Jesus gave several ministry roles to His body, the church (that’s us, the believers). He is the Head of the church who gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. Let’s think about how these ministry roles work together in the concept of a new church plant.
Apostle is the Greek-based word which is similar to the Latin-based word Missionary. Both come from the root meaning of “one who is sent.” When someone responds to the call of God to bring a Truth-preaching church to a community without an apostolic voice, they are stepping into an apostle’s role to that community. The Lord “apostles” or “sends out” those who organize a church in a city.
However, you never see an apostle in scripture go into a community alone. Jesus did not just commission apostles, but also prophets. For our illustration of how this works, let us say a man hears a call from God to go reach His community. His wife is also called to ministry and in this case she has been called to be a prophet. A prophet’s role is to hear from God and speak His vision, and to be a direct intercessor for the people to the Lord as well. So, this particular church planter’s wife is a tremendous intercessor. She prays, she fasts, and hears from God.
One day, the Lord speaks, “Focus your efforts on the north end of town.” She talks to her husband and tells him this. He recognizes this as a word from the Lord. They begin studying the culture, meeting people, and connecting with local businesses and movers in the community.
An example of ministry roles
For the simplicity of my illustration of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, let us say there is another ministry couple who have joined forces with the first couple. They also recognize that God has a work to do in this new community. However, they did not feel called to come here alone, but felt compelled to join the other man and woman when they heard about their vision.
Of this second couple, the wife has a special burden to reach the lost. She goes into the community and starts up conversations at the Laundromat, starts going door to door meeting people in the north end, and telling everyone about the goodness of Jesus. You see, she has been called to be an evangelist. She is going to declare the good news that has come to town. Many will listen to her because of her passion and because she comes across in a non-threatening way.
The husband in this second couple is the strong silent type. He has spent much time studying the Word of God. He encourages this foursome with sound counsel and a clear word from the Scriptures. As new believers join this small community of faith, he makes sure they become grounded in truth. He teaches them and watches out for their spiritual growth. He is the shepherd/teacher to this community.
The Antioch church had a team of 5 leaders who were prophets and teachers. From this group arose apostles who would go and duplicate what they had in other areas. Why do so many modern attempts at church planting involve one person trying to operate in all the ministry gifts? Often these dear souls burn out trying to do alone the work a team was supposed to do.
A balanced body
Jesus is the Head of the church, of course, and we are His body. I see these gifts as the four limbs. Throughout the Bible, you will see the right side is the power side, and the left side is the stability. The dynamic, power-type ministries would be the prophet and evangelist.
Maybe this is just my over-active imagination, but I see the prophet as the right-hand of the body of Christ. The right leg is evangelism, moving the body forward into new territory. The apostle gift is the left hand, bring organization and leadership to the body of Christ. The left leg is the shepherd-teacher gift bring balance, stability, and a strong footing. It takes all of us. In the future we will look at the many other organs in the body of Christ, too.
“I’m called to preach” is a phrase I have grown up hearing. However, there are many ministry roles to which a preacher is called. I am glad when I see a church with a balanced ministry team. There is more than one gift of ministry. Let’s not kill ourselves trying to be more than we were called to be or do.
You are called to ministry. You are called to one of these ministry roles. Ephesians 4:8 says “to each one of us” these gifts were given. Are you a “sent one” reaching into a new area? A prophet who imparts the Word of the Lord to others? An evangelist who teaches others to make disciples? A shepherd-teacher who watches over the flock and nurtures them in God’s Word?
In every small group, ministry outreach, and church department, these ministry roles must be active for us to be a healthy church. And don’t forget why God gave you that ministry gift. You are called to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12).
So, get to it!