The Fivefold Ministry

The gifts God gives to the body of Christ can be divided into three categories. “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which works all in all” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).

“For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:4-5). Below is a basic outline of the gifts God gives His people.

Motivational Gifts (Roman 12:1-8)

After conversion every believer is given a motivational gift to be used to strengthen, encourage and edify the body of Christ. These are listed in Romans 12:6-8. These are gifts that a believer is naturally motivated toward after they have been born again. These gifts may be fine tuned and sharpened by the Holy Spirit with use over time, but they are what a person is naturally inclined toward after conversion.

Manifestations (1Corinthians 12: 4-11)

Paul referred to these as both spirituals and manifestations. “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (1 Corinthians 12:1). The word “gifts” here was added by the translators. It should more accurately be “now concerning spirituals, brethren.” He goes on to refer to these spirituals as manifestations. Paul says, “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Corinthians 12:7).

These are non-abiding gifts used by an individual believer only when the Holy Spirit chooses. These spirituals or manifestations are not used at will. “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). You may be used in one of the manifestations once or numerous times. They are to operate only as “He wills” or chooses (1 Corinthians 12:11). We must simply be a willing vessel.

Ministers (Ephesians 4:11-16)

These are often referred to as the “fivefold ministry” and are office gifts. “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office” (Romans 12:4). These are people God has gifted and placed in one of these offices for the benefit and building of the church. Actually, the men and women themselves are the gifts God has given to the church. It would do God’s people well to understand that the person God has placed over them is a gift from God to them and their local body of believers.

The Fivefold Ministry

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect (mature) man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13). The fivefold ministry can interestingly be illustrated with the fingers of our hand. Each finger represents an office.

1. Apostle. An Apostle is a foundation layer, pioneer or entrepreneur within the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10). This office is represented by the thumb, as the thumb can easily touch each of the other fingers on a person’s hand. This office flows in and out of each of the fivefold offices as needed. By virtue of being a foundation layer, they (out of necessity) must operate in all the other offices at times. When beginning a work or ministry, the other offices or gifts have not been raised up yet so the apostle must function in and out of all five.

It’s important to note in the authority given them as a foundation layer, there are many apostles in the church today. However, a distinction must be made between apostles today and the original New Testament apostles. While the original apostles had the authority to set forth doctrine (write inspired scripture – 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21), apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors, and teachers today simply expound on what has already been given to us by the original apostles. Apostles today do not have authority to set forth doctrine as the original twelve did. Their authority is given in the realm of foundation laying or pioneering. This by no means diminishes the apostolic authority God has placed within their life.

2. Prophet. Prophets speak for God to the church and are usually called to speak to the church as a whole. This office is very different from the spirituals or manifestations spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. These are not someone simply giving a prophetic utterance (1 Corinthians 14:3), though they may at times, but these are men or women who hold the office of a prophet. Many within the body may be used by God to give a prophetic utterance and not hold the office of a prophet. This office or gift can be illustrated best by the index finger – pointing, speaking strongly and authoritatively and often in rebuke to the church.

3. Evangelist. This office/gift can be illustrated by the middle finger because it is the farthest reaching. Evangelists are soul winners, but there may be many in the body of Christ who have a burden to win souls who do not hold this office. Evangelists are not primarily soul winners, but are called to stir up the church and move its people into action. Many confuse this office and think an evangelist’s job is exclusively soul winning, but that is not their primary function. Much of their challenge is to encourage the church and its people to get behind their pastor, his vision, and all God is calling him and the church to do and be.

An evangelist as a soul winner, there has usually been one “world evangelist” in every generation that God raised up as a soul winner to the masses. He has usually had a unique gifting in seeing people won to Christ and acclimated into the local church. There have been many such men in past generations. Ours has without a doubt been Billy Graham. It is very likely that Billy Graham’s replacement may be Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, CA and Harvest Crusades. He has a unique gift to teach the Word in the most simple way and hundreds respond to accept Jesus, many of them young people.

4. Pastor. The office of the Pastor can be illustrated by the ring finger in that he is married to the church, which is his life and passion. They are committed to and their heart has been given to the church. Notice, “He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). “Some pastors and teachers” – he did not say, as in the other offices/gifts, “some pastors and some teachers.” This is significant, because it is very probably one gift. Every pastor must be a teacher, but not every teacher is a pastor.

5. Teacher. Again, every pastor should be a teacher but not every teacher is a pastor. The teacher’s heart is for truth. Their desire is to dissect the Word of God to make sure the church thoroughly understands the truth of scripture. This office gift is best illustrated by our little finger. It is able to get into those hard to reach places and dig around. A teacher’s heart and passion is for truth. They are often expositors, theologians or have a specific burden and emphasis in some special area of truth to teach the body of Christ.

The fivefold ministry is more than those gifted by God but are themselves God’s gift to the body of Christ. They are actually the gifts God has given to the church. Let’s give honor to who honor is due (Romans 13:7).

With over 43 years of teaching and ministry experience, Dr. Linton’s passion is to equip, encourage, and strengthen pastors and ministry leaders. Check out his latest video messages and sermons.