The Five Key Positions of Christian Ministry

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I’m reading an excellent book: The House Church Book by Wolfgang Simson.  It goes through the Bible and history to show and critique the structure and progression of the church (how it was, is, and should be), and provides one of the best explanations I’ve seen of the five-fold ministry.

Here is my shortened version of what Simson describes:

Pastor: the pastor is the shepherd of the flock.  He’s right in the midst of his people, making sure that the flock functions as a family.  He is internally and relationally oriented (making sure the sheep connect with God and to each other).  It’s also his job to defend the flock against false prophets.  And since he is so intimate with the flock, he may have trouble seeing the big picture.

Prophet: the prophet is always so far ahead of the flock that few understand him.  He’s on the lookout, listening to God’s voice and seeing visions of the future.  He’s so radically different from the pastor that they usually don’t get along as well.  While the pastor defends the status quo, the prophet is always questioning everything and wanting immediate action.  His job is to provide spiritual intelligence, cast personal and corporate vision, and exhort people according to God’s calling.

Apostle: the apostle is like the ‘army commander’.  He’s away from the flock (but not so far as the prophet) so that he can see the big picture.  Most concerned with strategy and missions, he is the problem solver and talent spotter of the team.  He unites the group (working hand in hand with the prophet) but is constantly running around so much he has no time to stay one place very long.

Teacher: the teacher is most concerned with ‘truth and nothing but the truth’.  He is detail oriented and thorough, focusing intently on the parts of the whole rather than the big picture.  He sits right outside the flock so he can discern how they’re doing.  He is passionate that his students learn to understand, explain and defend their faith.

Evangelist: the evangelist circles the flock closely, but is far enough away that he won’t smell like the sheep pen.  He introduces a healthy outward focus to the church and disciples new believers.  He’s passionate about the depth of conversion and the retention rate of new disciples, and wants everyone to find Jesus.

These positions of the five-fold ministry come from Eph 4:11: “He [Jesus] gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.”  All Christians are commissioned to evangelize (demonstrate the Christian lifestyle), prophecy (hear from God), disciple (strengthen and deepen the faith of other believers), et cetera, but the five-fold ministry describes ‘offices’ or ‘positions’ within the Christian community that are necessary for the church to function as the body of Christ.

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that many churches have too many pastors (internal relational people), and even more sheep.  This makes many churches very family oriented, safe, and encouraging places to be (assuming the pastors are fully fulfilling their roles), but doesn’t show believers with other giftings how to naturally grow and enter non-pastoring roles.  Worse, those working in these roles (particularly, the apostolic and prophetic) aren’t usually encouraged to participate in the church.  Consequently, many sheep are either not interested or not prepared to take on an active role in the body of Christ.

If the body of Christ is going to walk in fullness–as is prophesied must happen before Christ’s return (Eph 4:13)–then every member has it’s part, both in office, and in gifting.  So, if you’re a Christian, which position most fits you?

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3 thoughts on “The Five Key Positions of Christian Ministry

  1. Russell Barr

    Are these positions self-filling? I mean do people identify themselves, or is it the job of one of these positions to recogize those who would fit in those roles in the flock (sub-flock? that sounds funny)

  2. Ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who leads us into our God-given roles and equips us with the unique spiritual giftings to perform them. He could appoint us through personal revelation or through the discerning of a more mature Christian (though, even in the latter case, I believe He will provide personal confirmation).

    On a side note, the Lord has revealed to me an interesting mystery regarding His church body: it is to work just the same on the smallest levels (i.e. the marriage, the family, the small group, the individual ‘church’) as it does on more corporate levels (i.e. the city, the nation, up to the fullness of Christ). Regardless of the size of the flock, He is to be the head and priest and we are to learn to function as equal but different roles in His body.

  3. I like it. A church dominated by pastors is limited and limiting. But when an Apostle or apostolic missionary, an evangelist or teacher who tries to pastor a church when he is not anointed for this ministry, that can be worse. I have seen preachers and churches crash and burn like this. Imagine a racing driver trying to drive a taxi like it was a race! Imagine a brain surgeon trying to fix psychiatric patients by operating on them! Imagine a high school teacher trying to teach kindergarten or vice versa!

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