The biblical term “fivefold ministry” can be found in Ephesians, chapter 4. It is here that the Apostle Paul shares a model for the Christian church structure. He mentions apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher as gifts instilled by Jesus.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all 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 Christ.
The church (ekklesia) is not a building. Biblically the church is the assembly of people. This contrary to what many of us grew up to understand. The “church” was often the organization or a place with stained glass and statues. This was not so in the New Testament Scriptures.
To the church in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul lists the five fold ministry gifts not as a heirarchy of positional leadership, but more so a set of gifts that were prevalent in the Body of Christ, placed there by Jesus, Himself, for a special purpose. That purpose was specifically to:
God wants you to be effective. He wants you successful in what you do. Too many Christians pass through this life not accomplishing what God called them to do.
Our environment is so important to our development. This is why Jesus set the 5 fold gifts in place and why the Apostle Paul was reinforcing this in the early church.
When these are operating in an assembly of believers, it builds a body of strong, impactful Christians. This is because the five fold apostolic gifts and the 5 fold ministry meaning set the tone for an environment of growth.
We have a saying at Sound of Heaven. “God accepts you right where you are, but He won’t leave you there.” God wants to equip you, build you up, and help you to grow into the purpose He has for you. This is the role of the 5 fold ministry gifts.
To understand how the five fold sets the stage for a strong church, let’s look at the individual gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4.
The Apostle is the visionary. You could also say that they have a gift to pioneer new ideas and implement strategies. Remember, Christianity was a new concept in the first century and establishing congregations in regions that were less than welcoming was no easy task. The early Apostles were the ones who examined the culture and decided the best ways to establish a place for the church to thrive.
An Apostle possesses leadership traits like communicating a game plan, challenging people to raise their standards, and motivating them to grow.
They aren’t easily swayed when things get tough and as the person that is “sent” to lead, the Apostle will judge a situation with the big picture in mind.
A congregation with a strong Apostle gifting present is one that benefits from a clear vision and an environment where complacency with the status quo doesn’t last long. Apostles put both a demand on the growth of the individual believer and ultimately the effectiveness of the church body within the region they are sent.
When we hear the term “prophet”, we think of the unique individuals in scripture whom God spoke to and in turn they would stand among the people proclaiming God’s message of what was to come.
To demystify it a bit, think of when someone is in tune with God’s will. We have all been given the gift to “hear from God”. In fact, that is why prayer is so important. God speaks to all of us and a prophetic person commits to being sensitive to God’s voice and contributes by sharing what God is putting on their hearts.
A church that has a prophetic focus is one where God’s Word, particularly His Will for the days ahead, is released and all benefit.
But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.
1 Cor 14:3
To learn more about this topic, check out this prophetic sermon series.
Nothing grows unless the word gets out. That’s exactly what a person with an Evangelist gift does. In fact the root word means “messenger of Good News”. The Good News of Christianity is the Gospel.
The gift of an evangelist is to clearly communicate the fundamental truth that God loves and forgives people and that He has made a way for people to have a relationship with Him through salvation that cannot be lost, once received. The result is that many who hear are drawn to both Jesus and compelled to take the journey of following Him.
To put it simply, this is the gift of an invitation to a life with God. I strong and vibrant church is a group of people that aren’t afraid to step out of the 4 walls of the building, meet new people, and introduce them to the faith. It is upon accepting that invitation that the other 5 fold gifts kick in to advance them forward in their walk. But, it all starts with an evangelistic invitation.
The Pastor is easily one of the most popular gifts. Why? Because a Pastoral person is a Shepherd at heart. They love people deeply and want to see them cared for.
You may know someone like this or be one yourself. A person with a Pastor’s heart will go to great lengths to make people feel safe and secure.
This is an extremely vital role in the church body because where the Apostolic gift is forward thinking, the Prophet is looking always upward, the evangelist is outside the walls inviting new people, a pastoral gift meets you right where you are and asks “How are you? Do you want to get some coffee?”
What they may lack in challenging you for securities sake, pastoral people will make up for in helping to build an environment where people know that they are loved and cared for.
The old adage “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” was definitely thought of by someone with the pastoral five fold gift. When a congregation knows they are loved and that there are people that generally concerned for their well being, it contributes to an environment where they can set all else aside and grow with confidence and contentment.
Read More: Can a Woman Be a Pastor?
A great teacher makes a subject come alive in how they communicate the fundamentals, even how to read the Bible. They have a gift to share principals that can be easily understood and applied. A teacher is thorough and patient and knows how to break down complex topics in a way that is easily digestible.
The Bible is a compilation of books that detail the covenants between man and God. There is so much that God has placed in there about His will for our lives, even our own identity. Also, the Word is an incredible journey and glimpse into world history and future revelation of God’s plans.
In Christianity, a good teacher will connect Divine revelation with wisdom and reason. The congregation that has access to a strong teaching gift will have a strong foundation of principals and understanding that is not easily swayed.
It is a very powerful place to be to know why you believe what you believe. The 5 fold ministry gift of the Teacher plays a big role in that!
We find the 5 fold structure in the first-century church throughout the Book of Acts but it is absolutely for today too. The Great Commission is alive and well! Everyday a new generation of people is born and needing to know God.
Today’s church needs the leadership and vision of the Apostle which the church leaders need to learn to prepare God’s people. God’s voice through the Holy Spirit, has never stopped, therefore the prophetic is also vital. God is still looking for people to boldly share His love like an evangelist or love and care for people like a Pastor. And, last but not least, sound teaching and Biblical principals are needed to strengthen people’s faith and understanding. That is a role of a teacher.
We have a modern local church structure that is somewhat incomplete in that there is often emphasis on only a portion of the 5 fold ministry, mainly the pastoral gifts. This makes for an interesting dynamic where people are cared for, but without the other five fold ministry gifts to also contribute, the Body of Jesus Christ struggles to grow.
Where would the church be if we took the first century church structure to heart and applied it in a way that was relevant today? I present that we would have a more well-rounded, effective, church that can be a greater light to the world.
Of course you have a 5 fold ministry gift! In fact, you may have read the above descriptions and said “Hey, that sounds like me. It is certainly plausible to identify with some or even all these gifts. Remember, they are more traits than job titles.
So, now that you know these are available to us all, for us all. What are you waiting for? God wants to cultivate these in you for your betterment. He wants you equipped and growing, but even better, He wants you to play a role in bettering the lives of others.
These gifts don’t even have to be in the form of ordination as church clergy. In fact, in far more cases these gifts are applicable outside of the “church building”.
Has God put a vision on your heart to bring an idea to a segment of the world? You are the Apostle He chose. Do you believe that He speaks to you (He does)? That is the prophetic gift inside of you waiting to strengthen, encourage, and comfort the world around you.
Do you have the gift of communication? There are a million and one ways to spread good news around the world or enlighten people to principals that will enhance their lives. There just may be an evangelist and teacher inside of you!
Lastly, are you someone who’s heart yearns to see others be comforted and cared for? That could be a Pastoral gift that is applied to the vocation or even professional journey of your life.
You could easily operate in more than one of these five fold ministry gifts! Now that we have broken down this biblical church structure, I hope that you can see how these traits strengthen all involved and proactively seek environments that are positioned for the health growth that come from the 5 fold ministry gifts.
The 5 fold Apostolic ministry was vital in the building of the first century church in the tumultuous time of the Roman Empire. As we face new challenges today, there is a case to be made that the reinstitution of the five fold ministry gifts are what is needed to make the church an effective voice in the world.
It is more than a church model and most certainly is not a denomination. The five fold ministry is part of God’s plan for the body of believers and, when intentionally applied, yields tremendous results.