I want us to look together this morning at something that I believe has been long overlooked in the church in recent history. Or, at the very least, there has been confusion over it.
You are aware, I hope, of the fact that the Holy Spirit has given every believer at least one spiritual gift, often more than one, to be used in the church.
We can find these gifts listed in various places in scripture like 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. There find that the Holy Spirit gives to each one of us special gifts such as:
• wisdom, prophecy, teaching,
• speaking in tongues, encouragement,
• distinguishing between spirits, leadership,
• giving, interpretation of tongues, faith,
• miracles, service, words of knowledge,
• healing and mercy.
We have in the past done some teaching on these gifts and have a couple of times given out a survey that you can do to help you figure out what your spiritual gifts might be.
So my hope is that you are not only aware of the fact that God has given each one of us spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit, but that you have a growing knowledge of what your gifts are and that you are finding places to use them.
If you don't know what your gifting is, please talk to me. I'd love to sit with you and help you to figure this out.
What the church is less aware of, I believe, is something that is every bit as important for the ministry and mission of the church. It is something that we have lost sight of but that we desperately need to rediscover.
And that is this thing that has become known as the fivefold ministry.
I think that part of the reason that it has become lost is that it has been confused with the spiritual gifts. But as I want to show you this morning, the fivefold ministry is distinct from the spiritual gifts of the Spirit.
Let's look again at Ephesians 4: 7-13
1. This is for everyone
"To each one of us, grace has been given as Christ has apportioned it."
When the fivefold ministries has been taught, it has traditionally been thought that these are 5 roles that are for leaders in the church.
But that isn't what Paul is saying here, is it? "Each one" means every member of the body. There is no mention of leadership in this passage.
This is not just for those who have been ordained or who have been through seminary or even only for those who are appointed to leadership in the church.
So each one of us, if we have chosen to follow Jesus, has received a portion of grace in these roles.
The fivefold ministries are for each one of us.
Now while that is true, we need to pay attention to the rest of vs. 7 also.
Paul says that grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. There are varying degrees of grace given for these roles.
Jesus, by the gift of his grace, has empowered and equipped each of us for service but we have all been given different sized portions of that grace and anointing.
You may be called to function in the church as an evangelist as Billy Graham is. But the portion that Billy Graham was gifted by God will not be the same as the portion that you have received.
I may be called to function as an apostle but my portion of that gift may not be as great as that of the pastor down the street.
And that's ok. It is not about greatness or even about value. It is about using the portion of what Jesus has given for the benefit of the church and for His glory.
2. Personal calling not just spiritual gifts
There is an important distinction between spiritual gifts and the 5 roles, Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher, that Paul talks about in Ephesians 4.
That distinction is this. A spiritual gift is not a ministry in and of itself. It is a tool to be used in the fulfillment of the role that God has given as a gift to the church.
They are related, but they aren't the same. For example, it would be extremely difficult to fulfill the role of an Apostle without having the gift of leadership. Apostle is the role – leadership is the gift.
It would be very difficult to fulfill the role of Teacher in the church without having the gift of teaching.
The gifts that are given to each one of us are given so that we can fulfill the role that we have been called to in the church.
The fivefold ministry is very much about personal calling.
Now, as I said earlier, my hope is that most of us have an idea of what our spiritual gifts are.
So if I were to ask you what your spiritual gifts are you might be able to tell me right away, "Well my main gifts are mercy, service, and giving"
Or you might say "my main gift is teaching but I also have the gift of prophecy and distinguishing between spirits."
But, if I were to ask you, which of the five roles, Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher, has God primarily called you to?
What would your answer be? Would you have an answer?
My guess is that many of us wouldn't have one. And that is something that I want us to be addressing together over the next number of weeks.
I'll tell you how in a just a minute or two.
But first, I want us to look at God's purpose for gracing us with these roles.
3. The purpose of the ministries.
Why has God given grace to each one of us in one of the fivefold ministries.
Look at vs. 12 and 13 again
a) That God's people would be equipped for works of service.
What works of service? Well, let's look at our model and example, Jesus.
In Mark 10:45, Jesus said, "For even the son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many"
How did Jesus serve? By teaching the people (Teacher), by telling people the Good News and inviting people to relationship with God (Evangelist), by equipping His disciples and establishing the church (Apostle), by loving people and healing them (Pastor), by proclaiming God's Truth and warning of the things to come (Prophet).
In Jesus' ministry, we see the perfect fulfillment of all five of those roles. Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher.
But because none of us are Jesus, we can't do them all let alone do any one of them perfectly. So God has apportioned grace to each one of us to fulfill parts of them.
He gave each of us a part in these roles so that the church can be built up and so that it can serve in the way that Jesus served.
b) That God's people would be united in faith and knowledge of Jesus.
God gave us grace in each of these areas so that in exercising them, we would be united in our faith and in our knowledge of Jesus.
We need people who are equipped to teach the Word. We need people who are equipped to love and care for people.
We need people who are equipped to hear from God and boldly speak truth even if it is painful truth.
We need people who are equipped to provide vision, to lead the church and to guard against attacks.
We need people who are equipped to bring the good news to people who don't yet know God and to invite them to relationship with Him through Jesus.
In fulfilling these role, we work together at being united in purpose and united in faith and understanding.
If in the exercise of our gifts in these roles, we aren't promoting the unity of our faith, then we're not being faithful to the call.
The bible is full of admonitions for leaders not the lord their position over others, for teachers to not stray from the teaching of the Word.
The exercise of these roles needs to promote unity in the body.
c) That God's people would be mature in the fullness of Christ
And lastly, God's purpose in giving us grace in these roles is so that we would grow in maturity and the fullness of Christ.
The exercise of these roles is for helping others to grow in maturity.
Now I haven't spent much time talking about the roles themselves. That's because I plan on doing that in the next number of weeks.
But before we can do that, we need to come back to the question that I asked you earlier.
Do you know what the calling is that God has place on your life? If God has given grace to "each one" and given some to be Apostles, some to be Prophets, some to be Evangelists, some to be Pastors and Teachers, what is your calling?
There isn't much point in talking about what those roles mean and what they look like in the church if we don't know what our call is.
So I am going to give you a homework assignment. And I want you to take it very seriously, ok?
The first part of the assignment is to pray. Thank God that He HAS given you a portion of grace in one of these areas – that he HAS a call for you to fulfill in the church.
But if you're not sure what that call is, then ask Him to show you as you're thanking Him. I don't believe that God is going to play games with you. He wants you to know it so He will show you as you ask Him.
I also want to give you a tool that might help you hear from God.
If you have a pen, write this down. Or if you are reading this online, just click on the link below.
There you will find a short survey that you can go through online and it is a tool that can help you find out what your primary calling is in these areas.
It is not a perfect tool. It is certainly no substitute for hearing from God. But it might help you to start the journey in understanding your call.
Lastly, ask God for confirmation. Once you think that you know what that primary calling is, talk to someone you trust.
Tell them what you think the call is and ask them if it sounds right.
If you do that, then when you come back next Sunday you will have a much better sense of what role God is calling you to.
And we are going to take at least 2 Sundays – we'll likely have to take a break for Easter - to start to look more in depth at them so that you can grow in understanding what God's personal call to you looks like.