Apostolic Imagination

Recovering a Biblical Vision for the Church’s Mission Today

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In this volume, J. D. Payne encourages the church to recover the apostolic imagination that fueled the multiplication of disciples in the first century. He calls readers to understand grand, contemporary missiological challenges and to return to the Scriptures for clarity on how the church should consider the Great Commission task.

Payne examines the contemporary practice of Western missions and argues that we need a paradigm shift. He advocates a more central place for Scripture in defining missionary language, identity, purpose, function, and strategy and encourages the church to return to an apostolic framework for global disciple making. Payne shows that an apostolic understanding of the church's disciple-making commission requires rethinking every aspect of missionary engagement. The book includes end-of-chapter discussion questions and action steps to help pastors and church leaders develop an apostolic imagination.


Part 1: Foundations
1. What Is the Apostolic Imagination?
2. Challenges to the Imagination
3. Apostolic Identity in the New Testament
4. Apostolic Function in the New Testament
Part 2: Reimagining Contemporary Missions
5. Reimagining Language
6. Reimagining Identity
7. Reimagining Priority
8. Reimagining Function
9. Reimagining Location
10. Reimagining Strategy
11. Reimagining the West
Conclusion: A Word to Pastors


"Does the mission of the church entail simply doing any good work in the world, or should the mission of the church have a sharper focus? J. D. Payne adds an important voice to this conversation, arguing for the priority of discipling the nations in our understanding and practice of Christian mission."

Craig Ott, professor of mission and intercultural studies, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; author of The Church on Mission: A Biblical Vision for Transformation among All People

"When many people think of the word imagination they think of art, poetry, and music. Sadly, imagination is often missing in the church today. Payne reminds us that we need to recover the apostolic imagination that fueled the multiplication of disciples in the early church. I wholeheartedly agree. One of the greatest needs for the church today is to cultivate an apostolic imagination that is biblically grounded, grace filled, contextually sensitive, and committed to global disciple making. As you read this book, you will be inspired to reimagine what it looks like to join in God's mission to make and multiply disciples in today's multicultural world."

Winfield Bevins, director of church planting, Asbury Theological Seminary; author of Ever Ancient, Ever New

"As someone who is clearly on record as saying that a recovery of apostolic imagination is absolutely critical for the impact of Christianity in the twenty-first century, I can't emphasize enough how important this book is for advancing our understanding of the apostolic person and function in the church and in Christian organizations. J. D. Payne has now brought his substantial scholarship to bear on this timely topic. I for one am deeply grateful."

Alan Hirsch, founder of Forge Missional Training Network, the Movement Leaders Collective, and the 5Q Collective; author of The Forgotten Ways

"J. D. Payne is an excellent researcher and writer who identifies strategic issues that influence how the established church reaches out to the world. In Apostolic Imagination, Payne takes on one of the most critical and foundational issues related to missions and to the health of the American church today. How can the church understand the special ministry of the New Testament apostles and apply that understanding to established churches and to efforts to take the gospel to the nations? The book begins with an explanation of the contemporary confusion over missions then examines what the New Testament says about the first apostolic missionaries and their function in God's plan. The second half of the book leads readers to reimagine what churches and mission ministries would look like if they were aligned with that biblical model. I recommend this book to ministry students who want to understand the contemporary mission challenge, to pastors who desire to lead their churches to engage the nations, to missionaries who are striving to be effective, and to anyone who wants to impact the nations for Christ."

Don Dent, professor of world missions, Gateway Seminary

The Author

  1. J. D. Payne

    J. D. Payne

    J. D. Payne (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is professor of Christian ministry at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He has published thirteen books in the area of mission and evangelism and pastored churches for nineteen years. Payne...

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