Discovering the Spiritual Gifts Part 5
When God set apart the children of Israel, He provided them with prophets, priests, and kings to lead them. Those that were personally ‘called’ by God (as opposed to delusions of grandeur) were anointed by the Holy Spirit to do this. These special ministry roles held key responsibilities that revolved around maintaining worship in the temple and following God’s commands for living.
When Jesus arrived, He fulfilled all three of these roles; anointed by God, He serves as our prophet (e.g. Luke 24:19), priest (e.g. Hebrews 6:20), and our king (John 18:36-37)! Temple worship and all the sacrificial trimmings requiring priests became redundant; a new prophetic era began since now God spoke through his Son (who incidentally fulfilled the words of the prophets); and Jesus was declaring the kingdom of God was here on earth, as it was in heaven.
Things were going to be a whole lot different around here!
Firstly, God was inviting all people to become children of God. The church birthed at Pentecost was not restricted to one nation and the Holy Spirit was given to all believers. This new family or community would require a whole new way of organising themselves. If the believers were to ‘go’ everywhere and make disciples, they would need to be trained in evangelism and learn how to establish communities embodying the beatitudes. To preserve the gospel of Jesus, his teachings needed to be faithfully passed on to successive generations. Heresies needed to be confronted. Missional logistics needed to be worked out. Pastoral care needed to be practical.
So Jesus, who was continuing his mission in heaven, kindly provided the church with new leaders to mobilise the mission here on earth.
“Christ himself gave the apostles,
the pastors and teachers,
to equip his people for works of service,
Because they are grouped together in this passage, these roles are often referred to collectively as the 5-fold ministries (although in 1 Corinthians 12:28 others are mentioned. The context of this discussion is about everyone using the gift they have been given, rather than created a definitive list. Refer to 'Gift Wrapped Goodness' for more on this theme).
Movers and Shakers
It wasn’t that the world did not have people who liked to teach and train (let's not forget the Pharisees). What it did mean is that Jesus was about to shake the world's idea of the kingdom of God upside down and inside out and He was telling his followers to get on the move and ‘go’ make disciples.
These five unique leadership roles or positions within the church were given to individuals for a specific purpose;
“...to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service,
in order to build up the body of Christ,
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.”
i.e. to help the church fulfill the commission of making disciples and build the kingdom of God here on earth until Christ returns (then they can hang up their hats and put their feet up).
So Jesus gave spiritual gifts to men and women and then gifted those men and women to the church. These ‘movers and shakers’ are anointed with the supernatural power of God to advance the kingdom of God.
Gifted for ministry - a brief glance
(I have borrowed these simple definitions from this journal article by Jimmy D. Baynes)
Apostles: The word apostle is a transliteration of the Greek word apostolos, meaning “a messenger” or “one sent on a mission.” Apostles were literally commissioned messengers carrying out their sender's mission. They were backed by the sender’s authority to the extent that they accurately represented that commission.
Prophets: Prophets were spokespersons for God, whose role was known from the Old Testament and continued in the New Testament church. A prophet is one who is divinely inspired to communicate God's will to His people and to disclose the future to them.
Evangelists: Literally, an evangelist is “one announcing good news.” In the New Testament, the good news is the death, burial, resurrection, and the ultimate ascension of Christ.
Pastors: Pastors were literally “shepherds.” The term pastor is found only once in the English text of the New Testament. However, the Greek word poimen is found about eighteen times in the New Testament, translated once as “pastor” and the remaining instances as “shepherd.” Most notably, poimen is found in John 10 where Jesus is revealed as the good shepherd. Only in Ephesians 4:11 is shepherd found in reference to a function or office in the Church.
Teachers: Teachers were expounders of the Scriptures and the Jesus tradition. If they functioned like Jewish teachers, they probably offered Biblical instruction to the congregation and trained others to expound the Scriptures as well.
God has given men and women the grace and anointing to not only minister powerfully and fruitfully in this area of gifting, but to train and empower others to use the same gifting. These people are a wonderful gift to the body of Christ and are uniquely anointed by God to demonstrate His authority and power through signs and wonders, divine insight, and wisdom. They boldly proclaim and defend the gospel, while strengthening and equipping the saints to be faithful followers of Jesus.
Other helpful links:
Recognising the Five-Fold Ministries of Prophets and Apostles - by Rodney W Frances
Do you have an appointment?
Every believer has the potential to develop competency in their ability to use the spiritual gifts, however, this does not necessarily mean they have been called to fulfill one of the five positions. How can you tell if you have been shoulder tapped for one of these roles?
“No one takes this honor on himself,
but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.”
Here is my 5-star rating of important stages someone may go through to be appointed to any of the 5-fold ministries positions.
1. Announcement: The call to the office of apostle, prophet, teacher, evangelist, or pastor first comes from Jesus.
e.g. Paul received his call in a spectacular way, and when you consider what this ministry cost him, he needed to be certain this was the path God had set before him. He introduces himself his letters to the churches with his apostolic credentials, e.g. “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God—” 1 Corinthians 1:1
2. Apprenticeship: There is a time of seasoning and developing the gift
Although a calling to one of these ministry positions might be clear, it may be some time before someone is appointed (or ordained) into one of these offices. God gives opportunities for personal growth, developing ministry skills, life experience and humble service before someone is ready to assume the authority it carries.
e.g. God informed Paul that He had chosen him to be an apostle but Paul spent 14 years resetting his theology before returning to Jerusalem to present himself to the leaders of the church. In fact, he did not speak with any of the other apostles before that! (Galatians 1:15-2:1)
3. Above reproach: Develop the character to carry the calling
Timothy 3:1-10 is the gold standard of what kind of character a person should have before they are allowed to serve in leadership. Paul himself wrote this. If this applies to a deacon, then it certainly applies to anyone filling the role of apostle, pastor, prophet, teacher or evangelist don’t you think?
“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach...(vs1-2). They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve…” (vs9-10).
4. Anointing: There is evidence of an anointing for this ministry.
More importantly, than the gifts is the fruitfulness of the ministry in drawing people to God.
e.g. When he met with the church leaders, Paul shared testimony of the work God was doing through him amongst the Gentiles. It was evident God had set him apart as an apostle to reach non-Jews with the gospel and confirmed it with signs and wonders. As described in Ephesians 4: 11-13, people were coming to know Christ, the church was growing, and discipleship was happening. The kingdom of God was advancing. (Acts 21:17-20)
5. Appointment: This calling is recognised and authenticated by church leadership.
When this happens, the person with this gift is appointed to the office and released to go and serve with authority. They formally become a representative of church governance and a trusted voice to the church. What a blessing!
e.g. Although Paul was sure God had called him to be an apostle, he submitted himself to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem to be tested and confirmed. The calling was authenticated by church leaders who not only released him into that ministry but considered how they could work together (Galatians 2:6-10). Imagine if they had not.
The Tag Team
Each of these have unique strengths and functions. There is not one office more important than the other. In fact, sometimes ministers may be gifted for dual roles. e.g. apostle-teacher, pastor-prophet, teacher-evangelist.
When an emphasis is placed on one role over the other, or there is a preference for a particular style, we miss out on the benefit of collaborative efforts that bring the ‘full counsel of God’. We need each role to be present in the life of the church because they complement each other. Together they nurture a balanced, mature, spirit-filled discipleship culture that builds the kingdom of God.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19-21)
Leadership teams that affirm each other's gifts and are mutually submissive to one another, will experience wonderful ministry together. Not to mention this pleases the father to see his kids getting on well.
To honor God and bring Him glory, the relationships between the ministry leaders and the rest of the body of Christ should also be infused with love and respect for each other. Here are two examples:
Church leadership: “Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.” (2 Corinthians 1:24)
Church family: "Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)
“For the kingdom of God is ... of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
Refer to this article GIFT WRAPPED GOODNESS for more
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* All scripture is quoted from NIV translation unless noted