The Five-Fold Ministry

The idea of a five-fold ministry has caused some consternation among not just evangelicals but also classic Pentecostals. I was talking to a brother recently from the Pentecostal Holiness denomination who was upset because their denomination seemed to be pushing everyone to be like “Apostle” Ron Carpenter, who has one of the largest churches in the denomination. Wayne Grudem, who is generally open to a Charismatic understanding of the Scripture, also does not give high marks to the idea of a modern day apostle, unless by that we mean missionary.

Of course the problem with the term “apostle” is that it seems to imply greatness or importance, and so when you take it upon yourself to be called “Apostle” so and so, it appears to be a sign of self-exaltation. Paul, on the other hand, when describing the apostle’s role made it sound like a job that not all are cut out for — stoned, shipwrecked, beaten, and generally “dragged in last” like a “spectacle.” I do not believe that the Bible ever refers to any of the original twelve apostles as “Apostle Paul”, but instead we have things like “Paul, an apostle” This usage in terminology suggests Paul is identifying his role, not that he expected others to call him “Apostle.” So I wonderf if really this Pentecostal brother should be taking issue more with the way the modern day term is used than the idea that there might be modern day “apostles.” We know from Scripture that there certainaly were “the twelve” apostles, but I’m not sure that the case is conclusive that there is no such role today… does smell a bit like that old cessationism.

All that being said, I wanted to look at what is different about each of the five-fold ministry roles: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher. From an idealogical standpoint, I think we’re really talking about people who not only have different giftings but also have different views of the priority of life. Richard Heard talks about how if one of these is your “pastor” you will find yourself growing in accordance, but also lacking in accordance. Since we do not generally have a full understanding of having these five roles function together, there is a good chance that your “pastor” may not actually be a pastor in calling or gifting. If for example, your “pastor” is really a teacher, you will learn a lot, but you will probably also try up. If your “pastor” is a prophet, you will grow in the supernatural, but may be disorderly or otherwise unfruitful. I think that this explains a lot of my experiences anyway. I’ve served under pastors who were probably more called as apostles and felt, motivated, orderly and ready to be sent, but very un-pastored. Often times these men will put pastors around them to handle the care needs of the church.

Here is how I understand the distinctives of the five roles:

  • Apostle–This is someone who breaks up hard ground.  They may be sent to change to paradigm of the church, or to open up closed cities.   This role should be itinerant, not stationary over the long term. After all, the term means “sent one.”  This person also has authority to put people in various roles in the church.
  • Prophet— This is someone who hears directly from God in a revelatory way. I believe this role should have both itinerant and stationary components, and should always be teamed up with a pastor or apostle.
  • Evangelist-– The evangelist cares about the lost. This role should probably also have itinerant and stationary components. Often in the church these evangelist types get into pastoral roles.  Recently Steve Hill of Brownsville fame became pastor of a church. Needless to say, the church centers around evangelism.
  • Pastor— This is a stationary role. The pastor is always with the sheep. The pastor sees the church from the perspective of personal growth. He cares for each of his sheep, and helps them to stay within God’s fold, and to become strong and healthy. If you have a pastor but no apostle or evangelist, you are likely to become a congregation of fattened sheep who are not reaching out in risk for God.
  • Teacher–This is someone who has the ability to make confusing things plain. Someone with a teaching gift is not just smart person who writes books, but it is someone who is able to build people’s lives, break bondages, etc, through their teaching.  Some have said that teachers should really be pastor-teachers, because the two roles are the same, but I see two distinct roles. A teacher should not function apart from a pastor, either. Otherwise people will know a lot, but not be cared for properly.
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