The apostle Paul said,
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”(Ephesians 4:11-12)
Certain Bible teachers hold that some of these ministries were only temporarily given. Dispensationalists, for example, teach that once the apostolic age had passed there was no longer any need for apostles in the church. The Cessasionists, who believe that the ‘supernatural gifts’ have ceased, reject both the apostolic and prophetic ministries today. In some cases, even the ministry of the evangelist is said to belong only to New Testament times.
But the fivefold ministry gifts are a permanent part of the church’s ministry on earth. They are valid and necessary in every generation, and will be in operation,
“…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”(Ephesians 4:13)
All these gifts are needed until the church, both individually and corporately, grows into the full maturity of Christ. Only then will the church be equipped to be God’s agent in the world and complete the mandate of God.
Often, one ministry is stressed to the detriment of the others. The only ministry recognised in many churches today is that of the pastor. This is perhaps the most abused ministry title in the church.
Many Bible colleges graduate their students through a pastor-shaped door, and those who make it through, come out squeezed into a mould that is not necessarily of God’s making. But at the IBIOL, www.ibiol.org, our Bible college we equip students to find their fivefold ministry.
Think of the consequences of having an evangelist as a pastor. He or she wants the congregation saved every week! The people in the church are never properly cared for pastorally and they never mature through teaching, but they know how to raise their hand during the time of the appeal for salvation!
In order to bring the full complement of Christ’s ministry to the body all the five ministries must operate together.
The teacher needs to be inspired by the prophet and the prophet needs to be tempered by the pastor. The evangelist needs the discipline of the teacher and the apostle needs the partnership of all the rest to fulfil the total call of apostleship.
Churches can get over-developed in one area and remain under-developed in another area. The result is lack of balance. One church can be known for its teaching and another for its evangelism, but God’s plan is for us to be strong in every area. Otherwise, the body will not be released to function properly. It will remain weak and ineffective.
What is the point of a church being taught the gospel well if it never goes and evangelises with it? And, what is the point of a church that is enthusiastic in evangelism without ever stopping to learn what the gospel is and how to teach new converts to live?
The fivefold ministry is like a family getting a meal ready for dinner:
The prophet says: “Stir the pot!”
The pastor says: “Let it simmer!”
The apostle says: “I’m going hunting for the meat for the stew!”
The evangelist says: “Let’s go and invite the neighbours!”
The teacher says: “I am leading a course in cooking and nutrition.”
Each ministry has its place and its special purpose so that every aspect of the ministry is covered.
Every ministry gift or ability comes by the grace of God. They result from the work of Christ in us and not from human choice or effort.
“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.“ Ephesians 4:7
You have to be called by God to a ministry before you can function in it.
“And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.”(1 Corinthians 12:28)
You cannot choose your own calling. You must be called by Christ. It is he who gives some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be pastors and some to be teachers.
Fivefold ministry operates from within or alongside local church leadership. The fivefold ministry is there to serve and not supplant the local church.
The fivefold ministries are usually translocal in nature. That is, a person who is an apostle or a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor or a teacher, is what he or she is wherever God calls them to be. Local church ministers such as elders and deacons are appointed to the local church and may not necessarily continue to be elders or deacons if they moved their location. But, the fivefold ministries are a life calling. They minister, as called to do so, in the local church alongside the elders and deacons, but their ministry gift will operate wherever God sends them, whatever the location.