The term ‘five-fold’ ministry is not new. Almost everyone who claims to hold one of the offices mentions it at some point. The question is, what is it, what does it mean, and how biblical is it?
The Origin of the Five-Fold Ministry
It’s doubtful anyone can explain with any confidence where the term originates. But you will not find it in scripture. So however it came about, it is man-made. Yet the idea comes from Ephesians 4:11:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
It is thought because these are given to the Church by Christ, they form a vital foundation of the ministry. But again, five-fold ministry is not a biblical term. So how accurate is it? We’ll see as we go.
A Questionable Description of the Ministry Gifts
Have you ever seen the way some explain the “five-fold” ministry using hands? I cannot attest for it’s accuracy. But here it is in a nutshell…
- The thumb represents the Apostle and is the foundation to the working of the entire hand. It works along side, touching all, and enabling the other fingers to grip and function.
- The index finger represents the Prophet. This finger points the way, being a corrector and a director. They are the ones who unveil the rhema will of God.
- The middle finger represents the Evangelist. It is the longest finger and reaches out to the world. The Evangelist works together with the Prophet and Pastor.
- The ring finger represents the Pastor. They are married to the Church and washes the Bride with the Word, so that she will become without spot or wrinkle.
- The pinky, the smallest of all, represents the Teacher, the one who expounds God’s Word. This is the finger which can most easily get into the “ear” of the people. The teacher works in close proximity with and submits to the Pastor.
Sounds plausible doesn’t it? But you know this isn’t from the bible, right? Some clever person thought this up. But there are a few issues…
The Apostle – The Thumb
The Apostles are the ‘sent ones’ for the establishing of Churches. Uh, no. “He gave some Apostles…” Yea, twelve! The Apostles were sent to establish the Church, not churches. They accomplished this more than a millennia ago. So, argue as you may, the work of the Apostle was done when the last of the twelve died! No one can establish or re-establish what has already been established by God! Today, we can only establish congregations or Ecclesia (gatherings/assemblies). And Pastors have done this for centuries! Oh, and by the way, as far as the thumb being the only finger that can touch all other fingers? Sorry, not true. Every finger can touch every other finger. Try it!
The Prophet – The Index Finger
Next, “Some prophets…” Sure! God used the Prophets to correct and direct. But that was in Israel! Now, we have the more sure Word of Prophecy according to 2 Peter 1:19. And it’s done through preaching. All who rightly divide and preach instruction, direction, and correction from the sure Word of Prophecy can be considered doing the work of the Prophet. Besides, how many of today’s ‘prophets’ do the work of yesterday’s prophets? Or live the life they lived? Hmm…
Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. James 5:10
And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. Hebrews 11:32-40
The Evangelist – The Middle Finger
Evangelists go out to help spread the gospel to remote parts the world that may not have heard the gospel, not just work with Pastors and Prophets in the local Church. How many Evangelists do you know travel to lands less traveled to spread the gospel? Or do they remain local and preach where sent or ‘released’ to go? Philip was an Evangelist. Read Acts 8:26-40. Phillip didn’t sit around. He traveled to towns and cities that needed to hear the good news of the Kingdom of God. But yet, Timothy was told to do the work of an Evangelist in 2 Timothy 4:5. In other words, spread the news to as many people as you can during your ministry!
The Pastor – The Ring Finger
Pastors are those set to feed the flock of God. Yet they are not Shepherds as we think of them. They assist our Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:20), in feeding the flock of God. Remember, we all are the sheep of His pasture. Even the Pastor is a sheep in the flock of God!
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, Psalms 95:7 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalms 100:3
Where you think you read about Christ being a husband and the Church being his bride is scripture describing the relationship between a husband and wife as an example of how Christ loves the Church. Nothing more! If you want to know the true Bride of Christ, read Revelation 21:9-27. It even says it right there in the text. How can it be missed? According to that text, the Church IS NOT the Bride of Christ! And nowhere in scripture is it called such. If it is, please find it and post where you found it in the comments below. But I suggest reading my post on it first…
The Teacher – The Pinky
Last by not least, the Teacher is the one who rightly divides and expounds the Word. They take the time to carefully disseminate understanding, wisdom, and knowledge. But everyone in ministry should be able to teach. But that is not the case, is it? Some are able to give insight and knowledge at times. But Teachers are gifted by the Holy Spirit to break and serve the Word in a way that all who receive can digest it and understand.
Proximity Determines Relationship
Really? As it goes, the Apostles and Prophets work together to create the foundation, without which, the Church will fail. Remember this was already done during the Early Church. Oh, and besides, the thumb and index fingers are next to each other. The Evangelist answers to or works with the Prophet and Pastor. They say that because the middle finger happens to be between the index and ring fingers. Then the Teacher is under the Pastor in the local Church. This is funny, since all must be taught. I could go on with this but here’s the deal. All are on the same level. No calling is greater than the other. All are needful for one purpose; the building up and growth of the Body of Christ! So forget the hand illustrations and clever terminologies. They mean nothing if we are weak in our knowledge of the truth and our lives are not up to God’s standards.
So The Apostle Is Head Of All?
To hear it described, it would appear that the Apostle is over everyone in the Church. Well, they might be if the office was still in effect today. But we know that Christ is the Head.
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: … Ephesians 5:23
Note this as well. According to 1 Corinthians 12:28, God placed in the Church Teachers after Apostles and Prophets, not Evangelists. So what does this do to the five-fold ministry hand explaination? You see, this is not about placing one above or over another, but placing them in the order in which they were needed at the time! Understand that this was written during the formulation stage of the New Testament Church. God placed different gifts and callings as they were required. It was never meant to be a hierarchical, top-down list of positions. It is a listing of ministry gifts given to some to keep the body of Christ growing and moving forward toward Christ’s return. There is no place for power-mongers and people on ego trips in the Kingdom of God. Nor does God want us lording over one another!
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:3
All those whom God has truly called, serve the body. Those who look to be served or catered to are not called of God or have strayed off the path!
While placing such importance on the five, what happened to the Deacon? Maybe he’s the part of the hand the fingers are attached to and on which the fingers depend on to carry them around. If we can buy into the finger explanation, why not? And Elders. What about them? Well, all who are of age and well seasoned in the Word of Faith is considered an Elder. Even Pastors and Teachers. In fact, it is the position of Elder that blankets those who serve the Body of Christ. Even the Bishop, who is considered an Overseer, is an Elder. What do they oversee? That the truth of God’s Word is being taught rightly divided to God’s people and that the needs of the people are being attended to by the local Elders. That’s it!
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 1 Peter 5:1
For The Good of All…
There needs to be a re-examining of the inner workings of the modern-day Church. We have gone so far from scripture and into the flesh through self-aggrandizement and puffiness.
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. Romans 13:14
How about these for goals. Not worldly success, not material wealth, not popularity. A life that mirrors Christ, a command of the truth, and love for the Saints. These are worthy goals because no matter what else we accomplish in this life…
…and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Hebrews 12:14