strange fires

The Five Fold Ministry And Spiritual Abuse: Part 2 of 4

by Rev. Rafael D. Martinez, Co-Director, Spiritwatch Ministries

The five-fold ministry is a concept of church leadership based upon the ministry of men and women who have been supposedly divinely called and "anointed" with one of five "ministry gifts" listed in Ephesians 4:11. Unfortunately, as in other corps of ministerial tribes across Christendom, there are also aberrant and unstable members of this fivefold ministry that have institutionalized imbalance not only in doctrinal but practical matters to the great ruination and shipwreck of Christian faith for those hapless believers who have submitted to their authority. But I also contend that not all who claim to be in a fivefold office are necessarily involved in such serious errors. That is the last thing I would believe about the fivefold ministry! Do not claim I have said that the next person claiming to be an apostle or prophet is necessarily and automatically in error, for I have said no such thing!

There is a far greater company of five fold ministers who are steadfastly doing their best to lead the Christians who they care for into deeper depths with God. They labor largely in obscurity and humility, seeking to serve the Christian Church whereever they go. Such men and women of God are not directly responsible for the frightful kinds of imbalance that can be too easily seen today. Sadly, their inestimable good is what is so tragically spoken evil of by the abuses that do take place, but it is a credit to their walk with God that they continue pressing on in their service of His flocks worldwide.

There is much spoken of and practiced concerning the fivefold concept nowadays that is Biblical and Christ-centered, but not all of it is that spiritually healthy. That is the point that I need to make very clear: some of it is quite unbiblical and man-centered and far more of it falls into this dangerous pit than you would want to believe. I'm not writing to argue for or against the five fold concept as I have shared it - indeed, my own views on the subject would not be bought into by many in the Pentecostal and Charismatic cultures. Instead, the concept will be examined here to help provide some insight on its function from a Pentecostal perspective. This is crucial in understanding the imbalanced application and the abuses of the concept that has adversely affected Christians worldwide. We first need to understand how those of the five fold ministry see themselves and how they represent their work to the Church at large.

The Five Fold Ministry View Of Itself

Let us start with the Biblical bases that five fold ministers cover when speaking of their calling. There are three New Testament verses that they cite as a Biblical mandate for what they perceive as divinely appointed leadership: these are considered foundational to their understanding of what "five fold" ministry is to be.

Ephesians 2:20 - (the household of God) built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone

Ephesians 4:8,11-13 - Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men .. 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

1 Corinthians 12:28 - And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

These verses are Scriptures that fivefold ministers contend are Biblical principles for Christian leadership and spiritual formation that directly mandate their calling and leadership. The "priesthood of believers", a Protestant distinctive advanced by Evangelicalism’s emphasis on the interaction of the Christian community of faith to provide evangelistic and discipling influences (implicit in verses like 1 Corinthians 4:1 and 1 Peter 2:9) is the basis for this innovative ministry approach.  Fivefold ministers are to empower the church community to become active participants in the outreach and activity of the local church.

And within the literature, teaching and culture that has developed among the fivefold ministry-led churches, additional Scriptural supports are used to support the fivefold ministry ideal which provide a crucial insight into how it is to practically worked out in the church community:

1 Corinthians 4:15 - For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.  

Romans 1:11 - For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

The Ephesians reference concerning the “perfecting of the saints” is presented in these two verses as a process of spiritual maturation facilitated by close mentoring relationships. The modeling example of is the character of the fivefold minister in addition to their teaching & practice. The fivefold culture which is to ardently devote itself to helping Christians achieve full spiritual maturity is seen as best doing this through the intentional usage of close interpersonal relationships with them to bring about this mentoring influence. Called "spiritual fathering" in some circles, the fivefold "fathers" are to pour their lives out by godly, patient example in intimate spiritual relationships. Some fivefold ministries have established so-called "spiritual tribes" where intimate modeling occurs on a regular, even daily basis in communal settings involving itinerant traveling ministry.

Spiritualizing interpretations of these two verses as well as others throughout the Bible are employed by fivefold-influenced ministries to further expand upon this relational dimension of fivefold ministerial influence. This is one of the most notable features of fivefold ministry that can be seen beyond the identification of someone being an apostle or prophet. A heavy emphasis on allegory and symbolism is used in fivefold-oriented teaching to bring some hidden insight about current events, social controversy and even the tension between various factions in church circles. There are various metaphors drawn from the acts of romance, fathering, creation and birthing to explain the body life of fivefold oriented ministries and congregations - interpretations that have ranged from the profound to the bizarre. One example is the spiritualized allegory employed by fivefold advocates who use 1 Kings 18:44 as an additional clarification of their divine calling. The verse reads:

1 Kings 18:44  And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man‘s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.

This has a reference to a cloud seen by the prophet Elijah that was the size of a man's hand during the approach of a rainstorm. The literal rainstorm signified His sovereignty to apostate Israel after his clash with the false prophets of Baal, but those who advance fivefold ministry using this verse have to do so on a very shaky supposition: one five-fold pastor and writer offers a typical allegorical approach:

When Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal, the glory of God appeared to Elijah's servant … Elijah was on Mount Carmel with Ahab and four hundred prophets of Baal. Seven times Elijah sent his servant to look for any signs of rain. The seventh time he went, (seven is God's perfect number) he saw a little cloud, as a hand, raising out of the sea. As we view what God is revealing Spiritually, we discover the cloud shaped like a man's hand rising out of the sea represents something very special. The sea represents a multitude of peoples, nations, and tongues. The hand coming out of the sea of people represents the five fold ministry God is raising up in the earth: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, *** Ephesians 4:11. The fact the hand is little reveals this is a small group or remnant that will rise out of the great multitude of people to do God's service. The cloud represents God's glory. God's glory will shine upon this remnant ministry to usher in the Kingdom of God upon the earth. Today there is a sea of over six billion people on the earth. There has never been this many people on the earth at one time in history. Out of that sea of people, God is raising the little hand ministry. It is coming with the cloud of glory, and it will minister with the power and glory of God. (11)

Each "finger", representing one of the five fold offices, comprises the total "hand" ministry. This goes on to beg the question: if a hand is being employed to figuratively portray the fivefold ministry, what significance - if any - is there of the position of the fingers involved? Some fivefold advocates claim that the thumb and index finger of this dubious illustration of the five fold ministry relate are fulfilled by the apostolic and prophetic offices and go to great lengths in providing elaborate expansions upon the symbolism of the word picture. Others make no such distinctions and indeed downplay them. As we've pointed out, the diversity in fivefold ministry can make consensus on such a position a fairly complicated task.

So what are the fivefold ministries generally trying to accomplish? Why do they exist and who is involved in them? A full discussion of this goes way beyond the scope of our article, and rightly deserves a better investigation than I can provide here but I think I can safely say that there are three overall objectives that five fold ministers would generally agree upon as the measure of their ministerial achievement:

Spiritual Growth - The goal of the "perfecting of the saints" or the discipling, equipping and spiritual maturation of Christian believers under the oversight of the fivefold ministry is one its' chief goals. As the passages in Ephesians 4 point out, the mature believer will be one no longer tossed to and fro by the currents of doctrinal falsehood, but will be rooted firmly in the Faith. Dutch fivefold pastor J.H. Koning concisely explains how the five ministerial "gifts" are to interact in the context of the local Christian church.

Let's have a look at the five-fold ministry. As a father provides for the family, so will the apostle feed with the Word. The prophet will then bring light, revelation and the truth. The evangelist brings the salvation message, he directs to the Lamb. The shepherd ministry is the ministry close to the heart of God and finally the teacher will wash with the Word (12).

With the glaringly and even woefully anemic spiritual state of believers as well as churches worldwide in a spiritual malaise all too obvious to behold, it would seem to be most encouraging and heartening to know that there are spiritual mentors and shepherds actively dedicated to the betterment and strengthening of the members of the Church. Several years ago, in a local meeting of a fivefold ministry held in a Holiday Inn ballroom, I beheld and videotaped the oracle of a fivefold prophet who prophesied the emergence of a "new form" and "new move" of God's Spirit through two local self-proclaimed apostles whose "ministry" became anything but a new move of God (but we'll discuss that later): this prophet's utterance reinforced the perfecting goal, however factionalizing the manner in which it was phrased:

For man has had his turn to do it his way, and they have arranged the offices of my callings as they have seen fit. I say no more. I say no more. And I am raising up through these apostles the new form and the new move of my Spirit, which moves in the five fold ministry, not in the one fold ministry. It begins with the apostles and the prophets and the evangelists and the pastors and the teachers. And as every man stands in his place and his anointing that I have set for  him, then the people are correctly fed, and the people are correctly taught, and the people are correctly raised up in discernment (13). (Click here to watch the prophecy)

Church Leadership - As has already been mentioned, the raising up of the five fold ministry in the local church is seen as a provision of divinely appointed leadership for the Body of Christ. Since they have been raised up by God's express will, the person of the five fold minister is seen as a Spirit-led "gift" to the church which it must heed and follow. They are leaders with special "offices" and ministries to guide and govern the Christian Church that drew upon the leadership gifts present in believers other than the traditional Pentecostal leadership roles of pastors. Such leadership, specially chosen of God and empowered by His Spirit, should be entrusted with the role of appointing church elders whose ministry they in turn will oversee as well known fivefold pastor Bob Yandian observes:

First, let's consider Acts 14:23 ... Paul and Barnabas were the ones who ordained the elders. What office did they stand in? They stood in the office of apostle. .. The principle should be clear. Those in ministry offices choose the elders; therefore, they have the authority over them. It's a simple delegation of authority. .. Who chooses the elders? The pastor does (Titus 1:5). Who has authority over them? The pastor does. We are not talking about authority in a natural sense of understanding. We are talking about DIVINE AUTHORITY WHICH COMES FROM THE THRONE OF GOD TO THE PEOPLE THROUGH A MINISTRY GIFT CHOSEN AND EQUIPPED BY THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. (14) (emphasis author's).

In recent years, with the onset of the "church growth" enterprise in Christian church leadership circles, much has been done to intentionally create new leadership models where church staffs adopt a team-based leadership structure based on intensely relational and interactive sharing and planning. The principles behind this have been circulated virtually throughout all of Christendom and have helped to foster the development of megachurches, "seeker-sensitive" church worship philosophy and the small group/cell church movements. Such innovations seemed tailor made for the fivefold ministries in Charismatic and Pentecostal churches worldwide. They have lead to their enthusiastic creation of "apostolic teams" and "spiritual father" mentoring programs as one of many new forms of Christian leadership, as advanced by fivefold "teaching apostle" Jim Hodges:

The Lord is shifting the Church into a five fold paradigm of ministry. We are abandoning one man ministry patterns for the team pattern. We are also moving from maintenance leadership into visionary leadership. This issue is addressed by both George Barna and Dr. C. Peter Wagner in their writings. .. This shift has to do with prioritizing the apostolic dimension of leadership while strongly embracing the pastoral dimension of leadership. The Church needs to pursue divine mission (apostolic) and to be maintained (pastoral). The church has shifted and continues to shift from a democratic form of government into a theocratic form of government. We are moving from a religious bureaucratic system to a fatherly-relational government which we find illustrated in the relationship of Paul and Timothy (15).

This is a profoundly insightful quote with implications consistent with the fivefold view of mentoring discipleship drawn from 1 Corinthians 4:15 and Romans 1:11. The importance of this connection will be discussed later and should be intentionally noted for reference.


Hodges here concurs and commends a specific kind of discipling model that is advocated by C. Peter Wagner, one of the most influential church leaders of the twentieth century. Wagner, a former Bolivian missionary, is known widely across the Protestant world as a renowned "church growth" consultant and professor teaching at the Fuller Seminary in California whose teachings on the subject were augmented by his enthusiastic embracing of more controversial classes involving the seeking of divine intervention to facilitate evangelism that includes and isn't limited to things like miraculous signs and wonders like healings, demonic deliverance and prophetic utterances. Like many other fivefold ministers, Hodges readily defers to Wagner's writings on this leadership "shift," seeing them almost as a divine authentication of the truth claims of the five fold "paradigm."


Wagner is on record as having embraced the teachings and authority of self-proclaimed fivefold "prophet" Bill Hamon. Hamon's influence is no less seminally profound in fivefold ministry circles and cannot be overstated.  And yet he is almost an invisible figure among them, even as his teachings are readily accepted as authoritative guidance by hundreds of thousands of fivefold ministers as well as millions of Christians globally for the past two decades. 

End Time Mission - The progressive influence of the fivefold ministry is clearly essential to the final plan of God for world evangelization and the Christian church's edification, according to the fivefold mindset. In fact, the fivefold ministry would assert, the Body of Christ cannot function properly nor come remotely close to the divine potential her Head has ordained she should rise to without His usage of their ministry to evangelize the world and equip the saints, as the Fountaingate Christian Foundation, a fivefold international teaching ministry in Australia emphasizes:

Christ has distributed ministry gifts, which enable the Church to function as His Body. But the five gifts of Ephesians 4:11 have a special purpose .. These five ministry gifts are not titles (eg. Apostle John, Prophet Jack, Pastor Paul), but ministry functions (eg. John an apostle, Jack a prophet, Paul a pastor). There is nothing "elevated" about these gifts (see 1 Corinthians 4:9-13). They simply have a special purpose .. These five leadership gifts were not simply given to do the work of the ministry but to enable God's people to do the work of the ministry. .. The five-fold ministry did not pass away at the end of the first century, but was given until the maturing of the Body in unity, knowledge and expression of Christ's fullness. Only when the ministries of Ephesians 4:11 begin functioning as God intended - both as individual ministries and as apostolic teams - will the purpose of their joint ministry be fulfilled "...until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ"   Ephesians 4:13 (16).

The Fountaingate brethren remind us again of just what the fivefold are set in place to do, to facilitate the full maturing of the Christian Church enmasse, but we must leave it to Latter Rain-influenced fivefold apostle/prophet Bill Hamon to make an even more radical claim: the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ actually depends upon fivefold influence:

All five, when moving in full maturity, represent Christ's full ministry to the Church. These ministries are not just an extension of Body ministry, but an extension of the headship of Christ to His Body, the Church. .. All fivefold ministries must be restored to the Church before it can be ready for Christ's return (Acts 3:21) (17).

This statement Hamon makes here is another one that should be noted for future reference, for as we shall see, his instruction here is not the idealized wish of a man yearning for Christian perfection but the foundation of a theology with staggering implications.

I will allow the passionate pen of Canadian fivefold "senior elder" Michael Scantlebury to provide what would seem to be the best summarization of how the fivefold ministry today view themselves. As I have observed, there is great diversity of opinion and teaching on this subject (which is a significant point that must be considered carefully), but Scantlebury's article seems to capture the spirit of the fivefold ministry quite well:

The five-fold ministry gifts are examples of how "grace has been given as Christ apportioned it" (Ephesians 4:7). All ministry is simply the ministry of Christ expressed through the believer by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  Regarding the "Five-fold" ministry gifts; it is as if the Lord Jesus Christ when He was about to leave planet earth did similar to what Elijah did to Elisha and released his mantle to him.  The only major difference with Jesus is that He tore His Mantle into five pieces and released them back into the earth - Namely Apostolic, Prophetic, Evangelistic, Pastoral and Teaching!  Please understand that Christ is our Apostle (Hebrews 3: 1), Christ is our Prophet (Luke 24: 19), Christ is our Evangelist (Matthew 9: 35), Christ is our Pastor/Shepherd (1 Peter 5: 2-4), Christ is our Teacher (John 3: 2)

Every ministry (including that of the five-fold) is an extension of the ministry of Christ Himself, who is the chief cornerstone of the Foundations "...God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone" Ephesians 2: 19-20. The foundation of the Church is the apostle and the prophet (note Ephesians 3: 4-5). Ephesians 4: 12-13 indicates that these two ministries still continue in that foundational role, so it is vital for us to understand how each of these ministries work (18).  


These are the claims of a global fivefold ministry being manifest across the world, supposedly at the leading of God's Spirit, to help equip, perfect and prepare the Church for the Second Coming of Christ. I have attempted to allow them to spell their case out to help us understand where they are coming from. This fivefold ministry is the backbone of much of the Charismatic and Pentecostal worlds that break the seas of Christian humanity everywhere, and their tribe is on the increase. 

Since many Christian researchers have plainly stated that Charismatic/Pentecostal forms of Christian faith and practice are the fastest growing Christian influences in the world, coming to understand their leadership among us would seem an essential element in helping us not only appreciate their "anointing" but to also discern their doings. Alarmingly, amid all of the excitement and energy that more and more Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are now dedicating to the concept is also an almost total lack of discernment and care in its rushing ahead to embrace "the new thing." 

Completely hidden in plain sight in the fivefold galaxy is the potential for the greatest restorational romanticism as well as radical ruination of the fields of the Lord among Charismatics and Pentecostals that I have ever seen. 

Since very few among our movements seem to be raising this critical issue, I shall add my own voice of discernment to it,  The frightening power resident in the five fold ministry to both restore as well as ruin will be understood better in our next section. 

No Consensus Beyond The Concept

The issue suggests an even deeper question: if the fivefold ministry has been lost to the church and is now recovered, when were apostles and prophets actually "restored" to the Church? In my years of ministry and in sharing with those who hold fast to five fold ministry concepts, I have come to learn that an answer to that question will depend on who you are speaking with as you may get many different answers. 

Some believe this occurred at the beginning of the Pentecostal outpouring over 100 years ago, whereas some view them as "ascension gift ministries" that were restored into the earth under the auspices of the Latter Rain movement in Western Canada in 1948. Still others hold that prophets were restored in the 1980's and apostles in the 1990's (this is becoming a dominant view), and that still greater restorations and revivals will come as a result of their emergence into the church world, as we will see. The point is that, for now, it is believed that the five fold ministry is a divinely restored ministerial institution that God has raised up to lead the Christian Church in the last days.

Beyond the observation that such a model is needed, little else is universally understood let alone agreed upon in how the fivefold minister is to function in the local church. I have come to this conclusion after 22 years as a Pentecostal minister who has dialogued with many Charismatic and Pentecostal fivefold ministry figures, read a lot of their literature, listened to their preaching and teaching and who has also shared with those under their ministerial authority. There is amazingly little that is agreed upon as to how the concept is to be incorporated into Christian church circles with wide diversity of opinion and teaching on the role of fivefold ministry is to play. In many Pentecostal and Charismatic quarters, the fivefold ministry isn't even recognized, let alone understood. In his book The House Of His Choosing, on page 109, this is briefly alluded to by fivefold pastor/prophet Jim Wies almost in passing: "..the number of prophetic procedures are probably as many as the number of kinds of churches." 

This casual comment is both compelling .. and cautionary, revealing a state of affairs among Pentecostal and Charismatic churches who believe in being led by one Spirit in one accord (1 Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 4:4 and Philippians 1:27) but who instead facilitate a diversity that is maddeningly sectarian in and of itself.

In speaking with those ranging from youth group leaders to Bible college students to church mothers, I find the willingness of Pentecostals and Charismatics to accept the fivefold ministry concept to be undeniable and enthusiastic. To them, the gracious gifting of the church with the fivefold ministry as described in Ephesians 4:11 is a direly needed new reality the church sorely needs today. And yet beyond the conviction that the fivefold ministry fills a necessary place in their churches, few of these same people seem to have a clear grasp upon just what those places actually consist of. I have yet to hear of any widespread consensus on how the fivefold ministry is to work together, "flowing under the anointing" of the Spirit, to intentionally foster the spiritual growth of Christians under their influence.

This should be the legacy of a practical outworking of the Ephesians 4 mandate they are to fulfill: the establishing of a solid unity of the Church in the faith and knowledge of Christ that results in a spiritual perfection manifest in both personal and doctrinal integrity among the members of the Body of Christ within it. One would assume that some mutual and indepth understanding and wisdom should be shared and adhered to. Startlingly, this is not to be found. This is a rather astonishing observation, but one I think is borne out by my own years of participation in the Christian church circles where the fivefold ministry has long been accepted. There doesn't appear to be any one authoritative figure or body of authoritative teaching on fivefold doctrine or practice that is universally agreed upon. However, there are many luminaries in the Charismatic and Pentecostal who certainly would lay claim to that kind of binding authority and who let their disciples say so, while clinging to a pretended humility cloaking naked and carnal ambition.

Now certainly there is no shortage of views, opinions, and teachings on this issue as shared by many fivefold ministers. In fact, there has been an exponentially growing amount of activity, publications and meetings incorporating the apostolic and prophetic dimensions of the fivefold ministry in the past 10 years like never before. One can find an increasing amount of writings and popular teachings that expound upon one view or another on the fivefold ministry, but there is no universal standard of ministerial task agreed upon by all that exists. There is great acceptance of the ministry of the fivefold prophet, for example, and equally great receptivity to their dispensing of "rhemas" and prophetic words in special services. Such prophets fill churches, hotel banquet rooms and convention centers everywhere with people seeking their divine oracles and hearing their preaching.

But in the cold dawn of the day after their visitations, one will find that there is little agreement upon just what their day to day ministerial responsibilities would be within the local church when working together with other "fivefold" figures as mandated by the Ephesians 4:11 ministry model. Contrast this dearth of clearly understood fivefold ministry mission interaction to that which is well known concerning the traditional roles of pastors and teachers in the local church and you will understand what I am referring to.

Because there is a real lack of generally accepted definition of their ministry functions when working together, the inevitable has occurred: the development of a generally confusing and contradictory theological tangle concerning their operation in the contemporary Church. This is a profoundly significant issue that has enormous implications for the fivefold ministry as it exists today. Imagine trying to build your dream retirement home with contractors, architects, construction workers and foremen who couldn't decide what the symbols on the blueprints mean, how to plumb the home or if plaster is the same as concrete. Imagine the quality and stability of a building whose builders couldn't agree on the dimensions or where the fixtures should be installed and what might be the result. Windows might be placed in closets, power outlets might be miswired incorrectly or not at all, and the walls may have gaping crevasses open to the exterior because the drywall and framing wasn't properly squared.

Now try to imagine what would happen when the local building inspector comes to check up on the structural integrity of such a home before anyone can dwell in it. What kind of results from the inspection would you expect to receive? How would you feel after you've spent your lifetime saving and sacrificing for a well built home only to find what could only be described as a real mess? It might be a laughable word picture straight out of a "Home Improvement" episode where Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor has gotten loose with comedic havoc on some construction project. But the spiritual maturity of the fivefold-led house of the Lord during the dusk of the last day of the last days is no laughing matter, and this illustration regrettably seems to me to be a good image of just how tragically incomplete the fivefold-led Christian church actually is.

I would contend further that it demonstrates how high and dry the Christian church has actually been left with its lack of fivefold doctrinal and practical agreement. For with the lack of Body wide understanding and agreement upon this issue, how can the Church be then perfected as it is supposed to be? How can the Christian Church truly mature and rise to its' God-ordained potential if the fivefold aren’t working together as they should? While much is made about the church embracing some latent glory it is supposed to arise to, buzzwords like “destiny” and “new things” are thrown about in five fold circles as an exciting prophecy of deeper depths and higher heights. 

But while there is a lot of planning, funding and activity observable everywhere, it doesn't immediately translate to observable progress that can be measured and assessed. In this Pentecostal's perspective, the hard truth yet remains: the much hyped impact of the “five fold” to change the church's destiny leaves much to be desired and much differing, even contradictory viewpoints afloat everywhere will not contribute to a complete church but instead bring about a confused one instead.

 Much Confusion About The Concept

Let's consider a few of these rather fundamental contradictions, glaring disagreements that seem to quash any real foundational direction for a fivefold ministry role. Consider this question - which of the fivefold ministry roles, if any, are to be the most authoritative in the local church? Which of the fivefold ministry roles provide divine guidance to them? Fivefold pastor Bob Yandian makes this rather incredible and unequivocal statement: "The pastor holds the same position in the local church that the Lord Jesus Christ does in the universal church" (19).  But it is firmly countered by the teaching of Morningstar Ministries founder Rick Joyner, the well known fivefold prophet who asserts that "the prophetic ministry is the primary vehicle through which the Lord gives timely direction to his people" (20). This obviously suggests some serious differences in so very vital a question.         

Another issue that arises is that the fivefold are said by some to be able, through the laying on of hands and by prophetic utterance, to "impart" to others actual spiritual giftings and ministry callings. Spiritual giftings (described in 1 Co. 12:4-11) and Spirit-empowered ministry (described in Romans 12:4-8) are Biblically ordered manifestations of divine power extended into the natural world and are accepted as a part of normative Christian faith among Pentecostals and Charismatics. Many questions arise over spiritually gifted believers submitting to the fivefold ministry model, but none more basic than this one: does the fivefold ministry "activate" spiritual giftings and callings to believers through any sort of impartation? Without a doubt they do, says Californian fivefold apostle David Cannistraci: "Apostles may assemble a prophetic presbytery to lay hands on those .. being ordained. .. This team .. will impart spiritual gifts to candidates" (21).  But the late Kenneth Hagin, well known Word of Faith (and fivefold) teacher, strongly disagrees with: "That’s impossible! I call it laying empty hands on empty heads! And it causes a problem in the Body of Christ .. it is dangerous to do so" (22). Hagin's vehement protest raises a few issues here which we will get into later, but for now, it is important to emphasize that such a strong disagreement cannot be lightly ignored.

A third major question is also quite basic to the issue at hand: does the fivefold ministry actually provide governing leadership in the Christian Church?  Although there is generalized agreement that fivefold ministers, by default, are deemed to be church leaders, there is still disagreement upon to what extent their "governments" (1 Cor. 12:28) should directly lead the church. "The fivefold ministry is not really a 'government' for the church. They are ministries to function within the strategy and vision (of the local church)" says Dutch fivefold pastor Abraham Flippo (23). But Flippo's idealism would appear to be directly countered by Rick Joyner's assertion he penned for a "revival" magazine stating that "some of the church's important spiritual generals .. (the fivefold) .. will equip the saints .. and lead them with strategy and vision" (24). This exaltation of the role of the fivefold ministry in the church is widespread, but by no means has it been raised to a cultural constant among Pentecostals and Charismatics. No matter their status and the deference given them, they have yet to find a place of authority so compelling that church leaders outside their circles readily submit to them.

The point of these brief comparisons is simply this: anyone should be willing to concede that where there is confusion or disagreement among so great a number of influential Christian leaders the very real danger for misguidance is also present. The sheer size of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements and the subcultures that have developed under their influence have guaranteed the development of schools of thought, doctrine and practice among them that are often at odds with one another. Whole cultures and worlds of Christian life exist within the Body of Christ that have little to no contact with one another simply because of their cultural and geographic remoteness from one another. And this has enormous consequence that directly affects how the fivefold idea is articulated and circulated among the "Full Gospel" flocks of the Lord. The Charismatic Latter Rain circles of the Northwest have much in common and yet very distinctive differences from the Pentecostal cultures of the Church of God of Prophecy in South India, just as surely as the small village Pentecostal fellowships of Haitians would find common cause yet radically differ from the urban church life of Stockholm's Word of Faith adherents in Sweden.

That such differences exist is not the issue, but what they imply is what is often completely overlooked by many of the aspiring fivefold innovators of the day. They try to sidestep the denominational, ethnic and historical directions they have taken independently of one another, and even try to put into a comfortable context they’ve settled on that rationalizes away this long standing diversity - all the while trying to introduce their own notion of a fivefold ministry authority that they teach should be followed as the sure path to Christian unity and reconciliation. These differences that exist, however, and their inevitable result is the creation of even more factionalism, more polarization between the disciples of Teacher W or Pastor X - but in new contexts involving the entire Charismatic and Pentecostal movements globally.

While their goals may be noble, the results are very much indeed a mixed bag with many a sharp, even slashing, edge protruding. For there is no mass arising of church unity seen anywhere among these church circles, let alone the Body of Christ. The plain truth is that the external signs of such "unity" are, for all of their heartfelt expression, quite minimal and make little impact on the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches, let alone the rest of the Body of Christ globally.

Disagreement on how the fivefold ideal is to operate shouldn't be accepted as a sign of healthy diversity alone but a very real and present danger as well, for it is the Holy Spirit of God that is said to be the author of such contradictory and confusing fivefold teachings. If this appalling situation is indeed the case, if God's Spirit is responsible for the inspirations that prompt the fivefold to disagreement, then the very foundations of Christian truth are under a load that will certainly crumble it. Jesus Christ our Lord made clear two millennia ago that a house divided against itself will not stand. That applies to the house of God found in the hearts of His people who dwell in the sphere of Charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity as well as the rest of the Body of Christ. To believe that divine truth can be so easily contradicted by the preferential choice of one church faction over another is to undermine the foundations of Christian faith. Of course we would agree that there are always going to be cultural differences and differences of emphasis among believers around the world, but the plain fact that there is no universally accepted doctrinal or practical standard established on Biblical principles that would govern the fivefold ministry leaves a wide open door for both innovation and insurrection, for control freaks as well as the "Spirit led", for revival fire as well as renewal wildfire.

We've been compelled to mention throughout these first two articles, as well as imply in our series title that there have been dark things afoot in the shadows cast by the bright images and vibrant fellowship of fivefold ministry. We've alluded to them throughout these first two articles with little understatement for the issue is serious enough that it demands direct confrontation. These incidents have left hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of Christians in the dust to deal with the crushing impact of spirituality twisted to the dictates of men and women behaving very badly indeed. In our next article, we will have to unblinkingly expose, examine and define this tragic phenomenon and call it what it really is - spiritual abuse wrought by the hand of "fivefold ministry."


(11) The author, George Kirkpatrick, claims to be a pastor and teacher of a New Jerusalem Fellowship in Fort Fairfield, Maine. Regrettably, as if to underscore just how questionably spiritualizing his interpretation becomes, you may find on his site his writings claiming spiritual parallels between the Body of Christ and the Great Pyramid of Giza, using the same kind of unsound Biblical interpretation that led other groups such as the Watchtower Society into viewing human landmarks as sources of divine truth: "We pray the Spiritual insight given in this book will inspire you to seek God in a new way, a new and living way, as we examine the interior of God's Stone Bible."

(12) Archived page on file.

(13)   Unknown local fivefold prophet "Prophetic Word." Home video, August 29, 1998

(14)   Bob Yandian, Decently And In Order (Whitaker House, 1983), p. 11, 19



(17)   Bill Hamon, Prophets And Personal Prophecy (Destiny Image, 1987), p. 91-92


(19)  Yandian, ibid, p. 23.

(20)  Rick Joyner, Overcoming The Religious Spirit (Morningstar, 1995), p.16

(21)  David Cannistrici, The Gift Of Apostle (Regal, 1996)

(22)  Kenneth Hagin, He Gave Gifts Unto Men (Faith, 1994), p. 5

(23) Archived page on file.

(24)  Rick Joyner, "The Mark Of A Prophet.Send The Fire, June 1998, p. 9.

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