So I was reading about the five-fold ministry yesterday, and the suggestion is, that actually most believers are called to function in all of it. That’s right: apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher, evangelist. According to Trevor Newport, the word apostle/s appears 79 times in the New Testament, whereas the word pastor only once.
‘Apostle’ simply means ‘sent in the power of God’. Personally, I would hesitate to prefix my name – of course! – with the soubriquet ‘apostle’. But my Father has given me a new name. And I’m happy to receive that name, and that identity. I do believe that, in Christ, I have been anointed to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim the day of the Lord’s favour, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness to the prisoners.
So where do I stand with the five-fold ministries? I’m a professional teacher: yet ironically I’ve never seen that as a strength. I would love to be an effective evangelist – but then God uses the foolish things to shame the wise, doesn’t he? As for a prophet… I get the odd picture and the odd word of knowledge. So, I must be an apostle, right? Wrong – actually the apostle functions in all four other gifts. I quite like Newport’s idea that if you take the five-fold ministry as the fingers on one hand, the apostle is the thumb, and has to work with the other four.
Of course, the perceptive among you will have noticed that I missed out ‘pastor’. I do feel that’s where I identify most at the moment. The shepherd is called, too, of course, to bring healing and release to the sheep. If we don’t care, if we don’t love, none of us are much use in the kingdom of God.
But the new kind of Christian does not say: Leave that to the evangelist. Leave that to the teacher. The new kind of Christian has an apostolic anointing. She allows herself to be sent, and to be equipped. She cares like Jesus cares. She releases others into the giftings and anointing that God has put on their lives – with prophetic insight into what the Holy Spirit is doing. Through the Holy Spirit she works healings and wonders to lead the lost to Jesus. She teaches, she encourages, she comforts and exhorts. I like this comment on apostolic ministry:
Now, an Apostle should not be someone who constantly wants to be seen or exalted to a position. Those that are in construction know that if the foundation is done right, you never have to hear about it again, it’s covered up. The only time you’ll hear about the foundation is if the building begins to crack. Then someone will say something is wrong with the foundation. But if you do a good job and there are no cracks, you will never hear about the foundation again. But there are people that want to blow their horn and say, “I am an apostle, I’m somebody. Make sure you call me by the right name. Say it in front of the marketplace. Say it where people are all around.” But a foundation does not draw attention to itself. A foundation is just solid as a rock. It is there underneath, nobody sees it, nobody says anything about it. But if the foundation is not right, then you’ll see some cracks, then you’ll hear some people saying something about it.
This could all be in the context of a small group. Or a work setting. Or perhaps a pub. Let’s lose grand notions about the fivefold ministry. It is all intensely practical, it all starts here and now. It requires no training except listening to the Holy Spirit, because the anointing teaches us all things. And the purpose is to reach the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. I want that.