I’m trying to establish my own understanding of God’s intended governance structure of the church. I’m contemplating this idea that the five-fold ministry is like the trinity plus our earthly mum and dad. I’m sure this is wrong at a whole lot of levels, but it may also provide some useful perspectives. I’d appreciate comments to explore and refine this idea.
I’m following the idea that the Apostle, Prophet and Evangelist tend to be accompanied by the supernatural, whereas the pastor and teacher tend to be more practically and naturally oriented. I think this is not God’s intention, but as we drift away from relying on his Holy Spirit, these first three stop working, leaving the pastor and teacher to function only at a natural level. As we see the supernatural restored in the church, we’re seeing these supernatural ministries returning and the pastor and teacher being empowered with the supernatural.
Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
The next verses are often slandered to prove Christianity sexist, but husbands need most the reminder to love their wives and wives to submit to their husbands as this is what comes least naturally. If one dominates the other or does not care for (love) the other the relationship is imbalanced.
I understand the trinity as three persons contributing in their diverse ways to form one God – just as our mum and dad unite their diversity to form one family unit (“one flesh”). Just as mum and dad submit to one another, so too, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit submit to one another. In the same way that we submit to Jesus, he also submits himself (e.g. his body) to serve us. Therefore the governance of a family being mum & dad + God can expand to Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Dad and Mum. Each performs a particular role in building up the family, each submitting mutually to each other. This is not the same as obedience, but rather submitting one’s needs and desires to the other’s benefit.
Seeing five persons in the family-head and five personas in church governance, I’ve perhaps shoe-horned a likeness. I’m not sure if this works.
- The Apostle can be seen as carrying the wisdom of the Father
- Jesus can be seen as the evangelist who draws all men to God
- Prophets act like the Holy Spirit as conduits of communication or revelation
- The pastor is like mum, primarily gifted in nurturing relationships
- Dads are particularly tasked with teaching godliness, traditionally as the priest of the family
Really, these definitions get very blurred as each takes on the other’s roles, which do not separate cleanly. Just as in a family, stereotypical gender roles are not rigid, this extends to people functioning in place of a member of the godhead. Where dad might cook or mum might mow the lawns, a person may act in God’s place, particularly for those immature in the faith. Or a person may be pastored and taught directly by God while there are no mature Christians around.
Ephesians 4:11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 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
1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.
Some think of the five-fold ministry as a hierarchy of increasing authority. In some ways, this may be, but its exaggeration goes particularly wrong when authority is asserted or demanded instead of us recognizing and submitting to each other’s strengths. To consider this a career progression is particularly problematic as these roles have conflicting personas. A wonderfully pastoral people-person will naturally shun the abrasiveness of a prophet and a prophet will be rejected as a pastor because they’re too abrasive. It is interesting to note that 1 Corinthians 12:28 omits evangelists and pastors. Maybe we shouldn’t get too hung up on categorizations.
Paul charges Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5 to do the work of an evangelist. This serves as a reminder for us all to follow the great commission:
Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
But it could also be a personal charge for Timothy’s specific calling, along with teaching.
These ministries can be viewed in the natural as five personas that balance each other in governance of the church. One claiming to be a prophet humorously quipped “I finally realized I don’t have to be nice because my pastoral husband naturally covers that for me”. While this is delightfully inappropriate, it reveals how these different personas have strengths and weaknesses that when combined produce a fully-functioning body. The weaker points fade into the glorious whole.
It is interesting to consider the distribution of national governances.
The United States looks like this:
South Africa distributes this across three capitols: Pretoria is the executive capital, Bloemfontein is the judicial capital, and Cape Town is the legislative capital. I can imagine this being done to not favour one particular tribal group.
Turkey has a similar system, where Sultan Erdogan is now placing his face on all pieces. Cough. https://www.emaze.com/@AWIRLRTZ/Turkey-copy1
This last example “streamlines” the decision-making process and “distribution” of wealth. Quite infamous really ;-).
How I see Church history
I believe the church maintained the five-fold governance structure for a few centuries until it was commandeered by the Roman Emperor Constantine. Around this time, Papal governance took over, corrupting the church into a legislative hierarchy that could be better manipulated for political purposes. The supernatural was neglected and the remaining pastors and teachers gave way to priests and theologians. I see a priest, generically as one who brokers a relationship between the people and deity, whereas a theologian is one who studies and establishes the correct understanding of God i.e. interpretation of scripture and tradition. These roles naturally produce an exclusivity and undo Jesus’ work by re-separating the people from God. Through the ages, priests and theologians have the attitude that the common people are too impure and too dumb to relate with God – they should leave such things to the professionals. This same degradation is seen throughout history particularly with Noah’s descendants succumbing to paganism and the Tower of Babel. We must always be on the guard against this trap.
500 years ago, priests like Martin Luther broke through the monopoly of the clergy by translating the Bible into native languages and mass-printing it so that everyone could study God’s word and question the traditions that had spiritually abused the victims of dark ages. Priests returned to pastoring their people to seek God themselves and teachers have established a thorough understanding of God’s word in separation from human traditions.
In the 1800’s and maybe earlier, great evangelists arose who addressed millions and miraculously turned the people back to God accompanied with supernatural signs and wonders.
With the 1900’s new supernatural revivals sprang up such as in Azuza St where the multitudes were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in unfamiliar languages and prophesied. Since then there has been a resurgence in understanding biblical prophecy, both in apologetics (giving reason for our faith) and eschatology (interpreting future prophecy, particularly end-times). There are also ministers who specialize in revealing the hidden and declaring the future to encourage and empower God’s people.
Today we are re-discovering the role of the apostle and trying to work out how all five are supposed to work together in governance of the church. Although we’ve had “Apostolic” churches for some time, these don’t seem to embrace the original church governance structure, but reveal our desire to this end. We now see churches like Bethel are embracing the five-fold ministry, recognizing people in each of these roles and their need to collaborate interdependently. While our understanding is quite immature, we’re starting to see how God intends the church to be as the world ripens towards the harvest at the end of this age.
I pray this is stimulating and useful to generate an understanding of what God is up to.
Shalom and God bless you.