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Cultivating APEST Leadership

Cultivating APEST Leadership October 11, 2019Leave a comment

This post is part of a series looking at Fivefold Ministry. This post focuses on assessing and developing the Fivefold and looks at practical ways to disciple people in the church who possess related gifts in these areas. You can find links to the rest of the series at the end of this post. The Fivefold ministry can also be referred to as APEST – apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd (pastor), and teacher. In this post, I will be using this term to refer to the fivefold ministry. I’ve developed a free APEST test that will show you how healthy your current APEST culture is. You can find this APEST assessment, and other church assessments, here.

Earlier posts in this series looked at each of the fivefold offices, examining their purpose and function. But how do you benefit from the fivefold ministry cultures in a church if you don’t necessarily have access to the full range of mature fivefold leaders? How do you develop healthy APEST culture within your church when you don’t have, for example, an apostle, or a prophet, or an evangelist, or a pastor, or a teacher in your church?

Defining APEST

First, let’s get some definitions clear. In this post, I will refer to fivefold leaders and to APEST leaders.

When I’m speaking of fivefold leaders, I’m referring to mature, gifted, seasoned, recognised and welcomed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

When I’m speaking of APEST leaders, I’m referring to those who have a strong passion and gifting in an area of the fivefold. Prophecy, or evangelism, for example. They aren’t fivefold leaders but given time, they could be. There is no guarantee though. In effect, they are leaders who are apostolically minded, or prophetically minded, and so on.

To illustrate these different levels of leadership gifting, think of three stages. We’ll use prophecy as our example. There is someone who prophesies. They have a gift – the gift of prophecy, for example. Every so often, they’ll use it.

Then there is someone who seems to regularly and consistently prophesy well and is recognised by the church community and leadership to be gifted in this area. They have a gift but know how to use it well to benefit others. They frequently serve others using their gift and are effective. You could say they have a prophetic ministry. This would be an example of an APEST prophetic leader.

Then there is someone who has a gift and a ministry but also trains and disciples others in either gift or ministry to benefit them individually, and benefit the church corporately. This could be someone who is potentially a fivefold leader. It’s a bit more complex than that, and there are other things to consider too, but at the most basic level, it helps us understand the leadership levels we’re talking about. The following graphic visualises it:


You could substitute prophecy for teaching, or evangelism, for example, but I hope you get my point.

This post will look at what we can do as church leaders to partner with APEST leaders and see them develop and grow, so the church benefits and is blessed by the Ephesians 4 fivefold cultures even if there is a lack of fivefold leaders available.

Identifying APEST Leaders


The first step to developing APEST leadership is to identify them. I recommend three steps that will help you in this:

Gather together those with the gift

Chose one APEST area. Organise a gathering – call it a ‘think-tank’ or a ’round table’ or something that communicates a dialogue – with anyone who sees themselves as having a gift or ministry in this area. It doesn’t matter whether you think they do or not – at this point, you are seeing who has a heart and passion for it. I’m also not saying you should gather people who say they are prophets, for example – simply gather those who have prophetic gifts.

Keep it as an open invitation, and start off with a working exercise. Ask the group (assuming this is a prophetic group, for example) “how can we grow the prophetic life of the church?”. Listen to their suggestions, because some great ideas may come out. Look to see who speaks, and who speaks with authority. Who do people listen to when they speak? Who has the giftedness, maturity and authority in the room? These individuals, once identified, form the basis of a ‘working group’, and are the ones for you to connect with for the next steps.

Expose the group to authentic fivefold ministers

Invite guest speakers and ministers into your church who carry a fivefold anointing. This is especially important if you lack any fivefold level leaders within your church. For example, if you don’t have any strong APEST prophetic leaders, locate and invite a prophet. Have these guest ministers in large meetings, but also to your deacons and elders. Additionally, gather like-gifted people and expose them to the fivefold minister. For example, if you have an evangelist visit you, make sure they get time with those amongst you with evangelistic heart, passion and gifting. It will impart something to them, and grow them, or even wake up those who are ‘dormant!’. Finally, get one on one time with them as a leader and ask them “how would you grow the life of this church?”

Where possible, I’d recommend not going more than two years without having each class of fivefold leader minister in your church. So over a two-year period, your church should receive a spiritual injection from an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher.

Deploy and release the group

Giftings grow through use, which means opportunities are needed where gifts can be exercised. I’ve written elsewhere about steps you can take to develop leaders. Make sure you include training opportunities where your APEST leaders can equip and resource others within your church. Also, give them public ministry opportunities in your larger gatherings, such as teaching, preaching and leading or hosting meetings. Lastly, I’d recommend using your APEST group as a council in that fivefold ministry. So, for example, your prophetic group functions a prophetic council, serving the church leadership. Councils aren’t a body of authority, and if someone is part of one, they aren’t necessarily considered a fivefold level leader. They are advisory to the elders and have two functions:

  1. To propose ideas and thoughts to elders that will help develop that fivefold culture in the church and;
  2. To support and shape projects, initiatives and cultural development in that fivefold culture

This model will allow a powerful synergy between APEST/fivefold leaders and elders within the church and presents an effective model of church government. I have developed a free APEST test and an APEST assessment which can help identify the current APEST health and priorities in your church. You’ll find those links at the end of this article.

Developing APEST: Expect Mess

Each fivefold ministry is intended to bring flavour, colour and shape to church culture. Fivefold and APEST leaders will each bring an impact and influence to church life – they have to because otherwise, their ministry wouldn’t be effective. Therefore, fivefold and APEST leaders can present a challenge to church leaders. Secure leaders will welcome the questions, insights, impact and new perspective. But insecure leaders may be threatened or feel challenged because of the questions they are asked and the fact that these APEST leaders bring their own authority and influence. If the insecurity of the church leadership begins manifesting as resistance, withdrawal, ignoring or control, the church loses out and it can become tiring for everyone.

Challenging or questioning the status quo is one way high-level leaders learn and develop their understanding. One thing not to do is to ignore or overlook APEST leaders. You need to engage and partner with them to see growth in character, wisdom and experience.

Patience and grace are important because APEST leaders might not be fully mature in wisdom, character or experience yet, so are still learning. A safe space for them to take risks and develop, and secure leaders who are committed to them and who can receive the good whilst gently addressing the bad, will be blessed!

APEST leaders grow and mature over time, through experience and exposure to things that shape their character, opinions and understanding. Maturing takes time and cannot be rushed! But because APEST leaders aren’t ready-made, they have to start somewhere. As leaders, we need to create an environment that recognises potential gifts and partners with the individual to see what God has put in them develop fully.

So I want to suggest some practical ways you can work with APEST leaders in your church. To be clear, I’m not saying ‘here is how you disciple an apostle, prophet etc etc’. What I am saying is more like ‘this is how you can disciple a leader who is apostolic/prophetic’. I will look at each APEST leader in turn and offer some practical steps.

Developing APEST: Apostolic Leaders

An earlier post unpacked the role of apostles, but it seems that the nature of the office is to take new ground, extend and expand, and pioneer. ‘Visionary’ would be a good word – even the apostle Paul spoke of wanting to head towards Spain because no one had taken the gospel there.

My conviction is that the development of apostles is different from other APEST leaders. There is the nature of the personal apostolic call, which comes at a defining moment – but without such an experience, there is no apostle – only an apostolically-minded leader. Not all apostolically-minded leaders are called to be apostles, either.

Apostolically-minded leaders will generally be focused on the mission of God, and concerned with how the kingdom of God advances, impacts and influences individuals, the church and society. Some suggestions for developing those you’ve identified as APEST apostolically minded leaders:

  • Time. Shape their thinking with exposure to your values, culture, methods, principles and experience. They’ll value and experience it, and it will build loyalty in them towards you.
  • Challenge. Give them opportunities that stretch and stimulate them
  • Permission. Grant them permission to take risks, and even fail
  • Reassurance. Show them that they are genuinely valued and empowered
  • Listening. Listen to their ideas and genuinely engage with them, whether you agree or disagree
  • Trust. Give them space – don’t micro-manage or control them
  • Add value. Ensure they understand that what they are doing has value – connect it to the vision.
  • Feedback. Give them authentic, honest feedback – they’ll value it because you are taking them seriously
  • Care. Make it clear they are loved because of who they are, not what they do.
  • Empathy. Help them learn to be more people-sensitive than cause-focused. Pastoral and discipleship skills will make all the difference to help them not use people as tools or cogs.
  • Stickability. Challenge them to see things through to completion, instead of being distracted by the next idea, innovation or initiative.
  • Self-care. Encourage them to develop healthy rhythms of life, including self-care.

Developing APEST: Prophetic Leaders

An earlier post unpacked the role of prophets. Prophetically minded leaders are primarily concerned about helping people grow in their relationship with God and hearing what He has to say. Some suggestions for developing APEST prophetically minded leaders:

  • Affirm. Build trust and rapport with them by asking them ‘what is God showing you currently?’
  • Protect. Give them space to speak up and out, and even if they say the wrong thing, or say things the wrong way, make sure they know it’s OK for them to make mistakes.
  • Make space. Prophetic leaders will need time and space to rejuvenate and connect with themselves and God.
  • Grace. Teach them to be patient and gracious when their expectations aren’t met, either in people or organisationally
  • Self-awareness. Help them learn how to discern between their idealism, and when they are aiming for unhealthy perfectionism.
  • Accessibility. Show them how to communicate their perspectives in inclusive ways that facilitate dialogue, as opposed to dogmatically shutting down the conversation. Helping them use ‘I think God is saying’ rather than ‘God is definitely saying!’ They need to value community to help them interpret and weigh the revelations they have, as they don’t see the whole picture or even know how to implement what they sense.
  • Pride. Challenge anything that could come across as proud or arrogant because any sense of ‘I get it and others don’t.’
  • Commitment. Help them work through relational problems that occur because of how they’ve spoken or acted
  • Sensitivity. Equip them to not take disagreement as a personal rejection
  • Frustration. Learning to manage frustration because people take time to process and ponder their ideas is key
  • Wisdom. Help them learn when to ‘pick their battles’ and not speak up about everything they see
  • Connectivity. Encourage them to not isolate, withdraw or only connect with those like them
  • Value. Let them know they are loved and accepted, and don’t always need to be prophesying to contribute.
  • Leadership Breadth. They may need to learn that leadership is not always only caring about a single issue or concern.

Developing APEST: Evangelistic Leaders

An earlier post unpacked the role of evangelists. In short, evangelistic leaders prioritise keeping the church focused on seeking the lost. Some suggestions on developing APEST evangelistically minded leaders:

  • Relational depth. Encourage them to develop strong and consistent relationships with people who are not like them and truly know them, to counterbalance the nature of the gift which can lead to them inadvertently cultivating numerous superficial connections.
  • Love for the church. Help them to not become disgruntled or dismissive towards the church or it’s people because it isn’t ‘out there’ reaching the lost as much as they would like it to be. Don’t take their frustration personally!
  • Discipling converts. Teach them to value discipleship as a way of integrating those they’ve connected to the church, instead of simply moving on to the next person.
  • Fellowship with believers. Ensure they value connecting with other believers and having fellowship in small and large church gatherings, instead of always being ‘outside the four walls of the church’.
  • Listen. Their perspective on how to generate a more effective outreach focus as a church will be insightful.
  • Make time and space. They are wired to minister to nonbelievers outside the church. Don’t cage them by only giving them pastoral or administrative work to do, or get them to simply lead meetings.
  • Give them a platform. Let them share and inspire the church through testimonies, accounts and stories.
  • Empower them. Get them to train people and take others with them on their outreach work.
  • Value them. Love them for who they are, and not just for who they bring to church!
  • Teach them. Show them the theological depth of the Gospel – it’s far better than even they believe!

Developing APEST: Pastoral Leaders

An earlier post unpacked the role of pastors. In short, pastoral leaders prioritise keeping the church feeling secure and connected to one other. Some suggestions on developing APEST pastorally minded leaders:

  • Value and listen to their sense of where the morale of the people is at.
  • Make space and time for them to be able to minister pastorally to people.
  • Let them create safe spaces and environments – it’s important to them in how they create a family
  • Build genuine relationships with them – if they perceive that they are a project or a task, they’ll become resentful.
  • Support and challenge them in how they set boundaries for themselves in the face of what, to them, feels like constant need.
  • Encourage them to invest in people in such a way that there isn’t any spiritual co-dependency forming – either from the leader needing to be needed, or the person becoming dependent on input from the leader.
  • Gently point out any kind of ‘saviour’ or ‘rescuer’ mentality you see, which assumes that the pastoral leader has to step in and help.
  • Ensure they not only value, but prioritise mission and movement – sometimes, people might not want to be on the journey and that’s OK. But pastoral leaders will find that hard, especially if there has been a depth of relationship present.

Developing APEST: Teaching Leaders

An earlier post unpacked the role of teachers. In short, teaching leaders prioritise communicating truth through scripture to the church to help them understand the things of God. Some suggestions on developing APEST teaching minded leaders:

  • Understand that questions they have may come across as direct, but they are really seeking clarity.
  • Consider and respond when they ask ‘how’ – for them, the process is important.
  • Empower them with opportunities to teach in different settings
  • Value them by being open to learning from them, and tell them when you do receive something.
  • Give them time and space to develop curriculum, classes, series or syllabuses.
  • Help them develop empathy and learn to see things from a non-teacher perspective
  • Remind them that there are times not everything is black and white, or cut and dried – but don’t use that as an excuse to ignore their questions and concerns!
  • Challenge them to equally prioritise practice as well as knowledge in their teaching.
  • Protect them, and the church, from any co-dependency of either needing to teach or needing to be taught
  • Ensure their theological opinions and framework don’t become idols or stumbling blocks, used as weapons or to bring division.
church culture assessment

To that end, I developed a free APEST test to help measure the overall health of the fivefold culture in a church. Called the Fivefold Health Check, you can take that APEST test here.

five fold ministry assessment

I have also developed an APEST assessment to show church leaders which one of the fivefold they need to prioritise and focus on now in their church. Called the Fivefold Development Assessment, you can take this APEST assessment here.

It takes consistency, commitment, time and energy when developing leaders. A healthy church is vibrant with each of the fivefold, so cultivating APEST leadership is key in ensuring the culture of the church incorporates these flavours.

You can read fuller descriptions about each fivefold ministry definition, and resulting cultures they create, in the following posts: 

  1. Fivefold ministry: what it is and why it matters
  2. What are the signs that help us recognise a fivefold minister?
  3. What about apostles?
  4. What about prophets?
  5. What about evangelists?
  6. What about pastors?
  7. What about teachers?
  8. Fivefold ministry and church government
  9. Cultivating APEST Leadership

Each APEST ministry is essential for any healthy, mature church. Do you know how strong your church in each of them? Are you strong in some, and weak in others? Do you know why? How did you test to see? To help churches like yours answer these questions and discover their fivefold health, I designed a FREE APEST ministry test for churches.

To find out more, and take the APEST assessment, click HERE.

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