Originally published on the Forge Scotland blog.
We’ve all been there. That moment when your eyes are opened to Ephesians 4 anew, and you begin to think about the implications of what a 5-fold ministry would look like in your church. You begin to look at your leadership team, and think more about their particular gifting, and how these things interact. You look at your church, and think about how it reflects, or doesn’t, different aspects of these 5 key ministries. You look back at your own history, and think of the leaders you have sat under. You’ve maybe even felt a certain amount of compassion for those in leadership who have tried to shape themselves into the “shepherd-teacher” model, even though it’s obvious (in hindsight) that their talents leaned towards one or the other.
Releasing the fullness of the APEST ministries is vital to the long-term health of the church, not just “mission”, but also discipleship and pastoral care1. But there is a danger here.
I’m a teacher. That is – it’s my primary gifting within the church (as opposed to my profession). I’ve known about this for a while, and most likely those around me have known about it for a while longer. I’ve been involved in church in Whiteinch for over 18 years now, and a proportion of that time in leadership. Being well connected through social media, every now and then an advert will cross my digital desk for a leadership post in Scotland, and I’ll have a little look at the details. It’s always good to be open to God moving you somewhere. More importantly, it’s always interesting to find out whether I could afford to leave my paid job to teach a church somewhere else!
I’ve seen quite a few of these adverts over the years, from all sorts of different churches. Some obviously come from a more charismatic, fivefold ministries background. Many still are looking for someone who fits within the aforementioned shepherd-teacher role. But some don’t. Here’s the thing that concerns me though. It seems we are in danger of replacing the traditional role of pastor-teacher, with the modern, trendy role of apostle-teacher. Or prophet-teacher. Sometimes (albeit rarely) evangelist-teacher.
Now – I’m fully read up on Mike Breen. I understand (and fully endorse) the idea of “phase” gifting. I believe strongly that, particularly in leadership, we should seek to develop ourselves in all of the fivefold ministries, regardless of our “base” gift. I even blogged about it here a year ago2. But we are in danger of falling into the DRY trap.
DRY is an acronym often used in computer programming circles. It simply stands for Don’t Repeat Yourself. I think we, as a church in Scotland, are running the risk of repeating ourselves. Of replacing the one-man shepherd-teacher ministry, with a one-man apostle-teacher ministry. And at the risk of stating the obvious: it won’t work. It will certainly produce different results, but not better results. And we will end up with burned out teachers, who are trying hard to be apostolic, and frustrated apostles, who feel limited by the ongoing responsibilities of teaching.
It’s great that we’re seeing a resurgence of the APE giftings in the church. Long may that continue. But it needs to be coupled with a better grasp of the plurality of leadership, and a quelling of the desire to produce a “figurehead” to stand at the front of our churches. Our churches have a figurehead. His name is Jesus. He is a true apostle, the prophetic Word of God, the embodiment of the evangel, the great High Priest, and the most wonderful teacher ever to walk this earth.