5-Fold Ministry

“When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men … 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 ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

If you are like many others you may not know for certain your fivefold ministry role or gifting. You are certainly not alone. Many ministers have not been helped in this area. It may be that you are filling a role without really knowing if that is what God called you to accomplish. Many leaders fill, volunteer or are drafted for positions because there was a need; not because it was how God designed or gifted them. As a result, many are feeling tired, unfulfilled, and empty.

Knowing for certain the role you are to fulfill in the fivefold ministry will remove doubt, confusion, and indecision. For a moment, set aside the role of ministry that God has called you to and let’s focus on purpose. We have found that the best way to start is to understand your purpose. Most people know what it is that God has called them to contribute. This is much more important in the larger mission as Disciples of Christ.

If you already know what you are called to do then you are on your way to understanding your fivefold role. The thing that God has given you to accomplish will be your passion. It will be the thing that makes you want to get up in the morning. You will think about it in some form or fashion nearly all the time. In most cases it will be the primary thing in your life even in work and hobbies. For example, someone who is called to the fivefold role of teacher will most likely find that they are passionate about teaching in general, not just in the body of Christ. This person will desire or fill a teaching role in their family, job, and community. We oft times don’t see that the gifting God has placed in us transcends beyond that function in the Body of Christ. God gave you the gifting and it will function wherever you are located.

In this example the purpose is to teach the Body of Christ. This helps us to understand the fivefold role which is teacher. Now let’s turn our attention to the fivefold roles. One of the things that make the New Testament Church unique is that Jesus Christ gave gifts to men. We call these Ascension gifts or five-fold ministry. These are called Ascension gifts because they were distributed to His Church after He ascended to heaven. Think about the fingers on your hand. The thumb is unique. Like the Apostle the thumb can touch every finger on the hand. Each of the five-fold roles is unique. One is not more important than another. Some churches only recognize some of the gifts that God gave to His people. These claim that some of the gifts quit working. This is a terrible error. God gave these gifts to His people. Jesus Christ shed his blood to be certain that His people benefited from this gift.

The five-fold ministers are God-appointed. Jesus gifted these people to the Church for specific reasons. They are as follows:

1. To equip the saints;
2. To do the work of the ministry;
3. To edify the body of Christ;
4. To bring us into the unity of the faith;
5. To bring us into the knowledge of Jesus Christ;
6. To keep us from deception; and
7. To bring us into the unity of the body

First, the five-fold ministers were given to equip and perfect the saints. The idea of perfection in the New Testament is that of maturity and completion. God has promised to finish what He started in us when we were born again. One of the ways He does this is through these God-given ministers. They have the heavy responsibility of watching over our souls and they will have to give an account to God.

Secondly, The five-fold ministers were given to minister in the body of Christ. God does not call every minister to do the exact same thing, but He calls men to specialize in certain areas (such as prophecy, evangelism, or teaching). A minister is required to do that work to which God called Him. Another important interpretation concerning doing the work of the ministry is that not only must the five-fold ministries do what they are called to do, but they must equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Some people make the mistake of wanting their preacher to do their ministry. They call him every time they have a need, or someone is sick, or they require prayer. Some preachers want to be called upon to do the entire ministry work as well. This is immaturity that results in lazy Christians and worn-out preachers. God wants us to grow up and take our place as ministers. We are all ministers called of God to show forth His light to a world in darkness.

Third, the purpose for the five-fold ministry is to edify the body of Christ. To “edify” is to “build up.” We are living stones that God desires to be built together into a spiritual house. We are God’s building, built upon the foundational cornerstone of Jesus Christ. This foundation is laid by the apostles and prophets of the five-fold ministry. The purpose of our edification is “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.” The five-fold ministry has a vital part in God’s eternal purpose of building a habitation for Himself which will show forth His glory forever. Hallelujah!”

“The fourth purpose of the five-fold ministry is to bring us into the unity of the faith. God wants no divisions among His Church. True unity will not take place until the five-fold ministers fulfill their fifth purpose, which is to lead us to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. He is Truth. To come to unity we must concentrate on the Truth, Jesus! Only those doctrines which are true matter. Bible doctrine is truth lifted from Scripture and dedicated to purpose. Bible doctrine will help us accomplish the reason that God gave us the five-fold ministry. To keep the Church, the body of Christ, from falling into deception like Eve did in the Garden of Eden. Spiritual immaturity causes believers to be “carried about with every wind of doctrine”. Unstable people believe every new thing that comes down the pike. They run to and fro always seeking something new to hear. “They have itching ears. . .” and a lust to “. . .heap up for themselves teachers”. In other words, they are looking for someone to teach them what they want to hear. God desires for us to be stable with a sure foundation and He uses five-fold ministers to stabilize us and led us to maturity in Christ Jesus! This will lead us to the unity of the body.

Comparing Contemporary Christian Leadership with New Testament Leadership

The term most often used for Christian leadership today is pastor. In the New Testament it was apostle. Pastor was least often used in Scripture. Today’s most essential qualification in most churches is educational degrees. In the New Testament it was character and ministry fruitfulness. This is quite a contrast. We may often wonder at the ineptness of what we call the Church. This challenge is in the foundation. God never intended for one man called the pastor to lead His people. It is like a hand. Imagine your hand with only a thumb or one finger. It is evident that you might be able to function with only thumbs or one finger on each hand. We know that some are born with such physical challenges or have had a tragedy that left them damaged. This is not what God envisioned. God gave His church a gift of hands fully functioning with four fingers and a thumb.

The Five Fingers of God

Five-fold ministry is often compared to a hand with the different roles being the thumb and fingers.

  • The thumb represents the Apostle. The apostle can touch (operate in), all five roles, but is not all five roles. Novices often are confused by this and think the apostle is the whole five-fold. This makes no sense. If the apostle is the whole fivefold then God would only need apostles. Sadly, many think or operate like they are the gift in and of themselves. This is error. Do not follow apostles who are not connected to other five-fold ministers. They are false apostles.

    The true apostle represents God’s government. An apostle is commissioned by God with authority from heaven to plant new churches, establish the government of the kingdom of God within an assigned sphere of ministry. They also typically provide helpful leadership over a number of churches in spiritual matters which is spontaneously recognized and appreciated by those churches.

  • The index finger represents the Prophet. The prophet points to what God is saying. This represents God’s guidance. A prophet is commissioned by God to speak an immediate message from God to His people through a divinely anointed utterance. His/her ministry primarily brings edification, exhortation, and comfort to God’s people. But prophets are also known for their prophetic intercession. They predict future events and confirm to God’s people their callings and destiny.

  • The middle finger represents the Teacher. This is the longest finger. Once the Apostle has established, the prophet has confirmed direction the next need is for the people to be taught. The teacher is to ground the people in the Word of God. The teacher has a unique connection to the Apostle and many apostles have a secondary gift of teaching. Teaching is mission critical to the Body of Christ. The gift of teaching is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the body of Christ to communicate information relevant to the health and ministry of the body and its members in such a way that others will learn.

  • Once the Apostle has established, the Prophet has confirmed, then the teacher is needed. A key component of the teacher is to teach helps. The pastor’s role is to guard the people of God. This is one of the two helping roles of the fivefold. This is why many references to pastors are about shepherds protecting the sheep. The gift of pastor is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the body of Christ to assume a long-term personal responsibility for the spiritual welfare of a group of believers.

  • The Evangelist is the encourager to the body of Christ. The is the other one of the two helping roles in the fivefold ministry. The evangelist is the Gospeler. Evangelists bring good news to the body of Jesus Christ.

God has given a specific order to the administration of these gifts. While most churches have a pastor or a plethora of pastors to lead their church. Nearly all of these ignore the roles of Apostle and Prophet. Many going so far as to claim that these roles ended with the New Testament church. This is false man-made doctrine. God did not take back His gifts. This is not how God set the ministry in order. In contrast to man’s dogma, God gave us His order. “… God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. “helps” means literally “to relieve, succor, participate in, and/or support.” Those with the gift of helps are those who can aid or render assistance to others in the church with compassion and grace. Pastors and teachers are the first line of defense in the area of helps.

The role of fivefold ministry is to fulfill the function described in Ephesians, ” … to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Leadership’s function is to train and equip the body for the work of the ministry! The focus of good leadership is nothing short of aiming for the whole body to attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ! Some contend that everyone has a fivefold role and that the work of the fivefold is to train the rest of the Body so that they know and understand their purpose. I am not certain that everyone has a fivefold role but certainly everyone needs instruction. However, there is nothing wrong with everyone having a ministry role as this is the role of the Body of Christ. Everyone may be called to hold a fivefold role. Certainly, we are all called to do the work of an evangelist.

There is value in stressing the truth that there must be diversity of function in the body of Christ.

A.  This point is often overlooked when churches think about how they might involve every member;
B.  Yet failure to appreciate this truth can hinder true growth, and at the same time be very frustrating for the members of the body of Christ.


Character requirements of all fivefold ministers (the goal is to have the best example of mature, Holy Ghost filled, leaders in these important roles in the Body of Christ):

I.  Spiritually mature (1 Tim 3:6) Positions of authority without spiritual maturity usually lead people to the trap of pride. When pride grows in a man, sin abounds.
II.  Devoted to their spouse (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim 3:2).
III.  Children must be in submission (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim 3:4-5).
IV.  Faithful Steward (Titus 1:7)
V.  Humble – not arrogant (Titus 1:7)
VI.  Gentle – not quick-tempered (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)
VII.  Sober – not a drunkard (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3). This is not just overindulgence min alcohol but is idiomatic for any behavior that fuels addictive responses.
VIII.  Peaceful – not violent (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)
IX.  Must have financial integrity – not greedy for gain (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3; 1 Peter 5:3)
X.  Hospitable (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2)
XI.  Lover of good (Titus 1:8)
XII.  Self-controlled (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2) Self-control is a characterization of very area life: diet, time, mouth, exercise, relationships, sex, and money.
XIII.  Upright (Titus 1:8). Integrity in his relationships and in the way they treat others.
XIV.  Holy (Titus 1:8). A life devoted to Jesus externally and internally.

Notice these roles are all presented in lower case. These fivefold roles were not offices of the church; these are gifts from God, and He is the only thing that really matters in the equation. These gifts are also known as ascension gifts because Christ gave them after he descended to earth and ascended back to heaven.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

All fivefold ministry needs to understand (and unfortunately this is very lacking in the Body of Christ) is we are instructed to be worthy. Worthiness is not measured in works but in spirit. We are first instructed to have genuine humility and gentleness. This is to be followed by longsuffering and love. These are attributes of the fruit of the spirit and while we should all have them; they are not manifested in most of the lives of those claiming to represent God in some fivefold role. We cannot move forward without true humility. We are inundated with loads of SELF. Most of those who identify themselves with fivefold roles do so by making it an office, title, and position rather than as role where God has placed them.