APEST: A Pest or A Point?

I recently participated in an event where the introduction of APEST (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers) precipitated confusion due to the root theology of several of the attendees.

Some felt that there is no place for apostles and prophets in today’s church. Others contend that the omission of these two leadership gifts explains why the church is losing ground to secularism in America. The first group see discussions of APEST as “a pest.” The second want to make “a point” of restoring lost ground.

However you look at Ephesians 4, two things stand out. First is the need for multiple leadership gifts to accomplish the second which is the maturity and effectiveness of the body of Christ.

Offices & Titles

Some view apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers as titles or appointed offices in the church. This is consistent with our tradition of identifying evangelists, shepherds (pastors) and teachers as titles for leaders within our context. The glaring inconsistency here is the omission of the other two gifts as offices in the modern church. How can three leadership gifts endure while God designed the other two to cease?

For those who embrace all the gifts (including those in Romans 12 & 1 Corinthians 12) the omission has caused the church to lack power and influence. For these folks, a restoration of APEST is a functional necessity for fulfilling the Great Commission. My friend, Alan Hirsch, addresses this discussion in his book, 5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ.

Moving Past Semantics

Those two paradigms are probably irreconcilable. The larger issue is whether these functions are recognized by church leaders, or whether they are ignored or even hindered. We need to recognize people whose behavior is apostolic or prophetic as much as giving credence to those with “a shepherd’s heart.” Add to this the overlapping nature of the three primary New Testament passages referring to spiritual gifts and you must conclude that this list of leadership gifts may not be exhaustive (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4). Paul was driving toward the goal of maturity, not a showcase of gifts in these scriptures.

So what? We need to stop arguing semantics and get on with the full function of the body of Christ. It is important that we don’t threaten our unity over points of dispute. The world needs the gospel and we’ve been appointed to take it to the ends of the earth using every function of every gift mentioned in scripture.

Consider This

Try this for an assumption: “Most megachurch pastors are apostolic (e.g. pioneering, entrepreneurial, activators, etc.), but not all apostolic pastors lead megachurches.”

An apostolic leader, whether in a large place or small, feels the need to keep moving. Some, like Paul, move from city to city. Today, most shift from project to project while always extending the boundaries of the gospel.

If you’re an apostolic leader, you’re a catalyzer. You naturally spark change. You are a mapmaker, leading others on your most recent adventure. Or, perhaps just a little more cautious, you may closely follow the mapmakers as an early adopter of fresh ideas. Others may deride you as a radical or a revolutionary, but your heart is to see the gospel fill the earth. And you believe that constant change is necessary to the task. Apostles instinctively seek new territory.

At the end of the day, any argument over whether a person is an apostle, or merely “apostolic” won’t save the world. Meanwhile, restoring the ministry functions described in Ephesians 4 will go a long way towards fulfilling the Great Commission. This is about deeds, not words!

YOUR THOUGHTS--Someone told me that older people resist APEST because they cling to status quo while younger leaders have more passion. I’d be interested to know more about that (BTW, I’m old). What do you think and why?