Passage: Ephesians 4:1-16
I want to confess something to you all this morning. I am not gifted enough to lead this church on my own. I am weak in so many areas! For instance, even though I am excited about starting new things, and can quickly get a vision for a big picture direction, I struggle to consider all the little details of a new project.
Although I am a highly relational person and love to spend time with people, I become emotionally drained pretty quickly, and so to bear personally bear the bulk of pastoring even a relatively small church like ours of about 100 people is impossible for me to do in a healthy way, especially at this stage of my life as a partner in parenting to three small children with my wife, Amber.
Not only do I not have the skills or energy needed to lead this church on my own, I also lack practical skills that would come in really handy. For instance, I’m not that handy. I try to fix stuff, but it usually doesn’t end well. Kind of an important skill when we operate out of an aging facility like this, and are on a budget to boot.
I don’t have the technological know how to keep the projectors running.
I don’t have the financial know-how to make sure we don’t break the law as a 501c3 non-profit.
I don’t even know how to best clean the table linens or decorate for Christmas.
I certainly don’t have the wisdom all by myself to make all the big decisions.
I may be the priest in charge, but I can’t lead this lead this church or any church on my own. I may be the priest in charge, but I am woefully inadequate to the task of being and doing everything this or any church needs of its leader.
You know what though?
I’m not worried about it, because not only is it unrealistic to think of one person at the top as the leader, attempting to be and do everything in the church, it’s quite unbiblical, and quite toxic to the life of the Body.
Yet we see it everywhere. Most churches are very hierarchical when it comes to leadership, and while that itself is not evil, it tends toward a consolidation of power and control to the person at the top.
Sometimes we are quick to point to say, the Roman Catholic Church as an example of this (you know, the whole Pope thing), but Protestants aren’t any better. The Christian news has been full of stories in recent years of prominent pastors stepping down, not just because of the sexual or financial scandals, but because they were controlling to the extent that it became abuse, stifling the life of the church.
And we hear even more stories about well-meaning pastors that take on so much they burn out! I think often both the pastor and congregation simply don’t know a better way, because this is the way it’s so often done.
But there is a better way.
The late Anglican theologian and evangelist John Stott says,
The traditional model is that of the pyramid, with the pastor perched precariously on the pinnacle
Say that five times fast! What this looks like is one person at the top making all the decisions
Stott says this is an unbiblical image because the New Testament example is multiple leaders in every church with every member contributing to the ministry.
Paul, writing to a group of churches in and around the ancient city of Ephesus, says,
“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,” (Ephesians 4:11–12, ESV)
We see here that…
There are five distinct gifts from Jesus for the Church: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (or pastors) and teachers.
Sometimes this is called the Fivefold Ministry, and it is used to identify specific offices or roles in the church. As Anglicans we recognize that from the beginning, there were three principle ordained offices in the church, Bishop, priest, and deacon, and so we don’t think this is referring to specific ordained positions themselves or the governance of the church. Rather, these are gifts from Jesus by the Holy Spirit given in some measure to whole body, lay and ordained alike.
Even though these five are our focus today, I want you to know these aren’t the only gifts! There are a no less than five lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament (with some overlap between them). Nevertheless,
there seems to be a primacy of order to these five.
I’m not saying they are somehow “better” than the many other gifts (for instance, doing works of mercy or encouragement) but that these five serve to activate the others in the Body of Christ. In a sense, they come first.
They are given—Paul says—
“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:12, ESV)
So what do apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers do?
In his book Faithful Presence, David Fitch says:
…apostles initiate, gather, and pioneer new works, calling people to live now in the kingdom;…prophets speak so as to reveal the truth and call of God into a situation especially the injustice and neglect of the poor;…pastors tend to and sustain people’s souls, especially the hurting;…evangelists bring the good news to those who are hurting;…teachers help explain and deepen people’s faith.
Because these gifts have to do with leadership and the equipping of the whole body, it makes sense and it’s right that we recognize those gifts in ordination to the three offices of the church of deacon, priest, and bishop. Our ordained leaders—our authorized representatives—should absolutely be exercising at least some of those gifts…but no one ordained leader should be expected to be gifted in all five areas!
So, at the same time, we must insist that these gifts are not limited to the clergy. We find many members of the body of Christ that are gifted in one or more of these five ways.
So, it’s our job as the faithfully present community to recognize, appreciate, and submit to one another in those gifts and the areas of leadership they represent, whether we are lay or ordained.
While I am the priest in charge, I am not the only person with pastoral gifts in this church. If I were to insist that I be only person to exercise pastoral gifts, I would be sinning against the body, because I would be quenching the work of the Spirit among us!
I may be the rector, but I am probably not the only apostle, prophet, or evangelist, for instance. In fact, it’s possible (maybe even desirable) to be the priest in charge (which is primarily about shepherding and teaching) and not be the principle apostle, evangelist, or prophet in a local congregation.
I have a responsibility as a servant-leader to submit to those with gifts I don’t have and equip them with my gifts, to do the work of the ministry that they have been called to! This goes for all of us.
We must remember that Jesus is the one giving the gifts to whom he pleases.
“…grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Ephesians 4:7, ESV)
Christ gives the gifts. Not the bishop or the priest or the deacon. Not even the Vestry. Jesus is the head of the church.
Jesus has called not just an order of clerics, but an entire people out for himself,
and he truly is the Lord and King of this community. He is the one that’s worthy. He is the one that lived the life we all should have—could have—lived if we weren’t infected with sin. He’s the one that took our sin with him to the cross rose from the dead in total, healing victory. He’s the one that gives us these gifts for our benefit, so that we can express his faithful presence by the Spirit to one another, to our neighbors, and to the world. All we have to offer in return for this eternal life, which begins right now in the present, is our sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise.
Now, I think in a healthy community, we find “chief” apostles, prophets, shepherds, teachers, and evangelists emerge.
Sometimes they are ordained and sometimes not. Yet in the same way that I am the chief priest of this community, and at the same time each of you shares in the priesthood of all believers, my conviction is that we all share in some measure in each of the five gifts.
After all, aren’t we all called and “sent out” to gather people to Jesus, like apostles?
Aren’t we all called to speak the truth of God’s word into the situations of our lives, like prophets?
Aren’t we all called to come alongside the hurting, like pastors?
Aren’t we all called to explain the Bible how we can to those with questions, like teachers?
Aren’t we all called to be prepared to give an answer to those ask about the hope that we have in Jesus, like evangelists?
In other words, aren’t we all called to use our gifts to help release others to exercise theirs?
I highly recommend you give some thought and prayer to your calling and gifting. I’ve found it helpful to take a spiritual gifts assessment to see where my strengths and weaknesses lie, and to consider how God is calling me to respond. I’ve included the url to one I’ve found useful in your bulletin.
How do we live this out in the three circles?
Since the Fivefold Gifting is “an extension of Christ’s leadership,” practicing this must start here, in the close circle.
It’s only out of submitting fully to Christ in the power of the Spirit that we can begin to submit to one another
in this way and receive all the gifts that Jesus wants to give us.
In the dotted circle, we will always need all five of these gifts to be operational. Someone has to gather people into homes, someone has to share the Gospel, someone has to speak truth, someone has to tend to hurting, someone has to explain the Scriptures if it is a Christ-centric gathering!
And in the open circles, there are will always be a need for apostles to identify and needs and spearhead new works, pastors to tend to souls, teachers to teach the meaning of the Gospel, evangelists to preach, prophets to call people to a biblical vision of the world, and so on. The fivefold gifting flows out into the world, but we must remember that we are not in charge in the world. We bring Christ’s faithful presence and his authority as a gift, always offering, but never assuming that it is being received.
John Stott writes about a church that really got this idea. He says,
I saw the principle of the every-member ministry well illustrated when I visited St Paul’s Church, Darien, Connecticut, a few years ago. It is an American Episcopal church, which has been influenced by the charismatic movement. On the front cover of their Sunday bulletin I read the name of the Rector, the Reverend Everett Fullam, then the names of the Associate Rector and of the Assistant to the Rector. Next came the following line: ‘Ministers: the entire congregation’. It was startling, but undeniably biblical.
My prayer is that here at DMAC, we would live out the discipline of the fivefold gifting by releasing each person to do the work that they have been called to do in Christ.
Brothers and sisters, each of you is has been called to do the work of ministry.
Each of you has been given gifts for the sake of the Kingdom. What are they? How can you use them here, in your home and neighborhood, and out in the world? Think and pray on this, and bring your thoughts and prayers to the Body, so that as we are faithfully present with Christ and with one another,
we can discern together how to be the kind of place that lists “ministers” as “the entire congregation.”
 Fitch, Faithful Presence. p. 151
 Stott, J. R. W. (1979). God’s new society: the message of Ephesians (p. 159). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Fitch, Faithful Presence. p. 160