And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
In these verses we read how Christ equipped the church and for what reason. Many books have been written about the subject of these roles in the church and I could not do justice here to the topic so for those interested, an in depth study would be recommended.
John Maxwell, noted Christian author and Leadership “guru” gives his definitions of these five roles in his “The Maxwell Leadership Bible:
- Apostle: One sent forth to pioneer and establish new works and new leaders.
- Prophet: One who speaks forth God’s Word to inspire, correct, and motivate.
- Evangelist: One who shares Christ with outsiders and trains others to do so.
- Pastor: One who shepherds, guides, and guards God’s people as they serve.
- Teacher: One who trains God’s people in the truth and teaches others to do so.
I believe that all but the role of the Apostle are still active roles in the church today. John MacArthur gives supporting Scriptural references to support this view:
Six biblical reasons may be given as to why the apostolic office is not for today:
1. The church was founded upon the apostles (Eph. 2:20)… Their role was to give grounding, support, direction – to provide the underpinning for a fledgling church. They were the church’s founders. That role was fulfilled by them and by definition can never be repeated.
2. Apostles were eyewitnesses to the resurrection (1 Cor. 9:1)… There is no trustworthy evidence that (Jesus) has appeared to anyone since the close of the apostolic era.
3. Apostles were chosen personally by Jesus Christ (Mt. 10:1-4).
4. Apostles were authenticated by miraculous signs (Ac. 3:3-11; 5:15-16; 9:36-42; 20:6-12; 28:1-6)… No such miracles were ever performed – even in the apostolic era – by anyone other than the apostles and those commissioned by them.
5. Apostles had absolute authority (Jude 17)… When the apostles spoke, there was no discussion.
6. Apostles have an eternal and unique place of honor (Rev. 21:14).
John MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, Zondervan, © John MacArthur, 1992, p. 148-151
As we look at the roles described in verse 11 for the church, we can see how that Christ gave the church all the leadership roles needed to make the church successful for the cause of Christ. As we consider our churches today often times the churches that seem to over emphasis one or a few of these roles above others are the same churches that have lost their spiritual balance. Like and individual that loads up only on proteins or only on carbohydrates, the church that does a similar thing will eventually become spiritual malnourished and will become ineffective.
The purpose of these roles in the church is as it says in verse 12: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”
And to that end, let me ask you this question:
How can a spiritually malnourished saint perform their God-given work in ministry effectively? And if they, if you, if I cannot effectively fulfill our responsibilities as a Christian, how can the body of Christ be edified or encouraged? Consider your church today and then ask yourself these questions:
- Is my church helping me and my family to become well balanced Christians?
- Is it calling sin – sin, right – right and wrong –wrong? Or is it afraid to address sin?
- At times do I feel the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sin or is every Sunday marshmallows and cotton candy?
- Is my church an evangelistic church, reaching out to the lost and proclaiming the way of Salvation and encouraging and teaching me and my family to do the same?
- Does my church reach out to shepherd the flock, getting past the superficial topics and issues and helping its members to deep dive into each other’s lives as a way to encourage, uplift, support and edify each other?
- Is it dividing the Word of God rightly? Is it teaching biblical doctrine or is it teaching feel-good sensationalism? Is it helping and encouraging you and your family to dig deeper and build your spiritual life in such a way that you in turn can disciple others?
If your church is not helping you to eat a spiritually balanced diet, then determine if it is you or the church. If you’re only picking the sweets from a balanced spiritual buffet, then shame on you, repent and learn to eat the broccoli. You’ll find that it’s does a body good.
If you find that the church has good intentions but fall short, in the right spirit and with humility go to your pastor and discuss the topic. But if your church cannot, or is unwilling to provide a balance diet as Paul has outlined in verse 11, seek another church that can and will. You may say, but Donn, I attend a small church and you don’t understand, it just isn’t big enough to provide it all. I know what it is like to be a part of a small assembly of believers. I know what it is like for your family to be the only ones in attendance at a service. I know what it is like to be a teenager and the only ushers. Our family started a church in mid to late 1970’s in Chatham, Ontario, Canada. We did not have the resources today but my Dad had preaching and teaching tapes available to the membership. He had a large library that people could borrow from if they desire. Even in small churches today there are so many resources available to us as Christians that we should not lack in our spiritual diet. There are books, CD’s, DVD’s, online courses, blogs and websites that we can feast on. The key to all of these is to be discerning in knowing which ones to dine on and which ones are spiritual junk foods. Your pastor and spiritual mentors can help you to determine at which “restaurant” to dine.
So are you being spiritually completed at your church? If not, what are you going to do about it?