The Fivefold Ministry

Part 4 of the Series:

Questioning Church Authority

by Don Enevoldsen

Every time Dan approached we knew what to expect. “I just had a great sermon idea,” he said nearly every time I saw him.

Dan was a fellow Bible College student who had never preached any of his sermon ideas, but he had a lot of them outlined and collected for the day when he would get to use them. His identity as a pastor was tied to the sermons he accumulated. We just got tired of hearing the outlines every day, and wished he would hold them until there was a pulpit in front of him.

I tended to think disparagingly of Dan, though I did pretty much the same thing. The biggest difference was that I was not blatant about it, and I felt much more sophisticated. After all, I didn’t accumulate “sermons,” I created “teachings.” My material had depth and relevance, unlike Dan’s fluff.

At least that’s what I kept telling myself, and I hope you recognize my tongue in cheek self-deprecation. Looking back on that first year of school, I realize that very few of us in our freshman class of 150 or so were really much different from Dan. We thought of ministry in terms of giving sermons that changed people’s lives. We all envisioned ourselves in front of massive congregations who looked to us for their weekly dose of the Word of God. Of course, we didn’t say it that way. We used the right terminology about service and the will of God, but most of us engaged in the same fantasies.

A few years ago, I sat in a meeting in which Phil Cooke, a highly respected media consultant here in Los Angeles, discussed branding with a pastor who was about to launch a national television ministry. I noticed that there were two approaches to branding in the room. The pastor was looking for a way to sell his product, that is, himself. Phil was trying to discover the essence of the pastor’s ministry as it had already developed in order to give it focus and identity. They both used the same marketing language, but the difference in attitude was tremendous. One focused on recognition and identity. The other identified calling and sought to empower it.

This dichotomy is noticeable in the way people refer to church leaders. The most succinct biblical description of the goal of church leadership is in Ephesians 4:11-13.

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Before we can even consider what these leadership titles represent, we must consider the overall context. Our hierarchical mindset has dictated some unchallenged assumptions that give us an unhealthy view of our leaders and their function.

The verses leading up to Ephesians 4:11 contain some important details. Verse 8 quotes a passage in Psalm 68:18 that says, “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” Since a list of titles follows, we have taken it without question that the gifts given to men are the offices of leadership. In my days at Bible College, I took this to mean that as a pastor, I was a gift given by Jesus to the congregation.

The danger of thinking too highly of myself is inherent in that assumption. I am the pastor, the one specially called out to lead the congregation, elevated to a position of honor and responsibility. I’m special.

The text, however, doesn’t support this conclusion. Verse 7 says, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” Literally, the Greek reads, “grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” The gifts involved are not leaders, but the grace given to each one of us.

This means that each person in the assembly of believers has been given gifts to empower them to engage in some aspect of ministry, which will prepare God’s people for the work of building up the body of Christ.

Verse 11 begins with the words, “It was he who gave some to be…” An apostle is a person sent forth with a message. Some in the congregation will manifest that gift. Others will manifest the gift that makes them evangelists, or bearers of good news. Some will manifest the gift of a prophet, that is, one who speaks and interprets the will of God. Some will have the capacity for shepherding, which is the meaning of being a pastor. Some will teach.

These are not special, elevated offices. They are areas of ministry that every member of the assembly is expected to engage in. Leaders are those who devote themselves to ministry in such a way that they become obvious to the congregation for their way of life and their attitude. They deserve respect because they earn it, not because they have arbitrarily acquired a title.

By viewing our leaders as special gifts from God, we are more inclined to offer blind obedience without the kind of discernment that would insist on accountability. We also fail to realize that God expects every person in the church to grow into responsibility for the functions of ministry. We all have the gift of grace by the Holy Spirit, which means we all have been given the means to fulfill ministry, some through being sent, some through prophetic words, some through evangelism, some through shepherding, some through teaching.

The problem is that too many of us have absolved ourselves of those responsibilities in deference to those who desire and seek titles for their personal gain.

Next, Part 5: Church Hierarchy and Democracy

Go to the beginning of the series, Questioning Church Authority: Part 1: False Prophets

Do you have an additional thought on this subject that will assist our search for truth? Please join the discussion and share your insights.

The Fivefold Ministry
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12 thoughts on “The Fivefold Ministry

  • April 5, 2012 at 11:52 am
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    I always go back to Jesus’ “two greatest commandments”: to love God and to love other people. No third commandment to love myself. Self-focus, then, is the precise opposite of true Christianity, and yet this is precisely what Christianity has become for so many, especially with this generation. For leaders, it’s all about title and recognition and success and “my ministry”. For their followers, it’s about being spoon-fed, encouraged, validated, healed and made prosperous. Not that any of these things is bad by any means, but in all cases, it’s God’s prerogative to give these; He commands our focus to be elsewhere! Christianity is supposed to be about self-sacrifice, but it’s become the ultimate “me religion”. Where is the focus on the heart of God and the needs of others? Lord, please deliver me from ME!!!

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    • April 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm
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      Amen. Not sure I can add anything to that, so I believe I’ll just leave it as is.

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  • April 7, 2012 at 7:56 pm
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    Well done, It is said that the greatest of those will be your servant. Jesus was very clear about the importance of humility. Men were never to be bowed down to or put on a pedestal. Also ,the Bereans set the example for followers and seekers of truth in that they studied scripture to see if what they were preached was actual truth. But too often we have a people who are quite willing to exhalt anyone who will teach them and often tickle their ears, so long as they don’t have to put forth any effort. It seems their priorities of this fast paced life do not allow time for study and research. If they would only read the whole of scripture they would find we are never to put our faith in mankind. By giving their power and responsibility away it is easy to see how they can be manipulated. Reminds me of the book “The Road less traveled” by M Scott Peck, He maintained that original sin, to him,was one of laziness. mankind’s desire to take the easy path, where Adam and Eve could have simply asked God why they were to stay away from the tree of life and fulfilled their curiosity, but they chose to just do as they pleased, and then try to hide after fulfilling their desire. Spiritual growth, as we know ,is a lot of work and there are no shortcuts. Matters not the growth or changes we aspire to, we will find it most rewarding if we diligently work towards the goal, be it healing or recovery from the many addictions, abuses’ or simply changing a character defect that we find objectionable. Our leaders can only assist us, we must do the work. When we rely on others to fix us, we become dependent on them, which only serves to slow our growth and often allows us to be manipulated.It is simply mans desire for power that he places himself above others, clergy has no excuse as they well know that those who exhalt themselves will some day be humbled.

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    • April 7, 2012 at 10:50 pm
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      Always seems to come back to wanting our own way instead of doing things God’s way, doesn’t it. Well said, Earl.

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  • April 8, 2012 at 4:48 pm
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    The Anointed, the Special Anointed and the Super Anointed. We, You, I, “The Saved” are the Anointed. Peter, as an example, had a Special Anointing, where just his shadow alone would Heal the sick. The 2 Witnesses that are coming are Super Anointed.

    Paul in 1 Cor.4:19 tells the arrogant, self proclaimed anointed that talk is cheap and he will show them the real power of God. How many self proclaimed special anointed leaders today can raise the dead, give sight to the blind, make a limb grow? I have not seen it, I would like to.

    I was at a Saturday afternoon service at a large Church, when a young man stood up during the
    sermon. The pastor attempted to ignore him at first but this individual would not sit down and was
    causing a distraction. Finally they sent an usher to him and at the same time the pastor asked
    what the problem was. He replied that he had a prophecy from God for the Church. I believe
    this indiviual was following protocol. Nontheless he was told to sit down and chill out. The individual was courteous and promptly sat down.

    Where do we go from here Body of Christ?

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    • April 9, 2012 at 12:30 am
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      I believe we need a considerable shakeup. Complacency and misconception have made the church in general incredibly ineffective in changing the world. I also don’t see much reason to believe the change will come from the leadership. Too many are too busy protecting their status as church leaders to actually go to the trouble of leading. That leaves individuals taking the responsibility to require accountability of their leaders. This can be a volatile process, but we have to begin somewhere.

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  • May 15, 2012 at 6:53 pm
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    Don, this is a good article and the comments are very good as well. I am a pastor in up state NY and my wife, Faith, and I have a ministry that deals with sexual abuse. In the course of our ministry we have found those who are dealing with ‘spiritual abuse’. The term is relatively new to me but looking back on my time growing up in church I can see that abuse by leaders in church was common. You are right that it goes against the scriptures. the verses that came to my mind as I was reading your article was ” esteem others better than ourselves” ” don’t think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think” ” whoever is greatest among you let him be as the younger or he who governs as he who serves” and so on. Today’s church and it’s leaders look little like the Biblical model. http://speakingtruthinlove.org

    Dale Ingraham

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    • May 15, 2012 at 10:08 pm
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      Well said, Dale. I have looked my whole life to find genuine, biblical leaders in the church, and occasionally I do find them, but there are remarkably few. Which is sad. It’s not a matter of talent or intelligence or anything special except a kind of humility that does, as you said, esteem others better than yourself. We have a lot of work. I would love to learn more about your ministry. Let’s talk sometime next week. I believe you contacted my wife, Christina, through Facebook. We can exchange phone numbers and email there if you’re willing. I can tell that your heart is in the right place, and that’s most of the battle.

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  • September 20, 2012 at 6:31 am
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    Thank you for this article. Having survived spiritual abuse at the hands of my former pastor, I appreciate this very much. I do think that the people in a church can end up elevating a pastor to the level of idol worship, which some are very willing to accept. Then when they fall, it is a long way down! My former pastor preached against me from the pulpit, because I questioned his decisions and exposed his lies. He went so far as to accuse me of being a witch, because my questions were causing problems in the church, and only those associated with evil stir up dissension! About 20% of the church left because of it, but he still is insisting he was right and I am an evil force running ammuck in the world. One thing I was certain of, he was not a shepherd who cared for his flock.

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    • September 20, 2012 at 9:28 am
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      Becky, I’m sorry to hear your story. Unfortunately, it happens much too often. I’m glad you are away from that and still willing to keep talking about it. Thank you for your encouraging words.

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  • July 17, 2018 at 12:30 pm
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    Good day sir… I’m really glad to read this 6 years after it was originally posted. As at the time of its posting I was still very naive about this entire matter. But in the following years it has become so real for me. The church really needs help. I really do not know exactly what to do about all this. I am Nigerian and if you’re acquainted with the Nigerian Church you’d understand what that means. The assertive ignorance of the people is just oppressive. And the main issue is that… IT IS RELATIVELY IN EVERY CHURCH COMMUNITY YOU TURN TO… I witnessed an excommunication experience due to it lately, and I’m now (in my heart) somewhat detached from my responsibilities in Church (I am a leadership there). I’m uncertain of what to do or where to go(church wise)… I really need some wisdom now

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    • July 18, 2018 at 10:16 am
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      Donald, I can empathize with your dilemma, since most of my life I’ve had to grapple with how to navigate bad church leadership which is usually more about a flawed system and priorities than about the people themselves. I can only offer a few thoughts from my own journey. One of the most important things I’ve gleaned from studying the Apostle Paul is the manner in which he sought common ground with whoever he was speaking or writing to. He overlooked many problems and much ignorance for the sake of promoting growth and truth. This is the pattern he emphasizes in 1 Corinthians 9 when he speaks of becoming all things to all people that by all means he might win some. Throughout his letters to Timothy, he exhorted leaders not to be dragged into arguments. He remedy for ignorance was to keep propounding truth and setting an example of how a leader should act, all the while letting himself be motivated by love. At the same time, of course, he recognized that there were some things that required taking a stand, which is why his advice to Timothy also included publicly rebuking those elders who abused their authority (1 Timothy 5:20). How to tell the difference between overlooking sin (1 Peter 4:8) and rebuking sin requires much prayer and discernment. It helps to try and determine what motivates leaders. Most (nearly all) want to get it right but just don’t know how or even understand what right is. This is a result of bad teaching, poor examples of leadership in their lives, or immaturity which they will hopefully grow out of. I know there is hope for these people because I have been in that category myself. In fact, I think we all are to some degree. We keep learning and changing as God deals with our own flaws one at a time. It’s an ongoing process that won’t end this side of heaven. The leaders who are a greater concern are those motivated primarily by personal ambition. They are simply not as concerned about the well being of those they are supposed to be shepherding. And how to handle them depends on a number of circumstances. If you are the leading authority in the church, you can exercise biblical church discipline (Matthew 18:15-18). If you are not in a position to do that, use discernment. The same principle applies—go to them privately, then with others, and finally to the entire church. Just know that there is a price to pay for speaking up. You might well have to leave that congregation and go somewhere else. I don’t know if any of this fits with your own situation, but that is an overview of what I’ve experienced. I’ve had to leave a church in the past, and it was not a pleasant experience. I don’t regret it because the corruption in the leadership of that church needed to be exposed. Know that it was not simply a doctrinal dispute, however. That is something that can be handled through civil discourse. In my case it was the revelation that the leadership was protecting child molesters from prosecution, as well as lying to the congregation. If the matter had not been that serious, I don’t know that I would have spoken out as publicly as I did. Where to draw the line in your own case must be your decision. For me, that was a matter of the utmost concern. I hope that helps a little.

      Reply

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