by Bob Love of St Cedd’s, Stifford Clays
The 5-Fold Ministry Gifts
Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors (Shepherds) & Teachers
As preparation for the TLP Retreat Day at West Thurrock Chapel on Thursday 7 January 2016, Rev Bob Love (retired) has written this summary of the 5-Fold Ministry Gifts. The purpose is to begin to recognise and release these gifts in each other so cross-denominational co-operation can become all the more effective.
The challenge throughout the whole Body of Christ in Thurrock is how to do this given that there is a variety of expression, the diversity of culture, and historical denominational differences.
Here goes with a few thoughts that Bob (‘giving it some welly’ in the photo) has found helpful to continue this discussion…
- Do we already see and recognise these gifts in our fellowships?
- How can we see these gifts and recognise and begin to use them in the context of TT?
- Can we develop a template for their use and testing for the common good?
- Where and when do we start?
What is the purpose of these ministries?
- For the perfecting/maturing of God’s people For the work or equipping of the ministry For the edifying/building up of the Body of Christ.
- For how long? Until we all come to complete unity in the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God Until we are all full mature/full grown in the Lord Until we all reach the full measure of the stature of Christ.
- It is fairly safe to say that the 3 purposes for these ministries are just as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago – probably more so today than ever before. Also, this verse states that 4 things are required before these ministries will not be required anymore and none of these 4 requirements have yet been met in the Body of Christ today. These ministries are alive and very much needed in the local church today.
These Ministries Today in the Local Church
The question of the operation of the Five Fold Ministries in the Church today is largely dictated by the traditions of each individual denomination and their historical interpretation of Scripture on this topic varying from complete rejection to an open embrace. It is difficult for any formal body of believers to approach the New Testament in a totally objective manner. Much of how one perceives New Testament leadership hinges on our present experience and environment. As we probe this topic, we are essentially trying to eliminate any man made parameters of leadership that have permeated into the structure and philosophy of Church leadership and rediscover the foundational model and principles Jesus intended to underpin the operation of the body.
The 5 ministries in discussion are Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher. In fact, this has incorrectly been called the 5-fold ministries because pastor and teacher are actually mentioned in scripture as a combined entity. The Greek word ‘kai’ is used to combine them and treat them as 1 entity. So this is really a 4-fold set of leadership gifting. These leadership ministries are not merely “titles” but ministry functions or job descriptions. The focus can and may never be on a man or woman, but rather on the task being performed in obedience to Christ for the benefit of the Church body.
The purpose is purely to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. Our ministry is the ministry of Christ expressed through the believer by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
- Christ is our Apostle (Hebrews 3:1)
- Christ is our Prophet (Luke 24:19)
- Christ is our Evangelist (Matthew 9:35)
- Christ is our Pastor (1 Peter 5:2-4)
- Christ is our Teacher (John 3:2)
Every ministry is an extension of the ministry of Christ Himself, who is the chief cornerstone of the foundations. Ultimately Christ Himself will replace the five-fold ministry leadership. The 5-fold ministries are only temporary. Christ’s leadership is and will always be eternal.
The essential ingredient in the establishment of New Testament Leadership within the local Church is to ensure that all these gifts are in operation and that they are exercised in unity together. None can be dominant, none can be absent. Much of the danger associated with misuse and abuse of these gifts can be avoided if they are not set up as an individual’s specific title or a formal office of the Church leadership structure, but rather as recognition of a proven area of passion that a leader expresses in his or her ministry. Any local Church can maintain the New Testament directive simply by ensuring that an established team of leader’s collective giftedness represents all facets of the five fold ministry.
To recognise the imperative role the Five Fold Ministries play in the healthy and balanced function of the local Church. Recognition that there can be danger and restriction in appointing a single person to a particular office representing one of these five ministries.
To ensure the local body receives the benefit and blessing of these functions, through the establishment of a leadership team as representative of the Five Fold Ministry. The collective giftedness of the leadership team incorporates all five distinct areas of ministry and ensures their influence in the life of the Church.
What is the specific gifting of the Five Fold Ministry?
- The word ‘apostle’ is defined as “one chosen and sent with a message”
- They are referred to as “wise master builders” or “spiritual architects” (1 Corinthians 3: 10)
- The 12 apostles chosen by Jesus were witnesses of the resurrection (Acts 1:15; Acts 4: 33) There were many other true apostles (Acts 14:3-4; Romans 16:7; 1 Corinthians 15:5-7; Galatians 1:1,19) There were also false ones (2 Corinthians 11:13-5; Revelation 2: 2)
- Pioneers of new Churches. (1 Corinthians 9:2; 1 Corinthians 3:6)
- Grounds the Church in truth (Colossians 1:25)
- Bring correction in erroneous ministry, preserves unity in the Body (1 Corinthians 3:3-5)
- Lay foundations in the Church. (1 Corinthians 3:10)
- Father new ministries. (2 Timothy 1: 6; 1 Corinthians 4:15)
- A ministry of miracles, signs and wonders (2 Corinthians 12:12; Acts 2:43)
- A ministry of prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6: 4)
- Laying on of hands for impartation of ministry (Acts 6:6), Imparts spiritual gifts (Romans 1:11)
- Declares the will of God regarding situations (individually or corporately)
- The ministry of the prophet involves being moved in prophetic utterance, which can be:
- Predictive (Acts 21:10-11; Acts 11:27-28)
- Directive (Acts 13:1-3)
- Corrective (Acts 15:22-23+27+32)
- There is such a thing as a false prophet (1 John 4:1). God sets clear guidelines:
- Prophecies should be tested
- The words of a prophet are judged by church leadership (1 Corinthians14:29)
- Any prophecy should line up with Scripture (2 Peter 1:19-21)
- Evangelists extend the frontiers of God’s Kingdom
- They are co-workers with and extensions of apostolic ministry (2 Timothy 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 3: 2)
- They also equip the body of Christ with the evangelistic spirit of outreach
- The term ‘pastor’ has been misquoted and abused in the church today. In most instances today, the word ‘pastor’ is used to designate all church leaders and that is incorrect. The Greek word for pastor is ‘poimen’ which means “one who tends sheep or cares for flocks” (1 Peter 5:1-4; John 21:15-17). But this word is used only in Ephesians 4:11. Elsewhere in the New Testament, other words are used: “shepherd”, “elder” and “overseer”. As one of the five-fold ministry a “pastor”, “shepherd”, “elder” and/or “overseer” has a special emphasis on relationship networking in the local church and taking care of personal needs of the flock.
- A teacher is an instructor and subject-master.
- The teacher tells or shows the fundamentals or skills of something, causing others to know the facts and consequences of a matter. He or she imparts knowledge (sometimes through special revelation or inspiration)
Order of Ministry
Denoting the order of ministry is not to be understood as order of importance, just order of proper operation. The order that these ministries operate in is very specific:
- Apostles are leaders and visionaries. They bring direction to the church. They have the courage and ability to keep the Church moving forward, growing and building in new directions. Apostles are also fathers, able to nurture and disciple the other ministry areas.
- Prophets have a strong sense of right and wrong, but even more than that: they have a strong sense of the Spirit’s leading. Their spiritual antennae start quivering when things are going off balance or in wrong directions. Their voice is important for keeping the Church on track in what the Lord wants to do. Prophets also understand justice and are defenders of what is fair and right.
- Evangelists are the warriors, the foot soldiers who take the gospel to the remote areas of the world. They advance the gospel and in so doing they battle directly with the hindrances of the gospel as well. There are many more warriors in an army than there are generals and so there must be many evangelists in the church.
- Pastors nurture the flock and comfort them. They build up the sheep in the most holy faith. They tend to the wounded and the sick. They lead the healthy sheep into good pastures so they will eat well and be strong. And, they look for the sheep that have wandered away so that none will be lost.
- Teachers build the foundations of the church. They minister in the Word of God and remind us of the priorities and foundations that will keep us stable in our lives. They teach the church how to be wise in the ways of God.
Unity is implicit among the five. They move as one, yet operate individually to the full measure of the grace given to each one. This is the master plan for every church and we need to operate in this exact way to receive the blessings of the Lord. If we look at this scripture, we see the enormous blessing for the Saints if the church operates as it is supposed to. The end result of the Lord’s work is to raise up a bride that is a direct reflection of Christ Himself, having the identical nature, character and attributes.
Illustrating the Five Fold Ministries
The human hand is a simple analogy to help illustrate the five-fold ministry.
- We have as our first illustration, the thumb, which can reach all the other fingers, and this represents the apostolic ministry. It is one of government and in “fathering” others, and working together with those in a capacity of wisdom, love, and understanding of each in their unique talents and gifting. The thumb is analogous with the word “govern.” However, “govern” is not obviously, autocratic, but is one of servant-hood, as should ANY of the ministries within the body of Christ be.
- Next to the thumb, we have the forefinger, which for the purpose of illustration has been called “the prophet finger.” It is next to the apostle thumb, and works together with them in “the foundational structure, or ministries.” (“Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Eph. 2:20). We have yet to see how both of these ministries can and should, work together as one. They are foundational in their emphasis, and because of this, the rest of the structure of the building “rests” upon them. This forefinger is one of being a “guide” to others, and in drawing the body of Christ closer to himself, and calling the church unto purity and truth.
- The middle finger, the longest one, has been called the finger of the evangelist, simply because it is far-reaching, and because of the evangelist’s obvious ability to gather in the people, and spread the gospel, this has been the trademark. We shall use the word “gather” for this finger for the purpose of illustration.
- Next to the middle finger, we have the ring finger, (on the right hand), and this has been labelled for our purposes, the finger of the pastor, or shepherd. The ring finger, because this becomes synonymous with caring for the needs of the flock, and the heart of the church. This finger then is analogous with “guard” because the pastor must guard the sheep from outside and interior influences, which might cause harm to those who are in their care.
- Lastly, we have the small finger, but equally important. Remember that without this finger the hand has no balance. We will call this finger the teacher. For the teacher “grounds” the people in the Word. Without this finger, or ministry, we are sorely lacking in a deep understanding of scripture and in their very detailed approach to things.
All of these fingers or ministries are important, and none are “more important,” than others.
It becomes a matter of function – How an individual minister or ministry works and not an issue of “ranking.” The ranking is a matter of God’s restoration plan. No one minister or ministry has the full picture here. All have a “piece” to offer. Only Christ has understanding of what these puzzle pieces will look like after each “piece” has been interlocked with the others. Only when each of these ministries has come into complete unity, will they attain to the fullness of their own individual callings and equipping. As each respects the other’s portion and no longer fears what the other holds, then a greater unity will unfold. Then indeed, each “finger” will do its work and will realise that without each of the other’s part, that they will then be an incomplete hand.
>>> For another perspective on the 5-Fold Ministry Gifts – based on Alan Hirsch teaching – see the ‘Thurrock Needs APEST’ article link to the left.