THE FIVE-FOLD MINISTRY
Among the many wonderful things God has given us, are spiritual gifts. Some spiritual gifts are manifestations of the characteristics of God’s power. Some are characteristics of His expression of service. Yet, others are characteristics of His ministry and or leadership. This includes what has become known as the 5-fold ministry, referenced in Ephesians 4:11.
The five-fold ministry is an extension gift of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians tells us that there are diversity of gifts, diversity of administrations, and diversity of operations. Each of these three categories reveals a different aspect of God’s expression. The diversity of gifts is governed by the Spirit of God as outlined in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. The diversity of operations is governed by God, as seen in 1 Corinthians 14:1-4. And the diversity of ministries is governed by the Lord Jesus Christ as seen in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.
It is in I Corinthians 12:29 that we get somewhat of a glimpse of the “five-fold” ministry. Though this verse presents us with the concept, we don’t see all five named. Some call these gifts by other names, but I believe that they belong to the five-fold ministry. Paul is clear that there are different administrations (ministries), but one Lord (boss). As I alluded to previously, the idea of the Divine Trinity is referenced in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. Each is named in connection with a specific function. The Lord, Jesus, is given the responsibility to regulate the area called “administration” (ministries).
Parallel to this idea is the fact that Ephesians 4:8, says that He (Jesus) has ascended on High and given gifts to men. It then follows up by naming those specific gifts to which He gave men. It says very pointedly that “He” (referring to Jesus) gave some to be Apostles, some Prophets, some Evangelists, some Pastors and Teachers. These are all ministry gifts.
This is echoed throughout the New Testament scriptures. Jesus chose the 12 disciples, trained them, sent them out, and watched over their ministries. Likewise, Jesus appeared to Paul, called him into ministry, spoke to the destiny of his ministry, and sent him out.
Some refer to the five-fold ministry gifts as “governmental” gifts. I do not subscribe to this line of thinking, but rather think of them as leadership or developmental (building) gifts. You may be wondering what’s the difference. Government is a system of ruling, leadership is a way of serving. Likewise, the fruit of those who subscribe to “governing” as suppose to “serving ” becomes obvious in the unwillingness of those governing to serve. We see clear evidence of Jesus’ lordship I Paul’s life as evidenced by the many times he appeared in his life. Here are some examples, Acts 18:9; 22:17-21; 23:11. Each time we see Jesus exercising His authority over Paul’s calling to ministry.
With that in mind, hopefully, you see why knowing the difference is critical to operating in these wonderful callings. Ephesians 4:12-16 tells us that the purpose of these gifts is to serve Jesus by equipping the saints for the work of ministry, so that the body may be built up until we 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 God. So, these ministry gifts should be viewed as tools in God’s hands rather than instruments of justice, like a gavel and a staff. This should become even more evident as we realize that God always referred to His spokesmen as servants. (see Amos 3:7, Lev. 25:42, Jer. 7:25, 25:4, 26:5, Ezek.38:17, Dan. 9:10, Zech. 1:6, Rev. 11:18, 22:6).
The five-fold ministry gifts are all unique but share a common responsibility—communicating. Each of these gifts come equip with the ability to communicate God’s truth regarding the Gospel and other matters of life. They will likewise have manifestations gifts of the Spirit that assist them in completing their general task of preparing the body, and their individual task—the thing they are uniquely called to accomplish.
Let’s look at them in detail.
First, there is the Apostle. The word Apostle is the Greek word “Apostlos”. It means sent one or messenger. The word apostle is not a uniquely spiritual word. In fact, Jesus borrows the word from Greek culture. In Greek culture, it was a word used to describe ambassadors. As the definition suggests, the Apostle is not a stationary gift. The apostle is one sent forth on behalf of another. Likewise, the person called to an apostolic ministry will often have a desire to preached the Gospel, start churches, and travel abroad. In biblical times, the 12 Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ were responsible for spreading the Gospel to the whole world. They were carriers of His message and they did that well. That being said, their roles were a bit more comprehensive than modern apostles due to the newness of the faith. This means that there were no other churches when they started, therefore, they alone spread the Gospel. They were sent with a message (the Gospel) from Jesus Christ.
The original apostles also, set up the leadership of the church; installing pastors and clergy. Furthermore, they established the early doctrines, processes, and procedures of the early church. The Bible says that the church is built on the Apostles and Prophets (See Eph. 2:20). This passage is referring to the formation of the early church. Some have taken this to mean that the apostolic ministry is no longer necessary or valid. While others have used this verse to establish a hierarchy among the five-fold gifts, even suggesting that Apostles and Prophets are the highest order in the church structure. Likewise, those that ascribe to this belief today assume the responsibility for providing the church with new direction and revelation.
The modern Apostle is still one that is sent. This is due to the obvious need for the building of new churches. I think of the apostolic ministry as similar to one who is an entrepreneur. They are gifted with administrative abilities for the purpose of governing. They are visionary leaders, not managers. For this reason, they establish Pastors, which is more managerial. They also develop the structure of the church they are building. They may even move on to other church planting projects. They remind me of missionaries and pioneers.
Under this type of setup the Pastor, though in control of the local church, is fathered by the founding Apostle. We see this in Paul and Timothy’s relationship. It did not appear to be a lording relationship, but rather a mentoring relationship. We see the same type of idea in Paul’s letters to the Churches in Corinth and Galatia.
Moses is also a great example of many of the five-fold ministry functions. He taught the law to the people. He prophesied the heart, mind, and will of God. He carried the people in his bosom, his words (See Numbers 11:12). Finally, he gives us a glimpse into the apostolic operation. He was sent with a message and a vision. That message delivered the people and Moses became their leader. As a leader, he established, through God’s guidance, the community structure, the laws and rules, and established leaders (pastor shadow types) over the people.
The Bible also ascribes to Apostles certain signs. 2 Corinthians says that one of the signs of an Apostle is the ability to minister signs and wonders. Finally, the Apostle was a preacher and a teacher of the Gospel. (Paul preached to those off the boat. Passage of Paul teaching.) Some believe that all five ministry gifts operate in the Apostle. However, scripture does not verify this belief.
The next ministry gift, the prophet, is the most established of the five ministry gifts. Prophets are introduced to us very early in the Bible. The word Prophet is the word “Profetia.” It means a foreteller in the Greek. However, in Hebrew, it is vaster. The Hebrew words are “Nabi” and “Chozen”. Both refer to one that is inspired and or an interpreter of the will of God.
The prophet’s ministry is unique because prophets have direct communication with God. In the Old Testament, the criteria seemed as simple as talking to God. Abraham for instance never once spoke a message from God, never made a futuristic declaration, and never preached a message of repentance. Yet, he was called a prophet (See Gen. 20:7).
The difference between the prophet and the other five preacher/teachers is that prophets speak tailor-made messages. Their message always reveals the mind, will, and thoughts of God for a person, congregation, or nation. While they may be “sermon” preachers, their messages are often more precise to the audience and are generally received in a by divine way. They are God’s personal messengers (Amos 3:7).
Numbers 12 tells us that prophets will encounter God in a personal way. They will encounter God in a voice, dreams, visions, and dark sayings. This means that they are revelatory in nature as seen in multiple places in scripture. More confirmation of this idea is echoed in 1 Corinthians 14:29-30, “Let two or three prophets speak and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent.”
Furthermore, Prophets have the gift of prophecy. This means that their ministry is one that foretells and forthtells. These activities result in ministry that edifies, comforts, and encourages the believer (See 1 Cor. 14:3). We see an example of this in Acts 15:32, which reads: “Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened (edified) the brothers with many words.
Last, they have control of this gift. 1 Corinthians 14:32 says, “For the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet.” In other words, the inspiration that the prophet receives is not beyond his ability to exercise self-control. Understanding that the prophet has control of the gift is important. With this understanding in mind, the prophets can grow in wisdom as it relates to how and when to administer the gift.
The Evangelist is probably the gift the scriptures mentions the least. The Greek word “Evangelisa” means, bringer of good tidings. The Evangelist is a preacher of the Good News (Gospel), as outlined in Luke 4:18-19: to share God’s good news, to heal, preach liberty and recovery, to bring the ministry of deliverance, and proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD. This particular ministry gift, unlike any other, is burdened to preach the message of the cross of Jesus. It is a single-message, single-mission ministry.
The gift of the evangelist is only visible in the life of one person in the scriptures. His name is Phillip. He was described as going city to city preaching the Gospel. Through his example, it is believed that the Evangelist is a traveling minister that preaches the Gospel and inspires joy in the city. According to scripture, he or she should also walk in a healing a deliverance ministry. If researched, one would find that the deliverance and healing ministries accompanied almost all of the accounts in scriptures where the Gospel was preached. This would mean that both the Evangelist and the Apostle’s message was confirmed by the Almighty with signs and wonders. Mark 16:14-19 bear witness to that reality. Verses 14-17 lays out the great commission and verses 19-20 tell us that the Lord went with them “confirming” the word (the Gospel) through “accompanying signs.” Likewise, these two gifts are probably the most passionate about preaching the message of the cross.
The Pastor is the most commonly seen gifts in operation today but was also one of the least visible in the scriptures. The Greek word “poimen” means shepherd, nurturer, caregiver. Though the Pastor is not as visible in the New Testament, the idea is certainly present in the Old Testament.
Moses was an archetype for a Pastor. Likewise, so were the Kings. We know from Jeremiah 3:15 that the idea was present because it was prophesied that God would give them pastors with His heart because the pastors of the day lacked genuine concern for God’s people (Jer. 23:1-4).
In that same passage, the Pastor is given the charge to “feed” the sheep and “lead” the sheep. At the core of the Pastor’s ministry is caregiving. Caregiving in the Pastoral role means feeding, or teaching and growing the sheep. The Pastor is also responsible for leading the sheep.
The Pastor is a stationary gift that is set in the local assembly. Timothy is a great example of this. Paul set Timothy over a church and likewise gave him instruction for how to feed them, grow them, and guide them (See 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy).
The Teacher, unlike the other four gifts, is the only one that communicates through explaining. The main difference between the four preachers and the teacher is defined by the word “preach.” Preach means to proclaim or to tell. Teach means to explain or instruct. I like to say the preacher sows the seed, the teacher waters the seed, and God makes it all grow.
The Teacher is a necessary gift in the body. The Teacher is not one that merely throws out an idea. They take the time to explain the idea in a way that it can be applied. Good teaching always results in understanding. Understanding means the organization of pieces of information into something that presents a clear picture. That is what a teacher does, clarify ideas. The gift of the teacher is visible in the life of a man named Apollo. His story is found in Acts 18:24-28.
Not All of Them Face the Same Direction
One thing that most people seem to fail to understand in the uniqueness of these gifts. There are three that are inward facing, and two which are outward facing. The pastor, teacher, and prophet are depicted as inward facing gifts. For instance, the pastor, as you might suspect, in responsible for the development, nurturing, and care of the sheep. He responsibility causes him or her to focus on those in the church.
The teacher, who is responsible for clarifying ideas, also focuses on the development of the sheep. We see examples of this in the life of Apollo (See Acts 18:24-28). He is noted as teaching “accurately”. But notice who he is teaching. Verse 28 reads “…and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace…”
The prophet, likewise, is depicted as an inward facing ministry. Acts 15:32 mentions two prophets. They’re purpose, as described in the passage, was to encourage and strengthen the church.
The last two gifts, the evangelist and the apostle, are outer-facing gifts. This means that they have a great focus on reaching those that are outside of the Church. Look at Philip the evangelist in Acts 8:4-8 and 26-40. In each passage, Philip is depicted as working outside of the church.
The apostle is an interesting gift. It is both inner and outer-facing. We see the outward facing nature of the call as Jesus often sent the disciples from city to city (See Matt. 12 and Luke 12). Then he sent them out into the world (See John 20:21). Even the apostle Paul was sent out (Acts 13:2). We also see the inner-facing nature of the gift. The apostolic call, as mentioned earlier, develops new churches. We see this in Paul’s ministry. He also preached to those outside then taught those inside. His letters are great examples of this reality. Pastor Timothy in also the product of Paul’s commitment to developing those in the church.
Same Function but Different Operation
1 Corinthians 12 says that there are diversity of ministries. It also says that there are diversity of operations. We cannot ignore that word “operations.” It means expressions or results. In other words, we should not expect the ministries look the same. Neither should we generalize the results of ministry. That is why I shared about the inner and outer facing nature of the ministries. This difference in focus also translates into a difference in audience as well as a difference in how we express ourselves to reach that audience. Remember, all five gifts are communication gifts. While communication is the overall function, they don’t all communicate the same thing. Neither do they communicate the same way of have the same objective. For instance, sometimes, we want prophets to evangelize, and pastors to prophesy, while expecting evangelist to teach and apostles to pastor. Often, this leads to confusion and ineffective ministry. That is why it is so important for those called to ministry to know where they are called to serve. Notice that though Phillip was a powerful evangelist with four prophetic daughters, he never prophesied (See Acts 21:9). Also, read Acts 21:1-14. It tells us that Paul’s stayed with Evangelist Phillip during his missionary journey. It goes on to say that a prophet named Agabus came and prophesied over Paul regarding his destiny (verse 10-11). Paul had a need and I want you to notice that though powerful in ministry, Phillip did not attempt to fulfill the role God appointed Agabus. When faced with directing Paul’s ministry, he did not attempt to speak into Paul’s life. He also did not try to evangelize Paul. Paul did not need the Gospel, he needed direction. Instead, he stepped back and allowed the ministry of the prophetic to operate while putting the evangelistic gift on the back burner.
Likewise, Timothy was a pastor but never started a church. Finally, Apollos was a teacher whom we never saw winning souls. In other words, God did not use a hammer where He needed a screwdriver. These are small nuances in ministry that we neglect to see in the scriptures. Furthermore, it is our ignorance of this matter that hinder our forward movement as a body of ministers.
Now, while these differences in ministry appear to be nominal, they reveal major information about the nature of the five-fold ministers’ messages. Just consider that Philip only had one message; the cross of Jesus Christ. But the apostle Paul preached the same message, while being inclined to build upon it. As we know, with the message of the cross, he also taught about the gifts, grace, faith, spiritual warfare, conduct, ect. Then there were Philips prophetic daughters and the prophets Agabus, Judas, and Silas? Did they preach the cross to the believers they were sent to? No! There messages, according to the example of scripture, were specific to the audience to whom they were sent. This means that the nature and operation of their messages was different. Again, the prophetic ministries in both the Old and New Testament preached very pointed and varied messages that were often marked revelatory information. The teacher and the pastor, responsible for growth, also, obviously has a broad range of messages to communicate.
Why is this important? It is important because understanding that prophets will not be as passionate about saving souls as the evangelist, like the evangelist will not be concerned about growing sheep and clarifying confusion like the pastor, allows five-fold ministers to operate freely and confidently their callings. It also encourages us to stay in our lane (to regard our specific ministry objectives), to share the workload, and work together, and value the uniqueness of each gift’s contribution.
When They All Work Together
Ephesians 4:12 tells us why God gave us these five awesome gifts. It reads, “for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry (service)…” Look at what it says. It tells us that allowing evangelist to preach the cross outside of the church; allowing apostles to be sent out to win souls and establish churches; encouraging prophets to freely see and hear from God and speak precise counsel; allowing pastors to love, nurture, grow, and guide; and empowering teachers to clarify, explain, and instruct; impacts the collective universal and local body of believers by equipping them to serve God as He desires. The Greek word for equip means; a bringing to a condition of fitness. God has ordained these five gifts to make His body healthy. Likewise, exposure to anything less than all five leads to imbalanced, lacking, and sickly believers.