This post is all about the 5 fold ministry
As Christians, we often hear about the 5 fold ministry and its importance in the church.
However, it is not always clear what it entails.
So, what is the fivefold ministry?
Well, the fivefold ministry is a biblical reference to the different types of people God has called to equip and edify the body of Christ.
These five types of people are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
Each of these has a specific unique task or function to fulfill within the body of Christ. All five are working together to further the Kingdom of God.
In this article, you’ll learn about:
- Myths and misconceptions about the 5 fold ministry
- Difference between five fold ministry and spiritual gifts
- The five fold ministry and their functions (super deep dive) etc.
P.S. This post was deeply moving as the Lord revealed so much. In particular, God highlighted a family member who had a heavy apostolic anointing over his life. This individual is in heaven now. He planted churches all over Kenya. I’m humbled to have witnessed how God used Him. ❤️
Ready? Let’s go!
5 fold ministry verse
For starters, let me highlight the verse that is the glue for this entire post…
Ephesians 4:11-13, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ..”
Myths and misconceptions
The five-fold ministry is an integral part of the church, but several myths and misconceptions surrounding it can cause confusion.
1. Myth of hierarchy:
It is a common misconception that 5-fold ministry gifts involve a hierarchical structure, with the apostle at the top and then downwards to prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
This isn’t true.
All the five of these ministries are equal, and their roles must be unified.
2. Mediators between God and man:
Another myth is that the 5 fold ministers are mediators between God and man.
However, this is impossible as only Jesus stands in that role. We can boldly approach the throne of grace (God’s throne) with confidence because of Jesus Christ (read Hebrews 4:14-16).
So this means that the five-fold ministers can help bring others close to God by teaching His word, but they cannot act as an intermediary.
3. Everyone has this gift:
It’s not true that everyone has the gift.
God chooses specific individuals for the 5-fold ministries so he can use them to build up His church.
4. Imparted to all:
Another myth is that it can be imparted to anyone who desires. As a result, some think they will receive it if only they pray enough or have faith strong enough.
This is simply false.
God has a purpose and plan for everyone, and they shouldn’t seek to take on another’s calling.
5. A path to Clergy status:
It is not true that being part of a 5-fold ministry is a path for people to become ordained ministers or achieve clergy status.
The five-fold ministries are leaders in the body of Christ, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they have any special status within the church.
Rather, their callings are meant to lead others closer to Jesus through their teaching and example.
6. Belong to a denomination:
Another assumption is that the 5-fold ministries only belong to a specific denomination or church.
While the 5-fold ministries are taught and embraced fully by some denominations they are seen throughout all branches of Christianity.
The five-fold ministers don’t need to be ordained by any particular religious organization; instead, their callings come from God directly.
7. They are above reproach:
Lastly, it is not true that those with the gift of a 5-fold ministry are above reproach or immune to criticism.
Whilst we should respect, honor and support the 5-fold ministries, they are not above reproach and should be corrected when necessary.
Regardless of their calling, all people can make mistakes and should be held accountable for their actions (Matthew 18:15-17).
Is everyone called to the five fold ministry?
I answered this in the previous section but felt the need to repeat it.
It is often assumed that everyone is called to this type of ministry, but that is not the case.
While all believers have spiritual gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit, not all are called to hold the specific offices of the five fold ministry.
So my simple answer is- not everyone is called to the five fold ministry.
Let me dive into some differences to explain this better….
Difference between five fold ministry and spiritual gifts
1. Five fold ministry is a God-given position of leadership within the church (doesn’t have to be clergy status). At the same time, spiritual gifts refer to specific God-given abilities that are given to believers to serve the body of Christ.
2. The five fold ministry comprises apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, while spiritual gifts can include things like prophecy, wisdom, among others (read 1 Corinthians 12:7-11).
3. Not everyone is called to the five fold ministry, but all believers have talents OR spiritual gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit.
- The body of Christ is made up of many parts, and each part is important in its own way. Therefore, believers need to discern and use their gifts and talents in a way that glorifies God and builds up the church.
- While not everyone is called to the five fold ministry, all believers are called to serve and contribute to the body of Christ in some way, whether through the use of spiritual gifts or in other ways.
- The Holy Spirit empowers all gifts! It’s not human might or human power! (see Zechariah 4:6)
The fullness & picture of Jesus…
When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He left us the Holy Spirit and bestowed upon His Church five ministry gifts as described in Ephesians 4:11-13.
These gifts are given to perfect and equip the Church. Each of these roles represents Jesus Himself, displaying different aspects of who He was when he walked on this Earth – a great teacher, a good shepherd, etc.
Think about it….when Jesus was on the earth… He was a great teacher using parables to explain complex kingdom concepts. He was a good shepherd…the list is endless.
All functions of the fivefold ministry reveal the fullness of Christ. It would be wrong for us to reject any part or gift that Jesus has given us because it is like we are rejecting Him – something essential for perfecting and equipping the Bride of Christ (the Church).
Through the use of these gifts, God has given each person within the 5 fold ministry a unique role to play in His kingdom.
As such, it is a powerful tool that can be used to reach others and share the good news of the Gospel. It is a beautiful picture of how God uses each individual to bring His kingdom here on earth.
The five fold ministry and their functions
In this section, I use the analogy of hand and fingers to describe the five-fold ministry. It helps illustrate how these ministries are interconnected and essential for the church to function properly.
Just like the human body needs all parts of the hand to carry out specific tasks, so does a church need all five ministries to carry out God’s will. Each finger on our hand has unique characteristics that relate to each ministry.
Let’s dive deep into each function:
Firstly, we have the apostle, represented by the thumb. The thumb is a powerful, important, versatile finger that can reach every other finger.
In the same way, an apostle in the five-fold ministry is able to connect with all other ministries and provide direction and guidance. They act as leaders that help steer and guide God’s church.
From this thumb analogy, we can deduce that an apostle is a person who has a broad range of responsibilities within the body of Christ. They are called to blaze new trails, start new churches, and make disciples. The apostle has the ability to see the big picture and to bring unity to the different parts of the body of Christ.
Functions of the apostle:
1. Planting churches: An apostle’s primary role is to plant churches, which means establishing the preaching of the gospel in an area that has yet to receive it. Apostles are called to identify and mobilize resources for the growth and expansion of a church.
2. Appointing leaders: Apostles are responsible for appointing qualified leaders who will serve in their respective capacities within the church. This involves identifying individuals with specific gifts and talents and assessing their spiritual maturity before entrusting them with leadership roles. Additionally, apostles must ensure that all appointed leaders remain accountable for their actions and conduct.
3. Pioneer into new territories: An apostle aims to expand the gospel’s reach, requiring them to enter new and sometimes hostile environments (think of Paul in the Bible). Apostles must demonstrate bravery and resilience to bring God’s word and love to those who need it most. They are called upon to forge relationships with believers outside their immediate sphere and non-believers who have yet to embrace the truth of Jesus Christ.
4. Capacity to connect and influence other ministries and churches: An apostle can influence other ministries and churches by connecting them through prayer, fellowship, advice, encouragement, and resources. Apostles are equipped with unique skills that enable them to provide spiritual direction and guidance to others. Their ultimate goal is to help strengthen the church and further its mission of spreading the good news.
- Planting churches – “For this reason, I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” (1 Corinthians 4:17)
- Appointing leaders – “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” (Titus 1:5)
- Training and equipping believers for ministry – “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
The apostle is an essential part of the body of Christ, and they play a crucial role in spreading the gospel and establishing the church. Without the apostolic ministry, the body of Christ would be incomplete and dysfunctional.
The prophet, represented by the pointing finger.
The pointing finger gives direction, points out the truth, and provides guidance.
Similarly, the prophet is called to speak the mind and will of God to the people of God.
Prophets have the gift of discerning the times and seasons, and they are often found warning the people of God about what is to come.
Functions of the prophet:
1. Speak the mind of God: A prophet is anointed to be a listening ear and mouthpiece for God’s will. The prophet speaks truth from the Lord, conveying his directives to the people. When receiving a word from God, it is crucial for the prophet to accurately deliver the message without adding their own opinions so that they do not lead anyone astray.
2. Discerning times and seasons: A true prophet must discern the times and seasons. This means understanding when different events will take place according to the will of God. The prophet pinpoints signs from God, especially when a specific event is about to happen to prepare people.
3. Warning people of God: A prophet’s job is also to warn people when they are going against the will of the Lord. The prophet is responsible for drawing attention to wrongdoings, reminding people that God does not condone any sin and disobedience towards his commands no matter how small. This sometimes requires speaking out against those in authority who have gone astray.
4. Speaking on current situations or state of affairs: Prophets also speak on current situations or state of affairs according to what they receive from God. They are able to explain why certain events have happened or will happen and how to prepare for them. This can include providing insight into spiritual matters and social, political, and economic issues.
5. Prioritize listening to God’s voice: As a prophet, one must prioritize listening to the voice of the Lord. It requires setting aside any personal opinion or agenda to deliver what has been spoken from heaven accurately. A prophet is asked to remain humble before God so that they may receive understanding and revelation from him.
6. Point people to the truth: A true prophet is tasked with leading people to the truth. This includes teaching the Word of God, being a moral compass, and being an example of righteousness. A prophet is meant to deliver revelation from God and show how it should be applied in life so that others may come to a knowledge of the truth.
- Revelators: “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)
- Discerning the times and seasons – “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.” (1 Chronicles 12:32)
- Warning the people of God – “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand.” (Joel 2:1)
- Speaking into current situations – “Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in it all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word.” (Jeremiah 26:2)
Per the functions I provided, we can deduce that without prophets, the body of Christ would lack direction and guidance, and the church would be ill-equipped to face the world’s challenges.
The evangelist is represented by the middle finger.
The middle finger is the furthest-reaching finger and has a bold and prominent presence.
Similarly, the evangelist is called to take the gospel message to the world and to have a powerful presence in the world.
Evangelists are gifted with a message of hope and salvation that can touch the hearts of those who need it most.
Functions of the evangelist:
1. Preaching gospel message: The primary role of an evangelist is to preach the gospel message, as made clear in Romans 10:14. It is the responsibility of an evangelist to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and explain what it means for people’s lives. This may require traveling to various locations and speaking with different groups of people about the benefits and joys associated with accepting Jesus into their hearts.
2. Leading people to repentance and baptism: Following on from preaching the gospel message, an evangelist’s job is to lead people to repentance and baptism. An evangelist must be prepared to speak candidly about why this is important and how following these steps can bring joy into someone’s life. It is necessary for a person to repent from their sin and receive forgiveness before beginning a life with God.
3. Emphasizing the importance of salvation: An evangelist’s role is to emphasize how important salvation is in relation to living a meaningful life with God. They must be able to explain why it matters so much and how following this path can bring true joy and peace.
4. Winning souls for Christ: An evangelist should strive to lead as many people as possible towards accepting Jesus into their lives, or “winning souls for Christ,” in other words. Doing so will require passion, dedication, and wisdom on behalf of the Evangelists as they attempt to draw more people into the love of God.
- Preaching the gospel message – “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14)
- Winning souls for Christ – “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30)
- Leading people to repentance – “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” (Acts 2:38)
- Emphasizing the importance of salvation – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16)
Without the evangelistic ministry, the body of Christ would not reach as many people as possible with the good news.
P.S. Think of Billy Graham as a modern day Evangelist. A fun fact that I want to sneak in here is that I worked for Billy Graham’s overflow call center when I was a college student in Virginia! I was so enthusiastic! ❤️
The index finger is sometimes referred to as the “ring finger.”
Therefore, people sometimes metaphorically state that a pastor is “wedded to the church.” This analogy represents the pastors’ deep commitment and relationship with their congregation.
In the same way that a wedding signifies a covenantal commitment between two individuals, pastors are committed to their church and congregation in a sacrificial and honorable way.
They are called to be faithful and devoted to their congregation’s spiritual growth and well-being, leading and advising them as they seek to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives.
Functions of the pastor:
1. Feeding and teaching the congregation – A pastor’s primary task is to study God’s Word and nourish the congregation through preaching, teaching, and other forms of communication. Why? Because the Bible is a living document that carries the power to transform lives because it speaks directly to our hearts. Pastors should use their understanding of Scripture to help guide people to live in obedience to God’s Word.
2. Counselling and comforting the congregation – People naturally turn to their pastors for advice when facing difficult times or troubles in life. As counselors, pastors should listen to their members, provide spiritual direction and prayer, and help them work through any challenges they face. Pastors should also seek opportunities to comfort those in need and offer encouragement when appropriate.
3. Equipping and training believers for ministry – A pastor’s responsibility is not just to preach the Word; pastors should also equip and train believers to serve within the church as well. This includes teaching them how to study Scripture, developing their leadership abilities, or equipping them with skills that will be useful in ministry, such as evangelism or disciple-making.
4. Praying for the congregation – Praying for the congregation is a crucial responsibility of pastors. It is through prayer that spiritual growth and transformation take place, so pastors should make it a priority to pray fervently for their members. Additionally, they can lead corporate prayers during services or special occasions and be available to intercede on behalf of individuals who need prayer.
5. Providing guidance and direction to the congregation – Pastors should actively lead God’s people by providing scriptural guidance and direction when necessary. This means laying out expectations from the church body as well as setting clear goals that will help the congregation move forward in their faith journey.
6. Creating a sense of community and belonging – A sense of community among church members is essential for pastors. This could include organizing social gatherings, hosting service events, or simply creating an atmosphere where individuals feel welcomed and accepted regardless of their background or beliefs. Creating this type of environment will help foster deeper relationships between church members and lead to more meaningful spiritual growth.
- Feeding and teaching the congregation – “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.'” (Mark 16:15)
- Counseling and comforting the congregation – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3)
- Providing guidance and direction to the congregation – “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” (Hebrews 13:17)
- Creating a sense of community and belonging – “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
- Protecting the congregation from false teachings – “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[a] which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)
P.S. If I look back, I’ve always had pastors who were super super caring! I briefly talked about my youth pastors in my book Made of Still. They played an instrumental role in my spiritual life!
Finally, we have the teacher, represented by the little finger. The little finger is often overlooked, but it plays an important role in our hands. The little finger may be small, but it is incredibly flexible and capable of doing delicate work.
Similarly, the teacher is gifted with the ability to explain complex truths in simple terms and to guide the body of Christ in understanding the Word of God.
Functions of the teacher:
1. Explaining complex truths in simple terms – A good teacher can explain complicated truths within scripture or other sources of knowledge in a way that their learners easily understand. Jesus was known as an excellent example of this practice, often taking difficult spiritual principles and making them accessible to the masses.
2. Guiding believers in understanding the Word of God – Teachers must also be adept at helping believers understand scripture better. They need to be able to guide their class through texts with accuracy and skill while showing how the Bible applies to their daily lives. Nehemiah 8:8 is one example of a teacher helping others understand God’s word, as he “read from it clearly and gave its meaning so that all the people could understand what was being read.”
3. Correcting false teachings and promoting sound doctrine – Teachers should also be knowledgeable in order to correct false teachings or any misinterpretation of scripture. It is important for them to recognize sound doctrine and promote it with conviction, pointing out any discrepancies within the class’s understanding of scripture.
4. Encouraging a hunger for the Word of God – Teachers should also be able to instill a sense of eagerness in their students when it comes to studying the Bible. They can do this by reminding them of its importance and inspiring them with the truth they find within.
5. Challenging believers to apply Biblical truths to their lives – Another goal of teaching is to challenge believers with the word of God and encourage them to apply what they have learned from scripture to their lives. A teacher must be able to provide guidance and accountability for their students, prompting them towards greater understanding and encouraging faithful obedience.
- Explaining complex truths in simple terms – “And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mark 1:22)
- Guiding believers in understanding the Word of God – “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” (Nehemiah 8:8)
- Correcting false teachings and promoting sound doctrine – “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1)
- Training and mentoring future leaders – “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
- Encouraging a hunger for the Word of God – “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2)
- Challenging believers to apply biblical truths to their lives – “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)
Indeed, without teachers, the body of Christ would lack a deep understanding of the Word of God, and believers would be ill-equipped to live out their faith in the world.
P.S. There was a time in my life where I struggled with reconciling certain Biblical truths…and alas…it was a Bible teacher (not an ordained minister) who totally explained it beautifully! I had all sorts of eureka & aha moments!
And that’s it, folks, the 5 fold ministry
I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it! ❤️
Here are some important takeaways:
- Each ministry gift has unique qualities that contribute to the overall health and growth of the church, and they are all necessary for the body of Christ to function properly.
- The 5 fold ministry works together to equip the saints for the work of ministry and to build up the body of Christ.
Other relevant blog posts: