The term “fivefold ministry” comes from Ephesians 4:11-12: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
Jesus has given various ministry gifts to the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. If the church is to be healthy it needs the influence of all five of these gifts. Unfortunately, it is very rare to see this happening today. We need a resurrection of team ministry and a healthy balance of ministry gifts.
Below is a brief description of my understanding of the fivefold ministry gifts. Keep in mind that these gifts refer to a person. With the nine manifestation gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 a person may have a gift or operate in a gift; with the fivefold ministry gifts the person is the gift.
The apostle, more than the others, is focused on the kingdom of God advancing in the earth. An apostle is “one who is sent” in order to extend the borders of God’s kingdom and establish it in a region or sphere. Apostles operate in great spiritual authority, move in signs and wonders, establish church order, build according to the pattern of heaven, impart spiritual gifts, father others into ministry, and bring the church into maturity. An apostle will probably have first been one of the other ministry gifts, and will be able to flow in various roles.
The prophet, more than the others, is focused on the immediate voice of God (or the rhema word). Prophets have great ability to receive the heart and mind of God and declare it to people, churches, cities, and nations. Prophets receive revelation from the Lord in various ways but I would say that the most common is through hearing and seeing. They equip the church to hear the voice of God for themselves, and to move in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit.
The evangelist, more than the others, is focused on the lost. Evangelists burn with a passion to see the lost come to the saving knowledge of Jesus and make this the primary aim of their ministry. They are gifted in reaching the lost in various ways, whether by preaching or personal connection. They also equip the church to evangelize.
The pastor, more than the others, is focused on the flock. The pastor builds long term relationships with a group of believers and provides oversight, spiritual nourishment, care, healing, and correction when needed. Pastors are true shepherds – they love the people of God and want to see them healthy and whole, and living in the destiny that God has for them. I have observed that many people who carry the title “pastor” are not really pastors, but one of the other ministry gifts. If this is the case, the congregation will not flourish unless someone else in leadership is fulfilling the pastoral role.
The teacher, more than the others, is focused on the written Word of God (or the logos). Teachers have a great love for the Scriptures and are concerned that the people of God become grounded in the Word. They have the ability to communicate the Word in ways that people understand and they cause others to hunger for the Word. The teacher and the prophet bring a great balance to each other, as we need to be both grounded in the Bible and open to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Here is the result of the fivefold ministry gifts functioning properly in the church:
“…the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:12-16).
Let’s ask the Lord for a true restoration of all five of the ministry gifts and for team ministry to once again be the norm in the church. The result will be glorious!