What is the Five-Fold Ministry?
The Phrase, “The Five-Fold Ministry,” comes from the book of Ephesians 4:11-3, which says:
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
The picture here is that when Jesus returned to the Father after his resurrection, he gave his church five specials gifts to equip, build up and bring the church to a place of maturity.
So who is the Five-Fold Ministry?
What is important to point out about The Five-Fold Ministry is that these individuals not only possess spiritual gifts, but they are a gift to the church.
In other words, they not only have spiritual gifts. They are the gift.
This means that each of these people is given to the body of Christ to bring the church to a place of maturity.
In America, it can be challenging to wrap our minds around the concept of The Five-Fold Ministry because our church model is built around a Pastor/Teacher and maybe an Evangelist that comes to the church once or twice a year.
But in the early church, we see the concept of a Five Fold Ministry Team.
Take, for instance, some of the people mentioned in Acts:
Paul the Apostle
Agabus the Prophet
Phillip the Evangelist
Timothy the Pastor
Apollos the Teacher
Undoubtedly, this is just a small sampling of the Five-Fold Ministry gifts present in the early church.
And what we see is that these people often ministered to multiple congregations in a sort of trans local way.
Meaning that while they were based in one place, they were connected to many other churches.
The benefit to this was that each of these local congregations was strengthened in particular ways allowing them to reap the benefits of the unique grace that they carried as a part of The Five-Fold Ministry.
So let’s briefly look at how each of these function:
The apostle’s role in the New Testament was to establish new churches in uncharted territories and govern the churches. We see particularly in the life of the apostle Paul who wrote multiple letters to the churches he planted. He would check in on them, encourage them, and even correct them when necessary.
Furthermore, apostles catalyze the rest of the Five Fold Ministry to work together.
The word prophet can bring to mind a lot of images. But fundamentally, a prophet is a person who senses the direction the Holy Spirit is leading in a particular season. This does not mean that a prophet is inerrant or even the most important person in the church. Instead, the prophet serves as a “highlighter” of sorts who can point out what God may be emphasizing in that particular moment.
Additionally, the sign of a true prophet is not only being used by God in the prophetic but is empowering other people to hear the voice of God in their own lives.
An evangelist lives to see people come to saving faith in Jesus. Their life is marked by an extraordinary favor that allows them the opportunity to share the Gospel with people from all sorts of backgrounds.
In addition to this, an evangelist will stir the church to reach their friends and family with the Gospel.
The word pastor in this text is derived from the Greek word meaning shepherd. Pastors are gifted to guard the flock of Christ and lead them to a place where their faith can flourish and keep them from danger.
Furthermore, a pastor will create an environment where every church member will seek to care for one another.
A teacher continually calls the church to be grounded in the truth of God’s word. Teachers ensure that the church does not stray beyond the bounds of orthodoxy or allow the desire for innovation to fundamentally change the church’s calling or doctrine.
Along with this, teachers will impart a hunger in people to know the truth for themselves.
Why do we need the influence of the Five Fold ministry in our church and not just a pastor?
Each of the fivefold ministries has a propensity to focus on the thing that matters most to them. Consequently, As the book of Genesis says, “a seed reproduces after its own kind.” (Gen 1:11)
So it follows that the culture of a church will reflect the gift set of the church’s leadership. However, without the other Five Fold ministry gifts’ influence, a church can pull too far in one direction.
For example, a church that is only influenced by a pastor will be a caring church, but it may not have much urgency to reach people who have not yet believed in Jesus.
Conversely, a church led by an evangelist may be so focused on winning people to Christ that they unintentionally neglect the needs of the church right before their eyes.
Moreover, a church led by a prophet may have powerful times of prayer and see demonstrations of the power of the holy spirit. Yet, they may begin to make their subjective experience more important than teaching from God’s word.
Additionally, a church led by a teacher may become more focused on the minutia of debated theological issues than celebrating the incremental growth in the right direction doctrinally.
Lastly, a church led by an apostle may feel like it is only one of many things that the apostle cares for and could think that they are not as essential or spiritual as other believers or churches that they oversee.
I am painting in broad strokes here and am intentionally talking in worst-case scenarios. However, this is important to show that none of the gifts are supposed to exist in a vacuum. Jesus gave all of these gifts to the church.
So, where do we go from here?
Let me begin with a word of caution.
Today, many people claim to be an apostle or prophet, and while I certainly believe that spiritual gifts are for today, we should be slow to hand out titles of honor too quickly. Anyone that claims to be a Five Fold Ministry gift should be someone with a proven track record of ministry and a high level of accountability with their character. For individuals that have these two things in place as the body of Christ, we should be eager to receive from them and honor them as gifts given to the body of Christ.
Now, for local congregations leaders, my encouragement is to begin developing a team approach to ministry. This can be challenging for many reasons, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges or risks. There is no reason to feel pressure to have all five ministry gifts in your church, but it should be your aspiration to regularly have each of these Five Fold ministry gifts minister to your church body and leadership team. Again, every leader has a propensity to drive towards their strengths, and only with the help of all of the Five Fold Ministry will the church come to maturity.
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