Fivefold Ministry | Is It for Today?
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.
- Summary: Has church tradition tricked us into calling almost all ministers “pastor”? Or should the Church today be benefiting from the five ministries of contemporary apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers?
Is your pastor truly a biblical “pastor”? Very possibly so. But perhaps not. Sad to say, the modern Church has largely abandoned the broad-based “fivefold” ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11 — that is, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers — and has too often settled for identifying most Christian ministers simply as “pastor”. But often those “pastors” are more precisely evangelists or Bible teachers, or even prophets or apostles.
My desire in this article is to show from the Scriptures that all five ministries are biblically valid and needed today.
Ephesians 4:11-13 It was he [Jesus, vss. 7-10] 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.
- •• These three verses are not difficult to understand. They quite clearly explain how, at the outset, Jesus Christ established five specific, named ministries to bring His church to full maturity. There is no biblical warrant for changing Christ’s pattern then to a different one now.
•• Let’s briefly examine these verses, and we will see how they plainly describe the Lord’s provision for His Church for the entire Church Age. But first a glance at verses 7-8 to establish the beginnings of a time frame.
Ephesians 4:7-8 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”
These two verses establish a context for the fivefold ministry gifts named in verse 11.
- •• Those ministries represented a giving of grace by Jesus Christ (vs. 7).
•• And when did Jesus do this giving? — “When he ascended on high” (vs. 8). For that reason, some have called these the "ascension-gift ministries". While on earth, as recorded in the four Gospels, Jesus gave apostles (12 of them). But Ephesians 4 tells us that, after His resurrection and ascension to heaven, Jesus broadened that apportionment of His grace by giving the Church not only additional apostles, but also prophets, evangelists, pastors, and Bible teachers. We see many instances of these ministries represented by named men in the Book of Acts, subsequent to Jesus’ ascension to heaven.
- • apostles (Acts 14:14; see also 1 Thess. 1:1 with 2:6)
• prophets (Acts 11:27-28; 13:1; 15:32)
• evangelists (Acts 21:8; see also 2 Tim. 4:5)
• pastors (not named, but clearly given in Eph. 4:11)
• teachers (Acts 13:1; see also 1 Timothy 2:7)
- •• The relevant point in vss. 7-8 is that Jesus was not content just to give the original twelve apostles. Upon His return to heaven, He continued to give His Church many and varied ministries — here specifically, additional apostles, as well as prophets, evangelists, pastors, and Bible teachers. There is no biblical support, nor is there logical reason, to change or discontinue the pattern that Jesus established for ministry in His Church. We will prove that point further from the Scriptures below.
Ephesians 4:11-12 [Jesus gave] apostles ... prophets ... evangelists ... pastors ... teachers,  to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
vs. 12, KJV — “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry...”
vs. 12, Amplified — “His intention was the perfecting and full equipping of the saints (His consecrated people), [that they should do] the work of ministering toward building up Christ’s body (the church).”
- •• Are the saints (God’s people) perfected yet? No? Then we today need all five ministries, which are given for this purpose.
•• Are the saints “fully equipped” to do the work of the ministry? Is the “work of the ministry” completed? Not yet? Then we today still need all five ministries to fully equip us for this noble work.
•• Is Christ’s body, the Church, fully “built up”? Certainly not. Until it is, we need all the fivefold ministries to help us fulfill this heaven-ordained purpose.
Ephesians 4:11, 13 [The five ministries were given, vs. 11] ...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.
- •• All five ministries are to have their expression to and impact upon the body of Christ “UNTIL”:
- • we all reach unity in the faith
• we all reach unity in the knowledge of the Son of God
• we become mature (King James: “a perfect man”)
• we attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ
- •• I have never met a Christian who believes that the body of Christ has yet achieved the four goals listed above. Until that day comes, we need all five of the Ephesians 4:11 ministries. They are Christ’s provisions to lead His Church towards these noble goals.
Among those who deny the present-day validity of the five ministries, the objections are not to pastors, and generally not to evangelists and teachers. Usually the stumbling block is contemporary apostles and prophets. Yet there is no biblical support for dividing these ministries, as is often done, into two groups — evangelists, pastors, and teachers for today, but apostles and prophets only for the early Church.
- •• All five are needed to equip the Lord’s people in every century of the Church Age.
•• All five are needed to bring the Church to unity and maturity.
•• All five are needed to bring us — you and me — to the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ”.
•• May the Church today move past erroneous traditions and teachings and once again embrace the gracious provision of Jesus Christ to His Church for the entire Church Age — that is, God-called, Spirit-anointed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
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©2010, James H. Feeney. Copyright statement.