The Role of Fivefold Ministry

May 6, 2011
by Steven Lambert

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Fivefold Ministry is the ongoing surrogate ministry of Christ Himself to the Church—His Betrothed. All legitimate ministry emanates from Jesus Himself and is an extension of His ministry. Unless it emulates His ministry, it’s not legitimate ministry. Jesus’ three-and-a-half-year fleshly ministry is the model for all genuine ministry, and we can see in the Gospel accounts that Jesus functioned in all five of the Fivefold Ministry Offices.

Fivefold Ministry consists of five functions or offices of function: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. The primary scripture enumerating these offices is verse eleven of Ephesians Four. Relationally these offices are horizontal, non-hierarchical, and non-authoritarian (cf., Mk. 10:35-45; 16:19; Lk. 22:69; Ac. 5:31; 7:55,56; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3,13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22; Rom. 8:29; Heb. 12:23). These terms are not titles implying authority or entitlement of any kind, but rather terms alluding to specific ministerial functions.

The essence and role of the Fivefold Ministry can only be understood in the context of the Church and Christ’s relationship with it. Above all else, the Church is “the Lamb’s Wife” (Rev. 21:9). Presently, in the natural, the Church is the Betrothed of Christ, since the Marriage Supper of the Lamb has not yet occurred. Yet, in the Spirit, wherein God always speaks of those things that are not as though they already were, the Church is now “The Lamb’s Wife.”

To behold the Lamb’s Wife as God sees Her requires supernatural insight through the Spirit. In this hour, God is bestowing that revelation by the Spirit unto many of His chosen vessels as He did the Apostle John when He was taken up and given revelation by the Spirit: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the BRIDE, the WIFE of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9). The Greek word for angel (angelos) is synonymous with the word for apostle (apostolos); both connote a special messenger sent with a special message. At this time in this last hour, God is sending special messengers to reveal “the mystery of Christ” concerning His Church, the Lamb’s Wife, “which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit” (Eph. 3:3-5). The special messengers God is sending to reveal this special message is “His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit.”

The Lamb’s Wife is the recipient and beneficiary of all genuine ministry, for She is the object of Christ’s passion. The Bridegroom is wholly and eternally committed to His Betrothed. His statement, “I will build My CHURCH,” is a vivid expression of His passion. Building His Church is the only building program to which He has ever been personally committed.

The movie, “The Passion of Christ,” was in many ways a tremendous movie that I believe the Lord used greatly to draw many hearts toward Him, but the title is a bit of misnomer. In truth, the Cross and Christ’s sufferings revolving around it was really not “the passion of Christ.” Scripture makes it clear, “It was for the JOY set before Him that He endured the cross,” and that “JOY” was His Eternal Bride to whom He will in the end be wed eternally. The real passion of Christ is the Church! And, it was because of that passion that when He was ascending on high to take His seat of all-majesty and all-sovereignty He GAVE all of Himself and His Anointing that He had to give—and because of His driving and all-consuming Love for His Eternal Bride, He indeed “HAD to give,” for Agape-Love cannot help itself, it MUST give! “God so LOVED…that He GAVE!” Genuine God-kind-of-Love is compelled to give!

It is for this reason and cause—the spiritual edification of His Church—that when He ascended on high, on the Day of Ascension from the Mount of Ascension, Christ relegated the Fivefold Ministry Functions He Himself had operated during His fleshly ministry unto men:

Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the BODY OF CHRIST; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. (Eph. 4:8-13)

In Heaven, these anointings and giftings are not needed. It is here on Earth where the infusion of sin into the world system has corrupted the entire Creation that His anointing and supernatural giftings are needed in order “that He might (nullify, bring to naught, negate) the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8).

“He gave GIFTS to men.” It was because He Himself owned and operated these five ministry functions that He was authorized to endow humans with them. He indeed gave them as gifts of grace, both to those He anointed with them, as well as gifts to the Body of Christ, who God designated as their ultimate recipient and beneficiary.

The true meaning of this Ephesians text is that Christ, as the Head of the Church, prior to ascending on high to reclaim His seat at the right hand of God, bestowed these five giftings of ministry unto certain (“some,” not all) individuals of His choosing, for the purpose of equipping the saints (i.e., believers) for the work of the ministry. Contrary to the misconception that has prevailed for thousands of years, it is the saints, not the ministers, God intends to do the work of the ministry. Fivefold Ministers are the coaches, teachers, trainers, who are charged with equipping, training, and releasing the saints to do the work of the ministry. Metaphorically speaking, the saints are the “players”; Fivefold Ministers are the “coaches.”

For centuries the church at-large has indoctrinated believers with the mindset that they are merely the spectators, the audience, watching the professional clergy doing the work of the ministry. But that was never God’s intention or plan. The true role of the Fivefold Ministers is to equip the SAINTS to do the work of the ministry.

Then, as the passage indicates, the result of the saints being equipped, trained, empowered, and released to do the work of the ministry will be that the entire Body of Christ will be spiritually edified (literal meaning of the Greek word is to “charge up” as a battery is charged up) or built up, in every way God intends for the Body of Christ to be built up.

The proper function of the Fivefold Ministers working in concert together is to spiritually equip and mature the Body of Christ. Attainment of this goal requires the harmonious functioning together as a whole of all five of these ministry offices. Three-fold ministry of the functions of evangelists, pastors, and teachers has proven over nineteen centuries of Church history to be inadequate to mature the Church to the spiritual condition required for Christ to return to claim Her as His eternal Bride.

Over the last three or four decades especially, one of the greatest deterents in the harmonious functioning together as a whole of all five of these ministry offices, as well as its effectiveness in equipping and maturing the saints has been the belief by many that relationships among Fivefold Ministers are vertical and hierarchical, and the emergence of ministerial organizations and networks essentially establishing a multi-level pyramid structure. Subordinating and ascribing “rank” to these five ministry functions demotes and depowers them. To see one as being the “highest” and most important in an ascending-descending structure is to totally misconstrue how they operate in the Spirit and their role in minstering to the saints. Relationships among Fivefold Ministers are not hierarchical but rather horizontal; not competitive but collegial; not subjugational but subsumational; not competitive but complementary.

To reach this ultimate objective, the Church that Jesus is building must now move past the utterly fallacious and sophomoric notion that Fivefold Ministry Offices are merely titles representing positions of authority and ascendancy, and embrace the scriptural and spiritual paradigm that they are functions of service and servitude in which those who have been genuinely anointed and appointed by God to them are mimicking Jesus’ model, laying down their lives, crucifying themselves and their personal ambitions, in order to employ their God-given gifts, talents, abilities, anointing, and very essence to serve the Body of Christ—the Lamb’s Wife.###


The Role of Fivefold Ministry (Part 2)
This article is an excerpt from the book, Charismatic Captivation, by Dr. Steven Lambert.

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