So you’ve been going to church for sometime now and wondering where you fit into the greater story of God’s Kingdom. After all, we are part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 4:12) and as part of the Great Commission, we are each entrusted with growing the Church (Matthew 28:19).
Where it gets confusing is how am I, as one person, supposed to? Where do I start?
Having mentored others for several years, I try to give people some starting tools to discover who they are and how they’ve been made to serve the Kingdom in broad strokes. One of these tools is knowing which part of God’s ministry you are strongest at, based on Jesus’ fivefold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:8-13.
“When (Jesus) ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men … And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God …” (Ephesians 4:8-13)
If you play role-playing computer games, this is easy to understand. When Jesus returned to heaven, He had promised to build His Church, His ekklesia, which wasn’t a building for people to hold services but a “faithful body of people”. As the head of the Church (Colossians 1:18), He passed us His ministry in five key parts or roles: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (pastors) and teachers.
Each one of us has a role – not picked by us but by God – to play as we participate in His work. Each of us is also given different spiritual gifts and natural talents to enable us to play this role uniquely and well – but that’s a story for another day.
The Hand Of Ministry
1. Apostles: The thumb
We know Jesus started His ministry with 12 Apostles who were later tasked with continuing the work and raising up churches across the rest of the world long after He’d ascended to heaven.
The word apostle means “messenger” or “one sent forth”, which gives us a clue to what an apostolic calling entails. Like the thumb, the finger that allows us to grasp things, apostles are pioneers and builders who are gifted in establishing and upholding churches, ministries and movements.
2. Prophets: The index finger
Although we tend to think of prophets as those who can foretell the future, an wider understanding of prophetic ministry would be those who are gifted in carrying words of God for His people. In 1 Corinthians 14, the gift of prophecy is for upbuilding, encouragement and consolation.
Like the forefinger that points the way, prophetic ministry involves giving direction and correction. Besides being able to sense God’s word for particular seasons or situations, such as the prophets in the Old Testament, prophets may also be able to recognise His gifts and callings on individuals, giving them guidance too.
3. Evangelists: The third finger*
One of the better known roles of ministry would be the evangelist – the messenger who proclaims the good news and welcomes people to join the flock. Represented by the finger that extends furthest, evangelists are gifted in outreach ministry.
Everyone is tasked with evangelising to those not yet in the family of God, but evangelists are particularly strong in the area of preaching and witnessing – with a passion for winning others over to become followers of Jesus Christ.
* Yes, we know it’s commonly referred to as the middle finger.
4. Shepherds: The ring finger
The ring finger symbolises commitment to marriage, similar to a pastor’s commitment to those in his care. The word “pastor” literally means “shepherd”, and like people who rear and watch sheep, pastoral ministry involves protecting, leading, nurturing and feeding the flock (John 21:17).
Those with a pastoral inclination are faithful caregivers and parental figures, consistently guiding those under their ministry to places of sustenance, growth, safety and rest.
5. Teachers: The little finger
Last but not least, teaching is the gift of passing on knowledge and training others to apply their gifts well. Teachers, trainers and mentors do a lot of unseen work, but like the little finger, their job is critical to the flourishing of disciples of Jesus Christ, Himself referred to as rabbi, or teacher (John 3:2).
Teachers are not just well-versed in know-how or information, but gifted educators who are able to clearly and effectively express this for another’s benefit through writing, curriculum and lecturing.
The fivefold ministry is just a starting point for understanding our divine DNA and destiny. And rather than something we volunteer for, such as the ministries in church (e.g. ushering, worship, fellowship etc), these roles are appointed by God that can be confirmed by other believers in time.
Each of us is gifted to a different degree in all five areas, which means everyone is able to operate in the entire fivefold regardless of our primary strength. The fivefold quiz itself simply gives us an idea of what we may be better suited for in the process of advancing the Kingdom of God.
Visit the Fivefold Ministry Test page to find out what yours is!