Understanding the Five-Fold Ministry

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Anyway, lately the five-fold ministry has been coming back to life for me. This is something that God pushed into my heart a couple years ago. It went as far as I nearly gave a sermon explaining the importance of the five-fold and telling people to choose one. I was (and still am) under the belief that you MUST fit into one of these five areas of ministry. It has recently come up again and I wanted to share it with you.

This is an article I wrote over a year ago on our church website – but I’ve touched it up and gave it more of that Rambling Preacher twang (not really anything different, might I add) that we know and love.

Something that I believe is so important to highlight right now is that (most) Christians seem to think/believe that all five parts of the five-fold ministry are the Pastor’s responsibility. Hence, we face severe Pastoral burn-out in America. We have so many Pastor’s shouldering too much of the load. Something I have told my wife over and over is that (one day off) when I am a Senior Pastor of a Church – I will absolutely not stand for anyone placing me on a pedestal of any kind. Do not glorify ME. Do not exalt ME. Do not place me higher in your mind than you ought to. I’ve seen FAR too many Christians who are only Christians because they like their Pastor. Or they love “His Preaching Style.” I’ve seen Christians fall away from faith when a Pastor falls away – simply because the Pastor had become an idol in their life (a Golden Calf, if you will).

Pastors are called to Pastor. They are not solely responsible for evangelism, teaching, prophetic words, or even administration (apostolic giftings). Pastors are protectors who have many giftings in those areas – but they are not responsible for everything that happens within a church. They make up one fifth (of course!)

A common question…

A question I often receive in leadership when discussing the five-fold ministry is, “does everyone fit into the five-fold ministry?” The typical thought process, I would dare say, is no. However, God has revealed to me that just because you may not be a “prophet,” does not necessarily negate spiritual preference. I believe the five-fold ministry is best looked at as a Christian, Kingdom-building preference. How do you prefer to build God’s Kingdom?

“What is your kingdom-building preference?”

In marketing, the first thing you are taught to do is “identify your target audience.” Once you have identified your audience, you start to gather data on what they want and/or need. As an example, if I decide that I want to sell ties, what do I do to market this item? I would first identify who is going to wear ties. I then would identify what they want and need in a tie. That is simple marketing 101 for you. Honestly, if you think about anything you are trying to accomplish, the steps are not too much different. If I were to ask you a couple simple questions, I could likely tell you what five-fold ministry you lean toward. You may be a business-man, a sound-guy, a teenager in school or a run-away; no matter what you are, I promise you: you have a Kingdom building preference.

Ephesians 4:11-16 [ESV]

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Key words to notice: equip, building-up, unity of faith, knowledge of the son, mature, fullness of Christ, no longer be children, grow-up, equipped, working properly, body grow, builds itself up.

I highlight these words to illustrate to you that equipping, building-up and many of these words align perfectly with “Kingdom Building” which is the idea I present to you today.

**Allow me to also preface that some people believe “Shepherds and Teachers” is only one ‘fold’ – so many people believe in a four-fold ministry. I am okay with this idea, because teachers and pastors often have a similar heart and pastors must be able to teach. But, I personally lean toward them being separate calls and we’ll get into why below.

The five-fold ministry is simply a Kingdom building preference.

Let’s figure out YOUR preference. So - at your core, who do you want to reach, above anything else? (identify your target) Or, who do you have a heart for?

1. The World – the lost, the broken and the prodigal – see all saved

2. The Flock – church, the sheep and the new-found believers

3. God – His presence, His truth, His time – intimacy with God

4. The New Believer – un-taught, un-instructed and young in the Lord

5. The Established Believer – secure leadership, pastors, elders and church leadership

6. Myself – need to grow before working on others

Most people would agree that one of these, at their core, is who they care the most about. You may wonder, “well this is five-fold ministry and you listed six.” The sixth option is for the new believer who is not yet established enough to understand his/her spiritual Kingdom building preference. If you have never thought about which of these groups you care the most about, perhaps it is time. God has called us to order and these targeted audiences fit the five-fold ministry.

The second question is just as important. At your core, what do you want most in your walk with Christ? (identify targeted audiences need)

1. For the unsaved to discover the truth of the Gospel

2. For the church to find rest and comfort in God’s presence, to counsel and comfort those working on their walk with God. To build up and edify God’s people.

3. For time with God. His will always wins your heart. His instruction guides your life. His glory and power revered by His people.

4. For Christians to understand the Gospel. For people to discover their callings and help guide them and equip them to get there.

5. For Christian leadership to move to the next level and avoid stagnancy. To travel about preaching and teaching God’s truth to different bodies across the globe.

6. For God to continually teach you and guide you to understand His will for your life.

We will review each number and what it represented at the end of the article.

Before we continue, please understand that I am not saying that the five-fold ministry is your title. Titles come and go with need. God has given you a specific heart and desire when it comes to Kingdom building. Also, we are all human. You may relate to an area in the five-fold but feel slightly condemned because you don’t have the same passion I am typing about. Imagine yourself radical and in a good place with God. Is this what you’d be like? Do not feel bad about not measuring up to my solicited best-case Kingdom builder. I will be reviewing the five-fold ministry: prophet, pastor, teacher, evangelist and apostle. I will discuss in each ministry: what they see, what they want and their target audience.


What they see – God’s Heart

Prophets are perhaps the most intriguing of the five-fold ministry to me. Maybe because it is the ministry I am personally least familiar with. I have prophets all around me, but I am not always able to relate with them. They see things in the spirit. A true Prophet will see things and discern things of the spirit quickly and accurately. They will be able to understand the intention and motive behind an action because God speaks to them so clearly. They see the way actions and choices will hurt or excite God. They align their emotions with God’s emotions and their hearts with God’s heart. They see what God wants and hear what God wants to say. Prophets are called to intimacy with God. They can spend hours with God and be in His presence without even hesitating.

What they want – Time with God

Prophets want what God wants. They want God’s voice to be heard. They want God’s will to unfold. They want revival. They want God’s people to make the right choices. Think of Nathan in the Old Testament with David. David, a Godly man, made some mistakes with Bathsheeba. Nathan gave David the prophetic word of how he had offended God. David immediately repented. In a prophet’s mind, that is how it should always be. Prophets are not trying to attack anyone – but they often understand God’s heart far better than most. Prophets want to spend as much time with God as possible so they can discern His will and His heart in any given situation. This will in turn lead to them often giving corrective words to “Israel” (or today, the church).

Target audience – God

This, to me, is the most vital separation of anyone else in the five-fold ministry. Their target is God. Obviously, they give God’s words to His people (Old Testament to Israel and New Testament to God’s newly grafted children), whether a good word or a bad word. But beyond that, whether they are giving a word to God’s people or not – they are continually seeking God. At least, they should be. A prophet who isn’t continually in God’s presence can sometimes find themselves “off” spiritually. Prophets just want to be alone with God.


What they see – Needs of the Flock

Pastors are in love with the flock, they are also called “shepherd.” So, what they see is the flock (the body) and they share God’s heart for His people. Pastors are called to counsel, edify, exhort, convict and ultimately, protect the body of Christ. David, a great example of a shepherd was constantly protecting his sheep. Pastors are warriors who can be gentle. They are in a unique position because they are supposed to shepherd as Christ did – which is hard to emulate. Christ was the ultimate shepherd and pastor. Christ had no sin or wrongdoing. Pastors are just people trying to give everything they have to the flock. Please, understand that just because someone is called “pastor” does not mean they are perfect.

What they want – Safety and growth

Pastors want what is best for the body. At times, to a fault. Have you heard of the seeker-friendly movement? Essentially pastors overcompensated the flock and damaged God’s will. I personally identify strongly with pastors. We love people. We love the body. We love being united. We love teamwork. We love when everyone is happy and enjoying their Christian walk. But, the truth is, pastors cannot bend the rules to make the flock happy. God is still in ultimate authority. We want God and Christians to connect. We want the body to be encouraged and satisfied in God’s green pasture. Pastors just want safety for their flock, which means they remain in the pasture. Pastors need Prophets around as well.

Target audience – The Flock

Pastors targeted audience is the flock. Typically pastors are the counselor, preacher and teacher. At the end of the day, pastors just want to spend time and give time to their flock. Pastors can also show tendencies to the world or lost – but typically, a pastor feels most called to the flock God has given him/her. After all, they aren’t called a shepherd for no reason. In order to shepherd, they must spend time with God and be devoted to His will, but they understand their calling.


What they see – Christians in Need

Teachers see a need. They see a learning gap. They see where young and immature Christians may need some guidance. Teachers see knowledge. Teachers see resources. Teachers are always teaching and seeing areas to teach. Whether young or old in the Lord, they will find a way to still be a teacher in some capacity. Teachers see where someone is struggling with a decision. They see where someone is supposed to go, but needs help getting there. In summary, teachers see Christians in need of guidance.

What they want –Opportunities to Help

Teachers want nothing more than to teach, mentor, instruct and then to be surpassed by a young pupil. When I reference young, I do not mean in age but in the Lord. If you have a teacher or mentor in your life and they do not wish for you to surpass them, I question their motives. Teachers want the best for their students. They want their student to learn, adapt, make the right choice and be challenged to grow. Teachers are not called to clean-up the mess, they are called to teach someone how to clean up their mess and how to avoid making the mess in the future. Teachers are needed, without them we’d never develop beyond much more than an immature Christian who (maybe) knows the Bible. Teachers are just searching for opportunities to use their knowledge, wisdom and experience to help younger Christians grow.

Target audience – Young Believers

Teachers hope to find understudies. Teachers should desire to teach a class of thirty or the casual coffee meeting with one the same. Either way, teachers are continuously searching for someone to take under their wing. Teachers need to be wise, knowledgeable and mature. At times, you get an experienced veteran teacher who takes on more mature pupils and understudies. However, this is dependent upon need and position. Typically, a more mature Christian is serving in a leadership role, and their mentor is someone in their specific area of calling. Teachers need to continually mentor the next up-and-coming teacher. My favorite saying for the past year has been, “success with no successor is a failure.”


What they see – The Broken

Evangelists are called to the world. The world is broken. Evangelists are passionate about Christ and what He accomplished on the cross. The Gospel is at the forefront of their minds. A true evangelist doesn’t need to go out on a Saturday to proclaim the Gospel because they do it 24/7. However, someone who is an evangelist is passionate about bring the Gospel to the lost and you probably would find them out on a Saturday.

What they want – Salvation for all

Evangelists want others to know about Jesus and what He did for them. They want everyone to know Christ. They have a burning desire to tell everyone around them about just how good Jesus is. Evangelists want opportunity and ears to hear. They want to visit the hurt. They want to give food to the homeless. They will take any opportunity they can to give of themselves and make others experience a glimpse of Christ’s love. A true evangelist is selfless. Nothing is off-limits, from their shoes to the shirt off of their back.

Target audience – The World

Whether the world means the homeless or the broken person sitting in the church. They care about those who are struggling and in desperate need of a touch from Christ. They want their family, co-workers, friends and neighbors to know about their faith. They will pursue giving food to the homeless and helping the widow. Essentially, anyone that is a non-Christian or a baby Christian struggling to get fully-connected.


What they see – Opportunity for Growth

Apostles see the world through their ‘God lens’. The world is theirs because it is God’s. Apostles do not allow themselves to be tied down due to finances or jobs. They see an opportunity for God’s bride. A true apostle will be revered and sought after by churches around the globe. Apostles see how to help Christian leaders and churches grow and move from one level to the next. Paul is the best example of someone walking in the Apostolic (I’m not here to debate if modern-day apostles are a thing) anointing. He traveled. He wrote different churches edifying or convicting letters. He brought the gospel to the world. They see the world as a playground. They understand God’s truth and are ready to plant seeds everywhere they go.

What they want – Churches to grow

Apostles want to plant churches. Apostles want to travel and preach God’s truth. Apostles want opportunity to bring God’s truth to Christian leadership (pastors, elders, deacons, etc.). Apostles want God’s will to pour out in all the nations. They are called to be the ones who “go out”. Apostles want to do anything they can to help leaders and churches grow.

Target audience – God’s Bride

What I mean by the entire church is God’s true church. Every brother or sister on the globe. They want to travel and minister to different churches bringing edifying prophetic words. Apostles want to speak directly into leadership. Apostles want to mentor anyone with a high call. Their vision is second to God alone. They see God’s big picture and envision ways of accomplishing it through God’s grace. Apostles desire to reach and teach God’s bride.

Finally, if you truly feel like none of these speak to your heart – then you are likely still young in the Lord (spiritually) – I encourage you to seek God and try and discover your “Kingdom Building Preference.” The hardest ‘type’ for me to ‘peg’ is the administrative person. Where do they fall? Well, that depends on their heart. The same goes for Worship and the worship team. My wife is a worship leader and she has such a heart for knowledge, understanding and the Word of God. I’ve been ecstatic to see her grow over the course of our marriage. I’ve known (and she knows) that she is a teacher at heart. So, whatever your “kingdom building preference” is will come out in your worship. She is a teacher, so she struggles to choose songs that she doesn’t believe are correct theologically. She is a teacher, so she wants the songs to glorify God while being true. She is a teacher, so when she speaks – she naturally brings words more inclined to teaching. The same goes for an administrator – their kingdom building preference should still come forth.

Let me end with a few final thoughts–

- Just because you align spiritually with pastor, or something else – does not mean you are going to be a Pastor of a church. I think churches should have many “Shepherds” within a body. Perhaps your children’s ministry leader has a “Shepherd’s heart” – well that would make sense! Maybe a teacher never teaches any adults, but rather mentors the new converts. One coffee meeting at a time until all of a sudden, their mentee is teaching classes in the church.

- We all need each other. Pastors need the evangelist. Teachers need the Prophets. Apostles need churches and bodies to visit and help edify (so they need all four). Prophets need Pastors. We all need to learn our strengths and weaknesses and draw off of one another – and also allow each person to flow in their natural gifting as to build up the body of Christ.

- Pastors experience burnout because they are expected to do all of these things. In reality, Pastors are simply the person with the call on their life to lead the body – that doesn’t mean they are spiritually more powerful – because power is God’s and God’s alone – God chooses who to manifest Himself through.

- Never de-value your call. The reality is God doesn’t need 1,000 Pastors. He needs (maybe) 3 (Senior) Pastors over those people. That same group will hold differing calls, anointings and callings. Do not be jealous of someone else’s call – live in the joy of your own purpose and know that God is always good – and He alone knows what is best for the Kingdom.

Five-fold number chart: (simplified)

1 – Evangelist

The World – the lost, the broken and the prodigal

For the unsaved to discover the truth of how amazing Jesus is

2 – Shepherd (Pastor)

The Flock – church, the sheep and the new-found believers

For the church to find rest and comfort in God’s presence, to counsel and comfort those working on their walk with God

3 - Prophet

God – His presence, His truth, His time

For time with God. His will always. His instruction guides my life. His glory and power revered by His people always

4 - Teacher

The New Believer – un-taught, un-instructed and young in the Lord

For Christians to understand the Gospel. For people to discover their callings and help guide them and equip them to get there

5 - Apostle

The Established Believer – secure leadership, pastors, elders and church leadership

For churches to move to the next level and avoid stagnancy. To travel, preaching and teaching God’s truth to different bodies and leaders across the globe

6 – New Believer, Young in the Lord

Myself – need to grow before working on others

For God to continually teach me and guide me to understand His will for myself

So, what area of God's kingdom do you want to build? After all - you are a Kingdom Builder in my book.

Think on it,


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