apostle” would be someone gifted to travel from place to place; “evangelist” would be someone gifted to proclaim the good news (gospel); “teacher” would be someone gifted to help others understand the ways of God; “prophet” would be someone gifted to bring a message from God; “shepherd” would be someone gifted to care for others physically and spiritually. Of course, these gifted people (and other gifted people) are also gifted to help other people do those same things. But, of course, since these things are not defined for us, this is simply my opinion based on the terms used.