A Functional Fivefold Ministry
There is quite a gap between believing in what we term "fivefold ministry," and having a "functional fivefold ministry." Identifying and accepting some of the multiple callings as existing today does not constitute a functional "fivefold ministry" church.
In order to have a functional fivefold ministry church and ministry, we must align with The Book of directions, the Bible. Serious topics of scriptural knowledge portrayed, will have to be believed in and lived out. These include the following:
1. Christ Jesus is the risen Lord of the church now and forever. (Acts 2:36, Colossians 1:18)
2. Our Lord gave directions as to His ministry and given differing callings. (Ephesians 4:8, 11)
3. Our Lord gave clear instructions as to His church authority structure. (1 Corinthians 12:28)
4. No man is to take a ministry calling unless it is Christ given. Therefore we must know how to discern, and grow to discern the genuine Christ appointed callings. (Hebrews 5:4) The church of Ephesus had this ability. (Revelation 2:2)
5. Our Lord defined submission to authority. The basis of submission is "as unto the Lord." We respect Him when we respect church and ministry authority. (Ephesians 5:21, 22, Hebrews 13:17)
6. Eldership authority submission is a godly expression of humility. This is not solely to man but to the Lord. (Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:5) Rebellion is as witchcraft. (1 Samuel 15:23)
7. Submission, one to another is not just for the believers towards elders. This includes elders submitting to elders. (1 Peter 5:1, 5) Peter said "all of you submit one to another," as well as to the elder.
8. We are to be kindly affectionate one to another, and in honor preferring one another. By love we are to serve one another. (Romans 12:10, 1 Timothy 5:17, Galatians 5:13-14)
9. The attitude of the called ministry is a very essential matter, as they deal with the church. We will never have a functional fivefold church in unity, until this is corrected. We are to esteem others better than ourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which tries our hearts. 5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a coat of covetousness; God is witness: 6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherishes her children: 8 So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. 9 For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. 10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and without blame we behaved ourselves among you that believe: 11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, (1 Thessalonians 2:4-11)
This is the holy written godly example of ministry provided for us. Note Paul's statements:
a) We made great effort to please God and not man. Paul said what needed to be said, without a man pleasing popularity seeking. (V4)
b) We did not flatter or hide within a covetous clothing aiming for finances. (V5)
c) We did not strive for personal glory (but Christ's). We did not seek your money or press weight on you for our sustenance. (V6)
d) We gently treated you as a nursing mother cares for a baby. (V7)
e) We affectionately loved you. As the saints of God, you were dear to us. (V9)
f) We worked to maintain ourselves as we ministered. We did not take your money. (V10)
g) We cared for and brought you comfort as a father with their children. (V11)
Here we see a demonstration by the largest Bible example of church building ministry, by the apostle Paul with a father's heart.
Functional fivefold ministry;
This large topic has several truths which need to be incorporated to achieve this functionality. The first issue of this topic is one that all must have a holy respect one for another. Unless we are prepared to respect each other and submit ourselves one to another, we will never achieve what God's Word portrays. This respect must have a foundation. The elders we deal with must be placed in this office in a wise and holy discerned manner. When you have "elders" which should not be ordained as such, true unity will become impossible to achieve.
This is set out in Philippians 2:2, Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
Like mindedness will require a holy respect for fellow ministry and believers. This voids a spirit of competition. Here we fight with the flesh issues of envy and pride, which all must overcome.
Do ye think that the scripture says in vain, The spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy? (James 4:5)
Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom. (Proverbs 13:10)
Kneeling at the cross and becoming a servant of Christ overcomes this wrong self sufficiency power grabbing, desiring unity. We will not achieve genuine unity unless we genuinely esteem the value and God deposit in fellow believers and ministry. Paul discerned a fault in the church of Ephesus and spoke to this matter of men drawing away and tearing the flock due to wanting their own island of believers, being incapable of esteeming and submitting one to another, For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:29)
Bible examples of functional fivefold ministry:
A) The unity of a young growing ministry, under the apostle oversight and direction, is demonstrated by Timothy. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. 22 But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. (Philippians 2:21, Ephesians 4:11)
The young apostle Timothy was given an unusual accolade by His friend and senior apostle Paul of, "no man likeminded," while Paul knew many churches and ministries. Timothy's humility was demonstrated by being teachable, giving honor and regard for Paul. Paul had a father's heart for Timothy as a son in the Lord. Timothy walked in the understanding of "apostle's first," and received from this Christ provided ministry fruit. May ministries and churches become genuine fivefold ministry people, and become what the New Testament portrays.
B) We see a holy portrayal of a functional fivefold church and ministry relationship depicted in Acts 20:17, And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. 18, And when they were come to him, he said unto them. Paul had spent much time in ministering to the church of Ephesus. (Acts 18:19, 19:1, 1 Cor. 16:8) At the end of his speaking to these elders, they fell on his neck with tears of love upon Paul's departure. (Acts 20:37)
The genuine fivefold picture is understood when they came to Paul upon request. They did not argue that this entire eldership had to travel for minimum one day to get to Paul in the old world fashion of travel, or debate that Paul should come to them. Then they listened as Paul poured out his heart to them with departure instructions, (entire balance of chapter).
C) Antioch is an awesome example of a functional fivefold ministry church. We read, Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. (Acts 13:1)
Here we see a multiple ministry and callings all ministering in one place. Their unity is evidenced by their praying and fasting together and the Holy Spirit speaking. They were in sweet fellowship, which does not speak of jealousy or competition. There was no debate over who was to preach, as they esteemed each other in unity. When the apostles Paul and Barnabas dropped in to minister and teach for about one year, the elders made room for them. (Acts 11:26) Try that today?
D) The Bible school example of a functional fivefold church: Probably the greatest example is found in Acts chapter 15. Here we see apostles submitting to other apostles and elders in matters of theology discussion. They also demonstrated submission to the church body, by their including them in the discussion zone and the final verdict letter provided. Paul and Barnabas sought out the Jerusalem ministry for confirmation as to theological correctness. We see this example of respect and the honoring of the entire church body in doctrinal matters.
When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. (Acts 15:2) Dispute over doctrine is common. Submitting to other apostle ministries to determine correctness is uncommon. The church grew and had unity under the "genuine" apostle's doctrine. (Acts 2:42)
And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. (Acts 15:4) This church of Jerusalem, the original and main assembly, discerned and received fellow ministries. There was a receiving "as unto the Lord." No one said, "you are not apostles because you are not of the original twelve". They were "received" as such.
No vain "maybe in a year we will let you speak to a midweek group." They were not of today's common Diotrephes spirit. I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, receives us not. 10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbids them that would, and casts them out of the church. (3 John 1:9) There was no territorial guarding. We are to discern those and know those who labor among us, but that can be accomplished rather quickly by the discerning. Here we see the love apostle, John, barring some teeth. He called out the true basis for this refusal to receive others. Could this be the basis for such today. Diotrophes ministry always wants the preeminence.
And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. (Acts 15:6) The much disputing is not all bad. The intent for such struggles and the spirit in which this is conducted is the issue. They were attempting to sort out the truth of this doctrinal question. Wish more would have this heart. Peter listened for a time before he stood up to speak. This is great soil for a collegial ministry, gathering and producing unity. Peter spoke to the matter for others to consider and hear. He did not dictate or say "I am number one," and "this is how it will be."
Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. (Acts 15:12) They gave audience to Paul and Barnabas, to testify of holy miracles and wonders in their ministry to the gentiles. No one silenced them, due to personal concern that this testimony might make them look limited.
And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, (Acts 15:13) The apostle James, the Lord's brother (Galatians 1:19, Acts 12:2), listened, weighing the matter and spoke with scriptural knowledge confirming what Peter had said. No offence was taken for confirming Peter's words.
Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: (Acts 15:22) This is key. This scripture says so much. They gave audience to and honored the entire church in this matter of doctrinal correctness. They acknowledged all of the eldership. Any of this assembly could speak to the issue.
And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: (Acts 15:23) The letters upheld the "brethren," and all of the entire assembly, as all should be born of and baptized in the Holy Ghost, and all were potentially capable of hearing, such as Eldad and Medad. (Numbers 11:26) When some requested Moses, the godly leader to silence them, he named the root of this silencing to be jealousy. We must reason with and esteem the brethren. We also see the setting out of appropriate ministry authority and government.
We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. (Acts 15:27) In such an important question, they thought it wise to confirm the conclusion of this doctrinal question, by men of their own Jerusalem company, to establish the truth with all.
So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: (Acts 15:30) The multitude at Antioch gathered to hear what Paul and others had to say, not just the leadership. No offence was taken in that Paul and Barnabas conferred with Jerusalem maturity, rather than the Antioch leadership, who had sent them out. There was no offence taken when the apostles gathered the multitude. No pride of "talk to the Board," and we will decide what we will tell the people?
And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. (Acts 15:32) Here we see the identity of some of the Jerusalem elders. The eldership had the inclusion of other fivefold callings than the apostles. They were received and set free to minister and "confirm" brethren as to their God focus and direction.
And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles. (Acts 15:33) Here we see the key text for ministry, who desire a genuine "functional fivefold ministry."
These prophets understood Christ's placement and authority giving. Their return was to the apostles, rather than to Jerusalem. They allowed the multiple ministry flow to function under and acknowledging the Christ appointed placement of apostles. The harvesting did not lose much, as all of the ministries acknowledged the need of and placement of others. The Jerusalem apostles also acknowledged these prophets and their honored ministry under God.
In conclusion, a functional fivefold ministry will be a reality when the entire church will have a different expectancy of all of the church. Leadership must esteem the saints and church body, while bringing them to maturity in doctrinal understandings. Jerusalem apostles and elders did this. We must be open to communicate and honor other fellow called ministry and elders. When Holy Ghost raised up elders and ministry are received, we receive Christ and the Holy Spirit within them. He that receives you receives me, and he that receives me receives him that sent me. 41 He that receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; (Mathew 10:40, 41)
Humility and a "spirit of submission" will bring about a functional fivefold church. This requires a submitting to God's Word, as well as to each other. The genuine Christ seeking elder ministry will study and seek God's Word regarding this, and with humility APPLY WHAT THE WORD DIRECTS. By love, we serve Christ and each other!