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Recognising Fivefold Ministers

Recognising Fivefold Ministers February 18, 2020Leave a comment
Fivefold Ministry

This is the second post in a series looking at the fivefold ministry in Ephesians 4. You can see the links to each post, including the individual fivefold ministers, at the end of this post.

Let’s be honest – fivefold ministers can’t please anyone. They are either idolised to the point of being considered the fourth person in the Trinity, or diminished, overlooked, misunderstood, not recognised or even told their gift and ministry is no longer needed in the church today!

One time, I became aware of a gentleman who considered himself to be a prophet. He had a very interesting approach to prayer. Whenever he prayed publicly, whether it was to a group of three, thirty or three hundred, he always concluded his prayer with the phrase “I pray this as a prophet ordained and anointed by the Lord Jesus Christ”. It was kind of awkward because it felt more like he was telling us he was a prophet, rather than letting us make up our own minds.

I must confess, I feel like that sometimes when I see, hear or meet some leaders. They’ve got a title based around one of the fivefold ministries in Ephesians 4:11, and kind of feels like I’m being told how to view them, as opposed to weigh and see. After all, they may well indeed be an apostle or prophet, but are they an apostle or prophet to me? More on that later!

There have been some interesting cultural and historical understandings of the fivefold ministries. I’m saying interesting in both positive and negative meanings, by the way. As always, our first step in building our theology about anything is to always look through the lens of the New Testament. Let’s not let big houses, big cars or big hair shape our thinking more than the scriptures.

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, talks about what has become known as the ‘five-fold ministries’. His words give some insight into their definition and roles:

‘When He [Christ] ascended on high He led a host of captives and He gave gifts to men…  And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and the teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ.

Ephesians 4

There are a number of observations here which can help our understanding of the fivefold ministries. So what can we see?

Firstly, fivefold ministers are unique gifts to the church

Christ ‘gave gifts to men’. There is a specific and individual call to a fivefold office which is not a general invitation, but a unique call. Clearly, those thought of or who claim to be ‘fivefold’ in their ministry must be gifted in that ministry – and I’d argue, significantly and powerfully so. More than once I’ve encountered someone who calls themself an evangelist but when it comes down to it, they’ve not actually seen any conversions through their own ministry!

There is credibility, an authority and even a heavenly endorsement that comes with a powerful ministry gift. It doesn’t negate the need for godly character or mature and seasoned wisdom, of course, but godly and mature character accompanying a strong gift are signs of a fivefold minister. If either is missing, we aren’t talking about a fivefold minister.

Secondly, fivefold ministers are gifts because of WHO they are

It isn’t just about the gifts, but also who the man or woman is. The scripture says that ‘He (Christ) gave the… [fivefold]… to the [church]. The person is the gift to the church, not just their abilities. There is something about who they are as an individual that is part of the package. Their personality, perceptions, insights and ways of thinking are just as much a part of the fivefold office as is their ability, anointing and gifting. It is as much about who they are as it is about what they can do.

Thirdly, fivefold ministers make disciples

Fivefold ministers are meant to ‘equip the saints for the work of ministry’. Their role is to disciple, train and mentor believers in the same fivefold grace that they themselves move in. So, for example, an evangelist should equip, impassion and encourage the church in areas and skills of evangelism. Fivefold ministers reproduce themselves by helping others unlock or develop their own gifts. An authentic fivefold minister should be less concerned about being a superstar up on stage and more focused on helping others grow. 

Fourthly, fivefold ministers do community well

Fivefold ministers should have the heart to see the Church flourish because they want to be part of ‘building up the body of Christ’. As such, they are not only passionate about the church, or a church, but they are actually part of a church themselves. If the purpose of the fivefold is to see people equipped, then there has to be a sense of being in a community to learn how to do that well and to also assess the fruit of the ministry over time. Therefore a fivefold minister understands that they must first be in a community to be able to do that, and so they also need to be in right relationship with the leaders of that community.

This means that fivefold ministers are not self-appointed; they live in community with other believers and over time, let their call, fruit and gift speak for themselves to a point whereby they are recognised by the members of that community and released to minister by the community leaders. It is an unhealthy sign for a fivefold minister to not be part of a godly community or be covered by godly leadership. If these things aren’t present, it should raise red flags. Similarly, communities and leaders recognise their own fivefold ministers, as opposed to being told. It’s a principle of life and leadership that people reveal themselves by the fruit of their lives. Community living and submission to leadership are the best revealers of fruit. It follows that an absence of either should be a concern.

Summary

Calling ourselves one of the fivefold titles doesn’t necessarily mean we are! If you feel you have a call to one of the offices, then get involved in community, serve your spiritual leaders, walk with God and become more like Him, and trust that He will increase your favour and influence in the right time, in the right way. Healthy fivefold ministers are a blessing to the church because they are foundational in the life of the local church, so we need them!

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 fivefold 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 Fivefold ministry test for churches.

To find out more, and take the Fivefold Ministry test, click HERE.

This post is an adaptation from my book ‘Hearing the Heart of Heaven‘. You can download a free chapter here.

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