Answers 10 – How Does The Fivefold Ministry Function? – David Hibbert.
In this series called “Answers”, my goal is to help you, by sharing with you short, Biblical answers to questions that people have been asking me. Today’s question:
How does the five-fold ministry function?
Let me give you a few examples of how the fivefold ministry functions.
- The Fivefold Ministries Are Based On Relationships And Roles.
As I said previously, the fivefold ministries are not titles or positions, they are relationships and roles. In my family, I have a wife who calls me a husband, but that does not mean that I am a husband to everyone – it is based on my relationship with my wife. Also in my family, I have 4 children who call me their daddy, but that does not mean I am a daddy to everyone. I am only a daddy who those to whom I function as a daddy.
In the same way, I am not an apostle because I am the founder and leader of a number of ministries. I am only an apostle if I am functioning as an apostle toward others.
Some people call me “Apostle Dave” because I function as an apostle in my relationship and role with them. Other people call me “Pastor Dave”, because I function as a pastor in my relationship and role with them. Still other people call me “Teacher Dave”, because I function as a teacher in my relationship and role with them. And some people just call me “Dave”, because to them, I do not function as an apostle or pastor or teacher in my relationship and role with them.
So the fivefold ministers are not titles or positions, they are roles and functions.
- Defining Fivefold Relationships And Roles.
The Apostle Paul said a few very interesting things about his apostolic functioning.
a) Relationships And Roles Can Be Based On Cultural Groups.
Romans 11:13, NIV – (13) I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry (14) in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.
So Paul said, that to the Gentiles, His relationship and role was that of an Apostle.
However, to his own people, the Jews, his function was that of an evangelist. He was hoping that his relationship to the Gentiles would provoke his Jewish people to become jealous of his ministry to the Gentiles, and as a result, hopefully some would come to salvation.
So his role to the Gentiles, a specific cultural group, was that of an apostle, and his role to the Jews, another specific cultural group, was that of an evangelist – NOT an apostle.
b) Relationships And Roles Can Be Based On Specific Regions Or Churches.
1 Corinthians 9:1-2, NIV – (1) Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? (2) Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
Paul was saying, that although he was an apostle, he was really only an apostle to those he was working with. Paul had laboured greatly among the church in Corinth, He had a very impacting fatherly and equipping relationship with them, and so He called them the result of his work, and His seal of apostleship in the Lord.
c) Relationships And Roles Can Change Over Time.
Acts 13:1, NIV – (1) In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.
This verse says that, in the young church in Antioch, there was not yet the full fivefold ministries functioning. In fact, there are only prophets and teachers, and Paul was listed as one of them. So, based upon his ministry at that time, Paul was functioning as a teacher, or a teaching elder in the church at Antioch.
In verse 2 Paul and Barnabas were released as missionaries. However, on his first missionary journey, Paul was never called an apostle. Why not? Because he was not yet doing the work of an apostle. Instead, he was doing the work of an evangelist, and he won many people to Christ.
During Paul’s second missionary journey, people began to refer to Paul as an apostle. Why? Because he began to function as an apostle, and he created an apostolic centre and trained up other ministers.
That is why Paul could say in the Epistle to Timothy:
2 Timothy 1:11, NIV – (11) … I was appointed a herald [evangelist] and an apostle and a teacher.
The word herald in this verse (Strong’s G2783 = κήρυξ [kērux]) means “a herald of the gospel”, which is the work of an evangelist. So Paul said, that over the course of his life, he functioned as an evangelist, an apostle, and a teacher – three of the fivefold ministries.
- The Fivefold Ministries Working Together.
The fivefold ministry can be likened to a family that works together to make a healthy household. The foundation of the family – the church – should be built by the apostles and prophets.
Ephesians 2:19-20, NIV – (19) … you are … members of God’s household, (20) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
So the Prophets get divine revelation and insights on God’s desire for each local church and church network.
Then, as architects, the Apostles develop divine plans and strategies to implement the desires of God.
Then the Teachers explain the revelation and plans and strategies to the people, so that they understand and embrace the vision.
Then the Pastors shepherd the people, to ensure that they are emotionally and spiritually healthy, and stay united and focused, as they implement the vision.
And the Evangelists reach out to those outside the church, to bring in more people to be taught and pastored and equipped to do the work of the ministry.
The Apostles are also like the fathers of the family. They are called to love, protect, and care for the other fivefold ministers (Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers), and continually raise up new leaders for the ministry.
The fivefold ministries are not titles or offices. The fivefold ministries are anointings or graces given by God, so that certain people in the body of Christ can serve Christ in equipping roles and functions, based on the relationships that they have with certain groups of people.
So rather than try to figure out exactly what God has called us to be, let’s just allow God to use us as He wants, and let Him anoint us and draw out of us what He wants from us. And eventually, we, and others around us, will be able to recognize how God has called us.
That is true success, and true faithfulness to the Lord.