Have you heard anyone talk about this before? Maybe friends, family, teachers or pastors.
Often the phrase is used like this:
“Here is your calling.”
“This is what God has called you to do”
“Have you asked Jesus about the calling on your life?”
My response is sometimes less than certain when it comes to these statements. Some days, I’m not sure if I will be having Mexican food only once or maybe twice that day, much less the calling of my entire life.
But I want to demystify this word and these questions. Simply put: God has equipped every believer uniquely to build up both His Church and creation.
I want to highlight the five main ministry gifts we see, or may not see, done in our churches. The fancy name: The Fivefold Ministry. And it comes from Ephesians 4:11-13. Here might be an initial take on each of the five if we go off of current culture.
Pastor & Teacher: often interchanged for one another… they are the same right??
Evangelist: We see them on TV asking for a bunch of money…
Prophet: Witchcraft, I’m pretty sure….
Apostle: Paul’s first name? Or maybe it deals with fossils. I'm not sure.
Maybe I’m a bit off on some of these descriptions. But let’s be honest, have we heard a clear description of what they are? Or what they do? And if they’re still around? Possibly not. And yet it’s a key concept and structure for how the church best operates.
Let’s dive into Ephesians 4:12- “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for the works service, so that the body would be built up.”
Now let’s dive deeper.
What do these gifts really mean?
Apostle- the one who Governs. It literally means “sent one” - those commissioned by Jesus to proclaim his message and establish his Church. So people like Paul & Jesus, for example!
We desperately need the apostolic gifting in our churches. In a way, they carry a special burden to build something that didn't exist before. They usually carry a bit of the other four skill sets. A jack of all trades, if you will. The church needs their leadership, their multifaceted gifting and their entrepreneurial spirit.
Prophet- the one who Guides. “Those who communicate a message from God that is appropriate to the situation facing the Church.” A couple New Testament examples- Agabus (Acts 11 & 21) & of course, Jesus.
A few truths about Prophets, or “the prophetic”, if you prefer. They can honestly seem a little strange or a little outside the box. Their miss might be that they’re more concerned about the message of God rather than the people of God. The rest of the church might miss by either ostracizing them as fortune tellers or, on the other end, just demanding “a word”.
The unfortunate reality in today’s (American) evangelical world is the belief that this gift is no longer “in office.” “It was just for long ago”, “We have the Bible now”, and my favorite, “It’s been misused so we’re better off without it”. Just remember, so has the Bible, and we’re still big fans of that (as we should be). We are fearful of a gift, or people, that may seem a little harder to understand; the more “outside the box” gift of the five. But God is still speaking. Both authoritatively through His Word and ongoing to His people. And a healthy prophetic culture ALWAYS is a healthy Bible culture.
Evangelist- the one who Gathers. It comes from the Greek word, “euaggelion”, which means “gospel”. These are the ones who preach the gospel & grow the church. Examples: Philip & Jesus...you’re sensing a theme! Evangelists can be risk takers- ready & willing to do whatever it takes to share Jesus with others. Similar to the Prophet, their miss can be being more concerned about the mission of God than the people of God. And therefore, churches often don’t know what to do with them. They’re different. But a church without evangelists is an incomplete church. Churches should learn how to empower, release, and learn from the evangelists among us. We need them to keep us on mission, not just to grow our churches.
Pastor- the one who Guards. “Those who shepherd the church.” They focus on caring, growing, equipping, & helping others develop as people and followers of Jesus. In the New Testament, there was Barnabas and….Jesus. Many times in the local church, they are the bridge between these other ministry gifts. Pastors naturally care for the flock. When they see a need in the body, they are there to provide sound counsel. Much of church leadership is placed on the shoulders of the Pastor, which can be a faulty expectation. They are an ESSENTIAL part of church leadership, but they are not solely church leadership.
It’s important to know that this is different than the title. Vocational church workers are usually given the title, “pastor”, but that doesn’t mean they align with this gift. For example, people call me “Pastor Chris”. But of these five, pastor is definitely my lowest...however, please don’t call me “Apostle Chris” or “Teacher Chris” either. “Chris” is fine :)
Teacher- the one who Grounds. “Those who impart life to the church through the Word of God.” A great example is Apollos, who was well-versed & taught accurately. He’s the only one from the New Testament….Just kidding, it’s safe to say Jesus qualifies as a teacher as well! While Prophets reveal the heart of God, Teachers reveal the mind of God. Teachers are essential to the church. Truth does matter! And they help to give the body a solid foundation of the truth of who God is and how we apply, and interact with, His Word.
Here is the beautiful and encouraging thing about these five gifts – Jesus embodies every one of them perfectly. And we need all five in our churches yet one else is all of them completely. Therefore, if the church puts all her hope in one man or woman, then there will be something missing. Ephesians 4:12 highlights the need for a team, a plurality, a FAMILY to lead our church. Of course, there can still be one leader in this model, but he/she should be the chief architect of placing people where they can thrive.
We have the best example to look to in these areas of gifting. And Jesus didn’t just keep them for himself. Verse 12 says, “So Christ himself gave…” because He is a gracious gift-giver.
Jesus loves His Church. He not only gives gifts but He created gifted people! That’s a big deal.
And despite our best effort, we cannot have a balanced church with just some of these gifts/people. Each one functions best and properly when the other four are standing right next to them. Our God is infinitely wise. When He created each of us, He was already equipping the Church with everything she would ever need to be unstoppable. And she is unstoppable (Matt. 16:18).
The Church needs you. Where do you think the Lord has gifted you? Is your calling, your deepest passion, being outlined in one of these gifts? If so, talk with Jesus, ask him how he sees you thriving there. Ask him how and where you are needed in your Church family. And if the church doesn’t roll out the red carpet for your new-found gift, don’t get bitter. Keep pressing in. City Church isn’t perfect at this and your church might not be either.
However, there might come a time, only after consistent effort, that the answer is to seek out a church that is balanced. A church that has a five-fold represented in leadership, not a two, three, or four-fold. Don’t get bitter. Don’t leave poorly. Bless and transition.
We get to love what Jesus loves. We are fulfilling what Jesus started. We are on mission with Him. And everyone plays