7But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11And he gave some, to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. All of us are given gifts by the Holy Spirit to fulfill a role in the church; but how many of us have looked at that list of five roles and thought, “but I’m not any of those things! I can’t do that!!”? It’s easy to look at that list and see the roles as being the perogative of church leaders – not the everyday members of the congregation. I don’t know about you, but “Apostle” to me calls up images of the thirteen Apostles, of Paul of Tarsis – important people in the church. “Prophet” to me conjures up images of church mystics such as St.Theresa of Avila, St.Francis, or St.Bernadette of Lourdes. Ask most people to name an evangelist, and they’ll likely answer names like Billy Graham. A pastor to most of us is our church leader – the vicar; someone who stands at the front and delivers the sermon, officially ordained and licensed. And to be a teacher is, again, to be a person in a position of authority. None of these seem to be roles that most ordinary people would feel competent or comfortable stepping into.
For once, the LifeShapes course actually seems to have relevance and something sensible to say on this subject. I’ve made no pains to hide the fact that on the whole, I have been deeply unimpressed with LifeShapes and what comes across as Mike Breen’s own narrowminded, patronising, Americanised attitude; but with the pentagon and Fivefold Ministry theory, I think for once he’s actually managed to get something right and say something that makes sense.
In Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, he wasn’t addressing just the leaders of the Ephesian church; unusually for one of Paul’s letters, there are no personal greetings to individuals. The language of Ephesians is less personal, more general; he was addressing the whole of the Ephesian church – the laypeople as well as their leaders, and telling them that the ministry left to them by Jesus was not just for their leaders but for the whole body of the church; these were gifts to them all and not just to a chosen few.
So just what did Paul mean by these five titles – Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher?
Apostle: According to Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, the word apostle means literally “One sent forth”; a messenger. It also lists a second meaning as one who initiates any great moral reform, or first advocates any important belief; one who has extraordinary success as a missionary or reformer. An apostle can be thought of as an entrepreneur; they are the ones who like to come up with new, innovative ways to do things. They are people with big visions and ideas, eager to put them into practice. They are the great pioneers.
Prophet: The prophet is one who is clear-sighted. They have their eye on the big picture; able to look at things from a different perspective, resulting in creative solutions. They are in tune with the moment. They enjoy being alone with God, waiting and listening. They are often creative people such as musicians or artists, communicating throuh many different media to get the message across.
Evangelist: Evangelists are communicators. They can take any subject matter and make it personal and relevant to others – and that includes spreading the message of God to non-believers. They are passionate about their subject material – the consummate salesman or woman. They have a natural charisma that makes it easy to approach them or be approached by them, and they draw others into discussion easily.
Pastor: A pastor is a caretaker, caring for others with empathy, patience and compassion. They are good listeners and put people at their ease, sharing burdens. They are the counsellors, social workers, nurses and other such caring people – like the Good Shepherd tending the flock.
Teacher: Teachers are passionate about knowledge and love to share it with others. They actively enjoy reading and studying for the sheer joy of gaining more knowledge – and they have a knack for presenting that knowledge to others that they may more readily grasp it and understand.
When presented in this way, those five roles don’t seem quite so scary or “professional” – indeed, simply reading the descriptions, many people will find certain roles sound familiar or that they resonate at some level. Most people will have a knack for one of these roles in ministry; some may find they have talents in two or three areas; perhaps it is possible to see examples of how one already fills one or to of these roles already with regards to how they respond to the needs of the congregation – for instance, one with a natural inclination towards the roles of pastor or teacher may be in the habit of looking out for newcomers to that church, taking them under their wing, pointing out the facilities and guiding them in what to expect.
Our roles are not static however; over time we may find ourselves “called” to fill other roles for which perhaps we feel not quite so suited; to step out of our “comfort zone”, as it were. In this way we become more well-rounded individuals, maturing in our faith as we grow. No-one is expected to fulfill all five roles simultaneously; only Jesus Himself could do that – but by exploring and expanding our skills in each of these directions together with others, we grow to become more like Him; and by working together, all five ministries are filled to make us more fully the body of Christ.