What? When? Where? Why? Who?
One of the biggest problems I’ve seen with the doctrine of the five-fold ministry is a lack of clear understanding about what each gifting is, what it is for and how it functions. Here are my notes based on my own reading and life experience. For ease, I’m going to go backwards up the list, since it’s the top ones that are, in my experience, the most complicated and contentious. The top two, prophecy and apostleship, are in other articles.
Gifts not Titles
As I said in my first article – the APEPT giftings are not job titles that Christians get to label themselves with. They are gifts that God gives to other people through the APEPT servant. For me it’s like handing out presents on Christmas morning when I was a little boy. Sometimes my dad would hand me a present and tell me to give it to someone else around the Christmas tree. My dad bought the present and wrapped it. He decided who it was for. It wasn’t for me and I wasn’t the giver of the present. I just got to carry it across the lounge room to the person it was intended for.
That’s how APEPT works. God decides on the gift and who needs to receive it. Then he puts it into a Christian’s hands and lets them carry it the short distance across the room. Just like when I was five years old, I might get a sincere thank you for handing over the gift, but the glory for it belongs to my Father, not me.
One more note: for most of the APEPT, God does not put a line around the gifts and forbid the non-gifted from participation. At some time in our walk with Christ, most of us will teach someone else something of God; we’ll probably pastor someone else, especially if we become parents; we’ll likely all evangelise on multiple occasions. That’s not what APEPT is about. APEPT giftings are not just doing, they are doing with the power of God 100% behind them. Below I’ll detail the examples I have seen of the giftings at work to show what I mean.
So, on to the gifts.
There are tons and tons of teachers in the Christian churches today. Most of them are not APEPT teachers. An APEPT teacher can’t help but teach and when they do the Scripture unfolds and unfolds. They can’t teach one theme, because as soon as they point to one thing, they’re seized with the joy of all the other Godly things the Lord has hidden in his Word. In my experience the mark of a teacher is that nothing they teach is difficult to understand and the learning comes with a spiritual joy that is at once quiet and effective for changing your life.
And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32
In my lifetime, I’ve only met one man who I would say categorically had this APEPT gifting (though I’ve seen video of a couple of others). He was well educated in the scripture and theology, but he put all such things in subordination to Christ; his education was a tool, not a qualification. Often he would stand up to speak for twenty minutes and fifty minutes later we’d all be urging him to go on. Many times, he’d say he only had one or two more points to make, and we’d laugh, because we knew that those two points would unfold to five or eight and there was nothing he could do about it and no one cared. When he spoke, God revealed the truth.
That’s the gift of teaching.
Pastors see the need and know the service that will bless the Body of Christ in the doing. They bring comfort and peace. They reveal the care of the Shepherd for His flock in a way that cuts through culture, gender, race and every other barrier the enemy of God puts up between us.
“Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28
Pastors are the Lord’s chosen, living tools to fulfil this scripture. They bless us to be able to rest in Christ. And the body of Christ knows it. When we experience the outworking of a pastor’s gifting, we find rest for our souls. They know and understand our problems, even seemingly before we do. They have an instinct for every church member’s need. But they are not gossips. You will not hear the private business of another person from their lips
There are a few folks like this in my church at this time and I marvel at their power to care and bring comfort from the Lord. Sometimes it’s personal and sometimes it’s practical. At least three are people in their seventies and older, yet their service doesn’t flag with age or weariness. The gift just flows through them with the power of the Lord.
The standard definition of an evangelist is a wandering preacher of the gospel. For me this definition is inadequate, but only because I’ve met a true evangelist. Here is the story from his life, that demonstrates the difference. One night he went to a local basketball match between two colleges. During the first half, he spoke to the young man next to him, answering his questions and objections about the gospel. As the first half came to an end, it became clear that the young man was ready to make a commitment to Christ.
The evangelist suggested that they could kneel and pray right there in the stands. The young man agreed and the evangelist led him through a prayer of repentance. As they came to the end of the prayer the evangelist looked around him and realised that many others in nearby seats were praying the exact same prayer and coming to the Lord at the same time. Just by listening into the evangelist’s conversation with one person, many were led to repentance.
This is what an evangelist is, a walking, talking doorway into the Kingdom of God. In Biblical terms, they are the harvesters. Some of us plant, some of us water (1 Cor 3:6) and sometimes we get to work on the harvest. Evangelists are the Lord’s chosen harvesters. God uses them that way. The famous crusades of Billy Graham are probably another good example. I have little actual knowledge of Graham’s theology and cannot vouch for it nor condemn it, but I do know a lot of people traced their entry into the Kingdom through his preaching.
Not Better People
Already it should be clear that people operating in an APEPT gifting are not better than the rest of us. They are neither more holy nor wiser; they are simply appointed by the lord. An evangelist only needs to know of the heart of the gospel:
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Rom 10:9
The teacher I mentioned above was a fabulous public speaker, but in his personal interactions was so guarded that he was almost rude. He seemed to suffer from social anxiety. I tried on multiple occasions to befriend him and he very firmly kept me at arm’s length.
One of the pastors in my church is almost wheel chair bound. He can’t do chores for people anymore. But his care for every member of the congregation is unmistakable. The gift is not about qualification. The Lord has made him a pastor and the power of God makes it happen.
And lest anyone misunderstand me, and think I’m saying learning or study is unimportant, let me say this loudly and clearly: the scriptures are fundamental to our understanding of the Lord’s work. No Christian should disregard the scriptures or downplay their importance for an instant.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Josh 1:8
But the work of God doesn’t not only require good theology, because if it did, then only the smart people would be good Christians. Salvation would be based on IQ and that’s just not the Lord’s way. He chooses the foolish things to confound the wise. (1 Cor 1:27)
APEPT is not something that can be determined by qualifications. It is a set of gifts that the Lord gives to the Body by putting it in a Christian’s hands to walk it across the room. These gifts don’t need elders or structures to ordain them. We don’t need to figure out our place in them. Learn his ways through prayer and contemplation of the Word, then watch for the opportunities he puts into your path. Then will He make your way prosperous, for the glory of His kingdom and according to His plan for all humanity.