Ephesians 4:11-13 “And Christ gave these gifts to the Church: The Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and the teachers. Their role is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ”.
A topic that is generating some controversy in the wider church today is the operation of the five-fold ministry. Although there is difference of opinion on this area of Church leadership, it is a significant feature of Katalyst Church and therefore one we should seek to understand.
The Scripture verse above highlights five distinct areas or roles of ministry which God has given to the Church as a gift, so that it can operate in totality and reach maturity. Essentially the five-fold ministry establishes a group of leaders to govern the Church based on giftedness in one of five areas, which together provide a holistic and balanced perspective to complete Christian ministry. This model stands somewhat in contrast to the more traditional hierarchy Church model with a Senior pastor, associate and assistant pastors. All five streams of giftedness are highly unlikely to be represented and well balanced in one or two individuals. The five-fold model functions on the basis that leaders with the gifting’s of an Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher oversee ministry areas where they have a proven anointing to grow and edify the Church. Much of this controversy stems from a lack of thorough understanding of the various gifts and ministries God has given the church to help lead, guide, direct and edify the saints outlined in Ephesians 4:11. The major concern centres upon the abuse of power and the self appointment of people to positions of influence and authority that are not in submission to the Holy Spirit or accountable to other Leaders or to the body of the Church.
Before we discuss this scripture from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we need to explore church history to remind ourselves of some principles of leadership that God has ordained and used in the life of his children.
Since the beginning of human life, God has always ruled His children in the model of a Theocracy. Theocracy simply means that there is only God in charge and therefore men and woman must follow God’s direction and will for their lives both individually and corporately. Democracy has never been the modus operandi in the Body of Christ. God anoints, He appoints and He directs. We really do not have a vote on any subject whatsoever if we are Spirit led. Having to vote means that we are unable to reach unity and agreement through discussion and prayer and that is not God’s will for His children. Biblical history shows us different models of leadership that God has appointed to rule over His children. Each model was effective for that time and season and as time rolled forward, so God changes his models of leadership to coincide with His divine purposes for that season.
Old Testament Leadership
In the Old Testament alone, we see many completely different models of leadership ordained by God:
- Before leadership offices were initiated by God His divine blessing and presence was with covenant bearers e.g. the age of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants).
- The 400 years of captivity in Egypt saw no Israelite leaders appointed. (Although Moses and Aaron were being prepared for what was soon to come).
- Then followed direct divine ordination and selection by God for specific tasks and seasons e.g. Moses.
- After being set free from Egyptian slavery, the Levites (descendants of the 3rd son of Jacob) are called to the office of Priest (Numbers 3:5-12). Aaron, Moses’ brother was also a Levite (Exodus 4:14).
- We then see the appointing of judges to rule the people e.g. Othniel, Deborah, Gideon and Samson.
- This was followed by the appointment of kings to rule over the people e.g. Saul, David and Absolom.
- During the time of the judges and the kings, God raised up the office of the prophet although the Bible does refer to Abraham and Aaron as prophets (Gen 20:7)
Overall we see 6 different forms of leadership during the Old Testament:
- Covenant bearers – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob
- Divinely directly/appointed – Moses, Joshua
- Priests – Aaron, Levites
- Judges – Deborah, Gideon, Samson
- Kings – Saul, David
- Prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel
The offices of prophet and priest were already in operation during the time of the judges and the kings e.g. Deborah was a prophetess and a judge at the same time (Judges 4:4). The period of the judges only operated for 185 years starting with Othniel as 1st judge, and ending when the last judge Samuel, anointed Saul as the 1st king of Israel. Saul’s anointing started a new model of leadership using kings as rulers.
The 3 offices that had the greatest effect on leadership during the Old Testament were the offices of priest, prophet and king. The Bible says that Jesus Christ operated in all three of these offices.
Jesus is called the King of kings. Jesus is called our High Priest and Intercessor standing at the right hand of God. Jesus spoke about a prophet not being honoured in his own country referring to Himself. His disciples and other followers often spoke of Him as a prophet. Because Jesus had fulfilled these offices just as He has fulfilled the Old Covenant by His eternal sacrifice, it is no longer necessary for us to be ruled by priests, kings or prophets in the way that occurred during Old Testament times. We are no longer a single nation needing to hear from God through another person because God has made a way for us through Jesus Christ to have direct communication with Him because His Spirit lives in our lives.
New Testament Leadership
The New Testament leadership model looks entirely different to any of the Old Testament examples we looked at. We will also see that although prophets are mentioned in both Testaments, their ministries are slightly different. The greatest reasons for the new leadership model in the New Testament are:
- All of God’s people now had direct access to God the Father through Jesus Christ.
- The Holy Spirit who is the constant presence, power and witness of God (Christ), now resides in each individual who professes Jesus Christ as Lord of his/her life.
Because of these 2 significant factors, God created a new leadership model for the church. At this point, we encounter considerable controversy in Christian circles relating to the validity of the “Five fold ministry”. Some maintain that the five-fold ministry was only meant for the “Apostolic age” (30-90 AD). Others object on the basis that it creates an elite hierarchy of leadership. Properly understood, the five-fold ministry in fact takes the emphasis away from a hierarchical leadership and places the weight of ministry towards a spread of responsibility across the Church body.
If we look at Ephesians 4:11-13 more closely again, we’ll be able to make a few interesting observations:
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 has 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.
The standpoint we have adopted at Katalyst Church is:
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)
Declare 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 to 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 realize that without each of the other’s part, that they will then be an incomplete hand.