When was the last time you were promoted? What about the last time you found yourself alone, on a mission, without backup or resources? or the last time you realized you were no longer learning, simply doing?
How about the last time you changed position from that of a follower, to a leader?
It’s difficult. No one hands you a manual and says go to it. No one can possibly prepare you for the gap that you face when your accountability goes from being external – having a supervisor – to being internal, and doing the work for yourself.
The change, in part, can be thought of as the difference between being a Disciple, and becoming an Apostle.
It’s not an idea people give much thought to, so I’ll try to lay out the analogy fairly clearly. For awareness, I’m speaking strictly in the sense of the role, not in the sense of the historical, theological use we’re so accustomed to.
Basically, the difference is this; a Disiple is a booster, someone whose main role is support. They’re in a role to learn, be an aide, and grow as an advanced follower of a concept or person. However, the thing you’re following – the leader, the cause, what have you – always goes away.
As we grow, we lose the need for certain levels of leadership. Oversight becomes less beneficial. We learn all the lessons we can. So, eventually, that tether to the thing pulling us forward goes away. We out-earn our positions in companies, outgrow our mentors. Sometimes our mentors are taken from us by force. When that happens, we have a choice. We can either find a new cause, or continue the work underour own direction.
I like to think of this as the Apostolic Shift.
The Apostle is very different from the Disciple. Where the Disciple follows a Leader, the Apostle works largely alone. Disciples are usually kept close at hand, to directly aid in the work of the leader and the cause. Apostles often strike out on their own with limited resources and only the work of their hands and tools to prove their message.
They may gain followers, they may move toward something (such as a cause) but the Apostle has changed from being led, to steering their own ship. Some Apostles even begin to look for their own Disciples to help them do the work that has become larger than themselves. It’s a big jump, requiring more than just ability, training, experience or knowledge. It requires a drive that, frankly, the massive bulk of people simply don’t have.
If you’re out there, doing the work on your own, working for yourself in every situation, it’s likely that you’ve survived an Apostolic Shift at least once in your life. What was that like?