Eric at “A Pilgrim’s Progress” has written a very good post called “Hoping for an Ephesians 4:11-12 Balance.” He is wondering why there are so few apostles, prophets, and evangelists (i.e., A.P.E. – thus, the title of this post) among the church today while there seems to be a plethora of pastor-teachers.
I think this is a very good question, and before I throw in a comment, I want to share one important things that Eric says (but, make sure you read his entire post):
I’m hoping for a return to a balance within the church. Specifically, I’d love to see more apostles, more prophets, and more evangelists. I’d also like to see more shepherds-teachers functioning within the biblical perspective (as opposed to what we generally see today)…
What can we do to help bring about more of a balance? First, we can pray that God will continue to liberally bestow these giftings on his children. Second, we can teach that these gifts are alive within the church and meant to be cultivated. Third, we can encourage young people in particular to ask God whether or not they are gifted as apostles, prophets, or evangelists. The subject of pastors-to-be is often raised in churches, but the others are rarely talked about.
I think Eric is asking a great question and is offering some great solutions. I want to take this a step further, beyond the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers listed in Ephesians 4:11.
One of the problems, is that many continue to interpret Ephesians 4:11 as special types of authority figures among the church. (Eric is not doing that, by the way. I’m speaking in general.) As long as we maintain that these people represent some type of authority, then we will miss what Paul is saying in the context of this passage.
Yes, the church and world today needs functioning apostles, prophets, and evangelists today, but not if they are simply going to occupy some office or authoritarian role among church organizations. Instead, we need people who are sent by God to travel from place to place, people who share God’s revelation in order to edify others, and people who proclaim the gospel wherever they are. And, we need these people to also equip others to do the same things.
Then, beyond the APEs and the pastor-teachers, we also need servants and helpers and contributors and administrators and encouragers and every other child of God serving in the way that God gifts them and provides them opportunities. As Paul concludes this context in Eph 4:17, the church builds itself up in love when the whole church – every part of the church – works together.
So, yes, let’s pray for and encourage and train and equip the apostles, prophets, and evangelists along with the pastors-teachers. Let’s show them how to serve others instead of taking roles of authority or decision-making. And, let’s also pray for and encourage and train and equip the servants, helpers, contributors, miracle workers, healers, tongues speakers, discerners, etc. We need each other in Jesus Christ to grow together in maturity in him.