What The Five Fold Ministry Really Should Be According To The Bible:
A Pentecostal's Perspective
by Rev. Rafael D Martinez, Spiritwatch Ministries
What does the Bible teach about what the "five fold" ministry should be?
What I now present is a study of the Biblical content on the five fold ministry concept that I pray is clear enough to understand and ponder. Allow me the luxury of a few opening remarks to establish where my position is.
I contend, first of all, that the popular Charismatic / Pentecostal notions of a literal "five fold ministry" ordained with unquestioned power and authority lacks a truly Biblical basis. Beyond the proof texting it employs, this school of Christian thought has led to many astonishing flights of utterly unbelievable teaching based on unscriptural assumptions and purely religious fantasy concocted by carnal human religiosity. Elements of truth are certainly present, but the modern views of the "five fold" ministry are largely established on Full Gospel tradition, not on Scripture. Our articles on the fivefold ministry's relationship to the questionable and the abusive have discussed this in greater detail, so I won't rehearse them here. If you happened upon this page without checking these out first, I'd strongly encourage you to click back to them.
In starkest contrast, the New Testament truths about the fivefold ministry make clear a far more remarkable and broader view. While God has ordained the creation of an authoritative church leadership (such as the apostles, bishops and elders) the early Christian church's first patterns of congregational ministry had less to do with these leaders and more to do with the people of God themselves. The Bible undeniably and irrefutably teaches that all of God's Spirit-led children may minister in the same manner as actual apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors and evangelists in cooperative conjunction with those called to these five roles of ministerial leadership.
In short, there were more Indians than chiefs in the early church whose labor was completely devoted to advancing the Gospel of Christ and had no concern with establishing the kind of power structures today's so-called "five fold" ministers seem preoccupied with at the expense of actual Christian ministry. I assure you this is Biblical perspective you won't find spelled out in the "manna" flowing out of the DVD's of the next Governing Apostles Roundtable Summit. Religious as well as temporal power gained is power that is jealously retained through ambition disguised as "anointing." But that is what the following study of Scripture will show, and no amount of religious kingdom-building will ever cover that plain fact.
Only wilful ignorance of Biblical truth does that - something the Christian Church can ignobly excel at.
Five Fold Ministry: What Does Ephesians 4:11 Really Mean?
Let's briefly review what the Bible itself says about this view of the five fold concept as well as the plain Scriptural context it was meant to be understood in and lived out by generations of believers since the time of Christ's Ascension: we turn to the classic "proof text" for "five fold ministry" as defined in Ephesians 4:11:
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
This verse illustrates how the five fold ministry concept has been long been recognized across the Charismatic and Pentecostal worlds. I've discussed how it has been understood in a previous article in a far greater degree. However, a vast majority of those who read about and long for "five fold ministry power" among them, engaging in a giddy preoccupation with their authority, teachings and example, often overlook the critical context the verse is to be understood in, by simply not studying what the following verses 12-16 go on to say:
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: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
These crucial verses, along with others in the New Testament offer shining glimpses of the five fold ministry in cooperative labor together. Seen in the pages of Scriptural narrative and teaching, they provide three different perspectives of who they were and what they did then what is popularly believed about them today.
First of all, there was a variety of unique and distinctive leadership ministries in the New Testament Church.
The "apostles" originally referred to in Scripture were those recognized as the original 12 disciples who were eyewitnesses of the life and ministry of Christ Himself. Nowhere in the Scriptures, however, is there any indication that apostolic ministry itself was to be confined only to the twelve. "Evangelists" (such as Philip in Acts 21:8) were those engaged in specific personal and corporate ministries of Gospel proclamation to the unbelieving (Acts 8:4-40). "Prophets" were those like Agabus and Philip's four daughters (Acts 21:9-10) who gave actual prophecies of the future which came to pass as well as words of edification and encouragement of the people of God (Acts 11:28 and 1 Corinthians 14:3).
Those known as "teachers" were those called to educate and instruct the church in Biblical doctrine and were to be highly esteemed for their labor (1 Timothy 5:17) but who were also held to a higher standard of personal and spiritual integrity (James 3:1). And "pastors" were those who held positions of spiritual authority in the local church congregation for the sole purpose of overseeing their spiritual and community welfare (as seen in 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:7, 1 Peter 2:25), sometimes working in teams of eldership (1 Peter 5:13) or standing alone as a "chief elder" or "bishop" (as shown in Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus about the role of the bishop, and how Christ directed his comments to the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2-3 as to their "angel" or "messenger").
Secondly, these "five fold" distinctions became obscured as the New Testament church labored together.
The ministerial labor of these leaders was never revealed in Scripture as spiritual tasking only they were to bear. We see this in a variety of places: in Acts 13:1, we find prophets and teachers ministering "to the Lord" together in the church of Antioch and there is no distinction made among them whatsoever. Elders were appointed in every church (Acts 14:23) for both teaching and pastoral work. The apostles Peter and John simply referred to themselves as elders who viewed themselves as servants no better than any appointed elder (1 Peter 5:1. 2 John 1. 3 John 1). Philip, one of the twelve apostles, served as an the evangelist and Paul, an apostle himself, charges the young pastor Timothy to do the "work of an evangelist" in 2 Timothy 4:5 and all through his missionary labors displayed the same passionate devotion to evangelism himself (Acts 19:8-10).
The account of the decisive Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 is by far one of the most revealing of all. In making one of the most vital decisions about the church's understanding of salvation itself, we find that apostles, elders and "brethren" gathered to discuss and even dispute whether the keeping of the law was required to receive grace from God. While the apostles in Jerusalem were looked to for a resolution of the question, they freely allowed dialogue and input from the whole body of believers and who also would eventually come into unity over what their decision would be.
We can see from these examples that the "five fold" ministry was far more integrated into the entire New Testament church's lifestyle then we ever see in today's far more spiritually sedentary Western Christendom. That is the Biblical insight we must understand is the New Testament standard for true Christian ministry.
And thirdly, we must understand the historical evolution of Western church leadership that laid aside the "five fold" concept.
A lot of water has gone under the church bridge since the Day of Pentecost. 2000 years of church history imposed upon our Christian cultures have indoctrinated us with the religious belief that there are "clergy" and there are "laity," that there are shepherds who lead sheep and that sheep are to be led, fed, watched over (and when errant shepherds deemed necessary, to be also controlled, manipulated, exploited and beaten). The flexible simplicity of New Testament five fold church government embraced a multiplicity of church leadership roles for the first three hundred years of its existence. But this was to eventually be swept aside by the creation of a dominant hierarchy of bishops, cardinals and popes that ruled like kings as the medieval church that would become the Roman Catholic institution arose in the wake of the fall of the Roman Empire. The Eastern Orthodox church, following its' own cultural direction, took a similar direction and as a result the entire known Christian Church came to accept this state of affairs as a divinely established social and spiritual order, when it had a far more human origin.
The people of God in the church throughout history have come to accept these questionable and even tyrannically authoritarian and abusive forms of leadership far too meekly and silently for over two millenia. This concept has done more to hinder the work of spreading the Gospel as Christ commanded than perhaps any other failure the church might have blundered into. Tragically, both the mission of the church and the spiritual destiny of the world have suffered enormously for doing so. We won't belabor this tragic point here other than to observe that only the light of the Protestant Reformation brought the first attempt to restore Biblical church order to light. But the sectarianism that quickly resulted within Protestant ranks, however, only made the church's state of affairs far more complicated and divisive than ever before. And with the notion of a "professional" clergy in whom all of the duties of the sacred were to be exclusively carried out, even Protestant Christianity itself all but lost touch with its spiritual roots.
Once afire with a congregational five fold zeal that carried the Gospel to all nations, the church has almost ceased to be a living organism of the Spirit but has become more of a static organization ruled by men, used of God in spite of itself not because of it.
A "Five Fold Church": The Biblical Mandate
But God's revealed will in Scripture is that the entire Christian church itself is to arise to a level of spiritual maturity to act - as a congregation - in directions that are nothing less than apostolic, pastoral, prophetic, evangelistic and educational. That has always been the divine genius beheld in the workings of Pentecost itself: through the Spirit of God moving upon us, we can find in our churches today the humblest and most prepossessing believers who minister in such remarkable grace, power and authority that even the cynical among us cannot but gape in astonishment at their ministry and example.
We have seen the fivefold mandate actively working in Christians who we otherwise would not view as "five fold ministers" without ever properly recognizing that the fivefold ministry mandate is being fulfilled hidden in plain sight.
For example, have we not seen Christian brothers AND sisters acting as prophets as they admonished the troubled and sinful both corporately and privately, or giving prophecies of things that came to pass? Or have we failed to notice youth group members who burn with more of a passion to evangelize their pagan peers than appointed evangelists themselves would dare to do?
Dare we ignore the examples of innumerable Christians we've encountered who are aflame with divine truth imparted into them by years of dedication to Biblical study and who fairly ooze Scriptural insight and wisdom as teachers who share in Bible studies that become places of life transformation for so many? Can we ignore what is going on when Sunday school teachers become more properly pastoral than "the pastor" by reaching out and providing shepherding oversight to Sunday school class members?
And what of churches in urban settings that are lifting up Christ and the Gospel in the midst of enormous darkness through dynamic outreach, ministerial initiative and powerful witness to the Gospel that cannot be called anything but an operation of apostolic power and authority?
Shall I go on? I hope you are seeing my point here.
If we are to ever truly manifest unity in the faith, as equipped and established disciples laboring for Christ, we are to do it through "the effectual working in the measure of every part", following godly leadership that facilitates and not dominates the flow of the Spirit of God among us. All the Church, from young to old, from rich to poor, from black to white shall be engaged to do the work of the Christian ministry, a true, living "five fold" ministry, as a "whole body fitly joined together" in spiritual unity, purity, stability and charity. In short, we will be as perfected in Christ as possible this side of heaven, the "colony of heaven" I spoke of in my opening article - and which will play as a streaming file when this article is opened.
It is in this vibrant, Spirit-led context that Ephesians 4:11 is to be fully understood. At this point, I can agree with those who emphasized the sovereign moving of the Spirit to "blow where He wills". Paul wrote to the entire church, and encouraged it to seek ministry of Christians who acted in those five roles, but who said they were exclusive domains of a ministry "class" of "office"? The gifts of the Spirit who "bloweth where He listeth" are for ALL of God's people to be used in.
It's time we start letting God do what He really wants to do .. or we will continue to let every wind of doctrine and every gale of human tradition blow the listing Full Gospel ship all over the map.
What Does A "Five Fold" Church Actually Look Like?
Let first things be first things.
I cannot be any more pictorial, evocative or practical than the clear mandates of Scripture alone: Let God's Word do the drawing here .. about how a "five fold" church is meant to function together in New Testament harmony:
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Unity in the Spirit by the blood of Jesus always involved a recognition and submission to the diversity of all, looking beyond cultural differences and personal biases to a mutual respect and celebration of our essential spiritual bonds.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
Look carefully: there are no 5-fold "classes" - just people moved upon by the "grace that is given us" to pioneer and engage in ministerial achievements both as leaders and disciples. The diversity seen in "differing gifts" is to reflect our individual testimonies as followers of Jesus who are acting upon the direction and calling His Spirit moves us to pursue.
9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
True agape, divine Christian love, underwrites it all as we serve "one another" working together in a wonderful Spirit-led unity respecting the dignity of the individual no matter their sex, race, socioeconomic status or age. This is the character of a "five fold" people, a "five fold" church - a warmly intimate, yet practical koinonia (fellowship). The word in the Greek cannot be translated fully to evoke the kind depth of intimacy and unity of heart and soul which it was originally meant to convey. But the Bible shows what it looks like.
When was the last time you actually saw this in a church except only in fractional and imperfect expression? Be that as it may, we have no such excuse to not be fully engaged in this if we claim to believe what the Bible says, have Christ as our Savior and His Spirit alive in us.
1 Corinthians 4:6-10
6 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.
7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
8 Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.
9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.
10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.
None other than the apostle Paul himself had any illusions about his apostolic authority and position - humbly recognizing that he was as subject to the painful conflicts with this ungodly and evil world as any other Christian, and even went so far as to admonish the proud Corinthians to realize that making much of their "lofty" positions was something they needed to completely avoid. "Five fold" churches will never make this mistake, although most, if not all, of those today who say they believe in the "five fold ministry" are guilty of this unjustified exaltation of the "five fold offices"
1 Corinthians 12:4-27 gives us even more blazing Biblical illumination into how the "five fold" church works together as the people of God guided by five fold ministers, not lorded over by them:
4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
Again, there's wide latitude and allowance for how the administration and the application of spiritual gifts can be seen within the Body of Christ, how they are to "manifest" (literally, in the Greek, "shine forth") among Christians. But one thing is certain, they will be supernatural visitations bestowed by God's Spirit - not the futile exercise of a self-bestowed "gift" that is mistakenly viewed as "divine" and yet potentially "erroneous." A "five fold" church will bring forth spiritual giftings that never rely upon human understanding, mediation or frailty. This is indeed God's doing, and it is divinely inspired and directed.
It is His treasure that pours out of earthen vessels, not ours. Despite our need to allow for inexperienced Christians seeking to be used of God in spiritual giftings of all kinds, the fact remains that true spiritual giftings will clearly minister to those whom it is offered. God WILL speak through any vessel willing enough to let Him do so:
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
Words of wisdom and words of knowledge can be be both pastoral and prophetic as well as apostolic in nature - and they can be delivered to teach and edify as well as boldly establish a divine truth contributing to a powerful evangelistic setting (see Acts 13:1-5). Again, the five fold concept is seen as something that is far more broader in scope than the "five fold ministry" would care to admit. The ministrations of these kinds of words can encourage and uplift as well as direct and rebuke hearers. And there is nothing here in these verses stating they are delivered only through those said to be prophets exclusively.
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
Once again, Paul makes absolutely no distinction here whatsoever between those who manifest such giftings and those which we, in our backslidden day, think we should concerning so-called "healers", "miracle workers" and "prophets" today. If the free exercise of speaking tongues by all so-called "Spirit filled" believers is to be a norm, why should all not also expect to be used of God to work actual miracles, deliver prophecies, discern spirits or be used to bring healing to the sick?
And if prophecy is meant to be so critical an issue for the church to heed in these times of "restoration", why doesn't this listing of verses by the apostle place any urgency or priority upon the gift of prophecy which the self-proclaimed "prophetic" of today claim must be recognized?
Why not? Because it wasn't meant to be seen that way!
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
God's divine plan is that all of God's people are meant to be used of Him in "all these" as the Spirit ordains each man to do. And note that verse 11 implies the Spirit's gifting is free enough to use man any way He chooses, and yet never suggests that these giftings raise people up into "offices" .. why? Verse 14 is plain enough:
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
Again, this is an order of Christian unity established by God's very purposes (v. 18). God forbid that any man take to himself the task of setting in order what the Triune God intends to bring forth out of His own counsel and direction. Of course, that doesn't stop a whole lot of "five fold ministers" from trying anyway with their arms of religious flesh which create religious mazes out of books, tapes, videos, extended meetings, rhemas, etc.
19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
Again, there is that wonderful reference to the corporate unity of ALL believers (using the word picture of a body with various members and organs) that is established by God's Spirit. He binds all of our distinctive natures and giftings together in a glorious oneness of purpose, heart, soul and mind in that wonderful way that only He could do.
No flesh will glory in this presence, and that goes for all who would imply that there are "master apostles" and "patriarchal prophets" who would run the "old school" church with their "cutting edge" last days "calling". The Church does not need their species of "destiny" or "vision casting" whatsoever.
1 Corinthians 14:22
22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.
This verse will shake up a lot of Pentecostals and Charismatics if they will but receive it. The gift of tongues are primarily meant to be manifest in public church settings as a divine sign to them which will bring divine conviction upon them for salvation. When was the last time you really heard the gift of tongues and the gift of interpretation of tongues working as follows:
23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
The "five fold" church will be fully open to the manifestation of the power of God to do such mighty works in the hearts and lives of the lost who are exposed to His working through these spiritual giftings. Such a church will regularly find unbelievers stricken down with irresistible conviction. Frankly, such an mighty operation of the Spirit seems almost like a staged show when it actually happens, especially among the masses of Christians who attend churches where the gifts of the Spirit are rejected or, worse, misunderstood. But this is the Biblical ideal that does indeed still occur and I and others have seen it even today still at work in our local churches, however more and more infrequently as the dusk of the last days deepens around us.
26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.
28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
All of God's people may indeed prophesy to the end that all of God's people may be built up in the Faith and strengthened. According to these verses, that makes them "prophets" who are fully subject to the accountability of others. So where do we see that it's only these "papa prophets" or church mothers who take charge as the exclusive mouthpiece for God?
32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
God's Spirit will be alive, dynamic, unhindered and flowing through any and ALL whom He wishes to speak through. And every Christian under the sun who wishes to be a vessel for His usage can be used of him in this powerful way!
The following Scriptures make this even abundantly clearer.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
1 Peter 2:5-9
5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
1 Peter 4:10-11
10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Once again, in Biblical emphasis, Peter points out once again how "every man" (or woman) in the church "hath received the gift" in a divine diversity of spiritual gifting that is meant to be freely bestowed upon all and for all. He begins with the classic definition of the Body of Christ as a spiritual plurality, a gathering of disciples who stand together as a "house" and a "holy priesthood" chosen by Him to glorify His Name in service unto God, providing redemptive ministry to the nations. This is truly what the end of five fold ministry in the church should be, that "God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ." Everyone is to do what God has enabled them to do and never unduly obsess about who is in charge when His divine order is in place.
These studies of New Testament insight on just how the "five fold" ministry is to be established are drawn from Scripture. These aren't "my views" .. they are what the Bible plainly says about it. If we would but let God's Spirit do what he wants, "Christendom" could once again be truly "Christian". Instead, we have let our traditions of yesterday and our flights of fancy of today completely drown out the clear testimony of Scripture itself. That's something all too easy to do when the unbiblical notion of "present truth" spouted by human tradition so easily supersede the eternal written truth of the Word of God.
While I affirm that Christian leadership is a vital must in the Church today, the thrust of this and the other Scriptures we've studied doesn't dismiss the shining truth behind it all - we are all expected to be perfected according the plain teaching of Ephesians 4. We should all be mature enough to be regularly used of God in some spiritual gifting somewhere in our ministries wherever we are in time in space in the Body of Christ. The shocking immaturity of the backslidden church today which can hardly begin to embrace this truth doesn't excuse us from still working toward the day in which we saints (plural) are perfected, when the many membered Body of Christ is working together in a flowing unity of ministerial harmony.
So therefore, to say that the "five fold offices" are the norm of the New Testament just simply isn't correct and is yet another attempt to piece together a concept of church leadership that is fatally flawed.
If those given to the latent extremism of that position could only see the inherent accountability and humility that Ephesians 4:11 and 12-16 enjoins Christians to enter into, and would submit to the clear mandates of the Bible itself, there would be cease to be an Apostle or Prophet So and So delivering the stupid and vain babblings they do as "the word of the Lord," when He had nothing to do with it. The Church would truly arise and shine, with the Light of truth come upon it.
Sadly, I don't see that happening, but what I do behold is the apostacy upon us and a church falling asleep instead.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
The Broken Record: Human Tradition Versus The Word Of God
The five fold view of "ministry" is simply one particular Christian faith tradition's view on how church-based ministry is led. Diversity in the Body's view about church government and ministry is something no one needs to fight over. However, the contemporary view of the "five fold ministry" in many quarters of the Charismatic and Pentecostal cultures that embrace it has been in many other instances thoroughly skewed by authoritarian and even cultic overtones as advanced by imbalanced, immature and manipulative individuals. As I have stated, my previous articles have noted this all too well. Certain aberrant and damaging social and spiritual dynamics within the closed circles of abusive five fold ministers and ministries have been successfully replicated throughout these two movements and have been disguised as inspired leadership provided by "the anointed" who cannot be questioned and are free to exploit churches at will in the name of God.
I may start to be a bit repetitive here, but this is an issue that can't be too often focused upon.
On the subject of the authority of the "prophetic," I cite a statement by a Charismatic minister I was sharing with about this in an email some years ago. As I have stated, the view among many in the so-called "five fold ministry" is that prophets and apostles somehow have a "greater" authority over pastors, teachers and evangelists, and this brother made it clear:
There is a fundamental change between the OT office of a Prophet, and the NT gift of Prophecy. The prophet of the OT was the highest recognized spiritual leaders. He was litterally the 'voice of God' to the people (it could be argued that the High Priest was); in the NT, Apostles are the highest leadership, but all can now go directly to God and hear His voice.
To which I responded:
Brother, I can't buy that. As I see in the Old Testament, the prophets were not viewed any more higher than priests. Certainly, the Bible points out that God used them increasingly more and more as the days of apostacy infected the two divided kingdoms of Israel to bring it to repentance, but still, prophets had nothing to do with the work of the temple, of sacrifices for sin, for the Days of Atonement. In short, the Law said very little about prophets or even prophecy for that matter, except in the cases of FALSE prophets, and was entirely concerned with the arrangement of the Temple work and the Levitical priesthood, and their services, which had enormous spiritual significance for Israel's destiny. When Israel backslid in 1 Samuel, who is it that God used to speak to the fallen Eli? to the stumbling Saul? Samuel, the priest upon whom God sent a prophetic mantle. I think through these and other OT proofs, we see that the OT prophet was not "higher" than the priest.
And ditto goes for the NT prophet. This is one my chief concerns about the rising tide of fascination with the "restoration" of prophets and apostles in today's church. There is so little written in the NT about the role of prophetic figures like Agabus (apart from the references to the gifts and guidelines for prophecy found in 1 Cor. 12-14) that altogether WAY too many claims are being made by them that are essentially arguments from silence. Bill Hamon's work has such glaring and frankly, disturbing elements. There's an ecclesiastical preeminence being bestowed upon them by Hamon and others like him (Mike Bickle, Peter Wagner, and David Cannistracci) that deeply concerns me.
For a "restoration" movement that is supposed to restore the "FIVE fold" ministry, which ideally are supposed to work together to perfect the saints, I am seeing an unjustifiable and even frightening obsesssion with these "ascension gift ministries" that is fraught with opportunities for abuse and false doctrine. When Mike Bickel writes that "most prophetic people don't have the gift of leadership that is essential for a church to be healthy, balanced and safe" (p. 57, Growing In The Prophetic), I think we Pentecostals and Charismatics had better wake up and smell the pizza. We are hearing the alarms, and I fear we aren't heeding them.
The verses popularly cited by people insisting on this apostolic and prophetic supremacy simply don't support the line of reasoning that accompanies them and fly in the face of what five fold ministry, as Scripture reveals it, should be among us. Read every one of them and consider the logic behind the teaching by many that the prophets and apostles are meant to be the visionary leadership of the modern church. It makes no sense!
Let's see how one church "Experienced God" when these unbalanced views of the "five fold" get loose:
Where do I begin?.... I was involved in a church for 5 years that was affiliated with the 4 Square. They were more of an independent charismatic kind of church though. Anyway, the church size was less than 200 if you put everyone in the same room that called it their church home.
The Pastor and his wife kind of co-pastored. She was labeled a Prophetess. She ended up being the focal point of their leadership. There's an old saying, 'if mama aint happy, nobody's happy.'
But in that church, leadership core was title crazy. People scrambled for titles like Youth Pastor or Evangelist or Intercessor or Teacher etc. It was humorous because when someone would get a title they'd immediately start parking their cars in a pastor's parking stall. Prophetess, Cindy Jacobs, would come in and prophesy all kinds of grand and glorious things about harvest etc. .. We had a Toronto Blessing or Pensacola Revival experience for about 4 months once. In contrast to Toronto or Pensacola, the church didn't grow in size. Then there was the time the Pastor was supposed to become an Apostle after being prophesied over and prayed for by some big wheel independent type ministers.
Well, I moved away about 5 years ago for a new job. That church also has moved. It closed up about a year ago.
I think we make more of the 5 fold ministry than is actually there, since by our human nature we crave titles.
Church leadership can be challenging enough when it is immature, carnal and compromising. But when false prophets infiltrate it and deceptively pose as sweet, wise, humble servants of God with no agenda of their own, the result can be devastating. My own old original home church was dominated and then destroyed by such false prophets, who were older men and women who were infatuated with being recognized as "seers" and who had an inordinate craving for authority in the church. Had I known what I know now, I would have risen up to oppose them with every breath in my body and to correct their error. But I had no mature Christian wisdom to draw upon and only the most basic of Biblical knowledge and simply wasn't up to the task.
Instead, I was too young a babe in Christ, who had to endure the stings of the spiritual abuse of my church family and my own as keenly as an actual child might feels physical sexual abuse. And like the poor child, I couldn't articulate what I felt of the trauma or shield myself from it. I could only watch as my pastor was judged for allowing these false prophets the latitude they enjoyed among us and to see him grapple with God's judgment of a sickness unto death. Try being a babe in Christ watching a spiritual mentor and friend fail God and allow wolves to close in upon the flock of the Lord. Yet I am a child no more. And I will protect my brothers and sisters by raising my voice up against those pretensive and destructive characters even if they beat at me to shoo me away.
This is why these articles have been written. Read these revealing things and you will start to see more and more about the how, where, why and what of fivefold extremism that the "apostolic prophetic reformation" would have us go through in the name of "revival", the sacred shibboleth that is used to justify our blind and unquestioning acceptance of anything "spiritual" among us to pump "life" into our moribund churches.
Think about this, if anything else: if we aren't mature enough in our movement to wholeheartedly support sound Christian initiatives like prayer meetings, study of God's Word with other believers on a regular basis, or reaching out in our communities with a consistent Christian witness how do we think we're mature enough to introduce "apostles" and "prophets" among us as the latest sign of restoration? How dare we think we can understand what their roles are in our churches, and how will we have the backbone to deal with those "five fold" who claim to speak exclusively for God and demand obedience to their rule?
As one local Charismatic church staffer once said in a recent Sunday morning service at their church: "How are we going to take a city for God if we can't even get people to run our nursery?"
Learning Discerning: The Unfinished Task For A Five Fold Destiny
I close with these last remarks:
I am fully committed to Pentecost, to true revival where real transformation of people's lives occurs and God's Spirit is in control of the whole proces. I am committed to being where God surprises everyone - where no orchestration or any MAN gets glory, where none of his manifest glory is attributed to a "river" coming from someplace or another, from so and so's "anointing" or another. Anyone who knows me knows I am the biggest duck in the pond when worship flows. I will shout at the drop of the hat and will drop it myself. I am at the altars to serve and minister to folks seeking God, seeking His grace. I have had the pleasure of seeing God do great things as I besought Him to minister to people, have had the privilege of counseling on the spot, of preaching in campmeetings.
Since I am no stranger to Pentecost, it should come as no surprise to you that I hate it all the more when I see it being associated with some of the most aggressively deceptive and brazen alien spirituality we are being force fed by abusive and even cultic five fold "ministers" supposedly gushing forth what they call the "waters of the Spirit" in the "river of God." To me, a fair amount of what they advance is a stinking torrent of poison.
So therefore, Pentecost itself is being confronted with one of the deadliest challenges it has ever faced since the first century: the enemy is now JOINING us at the altars in ways we've been trying to describe that just seem totally mindboggling. And it is now riding the plush carts of the five fold bandwagon, guarded by armorbearers and magnified by the media-driven culture that supports it as the latest revelatory act of God among us. I have absolutely no bitterness toward anyone or any of these moves and certainly no jealousy. I embrace all of these people involved in as brethren, but as brothers and sisters plunging deeper into error out of ignorance of the Bible's command to test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
I regularly wonder Dear GOD! how can Spirit-baptized, Bible reading people not DO the most NEEDFUL things and DISCERN the madness that is out there?
Sadly, long ago, I came to know what the answer is. Do you know why? It's because they aren't reading their Bible anymore, at least not the parts in Scripture that command us to test!
Matthew 24:4 - "Take heed that no man deceive you."
Acts 20:30 - .. Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them .."
Hebrews 5:14 - " .. Them that are of full age .. (are) .. those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
Are you spiritually mature? You will be discerning.
Are you spiritually of full age? You will be exercising your spiritual senses to tell the difference!
That is where the proverbial rubber meets the road in regards to the so called "five fold ministry." It's time we start demanding and expecting Biblical foundations for our faith, not the traditions of men. It's time the people of God arise up to the royal priesthood they were called to be, to grow up and cease their preoccupation with the things of this world so as to truly be given God's power to minister in the things of the next one to come.
Above all, it's time that the five fold ministry itself to return back to the Bible and be what God has ordained it should be - not what any "council" in closed roundtable meetings watching Powerpoints plans it should be for the next fiscal year.
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