The Five-Fold Ministry - Ephesians 4:11
Hi. I’m Robbie Parks, church planter here at Vineyard Trailblazers Church of State College, PA, home of Penn State University. Our mission is to advance the kingdom of Jesus to the farthest reaches of heaven and earth. If you are ever in State College, I encourage you to come out to one of our church services and get to know us in person; personal fellowship is a crucial piece in a full life with Jesus, and you cannot experience the fullness God without it. Plus, it’s a great way to make friends.
Today we are going to take a look at Ephesians 4:11, the verse which defines what some call the Five-Fold Ministry. Many people group this verse along with Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 as passages about spiritual gifts, but I want to say to you that it is not about spiritual gifts at all, but rather about church government. But then, you may ask, if it’s about church government, and I’m not trying to lead a church, what’s it got to do with me? Just hang tight, and you’ll see. In fact, I think if you stay with me to the end, you’ll find out that it has everything to do with you, and that it holds some of the most important concepts that you need for a healthy spiritual life. Let’s take a look.
Ephesians 4:11 through 13: “it was He (that is, Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for works of ministry and to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ.”
So before we get into the verse itself, that list in Ephesians 4:11, what does this context tell us? What we see is the goal. These “gifts” have a purpose, “to equip the saints,” which is, you and me and every follower of Jesus Christ, “for the works of ministry,” which is, to do what God asks us to do, “and to build up the body of Christ,” which is, to help each other grow closer to Him and obey Him better, “until we all reach unity in the faith,” so that we will all be working together toward Christ’s goals, “and in the knowledge of the Son of God,” so that we will all agree on everything pertaining to Jesus and His Word, “as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ,” so that we as a body will grow together to be completely like Jesus and fully functional as His hands and feet in the world.
So, what we see is that the purpose of the “gifts” in Ephesians 4:11 is to help the church become unified, mature, and just like Jesus.
Alright, so what are these gifts?
“[He] gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11).
Each of the specific five gifts listed has an important role to play in a healthy church. First, apostles. The word “apostle” simply means “sent one” or “one who was sent.” This is somebody who God has specifically spoken to and sent out to fulfill His mission. We also see in the Bible that apostles are responsible for overall leadership of the church; in Acts 6:1-7 we see the apostles solve whole-church issues while remaining focused on their roles as spiritual leaders. Today we send missionaries (far away) and church planters (here at home) to start and lead new churches. They usually end up with the title “Pastor,” but really they are apostles. So the role of the apostle is the role of the leader, with the goal of helping the church become mature in every way, and especially to help others figure out God’s specific callings for their lives, and to send them.
Next, prophets. Prophets are responsible for the spiritual well-being of the church; throughout the Old Testament prophets where sent to call Israel back from sin and declare God’s grace and justice. These, after the apostles, are the people who are the most in-tune with hearing God’s specific instruction and communicating it to others. It is their job to train others to hear God’s voice for themselves. Because a prophet is focused on the human-God connection, he is also responsible for worship and prayer. So the role of the prophet is to help the church mature in worship and prayer and personal connection with God.
Third, evangelists. The word “evangelist” means “a bringer of good news.” Evangelists spread the good news of Jesus Christ, the gospel, far and wide. Therefore, evangelists are responsible for the social well-being of the church: they focus on spreading the gospel to the unbelieving world, discovering the most effective ways to connect with the culture at hand. So the role of the evangelist is to teach and equip others to do evangelism in an effective, culturally relevant way.
Next, pastors. Pastors are responsible for the emotional well-being of the church; they live out Jesus’ words, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Pastors care about the physical, emotional, and relational health of others. They equip others to live and love well. They want to see broken relationships reconciled, broken people healed, and healthy people thriving. So the role of the pastor is to equip others with the skills they need to foster healthy relationships and healthy minds and bodies.
Finally, teachers. Teachers are responsible for the intellectual well-being of the church; they are to teach the Scriptures according to the importance Paul describes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Teachers care about intellectual rigor and right theology. Truth matters. They seek to unite all the church in one mind, the mind of Christ. They not only teach information but also logic and critical thinking skills, and they challenge false doctrine. So the role of the teacher is to equip others to learn, understand, and defend the truth, and to weed out false teachings and tricky and popular philosophies in all of life.
Altogether, Paul lists five important roles that must function well in every church in order for the body of believers to grow together in unity into a full-grown man as the body of Christ. If any of these roles falters, the church will be unbalanced. Just as an individual must grow in self-leadership and spiritual, social, emotional, and intellectual aspects of life, so must each church and its people grow in these same areas.
Now, notice that many church leaders today are called “pastors,” but they fulfill other roles as well. Some “pastors” by title are not particularly “pastoral”; God has assigned them different roles. Regardless of title, we need all five roles present and functioning.
In fact, I would recommend to you that you personally identify an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor, and a teacher in your life who can help you grow. You need to grow in all five areas, even ones you don’t particularly enjoy. God says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” We are all called to tell others about Jesus (evangelist), to love others (pastor), to believe only the truth (teacher), to connect personally with God (prophet), and to follow God wherever He sends us (apostle). Find somebody to train you in each of these roles, and figure out how you can help others grow in each of these roles.
Find an apostle (sent one) to help you discern God’s will and make you an apostle (send you out) so that you can make more apostles (send them out).
Find a teacher to teach you to think so that you can become a teacher who makes more teachers.
Find a pastor to teach you to love so that you can become a pastor who makes more pastors.
Find an evangelist to show you how to share the good news so that you can become an evangelist who makes more evangelists.
Find a prophet to help you hear God’s voice so that you can become a prophet who makes more prophets.
Find a disciple who will make you his disciple so that you can make disciples who will make more disciples.
“Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
“And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
That is what the Five-Fold Ministry is all about.