The Five-Fold Ministry: A Different Approach

Before I begin, I want to assure everyone that what I’m about to write is not intended to be anything more than food for thought. Nothing I’m about to say here needs to be cemented in stone (or used against me as an accusation). Rather, I just ask that you prayerfully read the post and see if the Holy Spirit bears witness of its veracity. If It does not, then no worries. Let it fly.

With that said, I also want to say that I care very much about what’s been termed the Five-Fold Ministry. I believe it really is a gift to the Church from the Lord of Heaven, and that it needs to be in constant operation among Spirit-filled believers in Christ, and even, wherever or whenever necessary, be restored to its purpose and function for the 21st century.

And, it’s because I care so much, that I’ve spent a lot of time in study and contemplation. I’ve written in the past about the subject as well, but never quite like this. I expect what I write from this point forward will be challenging for some, but I mean it all in love, toward the end that the Body may become unified in the faith, have a more complete understanding of the Son of God, and, last but not least, come to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-13).

So, without further ado: A different approach.

Ephesians 4:1-12,

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…

What’s first noticed, at least to me, from verse 1, is that Paul is coming to a conclusion from something in chapter 3. A quick summary of chapter 3 looks like this:

– That Paul was made a servant in order to reveal and declare the previously hid mystery of Christ (3:1-9)

– That the Church needs to know this (3:10)

– That these things revealed and declared by Paul find their origin in the eternal purpose of God which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord (3:11).

– That the saints might have a Holy Spirit given, inward strength based in the faith and love of Jesus Christ (3:16-19)

– That God would be glorified by the Church through Jesus Christ, into eternity (3:21)

We see then that it’s because of these things above that Paul begged the Ephesians to be found worthy of their vocation to which God had invited them to partake. And no wonder. Just look at chapter 3 again. Those things written there are of such a major import that they burden us with the tremendous duty of walking worthily, just as Paul did, in the things God has called each of us to do.

Bottom-line? The Five-Fold Ministry is really first about helping the Church fulfill is moral obligations to the vocation given to it by God.

Next of course are unity, love, and oneness, with the famous creedal statement in chapter 4:4-6, encapsulating so much of what the Church is and should believe. And because of this unity, love, and oneness desired by God, the Lord sent the Five-Fold Ministry into the Church, which functions, not by the will of man, but according to the grace given to it according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

But I want you to notice something. Scripture does not call these gifts a ministry. They are called gifts. You see, a ministry can be anything, even man-made. Many of our in-Church ministries are in fact created by the will of man and so, are governed more by the arm of the flesh than anything else, no matter how many spiritual principles of service are implemented.

But these gifts are just that: gifts. Gifts from the Lord. They are not man-made. They derive their existence from Heaven. But the fact is, too many human hands get a hold of them, and like with anything else, the flesh corrupts our understanding of their purpose and design.

Furthermore, because they are viewed as positional areas of dominion in the Church, instead of operational functions, they are unduly coveted for the wrong reasons. But here is the thing: They can’t be achieved through human endeavor. They are given by grace as a vocation and calling. If God doesn’t call you into this area of the Body, and so, doesn’t grant you the grace to operate as one of these gifts, it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you’ll never operate in this way, no matter how another human or group of humans promote and establish you in their hierarchy.

And if you don’t believer that, then see, for example, the fact that Scripture declares some to be false teachers, prophets, and/or apostles (2 Peter 2:1, Matthew 7:15, and 2 Corinthians 11: 13, just to name a few). Some, we are told, declare Christ to the world through contention, meaning they seek to evangelize only as a political means to an end, in order to jockey for position in the Church (Philippians 1:16). And some are called hirelings, i.e. imitation shepherds who don’t really care for the sheep (John 10:12-13).

What does this tell us? Simple. These functions (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers) are not false functions; rather, it’s the people pretending to be them and functioning as them, when they are not and cannot, who are false. That, my friend, is a BIG difference.

So we see that people, not called to be one of these gifts, can, in a carnal attempt, become false versions. Like that isn’t enough, but what else?

Well, let me challenge you with something. What if we didn’t transliterate the Greek words?

What do I mean? Transliteration is when, instead of coming up with an entirely new word in the target language, the original word in the source language is adopted and forced to fit in. In the English language, when this happens, we say such and such a word has been anglicized, i.e. made to become an English word, even when it never originally was. Secondly, if we remove typical translator bias, we will likewise get some interesting results. So, with this in mind, let’s remove the transliteration and translator bias from the so-called Five-Fold Ministry and see what happens.

Ephesians 4:11 would look something like this:

11. And Jesus gave [to the church] some people who are specifically commissioned by the Lord to be witnesses of the Resurrection; and some, people who are to be mouthpieces whose purpose it is to speak on behalf of the Lord, ( i.e. be spokesmen); and some, people who are tasked with sharing the good news with the lost; and some, people who are called to help shepherd God’s flock for Him on earth, and those theologians and apologists who are given the ability to indoctrinate others into and defend the tenets of the Faith…

No, I am not adding to the Word. This is for illustration purposes only. While this is not a word for word equivalency, such a wording does flesh out the meaning of the otherwise transliterated words. It also removes translator bias. And what is the bias? By transliterating these words, it has given us the impression that these gifts are positions or offices in the church held by various people.

But they are not positions. They are functions. They are not positional, they are operational.

You’ll notice Paul never called himself the Apostle Paul. Rather, he was always, “Paul, an apostle…”, i.e. “Paul, a man commissioned by the Lord to bear witness of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ”.

Ah! Suddenly the title goes away. Suddenly, we don’t see what Paul WAS, we see what Paul DID. Agabus is never called Prophet Agabus. It is said of him: Agabus, a prophet, i.e. Agabus, a mouthpiece who speaks on behalf of the Lord. And it goes on this way throughout the Bible.

So what’s the big deal? Well, the fact is, the so-called five-fold ministry just doesn’t function properly in the Church these days. And without their proper function, they cannot fulfill their destined purpose, which means no perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry. No unity of the faith, no true, or at least agreed upon, knowledge of the Son of God, and certainly not the measure of the fulness of the stature of Christ, meaning the Church can never accurately represent Her Master to the world.

That’s a big deal, if you ask me. And why is this happening? Because the carnal mind of men have turned these gifts into offices and positions, which, as appearing desirable since they allow people to hold superior rank and authority in the church, are improperly sought after and acquired as a means of gaining control, power, and influence over the saints. Yes, I said “over”.

Don’t believe me? Remove your title, if you have one, and just be you, even telling the church to stop addressing you with it.

Now be honest: Will you lose your authority in the Gospel? Will you be treated differently? Will your walk stop speaking? Will your sermons lose their power? Will how you are perceived in the Church change? Will you lose the ability to maintain your Christian lifestyle, perspective, and example in front of the believers if you were, let’s say, demoted, as it were, from whatever position you currently hold?

Brothers and sisters, if the answer to any of these questions (and others like them) is yes, then all you have is a title, not a calling, not a vocation, not a gift, and not the grace of God to be that which your title indicated you ought to be. I know that’s harsh. I say it gently, I really do.

Nevertheless, whoever you are, that might read this, I hope you can handle what I just wrote.

Your position in the Body of Christ does not define you. Jesus Christ, your Lord and Master, defines you. And not just by what He calls you to do and be. But because of Who He is and your relationship to Him.

You’re not “Teacher _______”. You are a human being who’s been given the ability to indoctrinate saints into and defend the tenets of the faith with theology and apology.

You’re not “Pastor _______”. You’re a regular Joe/Jane tasked by God to help shepherd His sheep here on earth.

You’re not “Evangelist _______”. You’re just a man or woman who gets to share the good news with the lost.

You’re not “Prophet _______”. You are an undeserving worm through whom God, at HIS SOVEREIGN DISCRETION, chooses to sometimes speak (Sorry, this one really aggravates me).

You’re not “Apostle _______”, either, my friend. But, by the grace of God, you do have a special commission to bear witness of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ through signs and wonders miraculously performed by the Holy Spirit operating within and through you.

I hope you can see the difference. And when you do, the grace you’ve been waiting and praying for to really operate as one of Christ’s gifts to the Church will finally show up and manifest itself. But not as some package deal that comes with an office you think defines you. Rather, according to the measure of the gift of Christ, this necessary grace will descend upon and work through you to help you walk worthy of your calling and vocation, so you can fulfill your purpose and operate properly in the Body as a true, functioning Gift of God.

And, it’s at that point, friend, that you’ll be ready to perfect the saints for the work of the ministry, lead them into greater unity, build accurate knowledge of the Son of God within the minds of His disciples, and yes, even help the Church represent Her Master to the world by giving the Body the means to achieve the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. It really will happen then.

But not before, no matter how hard you try.


~ by votivesoul on 12/15/2012.

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Mark Showalter's Blog

Always seeking to know God more

Theo-sophical Ruminations

A collage of theological and philosophical musings

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