“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” -Ephesians 4:11-12
For over a year, the world has been going through a shaking like never before. The Body of Christ has not been spared from the refining fires of this great test. God is separating the wheat from the chaff and the sheep from the goats. Everyone has come to see what their faith is truly made of. Has your faith been strong or weak? Are you withstanding the test? God seems to be testing each person at a very personal level. Many are not standing through this test and like sheep, they are scattering and being led astray (John 10:12). Have you noticed something missing in the church this past year? During the lockdowns, US election and vaccine agenda, there has been a deafening silence. Where are the leaders? Where are the voices of the pastors on these crucial and life-altering current events? Many have felt like their hands are tied. They’re terrified of pushing people away by speaking on polarizing topics and they’re uncomfortable bucking the status quo being rolled out by the government. These pastors have either chosen to remain silent or they’ve acquiesced to the demands of Godless edicts. This has left the sheep to wander in confusion, unsure of what the truth is or even worse, be discipled by worldly leaders and celebrities. Why would those who have been called by God to shepherd the flock, leave the sheep to wander the hillside and come under the attack of ravenous wolves? Jesus has a simple, yet sobering answer for us: “The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep” (John 10:12-13). Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid his life down for the sheep (John 10:11). God calls his modern day Pastors to shepherd his flock with the same love and care that Jesus has. There are many true Pastors in the Body of Christ who have followed Jesus throughout this crisis and done all they can to lead their flock to safety with the wisdom and love of the Holy Spirit. These shepherds have not shied away from the truth, but have presided with passion and conviction. The Lord is well pleased with them. However, other pastors have been exposed as nothing more than hired hands. As the wolves have come, they have cowered to fear and allowed their sheep to be attacked and scattered. They care nothing for the sheep. Their silence has spoken for them. The lack of leadership in much of the Body of Christ over the past year has been felt tangibly and has left so many sheep broken, wounded and lost. The church is in desperate need of true Godly leaders to arise and begin to lead the flock into revival, awakening, restoration and the new era of reformation that is upon us.
Right now, the church is broken and disjointed. We are lacking leadership, at least in the western countries. Many leaders and pastors seem more concerned about their own personal agendas than about what Jesus wants to do. In many ways, our church buildings have become little more than community centers where we worship. How did we get here? Hundreds of years of church divorces, splits and doctrinal disagreements have led to an absurd number of denominations. The Body of Christ, which is one unit in God’s eyes, has been severed into many different pieces. Can these pieces of the Body survive on their own? These broken pieces have led to the rise of man’s version of church in place of God’s design for his church, as laid out in the New Testament. Man’s version has become the “one man model” of church leadership. The basic structure of this model consists of a pyramid where the pastor/ leader is at the top, making all the decisions for the church. The people who attend the church make up the levels below the pastor. The church members’ basic role is to lift up and support the pastor at the top and build his vision. The pastor preaches and teaches, but the members’ main job is to serve in a supportive way. Whether the members are allowed to practice their spiritual gifts or not, largely depends on their church’s denomination and their pastor’s personal convictions. This is the basic model you will find in almost every church denomination. As I’ve studied the church in the Bible over the past few years, it’s become abundantly clear that this model of church is not Biblical! A “one man show” is not the way God designed his church to operate. Even Satan knows this! I have seen so many churches fall apart over the years as a result of using this old, broken wineskin model. Most pastors that lead this form of traditional church, have very little accountability to anyone. Some churches have a team of elders, but in many cases, the pastor still seems to carry the most authority. When the enemy sets his sights on a particular pastor, he knows how to take him out easily with hidden sin. The pastor often feels too ashamed to talk to anyone, so he suffers alone. As his sin spirals out of control, at some point, he is unable to hide his sin any longer. Then, like clockwork, a shocking confession is made, the church falls apart and the sheep scatter. Why have we seen this pattern occur over and over again in churches? Man’s church is a setup for failure and the enemy knows it. God’s model for his church is infallible and the gates of hell will not overcome it (Matthew 16:18).
God’s glorious church is, first of all, centered around our Good Shepherd, King Jesus. If anyone is the head authority of the church, it’s Jesus. Ephesians 5:23 states, “Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” He is the wonderful God that we worship, follow and have relationship with. We serve his kingdom purposes and work to accomplish his vision to do God’s will on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). God’s church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:20-22). Jesus is the bedrock foundation of the church. He commissioned Apostles and Prophets to lay the ground work for how his church will operate. Peter, Paul and many others led the early church. The Lord has continued to build his church ever since he established it. In fact, the church is not a physical building, but a spiritual temple where the Lord dwells by his Holy Spirit. Every believer in Jesus is a living stone that has a place in the church, and is connected to others to form the Body of Christ (1 Peter 2:5). Jesus is still building his church today. He is still calling and anointing people to help lead his flock. Peter and Paul may have been leaders in the early church, but the modern church still needs leaders to continue building God’s holy temple. Ephesians 4 lists what has become known as the “Fivefold Ministry Gifts.” The Apostle Paul writes, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his 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” (Ephesians 4:11-13). Jesus has established these five ministry offices to help govern his church on the earth. The Fivefold helps prepare and equip the Body to do the good works of the kingdom of God. They help lead and guide the flock into unity in Jesus. The Fivefold helps the church grow in the knowledge of Jesus and develop into maturity as Christ’s Body. They spur us on to receive the fullness of our inheritance as the children of God. The Apostle Paul explains, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:14-16). Isn’t this a beautiful picture? In God’s original design for his church, the Fivefold Ministry offices lead the flock into becoming a strong and unified Body, where each part loves one another and does its own work. The Body of Christ is meant to withstand all the evil schemes and deceptions of people with an unwavering faith. This unified Body is more important than denominations and theological debates. In Christ “there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). This unified model of church, built on Jesus and the Fivefold Ministry, is upside down compared to man’s model of church. Instead of a pyramid of people holding up a singular pastor, the pyramid flips upside down. The people are then held up and built up by their leaders. The Fivefold are really the greatest servants in the church. One pastor is not meant to carry all this weight. It’s meant to be a team effort. All five of the ministry offices work together to make up the foundation, as they build and equip the church to serve God’s kingdom purposes. This new wineskin model is designed to withstand every plan and attack of the enemy.
Most people who are in ministry know all about the Fivefold and their essential functions in the church, however many average believers do not know. The Fivefold offices represent the vital organs in the Body of Christ. Apostles build the church and carry great authority. They operate in signs, wonders and miracles. Their role reminds me of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Apostles carry a bit more authority than the other four offices and they model leadership for the rest of the church. They are often seen as spiritual mothers and fathers to the church. Apostles can be placed over different sized spheres of influence, such as over a town, region, nation or many nations. Prophets receive revelation from the Holy Spirit for the church, such as words of knowledge and wisdom, discernment, correction and encouragement. They train the Body of Christ in how to hear and discern the voice of God for themselves. They teach the flock how to prophesy and operate in the prophetic giftings. The Evangelist reaches lost souls for Jesus by sharing the gospel. They are to teach the church how to share the gospel and how to practice evangelism in their everyday lives. They stir the church up with a passion to grow the Body of Christ through salvation. The Pastors or Shepherds are leaders who care for the flock and help protect the Body of Christ. They have the Father’s heart for those under their care and they are compelled to check up on all those they oversee. They make calls, pray, visit and preach in ways that edify the Body. Pastors spur the sheep on to love and serve one another, so the whole church has its needs met. The Teachers have a passion and talent for understanding the written Word of God. They teach the Body of Christ the wisdom of Biblical principles. They preach and write in order to convey the truth of God’s Word in ways that believers can understand. Teachers instruct the flock to read and know the Bible for themselves, as well as outline practical strategies for applying the Word to our lives. These Fivefold Ministry Gifts are a great blessing to the church, and these anointed leaders can be found in all of our congregations, towns, cities, regions and nations. Some of these Fivefold Ministers are called to their local church and others are called nationally or internationally. Many in the Fivefold are already walking in their calling to lead the church, and we are thankful for it. There are others who know they are called to the Fivefold, who have not been commissioned yet to step out into their place of authority. They know who they are, and they are being prepared until God’s ready to raise them up.
Hear me, my fellow believers: It’s time for the Fivefold Ministry to be restored to the church! In this great time of transition in the world, it’s time to let go of the old, broken wineskin of man’s church. It’s time to embrace God’s original church model and thrive! Jesus is our Chief Cornerstone and King. He is our foundation and the one we serve. The Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers need to arise into their God-given places of authority. They must work together as a team, to build, equip and unify the Body of Christ. Unity in the Fivefold Ministry will set an incredible example of unity for the rest of the church. The flock needs to be taught how to lead, prophesy, reach the lost, serve those in need and understand the Word of God. The days of passive Christianity are over. We can no longer afford to fill megachurches with baby Christians who don’t read their Bibles or know how to discern the voice of God for themselves. A Pastor was never meant to play all five roles in one. How exhausting and impossible! We need everyone in the Body of Christ to discover their place in the church and learn how to use their giftings to serve the Body and glorify God. I will not pretend to know how God wants to bring about this restoration or even what the emerging church model will look like exactly. I’m sure the transition will be messy, requiring both courage and patience. The Holy Spirit will guide us through this process. Let’s ask God to help us reform the church. Ask him what he wants you to do. Are you called to the Fivefold Ministry? Ask the Lord to prepare you and raise you up in his timing. You will not need to force this. Be patient and God will raise you up when you’ve been refined and purified. Remember to “humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). If you are already operating in the Fivefold, then I invite you to band together with other leaders in your communities to guide the flock and prepare the church for the great harvest of souls upon us. Ask the Lord how he wants to use you to restore the church and let’s get to work. It’s time for the Fivefold to unify and arise! King Jesus, may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth and in your church as it is in heaven!