Five-fold ministry gifts – How to disciple spiritual children

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five-fold ministryFive-fold ministry and spiritual child rearing

The five-fold ministry is usually addressed within the context of trans-denominational high-profile ministries, but on closer examination the five-fold ministry has more to do with discipleship than itinerant ministry.

In Ephesians 4:11-16 the apostle Paul outlined the relationship between ministers in the five-fold ministry gifts and the edification of the Church.

The five-fold ministry described

 “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ –  from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

Traditionally and even in small group or cell group based churches this passage has been interpreted as an affirmation that God raises up ministers and special ministries to fulfill the basic ministerial functions of each church.  The functions recognized are church planting (apostles), prophecy or ministry of the Word (prophets), evangelism (evangelists), pastoral ministry (pastors), and bible teachers.  The common conclusion is that these ministers build up and cause the church to spread as the entire church learns from them as experts. However, this interpretation ignores the remaining portion of the passage where we learn that God gives these “ministers” for the perfecting of the saints to do the work of the ministry.

Because of the perfecting process in the saints for the work of the ministry, they edify the body and it grows into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  Therefore what we have here, are the main subjects that each saint needs for his training in Christian leadership so that he may do his part in the edification of the body.  Each of these “gifts” (ministers) to the church then teaches the curriculum peculiar to their distinguishing ministry.  Theologians often call these gifts the five-fold ministry gifts.

The five-fold ministry applied

So then, the Apostle teaches the entire church how to plant a church which is the reason for Christian leadership.  The prophet teaches the whole church how to discern the direction of each work within the general guidelines of the written Word.  The evangelist models evangelistic techniques that each member must learn. In addition, the pastors and teachers train the body (each member) how to develop a pastoral and teaching ministry.  In other words, God calls all Christians to practice all of the ministerial functions whenever the need arises.

Part of the pastoral ministry is to train new pastoral ministers.  Even if most of these ministers never receive a title of “pastor” or elder or deacon, the reality is that they are already operating in these ministries.  Eventually the church will recognize them as such and will incorporate them as either staff workers or “lay” leaders.

I have learned that beyond recognizing the need for each member to be a minister we must advance and insist that each member be willing to develop into a recognized leader within the church.  In order to obey the great commission it is inevitable that each member become the leader of at least one person, the person they are training as a disciple.  Discipleship is not only transferring what we are to another person but also transferring our ministerial competence and abilities thus multiplying leadership in the church through the five-fold ministry and producing multipliers instead of mere converts.


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