Today I’m reposting this question from 2008:
Someone asked about the meaning of “five-fold ministry”, which is a term often used these days.
First, thanks for finally asking a ‘softball question’ that I can easily answer!
The term gets its origin from Ephesians 4:11-13 where the various ministry gifts that Jesus has given to the Church are listed: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Since there are a total of five, oftentimes this kind of minister is referred to as a ‘five-fold ministry’, to distinguish from the fact that according to the New Testament, all of us as believers are ‘ministers’, since each of us has a ministry from the Lord to fulfill. It’s perhaps a healthier way to view the Church rather than the traditional “clergy v. laity” terminology that is contrary to Scripture.
The Ephesian 4:11 ministers are called and gifted by the Lord specifically for the word of equipping the members of the church to fulfill their individual ministries. Much has been written on the specifics of those fivefold ministers, but let me give my brief summary here:
Apostles are ‘fathering’ ministries who generally open up new areas for the gospel (such as missionaries who bring the Gospel into an unreached area) and/or who have many churches/ministers under their covering or leadership, who look to them for oversight.
Prophets are often trans-local ministers (meaning, they may travel and minister to the Body of Christ at large, rather than ministering in one local church), and they are gifted to see and proclaim word from God that often reveal the future or establish God’s heart on particular matters. Prophets are often thought to be ‘ahead of their times’ and tend to see things in clear black-and-white ways rather than shades of gray.
Evangelists are gifted to lead lost people to Christ, and to train others to do the same. They are often gifted with the working of miracles or healing gifts, to help facilitate their ministry to the lost.
Pastors are the shepherds who are given to feed, guide and protect the sheep (members) of a local church.
Teachers are gifted by the Lord to teach His Word to His people, with clarity and insight, so that the Word can be lived out.
To be honest – and I hope this doesn’t stir up needless controversy – a careful reading of Ephesians 4:11 indicates only a ‘fourfold’ ministry, since the office of pastor and teacher is joined, as in pastor-teacher. This is easy to understand, since one of the primary requirements for a pastor is that he be able to teach.
Finally, I suspect the reason that the term is used quite often these days is to distinguish the fact that the Church (or individual using the term) does believe in all five of these ministries as being valid today. For many years, it seemed the Church as a whole only embraced three of the five (evangelists, pastors and teachers) and the ministry-gift of Apostle and Prophet was considered by many to have ended in the early years of the New Testament. However, like many churches across the globe, CLC definitely embraces the role of Apostles and Prophets as still be valid (and needed!) in the church today.
P.S. Among the many excesses that I’ve witnessed in the Church is the proliferation of ministers who are “claiming” the titles without doing the ‘stuff’. Quite often I hear someone referred to as “Apostle so-and-so” who in reality has never fathered anything and has no real following of churches and ministers, etc. At CLC, we prefer to err on the other side; i.e., we don’t often use the title; we just thank God for the ‘ministry’. Thus, I may refer to someone as providing ‘apostolic oversight’ to a group of churches instead of calling him, ‘Apostle’. In my humble opinion, real men and women of God aren’t interested in titles; they are doing the ministry! May their kind never cease until we reach that perfect day of Christ-