Ministry gifts

The list of the ministry gifts are found in Ephesians 4:11-13: “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 fullness of Christ:”

Purpose for the ministry gifts: 

First of all: To equip saints for work of ministry.

We notice from this passage that the ministry is supposed to be done by the saints. Therefore, one of the purposes of the ministry gifts is to prepare the saints to do what God has called them to do. For example, an evangelist, will not only evangelize the lost, but he will also help others in the body of Christ to evangelize. It is not God’s will that the ministry in the church is only performed by one or two special people, but everyone is t be involved in the work of the Lord. The following scriptures confirm this:  Ephesians 4:16: “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies.” 1 Corinthians 14.26: “How is it then, brethren? When you come together, every one of you has a psalm, has a doctrine, hath a tongue, has a revelation, and has an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.”

Secondly: To edify the body of Christ:

There should be a strong emphasis in all the ministry gifts to encourage and edify the body of Christ.  We read about the ministry of Paul in the book of Acts, of how he continually strengthened and encouraged the believers. For example he said in 2 Corinthians 10.8:For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction.” Although rebuke is sometimes necessary, the highest priority should also be to encourage and edify the church. We read in Titus 2.15: These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority.”

Thirdly: They are to lead by example:

We read in 1 Peter 5.3: “Neither as being Lords over the church but examples to the flock.” These ministry gifts are to lead by example and there are not control and dominate the church. Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 3:7, “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us…”

Fourthly: They are to disciple the church:

We read that they are to bring the church to the: “… 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 fullness of Christ.” These ministry gifts are not only called to preach sermons on Sundays, but to have an active program to disciple and mature the believers in the church.

Some important questions:

First of all, are all called to these ministry gifts? The answer is that not all are called to these gifts. On the other hand, if we have a desire for the ministry gifts, then we are probably called to them. However, God may still have to take some of us through a period of training before we are ready to function in these gifts. We read in 1 Timothy 3.1: “If a man desires a position of a bishop (pastor), he desires a good work.” Furthermore it is important to note that it is the anointing of the Holy Spirit that qualifies us for these gifts and not just our diplomas or our degrees. We read about what Nebuchadnezzar said to Daniel in Daniel 4.18: “You are able, for the Spirit of the Holy God is in you.” We are equipped, because the Holy Spirit has enabled us to function in these gifts!

Secondly, how do we know that someone is called to these gifts? The answer is, by their fruit! If we are teachers, we should have students. If we are apostles, we should plant churches! If we are evangelists we should regularly lead people to Jesus. If we are pastors, then we should have flocks.

Thirdly, what about titles and how should we treat these ministry gifts? Do we have to call them pastor, prophet or ‘man of God’, bishop, first lady etc. We do not see this  in the Bible, especially in the book of Acts. For example, when Paul writes, about himself, he refers to himself as Paul, but he refers to his ministry as that of an apostle. Furthermore, Jesus said, “Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.  And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:9-11)

There are two extremes to avoid: On the one hand there are churches that have gone to the extreme with regards to titles. They demand that their leaders be called by some title such as Bishop, Prophet, Pastor, Firstlady etc. One the other hand we also have churches that are too casual and treat their leaders with total lack respect and call everyone by their first names. There is a balance. First of all we must be sensitive to the type of person that we are speaking to. If the leader is highly regarded and older than us, we can show him honor by calling him by some title, For example, pastor. Secondly, it also depends on whether we address them privately or publicly. If example, if I speak to my senior pastor privately I will call him by his first name. But if I refer to him publicly, I will put the title ‘pastor’ in front of his name to honor his position.

A brief description of these gifts:

Apostles:

The word apostle was first referred to by the Romans. It was the ship that led a fleet of ships to establish a Roman government in a country that they had conquered. Therefore, the ministry of an apostle is not only to plant churches, but establish “church government” in a new area. This is what Paul did when he visited the churches that He had planted. He appointed pastors and elders.

In the Greek tradition, the word apostle comes from the Greek word “apostalos” which means “someone that is sent.” Therefore, an apostle can be someone who plants churches in a new area, or a pioneer missionary. However, not everyone who starts a church is an apostle! It is usually someone who starts a movement of new churches. In Mark 3:14 we read, “He appointed the twelve that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.

There are more than 12 apostles mentioned in the Bible. Timothy, Paul, Silas and Apollos were also apostles. It is also possible for women to also be apostles. For example, Priscilla (Romans 16:3) and Junia (Romans 16:7) were also apostles. We have modern day examples such as Heidi Baker who has planted many churches in Africa and Aimee McPherson who planted more than 500 churches and started a movement that has 4 000 churches in the USA.

An apostle is also a ‘father’ ministry that leads other ministries. These are often mature leaders that train and lead other leaders under them. (1 Corinthians 4:15) Furthermore, an apostle usually has a strong anointing to perform signs, wonder and miracles. 2 Corinthians 12.12:Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you … in signs, wonders and mighty deeds.”

The gift of an apostle is the highest of the ministry gifts. It is possible for someone to grow into this gift. He can start off as a pastor and later become an apostle. We have the example of Paul. In Acts 13:2 he was first a teacher and a prophet. Afterwards he became an apostle when he was sent out by the church. Furthermore, an apostle can usually operate in all the other ministry gifts.

Prophets:

A prophet is someone who gives prophetic direction to the church. One of the definitions of a prophet is found in Numbers 12.6:If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord will make Myself known to him in a vision, I will speak to him in a dream.” It is a person that often has dreams and visions from the Lord. The ministry of a prophet is a recognized leadership gift and is more than someone who give prophecies. In Ephesians 2:20 it says we are built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets. The prophet often helps the apostle with prophetic direction and confirmation. We have the example of Agabus in Acts 22:10. A prophet is recognized by the validation of his prophesies. What He prophesies, must come to pass! Jeremiah 28.9: “When the word of the prophet comes to pass, then the prophet shall be known as one whom the Lord has truly sent.”

Evangelists:

There are only a few evangelists mentioned in the Book of Acts. For example, Philip was an evangelist (Acts 21:8) and Stephen who was martyred was probably also an evangelist. An evangelist is someone that has an unusual anointing to lead people to salvation in Christ and has an anointing to perform miracles and healings. Mark 16.15-16: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel … these signs shall follow those who believe…”

However, although this is the scarcest of all ministry gifts, we are all called to do the work of an evangelist. (2 Tim 4:5). Evangelism adds the ‘spark’ to all the other ministry gifts. For example, a good pastor is one who leads people to Christ. Leading people to Christ should always be our highest priority. The evangelist should also work in a team. For example Philip, after he preached in Samaria, he invited Peter and John to come and establish the church (Acts 8)

Pastors.

This is the most common of the ministry gifts. The word pastor comes from the word ‘pasture’. Therefore, a pastor is a shepherd to the sheep and has the anointing to gather people around them. They are usually hospitable and love to be with people to encourage and help them.

A good pastor should be able to feed the flock and have the ability to teach and preach. We read in Jeremiah 3:15, “I will give you shepherds according to my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Paul writes to Timothy in 1Timothy 5.17,Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.”

In Acts 20.28, Paul has these following instructions to the pastors and leaders at Ephesus: “Take heed to yourselves and the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” 

Firstly: They must take heed to themselves. They must pay attention to their own spiritual lives as well as the flock. One of the pitfalls of a pastor, is that can be so busy serving people that they neglect their relationship with the Lord. There is a warning to pastors in Jeremiah 10:21The shepherds have become dull hearted and have not sought the Lord, Therefore, they shall not prosper and their flocks shall be scattered.”

Secondly: They must be aware that this ministry was given to them by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, he must have a dependency on the Holy Spirit to fulfill this calling. 

Thirdly: A pastor must realize that he does not own the sheep. The sheep, or the people they lead, belong to Jesus, therefore they are not to dominate and control the flock. They are given the stewardship of that which belongs to Jesus.

There is a wonderful promise for pastors in Proverbs 27:23-27. “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks. (Verse 26) The lambs will provide your clothing and the goats the price of a field (Verse 27) you shall have enough goats milk for you food, for the food of your household….” If a pastor takes good care of the flock they lead, the flock will take care of him.

Finally, there are great eternal rewards to those who are faithful pastors. We read in 1 Peter 5:2-4: “Shepherd the flock, serving as overseers, not by compulsion, but willingly. Not for dishonest gain, but eagerly; not being lords over those whom the Lord has entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of glory that does not fade away.”

Teachers:

We have example of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:1, and Apollos in Acts 18:26-28. For example, Appolos was “sharp in the word.” Therefore, one of the characteristics of teachers is that they love the word and people enjoy listening to them.  They have the ability to make complicated truths simple and help people to understand the word of God. We have an example of this in Nehemiah 8.8:So they (the teachers) read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.”

Finally:

The ministry gifts described in Ephesians 4 is a quote from Psalm 68:18 where we read, “You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men, even from the rebellious, That the Lord God might dwell there.” The last phrase says, “that the Lord might dwell there.” Therefore the highest purpose of these gifts is to reveal God to people and bring His presence to them. When these gifts properly operate in the church, there will be a full expression of Jesus in the church. He was the perfect apostle, prophet, evangelist and teacher. As we come to the end of the age, these gifts are going to come into full maturity. Amen