This is the first post in a series looking at the definition and impact of each fivefold ministry types listed in Ephesians 4. You can see the links to each individual post below. When considering what is commonly known as ‘fivefold ministry’, the scriptures must challenge, test and actually provide our definition. The Apostle Paul tells us:
“And [Christ] 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, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
A spiritually healthy church is one that has internal and external ministry strength, using the yardsticks of the fivefold ministry expressions given to the church by Jesus that are listed in Ephesians 4. In effect, the fivefold ministry health of our church answers the question ‘how successfully are we manifesting the heart of Jesus?’ The above passage indicates nine fruits that result from healthy fivefold ministry:
Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV)
- Unity in the faith (v13)
- Knowledge of the Son of God (v13)
- Becoming mature (v13)
- Attaining the.. full measure of Christ (v13)
- No longer being infants (v14)
- No longer.. blown here and there by… every teaching (v14)
- Growing to become in every respect the mature body (v15)
- Each part doing their work (v16)
- The whole body… grows and builds itself up in love (v16)
We see common themes here: unity, maturity, knowledge, right relationships, and everyone involved. This is the fruit of the fivefold.
This passage is referring to individuals with specific roles – offices, as it were. If Jesus, the head of the church, identified five specific ministry types the church needs then it follows that healthy and mature churches must exhibit all five cultures indicated in this passage, whether our church has ‘fivefold ministers’ within it or not. In short, what the fivefold bring is key for churches. We could say that the purpose of the fivefold, as Alan Hirsch writes, is ‘the ministry of Christ, through the body of Christ, leading to the fullness of Christ.’
Defining Fivefold Ministry
A brief definition of the fivefold ministries is illustrated by the following chart:
Benefits of Fivefold Ministry
So what are the benefits of these five ministries? I propose that the fivefold ministry:
- Provides us with a holistic understanding of the ministry of Christ through the church, rather than the dysfunctional model in the West which seems to be primarily built around pastors or teachers.
- Reminds us that leadership is called to equip the people, who do the work of ministry – rescuing us from the ‘sage on the stage’ model of ministry.
- Promotes a team mentality, rather than one-man models of leadership.
- Validates different ministry passions and lenses.
- Guides our thinking around what comprises a successful and mature church.
Incidentally, I have developed a fivefold ministry test for leaders to see how spiritually healthy their churches are. You can take it here.
The Function of Fivefold Ministry
Returning to Ephesians 4, we can see that the very job description of fivefold ministry is to ‘equip the saints for the work of ministry’ – it’s to train people to ‘do the stuff’ themselves. Authentic and mature fivefold ministry, and ministers, should be about discipleship and equipping others. It’s not about superstars, titles or one-man ministry models. So what does this equipping look like?
Ephesians 4:12 shows us that the fivefold is meant to equip. The Greek word here, katartismos, (from the verb katartizo) has two meanings. Firstly, to adjust, put in order or restore. Secondly, to prepare or equip. Outside of scripture, the word was used as a medical term to set a fractured or dislocated bone back into place – joining two broken pieces together. Matthew uses the word in his gospel in Matthew 4:21 to describe James and John mending (katartizō) their nets. Paul uses the same word in 2 Corinthians 13:11 when encouraging the church to aim for restoration (katartizō). It was also used outside of scripture to describe a ship, or an army, being fitted for the mission or journey.
In that sense, we see that ‘equipping’ in Ephesians 4 means restoring, adjusting and realigning what has been broken or isn’t working. It is preparing and resourcing for tasks. In effect, ‘putting into right working order’. We can understand this to look like:
- adjusting foundational thinking
- correcting doctrine
- admonishing and rebuking individuals
- challenging sin
Fivefold Ministry Comparison
Other posts, linked below, will look more in details at each of the fivefold. But for an easy quick-glance guide, we can differentiate the fivefold in the following ways:
You can read fuller descriptions about each fivefold ministry definition, and resulting cultures they create, in the following posts:
- Fivefold ministry: what it is and why it matters
- What are the signs that help us recognise a fivefold minister?
- What about apostles?
- What about prophets?
- What about evangelists?
- What about pastors?
- What about teachers?
- Fivefold ministry and church government
- 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.