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Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher, Servant, Helper, etc… Who and what are they?

Posted by on Jul 24, 2012 in spiritual gifts | 13 comments

Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher, Servant, Helper, etc… Who and what are they?

I enjoyed the comments and discussion on my post yesterday called “Why are there so few APEs among the church?” Of course, that post was a continuation of a post published by Eric at “A Pilgrim’s Progress” called “Hoping for an Ephesians 4:11-12 Balance.”

The point of my post was that we should pray for, encourage, train, and equip every child of God to serve as God gifts them and provides them opportunity. But, as several people pointed out, many of the terms (such as “apostle,” “evangelist,” “prophet,” “pastor”) have been so abused and misused that it’s difficult to figure out exactly what the NT authors meant when they used those terms.

So, think about the various lists of spiritual gifts and spiritually gifted people (they are used interchangeably): Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 1 Corinthians 12:28-30, Ephesians 4:11.

How would you define or describe any of those spiritual gifts and/or spiritually gifted persons? (I’m not asking you to define/describe all of them; only those you are interested in sharing about. Also, I’m not asking for a complete definition/description; only that part that you feel comfortable with.)


13 Comments

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  1. 7-24-2012

    Some ongoing thoughts as I’ve tried to understand gifts (but don’t yet):

    1. Spiritual gifts and spiritual maturity are often confused with each other, but they are not related, anymore than, say, musical ability (a natural gift) is related to emotional maturity. I Cor 1:7; 3:1

    2. Gifts are given to us to serve others as we build each other up, not for our own benefit. I Cor 12:7

    3. Spiritual gifts enable us to build others up in certain ways, with a definite inner urge to care about others in these specific ways, so that we tend to care for others by doing certain kinds of things. I Pet 4:10,11

    4. Our specific spiritual enablements (gifts) do not absolve us of the responsibility of caring for one another (see the various “one anothers” in scripture) in whatever ways they need our care and support (including ways described by spiritual gifts).

    5. Spiritual maturity enables us to equip others to more effectively build up one another and to set an example of serving that others can see and follow.

    6. Spiritual gifts are frequently related to a persons personality (I suspect because God designed us from the start to fulfill His purposes). So, you can observe unsaved and prior to being saved capabilities/interests in ourselves and in others that become spiritually powered gifts when saved. (Paul was acting “apostolicly,” or itinerantly, even before he was saved as he marched to Damascus to deal with the rebel “Christians.”)

    7. I think the gifts are more descriptive of what we are doing than what we “are” (as in holding an office, being a plumber, etc.). We are members of His Body. Before being called apostles, Paul, Barnabas and Silas are first known as prophets and teachers, Acts 13:1,2; 15:32

    8. Prophets, apostles and evangelists, in their “definite inner urge to care about others in these specific ways” tend to be trans-local in their span of concern and carry that into itinerant travel from location to location. They tend to do this in teams, not independently. Acts 15:36

    9. The church should receive itinerant workers (and, with little understanding of their work and whether they do or do not exist today, along with the concerns for positional leadership authority, this is fraught with trouble for the church today. And, there are false apostles as well as true, and the church today would have a hard time telling the difference). Hospitality was a significant means of both travelling and ministering for these teams. II Jn 10; Titus 1:8; Phil 2:19-30

  2. 7-24-2012

    Art,

    Wow… that comment was above and beyond the call of duty. Thanks! You should write a book.

    -Alan

  3. 7-24-2012

    Oh, and a good definition of the work of itinerants is:

    “The main purpose of church planting is to plant new churches where none exist and to strengthen existing churches where they do exist.”

    I think Alan agrees with this definition since we talked a bit on this the other day and he gave this same definition. This is also a quote from Tim Bunn in “God’s Plan for Church Planting.”

    I tend to add “leadership development” to their work (Titus 1:5), but Alan rightly pointed out to me just the other day that that is included under “strengthening” churches. I still like to list it. Leadership development involves both working alongside local servants as they mutually develop their maturity and skills, as well as helping the saints recognize the qualities of a servant who sets an example worthy of following. I Thess 1,2; I Tim 3, II Tim 2:2; 3:10-11

  4. 7-24-2012

    I never have anything to say until you pose questions or poke me into pulling my thoughts together, Alan. Thank you for the questions and pokes!

  5. 7-24-2012

    Art,

    I would say that the work of all followers of Jesus includes proclaiming the gospel and strengthening other believers. The “apostle” is specifically gifted by God to do this by traveling from place to place, i.e., not staying in one location.

    And, don’t blame my questions and pokes… you have plenty to say. :)

    -Alan

  6. 7-24-2012

    “…the work of all followers of Jesus includes proclaiming the gospel and strengthening other believers.” NICE! I love the way you knit the whole together.

    I still can’t find enough in scripture to distinguish too neatly between apostles, prophets, and evangelists. I once thought I did, and had pages in support of the differentiation. But it all hinges (as far as I’ve been able to piece together) on too small a thread in scripture.

    Maybe God didn’t have in mind that we create neat definitions for each “gift” of the Spirit, administration of the Lord, and operation from God.

    And I really appreciate your encouragement.

  7. 7-24-2012

    I was going to comment – but after Art got finished I will just leave keep it my opinion in my brain. Thanks Art

    Ps – Tell Deb I said howdy :)

  8. 7-24-2012

    Art,
    Great contribution. As for #2, I agree wholeheartedly, and would add that in building up others through exercising our gifts, we too are being matured in the process (we are to grow up together). One of the best ways to stay immature is to neglect the gift that God has given you to build others up.
    #4 – I love it! How many times have I neglected to go to a brother or sister in need, thinking I’m not called or gifted in that area? I would rather not answer that, thank you…jb

  9. 7-24-2012

    Art,

    You said: “Maybe God didn’t have in mind that we create neat definitions for each ‘gift’ of the Spirit, administration of the Lord, and operation from God.”

    I think you’re on to something…

    Doug,

    I agree. He should write more.

    James,

    Yeah, Art is a great commenter.

    -Alan

  10. 7-25-2012

    Art’s “too small a thread in scripture” is a great phrase. Unfortunately I am often in company with teachers who consider no thread too small to build a doctrine on—even threads that seem to be meant for a different piece of cloth.

    It does seem that sharply defining the activities of apostles and prophets may be a stretch.

  11. 7-25-2012

    Tom,

    Being in a seminary environment for several years, I’ve seen books and even multi-volume series written on “too small a thread in Scripture.” We like to have everything spelled out, especially when it’s not spelled out in Scripture.

    -Alan

  12. 7-1-2013

    An evangelist proclaims the good news of salvation in Christ to unbelievers. They are the missionaries of the kingdom of God, moving from place to place, founding and strengthening churches in multiple locations.

    At the risk of oversimplifying things, evangelists are church planters.

    I’ve been struggling to condense my current research about evangelists and evangelism vs preachers and preaching. So far, I haven’t had much luck getting my thoughts into a format worthy of sharing. I would love to read your thoughts…

  13. 7-1-2013

    Ed,

    I agree with much of what you’ve said here. I’m not sure that we can equate “evangelist” in the New Testament with “moving from place to place.” That “moving” part seems more closely connected to “apostles” in the New Testament.

    -Alan