DECISIONS DEFINE IDENTITY
What makes you YOU and me ME? It’s the result of daily decisions made over a long period of time no matter how seemingly inconsequential each of them may have appeared.
We all have a history. What were the tiny decisions we made beforehand that prepared our hearts to take a dramatically new step? Since I became a Christian I can say that I am what I am because of the daily decisions I keep on making.
“It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27, New Living Translation).
Make no mistake; those who ultimately reject God have also made their day-to-day decisions. They too have a long history.
Whether we made good or poor choices was not God’s doing at its most fundamental level because He has given all a free will. The scriptures are full of conditional propositions beginning with “IF”.
None of us are robots or victims of circumstances. I have known people who opted for God under the most horrible of circumstances or extreme poverty. I have also known people with amazing talents who had all the luxuries in life at their feet yet have continued to reject the truth of the gospel (the good news). There is one thing that is common to both parties. God gives all multiple opportunities to believe and repent. As the scripture says, “He does not want any to perish” (John 3:16). He is a righteous judge.
DECISIONS THAT DEFINE A LOCAL CHURCH
I have heard great preachers on TV and on YouTube, but unfortunately few listen or obey what they hear. Most church institutions complacently retain their long-held doctrinal positions at the expense of truths in the Bible. They are like the church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22). I dare to suspect that almost all churches are in that position to some degree or another.
How has that come about? Little by little church leaders make their daily decisions until they settle comfortably and become incalcitrant like dregs that settle to the bottom of a cup of ground coffee. Many church members and leaderships are moribund and willingly live alongside a spectrum of different beliefs, within the congregation, without directly addressing them. If only they could hear the antagonism and the number of silent rebuffs during a sermon. Moreover, in-depth Bible studies, when held, are poorly attended.
But let’s also give honour where honour is due. Many churches bring comfort and the message of salvation to fulfil the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). They serve their communities in various ways and are to be highly commended. They are havens of refuge in the apocalyptic storms that are brewing.
However, the Holy Spirit’s aim is to totally defeat Satan until he is bound (Revelation 12; 20:19-20). ‘Half-baked’ churches won’t have the power or holiness to do it. This means that not everything is going along fine in the eyes of God. He has high standards and will surely not put up with disloyal churches for much longer.
“Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30, Christian Standard Bible). It is truer today than when it was first written.
The lie that comes from the pit is that it’s okay to agree to disagree, as did the Sadducees and the Pharisees who lived alongside each other in temple rituals and the worship of God. God put a stop to that. The Sadducees disappeared after the destruction of Jerusalem by Prince Titus in 70AD. That was a carnal unity and a false portrayal of love.
Carnal unities will not survive the storms that are prophesied to come in end-times that will see the rise of powerful false prophets, false teachers and the Antichrist himself – the ultimate expression of a deceiver in the flesh (2Peter 2:12; Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). The spirit of Antichrist will infiltrate a church possessing double-minded doctrines like a leach and destroy it from within. That is Satan’s speciality. Wickedness is already at work; this is most noticeable in a few prominent churches in the United States that are publicly and arrogantly betraying the Word of God. I attended such a church briefly in Washington DC back in the 1980’s.
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit only know one truth. A willingness to agree to disagree is totally foreign to them and should be totally foreign to any disciple who cherishes the Word of God. There is only one truth.
The Holy Spirit desires to lead us into that truth. God understands our failings so He keeps blessing the churches who unfortunately believe they are altogether pleasing in the eyes of God because of His mercies. They don’t bother to ask God whether issues exist that He would strongly condemn if only people had an ear to hear. It’s like the love a father has for his children even when they make bad decisions. It deeply grieves him because he only wants the best for them but, if they don’t have an ear to hear, the father lets them go their own way until they repent. Of course some will never repent. We know that from experience.
In the near future the world and the church will be shaken as never before both physically and metaphorically,
“Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since mankind has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake” (Revelation 16:18).
God Himself will intervene that will make the discipline, meted out against the churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, look pale in comparison. God will intervene for His own sake. He has determined that “The gates of hell shall not prevail” (Matthew 16:18) and that “Judgement shall first come to the house of God” (1Peter 4:17). When Jesus upturned the tables of the money changers in anger His disciples remembered that it was written, "The zeal of Your house has eaten Me up" (John 2:17). So it will be prior to the Second Coming as well because He has great things in store. It is impossible for it NOT to happen.
The prayer of Jesus, in John 20:20-23, will come to pass and there is going to be a church filled with the glory of the Lord bringing in the final harvest before Christ returns (Isaiah 60:1-4; 2Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 5:27; Revelation 5:9). The Lord prophesied through Joel saying, “I will restore the years that have been eaten” (Joel 2:25). The Apostle Peter declared that Christ would not return, “until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). (Paragraph taken from p.255, ‘New Wine: Becoming Like Jesus’, Jeff Hammond, 1st Edition, Metanoia Publications, Jakarta 2013).
The remedy is exactly as spelt out in the book by Dr Jeff Hammond. I have the privilege of reproducing Chapter 7 of his book, p.139-76, until the second edition becomes available. Here is Chapter 7 (©Jeff Hammond 2013) in full, for your benefit:
Chapter 7. FIVE-FOLD MINISTRY OR A SYNOD?
What’s your favourite food? Is it a lamb roast, a juicy steak, fried rice, kebab, spicy curry, hamburgers, dim sims or some other delicacy? How would you enjoy it if that was the only food you were able to have – breakfast, lunch and dinner? Only that one food – every day, every week, every month and every year! You don’t have access to any other food – just that! Wouldn’t you get sick and tired of the same diet with absolutely no variety?
There are two problems we face if we constantly only eat one type of food. Firstly, we would get bored, and secondly, we would not be healthy. Science tells us that there are five major food groups and we need them in the right balance to be healthy. We need a variety of nutrients, vitamins, proteins, fats, carbohydrates etc. that we receive from fruits, meats, grains, starches, vegetables, milk etc. We are told that eating from three of the five groups would leave us malnourished. Four would be healthy, but five is perfect.
As in the natural world, so also in the spiritual. There are five spiritual food groups that the Lord has given us. If we only have three we will be spiritually under nourished. With four we may be spiritually healthy, but with all five we will have the right balance for proper spiritual growth, Ephesians 4:11.
Today, many churches try to survive only using three spiritual food groups – pastors, evangelists and teachers. Many churches don’t have or don’t acknowledge apostles and prophets and consequently don’t have full access to the spiritual food God wants us to have. Maybe that’s why many churches are not healthy. Their foundations are easily shaken. Many split. Many abandon sound biblical doctrine and moral values and embrace that which is in line with the norms and trends of society. They even abandon the Great Commission as they become more internally focused than on fulfilling the mission of Christ. We need all five ministries if we are to be a church growing in Christ-likeness, moving on to perfection.
We need the Restoration of Apostles and Prophets
In history we see the church leaving the foundations of the Word of God and building on man’s traditions and developing structures to maintain the traditions they have inherited. This is the process where the wineskin becomes old, hard and inflexible and unable to receive the new wine.
After Constantine, the Caesar of Rome, became a Christian in 313, Christianity became an officially recognized religion and eventually became the official religion of the Roman-Byzantine empire. The marriage of religion and politics was a great tragedy in church history. Everyone who refused to submit to the new religious-political system became its enemies. They were hunted down, tortured and usually executed under the authority of the church. The church gradually gained control over every area of life and sadly, the church took its members further and further away from the truths in God’s Word.
A hierarchical system became the norm of the church. Instead of the five ministries – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, the new system developed a hierarchy of popes, cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests. The baptism in the Spirit with speaking in tongues was replaced with chanting in Latin. The Bible became a forbidden book to the laity and was replaced with church dogma and tradition. For more than a 1000 years the church wandered through the dark ages.
In 1517 Martin Luther protested 95 doctrines that he didn’t believe were based on the Scriptures. His protest gave birth to the Reformation. It was the birth of a pathway of restoration that continues on to today. Firstly, it was justification by faith, salvation by grace alone and then an absolute commitment to the Scriptures. Then followed the restoration of water baptism for believers, baptism by immersion, the holiness movement, the missionary movement, the Pentecostal movement and the restoration of many precious biblical truths. During the 20th Century we have seen the restoration of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, praise and worship in the Spirit, the priesthood of all believers, the apostolic and prophetic ministries, the role of small groups in the life of the church, eldership, and a general growth towards full maturity in Christ.
The Decline and the Ongoing Restoration
The days of restoration are continuing and will continue until all that God has foretold has been restored.
Joel.2:25, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you.”
Acts.3:19-21, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.”
Revelation 2:5, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.”
We need to believe in the full restoration of the five-fold ministry of Christ. These are five varieties of ministry given by Jesus to equip the church so that the Body of Christ can perform its vital tasks in bringing all believers to full maturity in Christ and maximizing their potential. In this way the church will grow in unity, perfection, capacity and will no longer be tossed about by every new trend or wind of doctrine that the enemy tries to bring in his efforts to hinder our growth. He does not want us to become like Christ, because he knows that when we are like Christ, that he will be crushed under our feet, Romans 16.20.
For all this to happen, we absolutely need the full restoration of these five ministries.
Ephesians.4:11-15, “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, 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.”
To this end the five ministries are still needed – all of them! To believe that there are no longer apostles and prophets is to believe a satanic deception. It is a deception from Satan to weaken the church, to prevent us from fulfilling our potential and from completing the tasks that Christ has given. He wants to prevent the fulfilment of the Apostolic Commission that challenges us to grow into the fulness of Christ’s perfection, Colossians.1:28. Satan wants to hinder the Great Commission so that the multitudes of humanity will be damned to an eternity in hell. Therefore, we must break every stronghold that the devil seeks to build (2Corinthians.10:4-5) and be resolute in the restoration of all things, Acts3:21.
The Ministry of Apostles
There are still many tribes, nations and languages that haven’t been reached with the gospel. There are still new fields to be opened and many new congregations that will need to have proper foundations laid, or old foundations repaired. It seems strange that churches want to eliminate the modern day ministry of apostles and prophets. We still need them.
Is it that we exalt their image and function so high that it almost becomes idolatrous to call someone an apostle? To better understand who, or what, an apostle is, let’s examine the biblical characteristics of an apostle.
Apostles are sent ones bearing a special message and authority. They represent the Kingdom of God and they bring Christ’s authority and message to His Body,
Apostles are foundation-layers and foundation-repairers so that the church may have strong foundations and healthy growth,
Apostles are pioneers, opening new fields to the gospel,
Apostles initiate divine strategy so that the eternal purpose of God might be fulfilled,
Apostles have a vision, ministry and capacity of bringing believers together across denominations with the goal of uniting the Body of Christ,
Apostles are leaders and imparters of divine vision to other leaders and to the whole of the church,
Apostles are “fathers” revealing the heart of the Father who wants to gather the family in unity and to bring them to full maturity so that all may achieve their full potential.
An apostle doesn’t just have one of those characteristics, he has them all. In the New Testament church there are at least 23 people referred to as “apostles”. The first 12 are called the apostles of the Lamb and were given a specific calling to sit on the 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel, Matthew 19:28; Revelation 21:14.
The other apostles belong to the five ministries that Christ gave to His church after His resurrection and ascension to heaven (Ephesians 4:8-11) and these apostles were given to minister to the nations. Peter was one of the 12 apostles called especially to the Jewish people while Paul was an ascension gift apostle called to the nations, Galatians 2:7-8.
Apostles mentioned in the New Testament
Jesus, Hebrews 3:1
12 disciples of Jesus, Matthew 10:1-4
Matthias, Acts 1:26
Paul, 1Corinthians 15:5-9
Barnabas, Acts 14:14
Andronicus and Junia, Romans 16:7
James, the brother Jesus, Galatians 1:19
Epaphroditus, Philippians 2:25
Silvanus and Timothy, 1Thessalonians 1:1; 2Thessalonians 1:1
Titus and other brethren, 2Corinthians 8:16-23
The Prophetic Ministry. We can see the prophetic ministry at three levels in the church:
Firstly, all believers can prophesy, one by one sharing a message from the Lord, 1Corinthians 14:31.
Secondly, some believers are given a gift of prophecy and its function in the church is limited to two or three messages in a service and others need to carefully weigh up what was said, 1Corinthians 12:10; 14:29.
Thirdly, there is the ascension gift ministry of a prophet who functions alongside apostles and the other ministries in the five-fold ascension gift ministry team, Ephesians 4:11. All prophecy needs to be tested, (1Thessalonians 5:19-21), because prophecy is one area where the powers of darkness can manipulate and deceive. That’s why we have been called to be on guard against false prophets, Matthew 7:15.
Sadly, some so fear the false prophets that they reject the true prophets. Don’t throw out the true prophets, we need them! Have faith for the true and don’t be overcome with fear for the false. We need a spirit of prophecy, the gift of prophecy and the ministry of the prophet, 1Thessalonians 5:20; 1Corinthians 14:39-40. Obviously, we reject the false and that’s why we need to grow in maturity and discernment, because truth sets us free, John 8:32.
The Role of Prophecy
1. Prophecy is given for edification, exhortation and comfort
1Corinthians 14:3, “He who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”
Prophecy has these three primary functions in the church – edification, exhortation and comfort. The role of prophecy is not to judge and condemn people nor is it to foretell what is going to happen in the future, although that may indeed happen as well.
Those who truly are prophets to the nations will present the Lord’s message to the nations and sometimes this may indeed be a message of judgement upon a certain situation. However, even messages of judgement are often warnings that are accompanied with God’s desire that the people repent and return to Him, just like we read in the account of the prophet Jonah. Pay close attention to the prophecy in Amos 4:6-12. Amos states why judgement was occurring – not to destroy or judge the people but rather that they would return to righteousness and the way of the Lord.
A similar prophecy was given to God’s people who had gone down the pathway of immorality in the city of Babylon, that unclean and adulterous city. The Lord gave them opportunity to repent and called them to come out of the city. The prophecy was not a judgement to destroy them, rather it was a message of love to call them to escape the judgement that was coming and for them to return to the Lord, Rev.2:21-22; 9:20-21; 16:9-11. But they refused to hear His message to them.
2. Prophecy is given that we may learn and be strengthened
1Corinthians 14:31, “For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.”
Two examples illustrate this truth well. Firstly, in the time of King Jehoshaphat, 2Chronicles 20:1-30. Israel’s enemies who vastly outnumbered her were attacking. King Jehoshaphat confessed their inability to defeat such a large army so he called upon the nation to pray and fast. Only God could save them. During the time of prayer and fasting, the Spirit of the Lord fell on one of the worship leaders: “the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly”, 2Chronicles 20:14.
Jahaziel prophesied the pathway that would be taken by the enemy, where they would descend from the mountains, and where they would appear in the valley, i.e. “they will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel”, 2Chronicles 20:16.
The Lord also showed them how He was going to destroy the enemy. From the prophetic message, Israel learned both the strategy of the enemy and the strategy of God.
The prophecy strengthened the faith of King Jehoshaphat so that he sent his singers and musicians out in front of the army. The singers and musicians were also strengthened in their faith as they saw each phase of the prophecy fulfilled, exactly as the Lord had said it would. They saw the Ammonites and the Moabites descend from the mountain. Then they appeared at the end of the valley precisely where the prophecy said they would, in front of the wilderness of Jeruel. God’s message in the prophecy was 100% accurate! The people learned to trust in God’s prophetic message and they were all strengthened in their faith. The singers and musicians sang with the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the Lord destroyed the enemy. If their prophetic message was a false prophecy, they would have been the first to die. However, it was a true prophecy. The singers and musicians learned and were strengthened. That’s how prophecy works.
We see a second example in the early church. Jesus had prophesied that the Christians would suffer persecution, (Matthew 24:15-20; Luke 21:12), and that the city of Jerusalem would be attacked and destroyed, Mark 13:1-2; Luke 19:41-44. Because they believed what the Lord had prophesied, they sold their property, Acts.4:33-34.
When the persecution came, they were ready to flee. They had finances available to feed them in their flight. They didn’t go into refugee camps, but wherever they went they proclaimed the good news of Jesus, Acts.8:1-4. They had learned from the prophecies given by Jesus, their faith was strengthened and they were prepared to face the persecution.
3. The prophetic ministry is given to accompany and give direction to apostolic ministry in laying the foundations of the church. The task of laying the foundations of the Body of Christ and the revelation of the Word was given to apostles and prophets.
Ephesians 2:20, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.”
Ephesians 3:4-6, “the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.”
The prophetic ministry strengthens the apostolic ministry and is the reason we often see a prophet accompanying an apostle, Acts 11:27-30; 13:1-3; 15:30-33; 21:10-11; 2Peter 1:19-21; 3:2.
Prophets in the New Testament
In the New Testament the most mentioned ministry is the apostle and the second most mentioned is the prophet:
Acts 11:27-28; 21:10 – several prophets including Agabus
– several prophets including Barnabas and Simeon
– Judas and Silas
– the four daughters of Phillip had the gift of prophecy. This is exactly what Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost – Acts.2:17-18.
– people who have the gift of prophecy are also referred to as “prophets” but their ministry is limited to the extent of the gift and its use in the congregation where two or three could function, and the prophetic message had to be tested.
– the ministry of a prophet in the five-fold ministry given by Christ is a ministry for operation in equipping the whole of the Body of Christ and to equip each individual as they grow in maturity to be like Jesus.
Are all believers in these Five Ministries?
No, not all believers are in the five ministries. However, every believer should have these five elements of Christ’s ministry within them. The five ministry gifts of Christ – Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, Evangelists and Pastors – are five special gifts given by Jesus to the Body of Christ. They have been given a specific function to equip all the members of the Body.
Ephesians 4:8, “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”
These gifts that were given by Jesus, are the five ministries, as Paul explained to the church in Ephesus.
Ephesians 4:11, “He (Jesus) Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.”
The five ministries are specialists in five areas of ministry that were evident in Jesus. Their ministry is a special calling and has a special authority. At its foundation, the five ministry gifts are five aspects of Christ’s ministry. Since we have been called to be like Christ, then of course, we should also reflect these five aspects of ministry, but the actual ministry is only given to “some”!
All believers can prophesy, teach, evangelize, lead and share in the spiritual care and growth of others. In particular, this should be evident in the function of believers in every cell group or home group, or by whatever name they may be called. This is part of ministering to one another in the Body of Christ. However, that does not make us one of the five ministries. Their task is special. They are equippers, trainers, mentors who are called with specialized authority, according to their ministry gift which Jesus gave to them. However, the operation of these five different ministry functions is vital to the function of the small group as well as the church at large. One of my colleagues, Eddy Leo, has excellent teaching on the function of these five ministry gifts in the function of the small groups as a key to seeing true growth in the Body of Christ.
These five aspects of the ministry of Jesus should also be evident in every elder as mature leaders appointed by the Holy Spirit to be examples to the flock. They should also be manifest in the daily lives of believers, in cell groups and in public worship.
What’s the difference between Elders and the Five Ministries?
All elders have aspects of the five ministries (Ephesians 4:11) within them. Every elder is called to lead, function in prophecy, teach, evangelize and to shepherd the local congregation. The five ministry characteristics, in a general way, should be evident in every elder.
The elders are like doctors in a general practice – General Practitioners – who should have a broad grasp of medicine, but the GP’s are not the specialists. That’s the function of the Five Ministries – specialized equippers to train and equip the whole Body.
Jesus is our chief apostle, Hebrews 3:1. Jesus is the prophet foretold by Moses, Deuteronomy 18:15; Matthew 21:11; Luke 7:16; John. :19; 6:14; 9:17; Acts 3:19-26. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, John 10:1-16. Jesus is an evangelist, (Matthew 4:23; Luke 8:1) and Jesus is a master teacher, Mark 10:17; John 13:13.
From among the elders, there are those who have special giftings in one or other of these five areas of gifting. These are the ones that the Lord calls to responsibilities beyond the boundaries of the local church as they are called to minister to and equip the whole of the Body of Christ. The five-fold ministries can never replace the elders but they are to work alongside them. They are not a governing synod, but are imparters of the grace of Christ to enable the saints to do the work of the ministry.
ALL ELDERS FIVE MINISTRIES
1. Must be able to rule special capacity Apostle
2. Must be able to evangelize special capacity Evangelist
3. Must be able to prophecy special capacity Prophet
4. Must be able to shepherd special capacity Pastor
5. Must be able to teach special capacity Teacher
LOCAL LEADERSHIP BODY LEADERSHIP
In the Body of Christ there are three levels of ministry
The Body of Christ is not just top-down ministry. It has an every-member ministry. Clearly, the church has people who are especially gifted to different functions and we should not shy away from the full use of those differences. We must not squash someone’s ministry gifting just because they are different or more popular. With the right attitude and heart of submission to the Lordship of Christ, there is room for every gift, capacity and calling.
The Royal Priesthood, i.e. every believer is a priest and king. Every believer has gifts, talents and functions that are important in sharing the gospel and in building up the Body of Christ. Every believer should be active and use the gifts the Lord has given, 1Peter 2:9; 1Corinthians 12:7-11; Romans 12:3-6; Ephesians 4:16; Revelation 5:9-10. This is an “every member” ministry. It’s an “all saints” movement.
Shepherd, lead, unite and develop the maturity of the local congregation and they live their lives as examples to the church, Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5-11; 1Peter 5:1-3. The elders are a team of coaches inspiring the whole team to aspire to their full potential.
The Five Ministries minister, equip, train, mentor and unite the Body of Christ from city to city and nation to nation so that together we can all grow in the fullness of Christ, Ephesians 4:11-15; Colossians 1:25-29; 1Peter 1:1-7; 1John 3:1-3. They are the equippers that enables the whole Body, from city to city, and nation to nation, to function as a cohesive Body with a united and functional vision.
Unhealthy churches have leaders who oppress the congregation, treat them as idiots and fear that someone in the congregation may become more gifted than they are. If leaders love the flock, they will focus on how to release every member to grow into full maturity and achieve their God-given potential as believers. Give them everything – you can never lose! To be healthy, the church needs to see all three of these areas functioning.
The Five Ministries also have the qualities of Elders
The Word of the Lord records that the apostles were also called elders. The word “elder” does not describe a governmental position in the church but rather the quality of maturity and character and the calling of Jesus that is apparent in that individual.
John was an elder – 2John 1:1; 3John 1:1, “The elder (presbuteros) to ...”
Peter was an elder – 1Peter 5:1, “I who am a fellow elder (sumpresbuteros).”
Paul and Timothy were elders – 2Corinthians 1:1; 5:20, “ambassadors (presbeuomen) for Christ.”
The 24 Apostolic leaders of the heavenly church are called elders – Rev.4:4, “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders (presbuteroi) sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.”
Not all believers are called to be elders
that role is a special calling by the Lord and appointment by the Holy Spirit as Paul explained to the elders of the Ephesian church.
Acts 20:28, “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
Without being called by Jesus and appointed by the Holy Spirit, a person will not have the capacity or divine authority to minister as an elder. To be an elder is not a promotion to some position, it is a calling and appointment by the Lord Himself!
Every believer is a priest and a king in a royal priesthood, or kingdom of priests. From among these king-priests, there are mature believers, who are equipped, called and appointed to be elders of the local churches. Among the elders are those who are called to function as the five ministries to equip the whole of the Body.
Each person must find his or her level of ministry grace. To some are given one talent. To another two talents. And yet to another five talents. Each is a calling of grace. Each is called to be accountable and faithful in what the Lord has given.
One level is not higher than another. One is not more important than another. All are vitally important, and all are called to be faithful according to the gifts and callings that the Lord has given us, Matthew 25:14-30.
Mat.25:15, “And to one He gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability.”
The responsibility of the Five Ministries – Ephesians 4:11-15
“(11) He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, (12) for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, (13) 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; (14) 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, (15) but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
The five ministries have the responsibility to equip all the believers to do the work of the ministry – Ephesians 4:12
Isn’t it the five ministries who are supposed to do all the ministry? Absolutely not! The five ministries, besides functioning in those gifts are also called to be equippers. It is their role to train and equip every member of the Body so that the members of the Body can do the work of ministry according to each of their gifts, talents and calling. An evangelist doesn’t just travel around conducting evangelism, he must also multiply evangelism by equipping others to do the work of evangelism. So who does the ministry of the church? It’s the royal priesthood. It’s every believer, for they are the kings and priests unto God.
Sometimes it is hard to grasp this truth as the church has practiced an alternative ministry model for 1700 years!
The role of the five ministries is to train, mentor and prepare every member to be able to function. A healthy church is where the ministry is not conducted by just one man, but by every believer. The role of the five ministries is also not to be a governmental body of the church like a synod. Their role is to equip the saints and not to be a new layer of hierarchical authority. Any authority they have is functional authority based upon relationship and ministry gifting. The apostle Paul even said that he was an apostle to some but not to others, 1Corinthians 9:2. The leadership of the local church is the eldership. Down through church history, the simplicity of the ministry of the church was taken over by professional ministers who created a hierarchy that has robbed the church of its vitality and life. It’s time for restoration. It’s time for a new wineskin that can receive the new wine.
1. The five ministries bind the Body of Christ together – Ephesians 4:12-13
As trans-local ministries, ministering from city to city, and from nation to nation the five ministries build unity in the Body of Christ. They impart the same vision, walk in the same love and heart of unity. This is how it should be biblically, yet we are aware of how far we have fallen, (Revelation 2:5). The Body of Christ in the same way as the Tabernacle of Moses needs ministries to help knit them together as a whole. In the Tabernacle it was the five boards on each side of the Tabernacle that held it together as one, Exodus 26:26. In a similar way, the five ministries unite the Body of Christ from city to city and nation to nation. They help us recognize that we are not alone, but that we belong to a large family, the church, the Body of Christ. Sadly, the church down through history in wanting to protect its own self-importance has built walls of protection around what belongs to its own denomination but these walls have also been what divide us, one from the other. We need to return to first love and the biblical pattern where Christ’s love unites us, not doctrine, organization or some charismatic leader, Ephesians 4:15-16.
2. The five ministries are responsible to continue their function until we have all come to the unity of the faith – Ephesians 4:13
This aspect of their ministry shows that the five ministries are still greatly needed today. By neglecting their ministry, the church has fragmented into myriads of doctrinal camps. The very thought of it breeds unbelief in the possibility of unity in any form, let alone unity in the faith. The restoration of the function of the five ministries and their release from local function will multiply the revelation of God’s Word and provide a mechanism where the Holy Spirit will continue to lead and guide us into all truth, John 16:13. The five ministries have this responsibility to mentor the Body of Christ in the unity of the foundations of the faith, vision and the direction in which the Lord wants to take His church. The early church leaders were challenged to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints”, Jude 1:3.
We are counseled by Paul that “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace … 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,” Ephesians 4:3,13.
How do we come to this unity of the faith? By seminars? Debates? No! It can only come out of the Body being connected to and in relationship with Christ the Head of the Body.
This is exactly what Jesus prayed for in John 17:20-23, so that the world might believe. The unity we have must be visible. It must be so convincing that it will convince people throughout the world. Our lack of unity has been a great hindrance and stumbling block to the cause of the gospel, but Jesus wants our unity and love to be so visible that people will talk about it, John 13:34-35. The power and glory of God manifested through such unity and love will bring the nations flowing into the Kingdom of God. Why? Because they will see it. It will be obvious. It will be like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden, Isaiah 60:1-4; Matthew 5:14-16. That’s why we need the five ministries to be restored and to be operational again in the Body of Christ. They were given to the Body until we all came into such a unity of the faith.
3. The five ministries function to give us direction in our spiritual growth as we grow into the fullness of the image of Christ – Ephesians 4:13
One of the essential elements of the eternal purpose of God is that we might be in the image of Christ. According to Paul, this is the divine mystery that has now been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, Colossians 1:25-29. We were created to be in the image and likeness of God, Genesis 1:26-28. The apostle John declares that when Christ returns at His second coming, we will be just like Him, 1John 3:1-3.
The five ministries bring us this vision and equip the Body of Christ in its development so that we can attain to this goal. When this goal is realized, we will minister in the fullness of Christ’s love, power and anointing and we will see the Word of the Lord come to pass, John 14:12; Romans 8:16-29.
4. The five ministries are important to overcoming the attack of false doctrine – Ephesians 4:14
The five ministries protect the Body of Christ from heresy, from the false doctrine and practices of deceivers who wish to destroy the church of God. As Paul said in Ephesians 4:14, “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.” It is only through equipping the church to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd, (John 10:3-4), and having a good understanding of the Scriptures that the influence of these deceivers can be withstood. The church needs to be taught to love the truth so that they will not be deceived, 2Thessalonians 2:10.
The five ministries must be able to analyse new doctrines and prepare answers to negate the influence of false doctrine and to show where it deviates from the Word of the Lord. Likewise if there is a new revelation that is truly brought by the Holy Spirit and founded in God’s Word, then we must also be prepared to receive the new wine because truth sets us free. We mustn’t become so protective that we become a hard, old wineskin that is unable to receive the new wine, as the new wine will take us further along the pathway of being like Christ.
5. The five ministries keep our growth focused on Christ – Ephesians 4:15
Too often the church loses its focus. We become focused on certain people or programs, and along the way we lose Jesus. Maybe that’s what happened to the church at Laodicea, Revelation 3:14-22. We need the five ministries functioning so that the whole church will continue to grow in the direction of Christ. Jesus must be our ministry focus as Paul emphasized,
Colossians 1:27-28, “God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”
The Holy Spirit is working in us, processing us, that we may grow and be transformed into the image of Christ, 2Cor.3:18. The Holy Spirit takes the divine seed, plants it in us at the new birth, and processes it in our daily lives, so that we are progressively changed from glory to glory. We long for the day when the whole church, together, will “hatch” and be fully revealed as the children of God, just like Jesus, Romans 8:16-25; 1John 3:1-3; 2Corinthians 3:18. It is like the eggs under the hen. The hen laid the eggs, one day at a time, but they all hatch together. We have been born again at different times but hatching day is all together. That’s why perfection has not yet been allowed, Hebrews 6:1-3. That’s why the saints before us have never achieved it, but they wait for the end time church to finish the race, Hebrews 11:13-16; 11:35-40; 12:1-2. But the promise is given to us, that in the last days it will happen, it will come to pass, (1Thessalonians 1:4-10), and that’s why we need the five ministries who help us keep our collective vision firmly focused on Christ.
What is the mechanism in the Body of Christ for the financial support of the Five Ministries?
One of the reasons we rarely see any five-fold ministry function in the Body of Christ is because we don’t support them! The finances of the church are organized around the support of a “local pastor” and the work he or she is doing. We don’t use the biblical mechanism to support these travelling ministries, hence they die off or become absorbed into a local church and their ministry gift is denied to the Body of Christ.
The principle in God’s Word is that “the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel,” 1Corinthians 9:14.
How can this principle be practiced in relation to the five ministries today?
An examination of this subject needs to begin in the Old Testament because it is from here that Paul discusses the support mechanism in the New Testament church. Israel had two layers of ministry that were fully supported under their tithing system.
Firstly, the tribe of Levi, a full-time ministry tribe, were supported by the tithes of all working people in Israel,
Numbers 18:21, “I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.”
The Levites had local and specific responsibilities i.e. the door, the cords, the altar, the tent etc. They did not have a ministry to the whole of the House, as this was the role of the priests. For their ministry, the Levites were supported by the tithes of Israel.
Secondly, the tribe of Levi had to pay a tithe of their income to support the ministry of the five priests. Originally, this was Aaron and his four sons. This five-fold priestly ministry who had responsibility over the whole of the House of God are a picture of the function of the five ministries in the church who service the whole of the Body of Christ,
Numbers 18:26-28, “Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: ‘When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the LORD, a tenth of the tithe. And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the LORD from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the LORD's heave offering from it to Aaron the priest’.”
Paul in the New Testament endorses this principle. Paul took that Old Testament principle and applied it to the support of the New Testament ministry teams. He refers to the ministry of the Levites who were supported for their ministry in the Holy Place and to the priests for their ministry at the altar:
1Corinthians 9:13-14, “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.”
In these verses Paul declares that this is a divinely instituted mechanism for the support of local and traveling ministries. The mechanism for the support of these ministries is the tithe for the local ministry team and the tithe of the tithe for the support of the five ministries who travel and equip the whole of God’s House!
How should we apply this support mechanism in the Body of Christ?
If we want to build the Body of Christ according to God’s blueprint, if we want a truly biblical church, if we want to grow unto the fullness of the stature of Christ and if we want to fulfil the Word of the Lord, then we must accept the invitation Jesus has give to us:
Rev.4:1, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
If we truly want to be a biblical Body of Christ then we need to see the restoration of these two types of ministry and to see them fully functioning and supported, i.e. Elders and the Five Ministries.
The elders are the shepherds of the local congregation, and they, and their staff, are supported from the tithes of the local church. The local churches put aside a tithe of their income (tithe of tithe) to support the five ministries, who minister to and equip the Body of Christ.
By doing this we can release a part of the Body of Christ’s ministry, i.e. Apostolic Team Ministry, or the five ministries and their support staff, to travel around the Body of Christ, from city to city and nation to nation. Today, we sorely are in need of the full restoration of these five ministries.
Sadly, there are ministries who cannot fully and freely function as the church doesn’t support them. Instead, many churches send 10% of their churches’ income to support their denominational affiliation. The tithe of the tithe is used for church government and administration rather than for the ministries who have a function to build up the Body of Christ. No wonder we have so many false doctrines and divisions. No wonder the church is in serious decline. It’s time to heed the warning of Jesus, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works,” Revelation 2:5.
I personally know of several men who have ministered in the capacity of the five-fold ministries. A couple were real evangelists, like Ps. W.H.Bolang and Ps. Daance Supit with the Indonesian Pentecostal Church. They had a mighty gifting in evangelism. Their evangelistic campaigns were attended by tens of thousands with thousands getting saved and healed by the power of God. But they had no regular support mechanism. They were encouraged to accept roles as members of the national Board of their denomination. They were told this would release them to be a blessing throughout Indonesia. However, to be on the Board, you have to be a local pastor. That’s what the church constitution said. So Ps. W.H.Bolang became a local pastor and became the Chairman of the Board. His evangelistic ministry died, being swallowed up by all of the new responsibilities he had.
Ps. Daance Supit had been on the island of Ternate and had developed a multiple eldership leadership which shepherded the congregation, and ran a Bible College. This left him free to use his ministry of evangelism, but Daance was moved to Lampung in the southern part of Sumatra and also became a member of the central Board and with that his evangelistic ministry died.
Another brother I knew, John Jacks, had an amazing prophetic ministry. He strongly believed in the ministry the Lord had given and despite personal suffering and a constant battle for support, working himself into the ground, damaging his health as he continued on in his ministry. How much more effective would this ministry could have been if he had been released and fully supported to do the work of ministry, just as local pastors (elders) are!
Then there was Ev. Jeremia Rim. Was he an evangelist or maybe even a modern-day apostle? His ministry attracted people in the tens of thousands. A powerful evangelist and effective visionary who was encouraged to start up his own denomination so that he could develop a support base for his ministry. He became busy establishing, building and caring for his new denomination and the work of evangelism withered away. A few years later he passed away. What a tragic loss!
The church has lost several great ministries because the church system forced them into seeking alternative, non-biblical support mechanisms that eventually crushed the freedom to function in the God-given giftings they had, as well as destroying their health. The church needs to wake up and return to a biblical support mechanism and support the traveling, five-fold ministries.
Why Should we Support the Five Ministries?
Firstly, so that we can fulfil the Great Commission and bring the gospel to every tribe, kindred, nation and language, Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15. In the New Testament, the task of taking the gospel to new fields was the responsibility of the five ministries. They opened new fields, laid the foundations, mentored local believers, trained and equipped them and appointed elders to shepherd the local congregation while they moved on to new cities and regions, Acts 14:19-27; 20:17-38. Today we send novices to cut their teeth. In the New Testament they sent the most experienced leaders.
Secondly, so that we can fulfil the Apostolic Commission and lead and guide all members of the church to perfection in Christ, Colossians 1:25-29. The Apostolic Commission is a task that Jesus gave to the five ministries to equip, mentor, and build and to bring all believers to maturity in Christ and to enable them to fulfil the eternal purpose of God.
The Great Commission deals with quantity, taking the gospel to every man, woman and child, Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19. The Apostolic Commission deals with quality, i.e. that we, as believers, can grow in maturity to become like Jesus, Ephesians 5:25-32; Colossians 1:28; 2Corinthians 3:18. If we desire to build according to Christ’s blueprint, this is a vital step in the growth of the church so that we can see a full unity in the Body of Christ. We need to be prepared to get out of the boat and walk on the water. Dig into the Word of the Lord and discover its treasures, Proverbs 25:2. Understand, embrace and have faith in what God’s Word says! Put it into practice and prepare the congregation because the Lord wants to prepare us for the glorious tasks He will call us to do in these last days.
The church is being challenged. The enemy is coming in like a flood. He is trying to contaminate the church with the philosophies and moral standards of the world. He wants to make us irrelevant. The only way to be relevant is to be a new wineskin receiving the new wine. Stand on His Word! Believe His Word! Practice His Word! And you will get the results He promised in His Word, Mark 16:20.
In many churches today, leadership is in the hands of one man called the “Pastor” or the “Senior Pastor” and a Board of Elders assists this man. These elders do not necessarily do any ministry in the church but are more of an Executive Board or an Advisory Board. The Pastor is supported by the local congregation or given a salary from denominational headquarters.
The “tithe of the tithe” or some equivalent is sent to the Synod or denominational headquarters to support its governmental system and its administration. There are many varieties of how denominations operate and to what they agree to, but this is the basic pattern of what exists today. However, we do not see those systems in the Word of God. Do we know better than Him? Is our way better than His? Is God so out-dated that we need to modernize Him? Or are these just mechanisms that are supporting an old wineskin system? Is this why we struggle to see new wine flowing through the Body of Christ?
Do we want the next 10 years to be the same as the past 10 years or do we want to see more effective and dynamic evangelism, leadership, spiritual growth and the fulfilment of the Great Commission? If we really want it, what must change? If there is no change, will we get better results doing what didn’t work in the past? If we don’t change, maybe the next 10 years will be worse than the past 10 years. It’s time to make choices, biblical choices. We need to decide whether we want to be a part of the glorious church of the future or the contaminated church of the past.
Let’s build new wineskins that are able to receive the new wine!