Understanding the term “fivefold ministry” and applying this will never happen unless: Leadership and called ministry will look beyond their personal ministry and the need for and functioning of other fellow ministry. This will not take place until we humbly kneel before our Lord and His Word. When we surrender to His Word with a disregard for traditional norms, which usually have usurped what is Christ intended and given to the church. We will find a different church government and ministry structure than that which we commonly have. This "fivefold" structure will do two things. This will bring us back to what we see portrayed in the New Testament churches, and will greatly increase the worldwide believer harvest. Fivefold ministry is a term commonly given, to describe what the New Testament Christ given church ministry governmental structure should be. Our Lord upon ascending gave five differing ministry callings, along with a multiple ministering eldership to minister to His treasured people.
“Fivefold” ministry, is common terminology among many “full gospel” churches and ministries. This term is derived from Ephesians 4:11, where the five Christ given “gift” ministries are named in His giving to the church after His ascension (V8).
The focus on “fivefold” ministry is a last days restoration of truth. It involves the most important entity to our Lord Jesus Christ in the entire world, which is the church. This subject deals with church ministry government and what is a Christ intended leadership.
The common teachings and applications of church government have currently destroyed what is Christ intended. Many churches deny the genuine continuous giving by our Lord, of the five callings He intends the church to have. Only in the last couple of decades has this truth become a viable consideration as to being Biblical and for today. Those who disregard this truth have denied the application of:
Ephesians 4:8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
1Corinthians 12:18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
Those who deny or disregard these scriptures, as to being applicable today, have no scriptural textual basis for doing so. Any change from what we see in the New Testament, including miracles and prophetic gifts producing great growth, has been brought about by man, unbelief and traditions of the elders. These who accept this change, often include “born again” believers, who usually as well, shun the Bible truths involving a separate from the new birth experiential baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues or prophecy. They disregard, refute and deny the scriptural statements of Christ, when He said (Mark 16:15, 17, 18). “go into all of the world”, along with “these signs shall follow those who believe, In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
Unbelief always destroys the works of God. These signs will follow those who believe as they go into the whole world. This going into the whole world is has been and is still ongoing today. Those who disregard an experiential baptism of the Holy Spirit, always disregard the minimum eight to twelve or so apostles mentioned in the New Testament besides and beyond the original twelve appointed by Christ during His earthly ministry. They, without any scriptural basis limit both the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” and fivefold ministry truths, to a first century only giving and church government structure. The church is not complete as the church is still being planted in all of the world. It is obvious that the church is not mature to the stature of Christ. The five differing callings are needed and given to bring the church to maturity.
Among those who often claim to believe in “fivefold” ministry, the application of this truth is still very immature and limited, considering what our Lord desires the church to be blessed by. Many consider the partial truth, that if we know of these callings and believe these five callings are available today, we now have a “fivefold ministry” church. That is only a healthy start.
A functional fivefold church:
The mature fivefold church will have a number of understandings which currently are not common. This will only take place, when those in ministry attain unto a humility before Christ and His Word, esteeming their fellow ministry as “better than self” (Philippians 2:3). The entire church body and assembly will have a different format as to worship services and input by the multiple ministry and believers, from the common understanding.
a) All of the believers will have a maturity expectation, beyond the common baby nursery level of function and understanding so commonly demonstrated today. Apostle Paul chided the church in Hebrew 5:12, calling them “babes” because they had not matured to be capable of teaching the six church foundational doctrines. My experience is, less than one percent of Christians can even name these doctrines besides giving a modest teaching on them.
b) We find instructions written in 1 Corinthians 14, governing “when ye come together," for church assembly meetings. 1Corinthians 14:26, How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. Today we usually have a one-fold church meeting where one person is expected to “have a psalm or doctrine, and let there be no tongue or interpretation of tongues.
c) This functional church will expect to have a multiple ministering eldership with a pulpit which allows for all of them to used of God and be a blessing. (Acts 20:17, 28, Titus 1:5)
The functional and mature fivefold church will understand and apply:
a) All of the five Christ given ministry callings are given today. They need to be discerned as to their callings, encouraged and embraced by the churches and each other. They will understand that all of them were given and needed to mature the church, per the Word of the Lord of the church. The egotistical self preserving of image and financial preservation will have to die. (Eph. 4:11-15)
b) All of these ministry callings need to submit themselves one to another, with a humility which destroys the idolization of personal ministry. (1 Peter 5:1, 5) This submission always needs to be of a “mutual submission," where elders and ministry submit one to another. An expected or demanded one way submission is of a Nicolaitan spirit or a spirit of control. The Nicolaitans whom our Lord “hates” (Revelation 2:6), are “conquerors of the people." This submission one to another in no way removes the respect for the differing callings or the Christ intended ministry authority structure revealed in 1 Corinthians 12:28. This simply means that we have a humble servant’s heart and by love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13)
c) The demonstration of attitude and functioning of this fivefold church structure is exemplified in Acts chapter fifteen, in a greater manner than any other scriptures. As such may we consider what took place and how this should be applied today.
Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
Acts 15:2 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.
A doctrinal dispute arose. Paul and Barnabas, while both being apostles, had the humility to seek out and submit to their fellow apostle leadership of Jerusalem. These Jerusalem apostles also had the humility and wisdom to submit this theological question to the eldership which were not apostles, although they were fully aware of the “apostles first” in authority standing per 1 Cor. 12:28. They recognized the safety of the “multitude of counselors” (Proverbs 11:14) They recognized the work of the Holy Spirit in their fellow ministry elders and believers.
Acts 15:3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.
Paul and Barnabas who never allowed themselves to take money from the churches during their staying with, or ministering to them, always accepted and expected the churches to assist them in travel funds for ministry purposes. (1 Corinthians 9:15, Acts 20:33-34, 3 John 1:6)
Acts 15:4 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.
The mature Jerusalem apostles and elders, received their fellow apostles and elders. Part of their maturity is demonstrated by receiving fellow “apostles and elders." These apostles esteemed the other elders which would include other ministry callings, and publically upheld them. There was no reception from “I am the apostle peter and these are my Board." Or: I am James, the Lord’s brother, but simply a demonstrated servant’s heart.
Acts 15:5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
Acts 15:6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
Doctrinal issues and debate should always be discussed among the ministry and elders, bringing resolution to every area of debate. This is scriptural and not simply politically correct. Differences in doctrinal understandings should not be unaddressed, in a healthy and mature church. It is important to be of one mind, to maintain unity. It takes heart, patience and time with transparency in communication to achieve this unity. This is a scriptural admonishment from Philippians 27 Only let your conversation be as it becomes the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; The application or ignoring of this this will result in either a “striving together” pulling the same rope in the same direction, or, “striving together” pulling in opposite directions, while at the very best being politically polite.
Acts 15:7 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. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
Peter spoke with theological referencing, in his thinking, referring to Bible textual truth.
Acts 15:12 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.
Paul and Barnabas were allowed a respected voice, including a testimony of miracles in their ministry, without a silencing critical and jealousy spirit limiting these guest apostles.
Acts 15:13 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 15:16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. 18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
Peter, Paul and Barnabas, three apostles had already had their say. No one was offended when the apostle James the Lord’s brother, added his Holy Ghost inspired thoughts.
Acts 15:22 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:
Here we have a key revealing verse. The conclusion reached involved the whole church. This was discussed before the whole church and the entire church could speak to this issue, since this conclusion reached was approved of “by the whole church." There was no “we the apostles behind closed doors with all wisdom." There was an upholding of the complete eldership, which included other ministry callings as well as elders which were not of the Ephesians 4:11 callings. (1 Timothy 3:1) They honored the church believers as well, allowing them a voice and most of all the hearing of the matter, for knowledge, edification and input ability by fellow believers who are also born of and baptized in the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit inspired this holy writing by holy men of old. Recognition of the maturity expectations of the entire church family, is mostly ignored to-day. Most expect the complete wisdom and knowledge of a one-fold ministry.
Acts 15:23 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:
The resulting letter confirms the conclusions reached, acknowledged by the apostles, elders and “brethren” in this fivefold functional church gathering and discussion of major doctrinal issues. When we expect and include “the brethren," leadership maturity is near.
Acts 15:24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised,and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
Troubling doctrines will always arise and need to be discussed and confronted.
Acts 15:25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
This demonstrates the heart of our necessary understandings, in order to have a mature functional fivefold church. They were assembled in one accord. The assembly recognized the ministry leadership as God given and submitted to them (Hebrews 13:17) When there Is no true submission and recognition of God given and Holy Ghost made eldership (Acts 20:28), the reality of unity will not be there. So many have no one over them to genuinely submit to. Perhaps this is because so few in ministry have the correct bearing of person, to be easy to submit to. These Jerusalem apostles and elders and church “loved” these visiting apostles.
Acts 15:26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
The assembled church leadership understood that the findings and conclusions reached were under the umbrella covering and involvement of “the Holy Ghost." They were also sensitive in not wanting to place unnecessary demands and weight on believers.
Acts 15:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. 30 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: 31 Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. 32 And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.
Here we get clear insight as to the identification of some of the elders who were with the apostles in these meetings. These men who had hazarded their lives for Christ, named elders were in fact prophets. They promptly exercised their ministry and gifting, being well received in their calling. They “confirmed” the brethren. They verified what the Lord had been directing these brethren towards, thereby they established security in their steps.
Acts 15:33 And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.
These prophets while in Antioch, submitted to and flowed with the Antioch church and leadership, proven by “they were let go in peace." These prophets were not released to go to Jerusalem. They were released to go to the apostles they were linked to and submitted to. Note this huge difference. They recognized and submitted to the Christ given authority and team placement ministry model. (1 Corinthians 12;18, 28)
Acts 15:34 Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.
Here we see a principle of submission. Within the authority realm, we still see the freedom granted to other ministries to fulfill their God given burden until they felt they were released by the Holy Spirit, yet recognizing the Christ stated authority structure.
Acts 15:35 Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
I long for what is what is depicted here as to what existed in Antioch and other New Testament church examples. While the prophet Silas ministered there, Paul, Barnabas and “many” others did as well. A multiple ministry providing a Holy Spirit and Christ given banquet table. May we see this Antioch church arise today.
Acts 15:36 And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.
This demonstrates the true apostle heart. Apostles and prophets will always have a burden to reach out to other churches besides the one they are in, due to a God given holy ministry burden. The mature and holy attitude was and is:
1Co 3:6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that plants any thing, neither he that waters; but God that gives the increase. 8 Now he that plants and he that waters are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are laborers’ together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
May this be the understanding of all, as to the Christ given and holy ministry pattern of how the church multiple ministry should scripturally function. We must encourage the multiple calling and eldership ministry along with the believer’s ministry, in order to have a functional fivefold ministry church.
A. A mature "fivefold" church will be evidenced by differing ministries and elders feeding the flock and not a one man pulpit.
B. The believers and church body will be accepted with Holy Spirit given ministry input, demonstrated by a believing body, baptized in the Holy Spirit and doctrinally knowledgeable as to the foundational doctrines. (Hebrews 5:12-6:2, 1 Cor. 14:26)
This church will esteem and glorify Christ as the Lord and head of the church. Those who deny this truth will still, by ignorance or intent, be building their own structure and lordship.