Ephesians 4:11-12, NLT “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
I have a theory. The idea is that every believer has built into them the need for a little apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher in every aspect of their church experience.
I believe in the five fold ministry. The idea that God has provided people whose sole purpose is to ensure that the rest of the body of Christ is activated into their purpose and ministry. These people are gifts to the rest of the church. The greek word “gifts” in the above chapter is “doma” which indicates that the gifts are not the same as gifts found in 1 Corinthians 12/14. They indicate that these gifts sometimes referred to as “offices” are resident in the person themselves in much the same way as prophet, priest, or king was a calling given to an individual for the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.
While there are those who abuse the gift today in the church (as many kings, prophets, and priests did in the Old Testament), this does not diminish the need that every believer has to experience what each gift has to offer them.
It’s also important that we understand what each of these gifts are and their purpose. While that goes beyond the purpose of this article, here are a few areas of impact that these gifts have on the individual
Apostle – order, organization, correction, wisdom
Prophetic – faith, power, gift calling, forthtelling
Evangelist – optimism, vision, invitation, passion
Pastor – care, comfort, guidance, healing
Teacher – understanding, clarity, direction
If this is true then I would suggest a few applications.
There is only one vision and mission
For a long time I believed that a church should have a unique vision based on the historic DNA or the lean of the leader. I used to believe that it was ok for every church to have a different vision. Part of that came from my corporate experience and leadership books about focus and the corporate idea that an organization ought to do one thing well. I no longer believe that.
I believe that the church has one mandate: Matthew 28:18-20. I believe that as a leader I cannot influence the lean of the church based on my predominate calling. I believe that I need to include others who have the different gifts resident in them. I need to be ok with different styles and different leans.
Originally I tended to want to shape the church organization around my gifts. In my opinion Sunday’s focus was to be the exegetical teaching of the Bible.
Then I went to another church and attempted something so different that it worked. I was on a team with a prophetic leader and an evangelist. We established a year long rotation using all of our gifts. The last sunday of every month, the evangelist would speak and many people would make personal commitments of faith. The next week I would speak and you could feel the congregation fed and encouraged and finding understanding, and then for a few weeks the leader with the prophetic lean (lead pastor) would call giftings out and challenge people. In one year, in a church of 350 we saw 100 people come to faith and the church grow to well over 550. It was incredible.
A Balanced Experience
As I have travelled and seen churches all over the world, I have found that where there is imbalance in the main services, the churches rarely has a healthy sustainable growth trajectory.
Churches that are lead by an evangelist are generally attractional in nature as there is a concern for those who are lost. They often draw large crowds but a small core and the congregation rotates in and out every 2-5 years.
Churches that are lead by a prophetic personality generally look to experience the presence of God and the gifts of the spirit or become very politically engaged. These churches gain a group of people who are like minded but often have fewer conversions, attract extremists, and have many other different challenges
Churches that are led by a pastor/teacher personality often have transfer growth, grow pretty deep in their understanding of God but get focused inward and tend to get stuck in a way of doing things.
Churches that are led by an apostle type personality often go after big projects and constantly start new things. While this can bring a lot of momentum at first, people often get tired, hurt, and feel used.
Every church leader ought to intentionally include everyone of these aspects in every method.
I believe that if a church has services it needs to have all of these gifts active on a rotation in all services. If a church has groups it needs groups that are led by all of these types of gifts. If a church has classes it needs classes led by all these gifts. It cannot segment these gifts to different channels. Each channel needs all of the gift sets.
It’s not good enough for the person gifted as a pastor to try to be the evangelist or the evangelist to try to do the work of a teacher. The gift is resident in the individual and so variety and diversity is important.
It’s why I believe people leave churches. People need a variety in their spiritual diet. If they attend a church with a speaker with one gift lean they get tired of that diet after a while. If they attend a group with one type of experience they get just as hungry for a different experience.
One can parallel the experience of Acts 2:42 along with the variety of these five fold gifts. One can also parallel personality traits as indicators of the need for this focus.
When the variety exists the church will grow
The lost are invited and included. The hurt are healed. The distracted are reoriented. The mature are activated. The lonely are included.
If it follows that the individual requires this balanced diet for growth then it follows that the collective will grow if they experience it. If we celebrate the different gift mixes we create a community where everyone no matter their stage or season will experience what they need to experience for the moment they are in