Ephesians 4: “APEST”

Ephesians 4 is one of my favorite chapters in all of Paul’s letters. In this single chapter alone, Paul gives Christian leaders some incredible insight into solid leadership functions that should be used in the church. It’s important to note that although Paul is referencing those who have experienced a call by God to perform a special function in the life of the church, Paul’s not being exclusive here.

Paul states in Chapter 1, “This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus, who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus. He goes on to say in 4:11, “These are the gifts Christ gave to the CHURCH.” He doesn’t say, “These are the gifts Christ gave to the PASTORS!” And what is the role of the church? Remember yesterdays reading in Chapter 3? 3:10-11 (NLT) 10 God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Alan Hirsch, author of The Forgotten Ways, believe that each role indicated in Ephesians 4:11-12 should be identified and utilized for an authentic multiplication movement of God in our church.

Ephesians 4:11-12 (NLT) 11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

Breakdown of A.P.E.S.T.

The list given here is by no means complete (for other types of gifts, see Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12)

APOSTLES extend the gospel. As the “sent ones,” they ensure that the faith is transmitted from one context to another and from one generation to the next. They are always thinking about the future, bridging barriers, establishing the church in new contexts, developing leaders, networking trans-locally. Yes, if you focus solely on initiating new ideas and rapid expansion, you can leave people and organizations wounded. The shepherding and teaching functions are needed to ensure people are cared for rather than simply used.

PROPHETS know God’s will. They are particularly attuned to God and his truth for today. They bring correction and challenge the dominant assumptions we inherit from the culture. They insist that the community obey what God has commanded. They question the status quo. Without the other types of leaders in place, prophets can become belligerent activists or, paradoxically, disengage from the imperfection of reality and become other-worldly.

EVANGELISTS recruit. These infectious communicators of the gospel message recruit others to the cause. They call for a personal response to God’s redemption in Christ, and also draw believers to engage the wider mission, growing the church. Evangelists can be so focused on reaching those outside the church that maturing and strengthening those inside is neglected.

SHEPHERDS/PASTORS nurture and protect. Caregivers of the community, they focus on the protection and spiritual maturity of God’s flock, cultivating a loving and spiritually mature network of relationships, making and developing disciples. Shepherds can value stability to the detriment of the mission. They may also foster an unhealthy dependence between the church and themselves.

TEACHERS understand and explain. Communicators of God’s truth and wisdom, they help others remain biblically grounded to better discern God’s will, guiding others toward wisdom, helping the community remain faithful to Christ’s word, and constructing a transferable doctrine. Without the input of the other functions, teachers can fall into dogmatism or dry intellectualism. They may fail to see the personal or missional aspects of the church’s ministry.

Something You Can Do Today

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