Rethinking the Five-Fold Ministry

I’m often asked: “Frank, do you believe in ‘the five-fold ministry’? And do you believe that God is restoring it today?” In this post, I will attempt to answer that question.

First off, my answer is largely hinged on what one means by “the five-fold ministry.” In other words, what “five-fold ministry” are we talking about? Are we talking about the two-hundred-year old doctrine of the restoration of “the five-fold ministry?” Or are we talking about the ascension gifts that Paul had in mind when he penned Ephesians 4:9–16?

The Making of a Doctrine Fivefold ministry

In nineteenth-century England, Christians were ripe to embrace apocalyptic prophecies about the coming Millennial Age. The upheaval that the French Revolution produced left God’s people wishing for a reign of peace that would set all things right.

In 1824, Edward Irving, a Presbyterian pastor in Scotland, began teaching that “the five-fold ministry” of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers had disappeared from the church and was in need of restoration. According to Irving, the restoration of these ministries would usher in the Millennial Kingdom of Christ on the earth.

Irving and his followers began the Catholic Apostolic Church in 1832. Its chief purpose was to restore “the five-fold ministry” and usher in the Millennial Kingdom. The Church ordained twelve “apostles” who were to be the last days equivalent of the original Twelve whom Jesus appointed. Henry Drummond, a wealthy banker from England, became the leader of the Church. Drummond himself took the highest position—“apostle to Scotland.”

It was prophesied that these “twelve apostles” would be the last apostles to appear on earth before Christ’s return. (This is a throwback to Mani of Persia of the third century who labeled himself the “Apostle of Light”—the very last apostle of Jesus.)

Eventually the twelve apostles of the Catholic Apostolic Church died (the last one dying in 1901). Upon their death, the Church expired in England. In Germany, however, the Catholic Apostolic Church ordained twelve more apostles and took the name the “New Apostolic Church.”

In 1896, an erstwhile Congregational minister named John Alexander Dowie founded the Christian Catholic Church. In 1901, with five thousand followers, Dowie established the “City of Zion” in north-east Illinois. In 1904, Dowie announced that he had been divinely commissioned to be the “First Apostle.” He then told his followers to anticipate the full restoration of apostolic Christianity. In 1906, the community of believers in the City of Zion began to break down. Dowie passed away the following year.

Following the famed Azusa Street revival in 1906 in Los Angeles, California, the emphasis on the restoration of “the five-fold ministry” and “a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit just before the return of Christ” reappeared. And a new generation of apostles emerged. Luigi Francescon (“apostle to Italy”), Ivan Voronaev (“apostle to the Slavs”), and T.B. Barratt (“apostle to Europe”) were just some of them. Pentecostal denominations in Wales, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States elected and ordained colleges of apostles to govern their denominations.

As the years rolled on, the restoration of “the five-fold ministry” doctrine somewhat faded. But it reemerged again with a revival spawned at Sharon Orphanage in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1948. The “New Order of the Latter Rain” movement, as it was called, was prophesied to restore “the five-fold ministry” to prepare for “the manifestation of the sons of God” on the earth.

But when the waters of revival receded, the restoration of “the five-fold ministry” doctrine faded again until it was resuscitated in the Charismatic Movement of the late 1960s. In the late 70s, the doctrine’s flame began to dim again until a group of men resurrected it with new fervor in the mid-1990s.

In 1996, Peter Wagner led a conference at Fuller Theological Seminary entitled the National Symposium on the “Post-Denominational Church.” This conference produced a new movement called the “New Apostolic Movement,” which Wagner claims is sweeping the globe with a new way of doing church. The churches that are part of this movement are being labeled “New Apostolic Churches.”

In 1999, Wagner sought to organize the movement under the name “International Coalition of Apostles” with Wagner as the “Presiding Apostle.” The movement claims to be restoring “the five-fold ministry” today.

Parenthetically, the churches in the new apostolic movement are vanilla Charismatic institutional churches replete with the office of modern pastor (often renamed “apostle”), Sunday sermons, pulpit, pews, church buildings, the five hundred year-old order of worship, music led by a worship team, etc. (See Pagan Christianity for the origin of these religious practices.)

Point: The doctrine of the restoration of “the five-fold ministry” is over 180 years old. And it’s been repackaged from movement to movement.

Running the Cart Over the Horse

So is God going to restore “the five-fold ministry”? To my mind, that’s the wrong question. It’s pushing the cart before the horse. The ascension gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4 are gifted people who God gives to the body of Christ as gifts. They are the natural outgrowth and by-product of organic church life.

All in all, there are twenty gifts mentioned in the New Testament. If a group of believers gathers around Jesus Christ alone (rather than a doctrine, a theological system, or a ritual)—and they are void of a clergy system—then that group will eventually produce all the gifts and gifted ones that exist within the body of Christ.

It’s no mistake that Paul uses the human physical body as an apt image to describe the way the body of Christ functions. When a baby girl is born, most of her physical capabilities are not present. She can’t ride a bicycle, add and subtract numbers, or eat with a fork and knife.

However, within her body, she possesses the genetic codes that will produce the physical development by which to carry out these capabilities. If she is fed and nurtured properly, in time, these abilities will naturally develop within her. She will organically grow into them. Why? Because they are organic to her species as a human being. They are the product of human life.

In the same way, when an organic church is born, it possesses within its spiritual DNA all the giftings that are in Jesus Christ. But it takes time for them to develop and emerge. (Unfortunately, we live in a day when many church leaders don’t seem to understand this spiritual principle. Hence, they try to force the exercise of gifts and ministries in the body prematurely.)

What is needed, then, is not a restoration of the so-called “five-fold ministry.” What’s needed is the restoration of organic church life. And that is what God is seeking to restore today as He has in every generation.

Therefore, if we can discover how a church is born from God’s perspective and how it is to be nurtured and maintained, then we will see a restoration of all the gifts that are in Christ in the waythat they were meant to be expressed. (For a detailed discussion on how churches were planted and sustained in the New Testament, see Finding Organic Church.)

Since I’ve been meeting in organic churches over the last twenty years, I’ve made a startling discovery: The gifts of the Holy Spirit function very differently in an organic expression of the church than they do in the typical institutional church. The gift of prophecy, for example, that comes up out of the soil of authentic body life looks profoundly different from the way it’s packaged in the typical Pentecostal/Charismatic church. (The latter is often based on imitating others.)

In the 1980s, I was part of a spontaneous expression of organic church life. Most of us who were gathering at that time came from the Pentecostal/Charismatic tradition. We functioned freely in spiritual gifts as they were modeled to us by that tradition. A number of years later a group whose background was anti-Pentecostal/Charismatic joined us, and we had a first-class dilemma on our hands.

After a blood-letting church split, the Lord graciously showed us that both groups needed to lay down their beliefs and practice of spiritual gifts and leave them at the foot of the cross.Though it was difficult, we let our ideas and practice of the gifts go into death.

In a year’s time, something remarkable happened. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were resurrected in our gatherings. However, they looked very different from what any of us had ever seen before. The Pentecostal/Charismatic packaging was utterly stripped away. And what was left was a pure expression of the Holy Spirit that glorified, unveiled, and lifted up the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, the two groups came into a unified experience of the Holy Spirit’s power and work.

Consequently, the pressing question is: Are we going to get serious about discovering how to gather around Jesus Christ in an organic way? Or are we going to blithely ignore New Testament principle and for the next two hundred years continue to hope (and prophesy) that “the five-fold ministry” will one day be restored?

Again, God’s way of raising up the ascension gifts is by restoring organic body life. The ascension gifts don’t magically appear because someone writes a book prophesying that they’re just around the corner. Nor should we assume that they have been restored when someone claims to be the “First,” the “Last,” or the “New Apostle.”

Authentic apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherd/teachers are gifted people who grow up in organic churches—not as leaders, but as brethren—equal in status to everyone else in the church. Because they have grown up out of the soil of authentic church life, they have been tested and proven to be safe to the Kingdom of God and to the Lord’s children. Their outstanding landmark is that they glorify, reveal, present, magnify, and bring into clear view the Lord Jesus Christ in unusual depths and practical experience.

This is the heritage of the Ephesians 4 ascension gifts. It was true for all the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds/teachers in the first century. And Jesus Christ has not changed (Heb. 13:8).

The Peril of a Wrong Environment

So what happens when gifted Christians are reared in a human organization built on unbiblical systems rather than growing up naturally in an organic expression of the body of Christ? To put it another way, what happens when a gifted Christian’s only experience is in the modern institutional church?

The answer? Mixture with a capital M.

Add to that a footnote: Malfunction.

What happens when you remove polar bears out of their natural habitat? If they survive (and some do not), they cannot function as God designed. They lose their ability to reproduce.

What happens when lions are caged and domesticated from birth? They lose their predatory and killer instincts. They lose something of the natural functioning with which God wired them.

Over the past decade, I’ve met scores of men who were self-proclaimed prophets and apostles. Some were genuinely gifted. Some had the gift of teaching. Others had authentic gifts of healing. Others had a genuine operation of the word of knowledge.

But most lacked any real depth in Christ and very little experience in embracing His cross. And few of them grasped God’s eternal purpose or witnessed real, thriving, healthy organic church life.

Why is this? Because of the institution that raised them up. Or, in some cases, because they raised themselves up in isolation from other Christians. (The latter is an equally abnormal environment for a Christian to be nurtured in.)

To put it in a sentence, such men didn’t grow up in their proper habitat. Few if any of them grew up in organic body life where they were simply brothers among other brothers. Few if any spent any time in a New Testament expression of church life where their weaknesses and blindspots were exposed to others. Instead, most were part of several institutional churches and launched out into independent ministry on their own. As Watchman Nee once observed, “The tragedy in Christian work today is that so many of the workers have simply gone out, they have not been sent.”

The New Testament never envisions such a situation.

To place my concern into a question, where are the churches that the “new apostles” have planted that are gathering under the headship of Jesus Christ without a clergy, where the members know one another deeply and are experiencing a depth in Christ, where decisions are made by consensus, and where every member functions in the meetings without any man controlling, directing, facilitating, or dominating?

Still more disappointing, every titled “apostle” in the new apostolic movement that I know of fiercely defends those church practices that are rooted in pagan tradition and have been hindering the headship of Jesus Christ and the full functioning of His body for the last eighteen hundred years. For these reasons, I’m monumentally unimpressed with the “new apostolic movement.”

What Are the Ascension Gifts?

When the ascension gifts emerge organically in a local assembly, their chief function is to nurture and encourage the believing community toward spiritual maturity in Christ, unity, and every-member functioning.

I will now try to demystify the so-called “five-fold ministry” and discuss how each of the ascension gifts probably functioned in the first century:

Apostles. Apostles were extra-local, traveling, itinerant church planters. They were highly gifted individuals who were sent by the Lord and by a particular church to plant and equip new churches. Apostles enabled the church by giving it birth, raising it up from the ground. They also helped it walk on its own two feet. Apostles grew up in an organic expression of church life as non-leaders before they were sent out to plant churches of the same kind. In other words, they first experienced what they would later establish elsewhere.And they always left the churches they planted on their own without installing a clergy or religious ritual.

Prophets. Prophets were people who had a clear vision of Jesus Christ and who were able to articulate it lucidly. Prophets enabled the church by speaking the present word of the Lord to it. Sometimes their words would simply reveal Christ to encourage, inspire, and comfort. Other times their words would cast spiritual vision. Prophets sought to restore God’s will whenever it had been lost. They sometimes confirmed the gifts and callings of other members and prepared the church for future trials.

Evangelists. Evangelists enabled the church by modeling the preaching of the good news to the lost. They were fearless souls who possessed an extraordinary boldness to share Christ with nonbelievers. And they had a genuine passion for the unsaved. The closest equivalent to an evangelist today is a natural-born salesman (an honest one of course).

Shepherd/teachers. Shepherd/teachers are two sides of the same gift. In Ephesians 4:11, the apostles, prophets, and evangelists are mentioned separately, while shepherds and teachers are joined together. Further, the first three ministries (apostles, prophets, and evangelists) are preceded by the word “some.” But the word “some” is attached to shepherds and teachers together. This indicates that shepherds/teachers are one gift.

The chief task of the shepherds/teachers was to help the church in times of personal crisis (shepherding) and to enlighten and cultivate the church’s spiritual life by revealing Christ through the exposition of Scripture (teaching). Shepherding was the private side of their ministry; teaching was the public side. The closest equivalent to a first-century shepherd/elder is a modern-day Christian counselor who is capable of teaching.

None of the ascension gifts dominated the meetings of the church. They were simply brothers and sisters in the body carrying out certain functions. Every other member functioned in the gatherings and in the community-life of the church. In that connection, you would never see a first-century Christian sporting titles like “Apostle Delaquarius Epps,” “Prophetess Pamela Jones,” or “Evangelist Tarianna Dunson.” As I’ve established elsewhere, the use of honorific titles and offices were unknown to the early Christians.

Answering the Call

The burden of my heart is to see God’s people far less concerned with a “five-fold ministry” that’s supposed to be recovered someday and instead, focus their attention on discovering what the church is supposed to be according to the mind of God. Upon making this discovery, the Lord’s dear people will be faced with a decision. To answer the call of meeting around Jesus Christ alone in the way that He has prescribed. Or to remain chained to the unmovable traditions of men.

If the former path is taken, it will involve considerable cost. But all the giftings in Christ will eventually come forth in the way that He has designed organically. And those gifts will never usurp or dilute the ministry of the entire body.

Would to God that all men and women who feel called to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds/teachers would soberly reexamine what these ministries were in the first century and in the thought of God. I believe that when this happens, many of them will be led into brand new directions. And those directions will undoubtedly lead them to break with cherished traditions and popular concepts. Yet only by these elements will the house of God begin to be restored on a broad scale.

This post has been revised and is now part of my book, Jesus Now.




  1. Antony Muhuma says

    Are Churches only supposed to be started by Apostles and Prophets , what about those started by the other higher calling offices ?

  2. Louie Martin says

    I quote in your article “where decisions are made by consensus, and where every member functions in the meetings without any man controlling, directing, facilitating, or dominating?”

    Is there no need for controlling, directing, or facilitating in the light of these passages? I don’t believe leaders are to be domineering but must there not be an amount of control to establish order in the church? Must there not be directing or facilitating?

    Heb.13:17 “Obey your LEADERS AND SUBMIT TO THEM, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

    1Thes.5:12 “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and HAVE CHARGE OVER YOU in the Lord and give you instruction.”

    Acts 20:28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

    1Tim.5:17 “The elders who RULE WELL are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.”

  3. David Morgan says

    That group of five has always seemed cyclic to me. Apostle gets a vision of Yugoslavia and checks it out. Prophets follow and point out the peoples’ need. Evangelist comes along bringing the solution to their need. Finally, shepherd/teachers mature the assembly. After that, the unlovely maintenance gifts keep the body functioning.

    This cycle may need to be repeated due to catastrophe, apathy, or over-zealous organization.

    I really like your posts. I agree with as much as I am able to digest. Carry on.

    At home, at last.


  4. Rev LT says

    Greetings! I’m not sure how many Metaphysical/Interfaith Ministers you have to visit your page but I’m glad that my studies led me to this. You truly present a balance perspective a/k/a ministry. I had to leave kudos even though this was posted two years ago.


  5. Ross Purdy says

    The edification gifts were given once! Note the singular. They were passed on by the laying of hands one or two generations until the “new man” (i.e., the infant church) grew up into a “mature man” as Paul terms it. Paul said these gifts would cease with the Body of Christ’s maturity wherein it would be equipped to have “faithful men” investing in “faithful men” to edify the church from then on out. To attempt to mimic these obsolete gifts when God has provided for a “better way” is to return to “childish things” as Paul calls them. They served their purpose in an immature body but have been effectively replaced (where seriously embraced) by “mature things.”

    • Jim says

      I don’t know anyone who believes that anymore. Biblical scholarship over the last three decades has disproven cessationaism. I’m surprised some people still hold to it. The gifts of the Spirit are alive and well today.

    • Steve Dohoney says

      Ross, I would agree with you as we would know in part, and we would prophesy in part. But when that which is Perfection is come, then that which is in part shall be done away with. 1 Cor 13:9-10. I guess the hard question that needs to be asked is simple, yet complex: is the church mature? Are we manifesting unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, UNTO A PERFECT MAN, unto the measure of the STATURE OF THE FULNESS OF CHRIST? We must continue to speak truth in love, so that we (the body of Christ) may GROW UP into HIM, in ALL THINGS, which is the HEAD(SHIP) even Christ. So, I understand the power of the finished work, and believe it to be absolutely true, however, I also see the immaturity in the church, and must admit the majority of the church is not manifesting the maturity of the stature of a perfect man, at this time. So, respectfully, until the “UNTIL time comes, we do have a valid need for the five-fold ministry. Let’s continue to hold up a higher vision and make it plain so others can run to it. Let’s continue to preach the finished work so the Lamb is clearly seen and that perfection(maturity) is manifested in the lives of believers. Blessings

  6. Tara Burton says

    Thank you, Frank for expressing so clearly, in my opinion the 5-fold ministry. Also for giving a history of the last 200 years … of which I had only been exposed to in bits and pieces. I am encouraged and re-awakened with hope for the simplicity that one can have in organic church life as we allow Jesus Christ to be the head. Blessings brother!

  7. Marion says

    I began to be concerned about all this talk about ‘gifts’ some years ago – (even though functioning, functionally :) in some/or all if not so regimented in definition), as I found the talk too prescriptive, too legalistic, too far removed from us ‘going into the world and…’ etc etc

    then I found a site, writer who put words on stuff which clarified things to me..
    If I paraphrase I may not be communicating properly, but, basically, there is only One Gift, and that is The Gift of the Holy Spirit, Who brings Christ IN us (the hope of glory)..
    so that what we do that serves God/The Body is from Christ IN us…
    if it’s helpful…good – no need to call it a gift that is OURS (as in possession, as if we own if it’s a ‘separate’ from Him in us) – it’s not…it is all from Him.

    12:1 ­ Turning his attention to the problem of charismatic misunderstanding, Paul transitions by writing, “Now (to change the subject), concerning the spirituals…” There is nothing in the Greek word pneumatikon that necessarily implies “spiritual gifts.” To clarify what is meant by this term “spirituals,” it is best to allow the context to provide definition. This is available in vs. 7 where Paul refers to the “manifestation of the Spirit…” (phanerosis tou Pneumatos). Thus the pneumatika that Paul refers to are “spiritual-manifestations” or “spiritual-expressions,” rather than “spiritual gifts” per se. *The misnomer of “spiritual gifts” has tainted and colored the interpretation and understanding of this passage through the ages by implying separated entities or endowments given to particular individuals by the Holy Spirit.*

    • ilona sturla says

      I enjoyed reading your deliberations over the gifts and basically agree with you, even after 20 years of pentecostal studies. George Mueller, (early 1830’s) Prussian born, like me, allowed each and any of the brethren to participate in any meeting he held as the Spirit led. As you say they did not ‘own’ the gift; this makes it ‘a laid in concrete fact’ whereas I have seen God’s gifts demonstrated randomly and even to a young 12 year old Korean boy who was at our regular bible studies, who broke out in tongues when really none of the group had ever seen anything like it before, and he certainly had not either. There have been prophetic moments in my life but not so that I can whip them up at every meeting I attend or preach at. Then it becomes of the flesh and counterfeit, but still believble for the onlookers. Let us use the gifts but not for personal applaud but rather with awe as the Holy Spirit leads.

  8. Drechsler Holger says

    Hi Frank,
    you write, that the gifts look differently in organic churches than in institutional churches. Do you have some examples for that? I read all of your books. I don´t mean the gift of the “Apostel”. I know the difference. But how would you explain the difference in the gift of Prophecy?
    Thanks Holger

  9. says


    I heard you the other day on the radio – the Bob Dutko program – discussing PAGAN CHRISTIANITY. It sounded as if you had been listening in on me! I have come to many of the same conclusions you discussed. In fact, I have for many years, corrected people when they say they ‘are going to church’, by telling them that you can’t go to church, because church isn’t a place! We Are the church.

    In any case, I went online to find the book, and ended up ordering your entire set, from a place called Beyond Evangelical. I am eagerly looking forward to reading them.

    Regarding this article, and your distinction that shepherd and teacher are combined: I’ve been reading the 1534 Tyndale bible for some years now, and there is no such distinction made, in that the ‘some’ is in front of all five. I posted a link in the URL field above. I personally know some who have been made shepherds, with a real heart for the sheep, but are not gifted in the area of teaching at all, and likewise teachers who really do not have the gift of a shepherd.

    Thank you for everything you do, brother…


  10. Mark says


    I really appreciated this article. I also just finished “Reimagining Church.” I enjoyed it very much. I admit I have been wrestling through many of these things the last 4 years. I also am currently a “pastor” who has been in the process the last year of changing many of the things you addressed in your book. I did have 2 questions. First, in light of what Paul says in reference to women, do you believe that a women can have a “five-fold” gift.

    Secondly, I know you address the “church building” and “order of service” as well as many other things in your books. I believe you have called them “unbiblical.” My question is this, isn’t there a difference between direct biblical commands, principles and ways of doing things, and areas where the bible is silent. In saying that the early church never had buildings or the order of service we do and things like that so they are “unbiblical”, isn’t that a stretch. I believe that scripture is absolutely clear on authority (the lack of it as we know it), the lack of clergy/laity distinctions, lack of sr. pastor, titles and etc. BUT, to put that on the same grounds as the others seems a leap. To look at the birth of the church and the lack of buildings and the need to meet in homes and other similar issues and to take that and project that its “unbiblical” to have buildings just seems like a huge leap. There is no principle or command to us to the where or how. Even the order of what happens when we gather or what it looks like seems as though is wide open. We have liberty in those areas. (i do understand there are things that should happen when we gather, i mean more what exactly it should look like) That’s the great thing about out liberty to express the diversity as well as cultural settings. It seems like the same argument some use to say we can’t use musical instruments in our services.

    I agree that some radical things need to be done. Lines and distinctions have been made that keep the people of God in perpetual infancy. Anything we can do to help the body be the body I am for. I think i agree with 90% of the things you’ve shared. I guess the main thing to me was that it seems as though where the scriptures are silent and we have liberty, that doing things not clearly expressed are equated as “unbiblical.”

    I appreciate your effort and thoughts. Don’t know how often you check this, but I’d love to know your thoughts.



    • says

      Mark: for the way we use “unbiblical” in PAGAN CHRISTIANITY, see – the definition on that web page appears in the book itself. We aren’t using it the way you seem to imply.

      Your overall argument is addressed in both books, especially REIMAGINING CHURCH, the first few chapters. It all comes down to the DNA of the ekklesia and the teachings of Jesus and the apostles on that score.

  11. George Dunn says

    A most interesting article, Frank. I for one am tired of taking a text or a couple of texts and then building there three tabernacles. we are just too prone to such nonsense. Yet the scriptures attest that when He ascended he gave gifts to men, but I think that we have blown it all out of proportion. Now everyone knows about the “five fold ministry” (note ministry not gifts) and many of the same people know little or nothing about the Kingdom of God. We have to stop majoring in the minors. We don’t need the “five fold ministry” to build and perfect the saints. After all Jesus is building His church. Not the five fold ministry. They are not entitlements or offices or necessities … they are gifts subject to the whims of the giver and head over all things to the church.

  12. says

    I know this is an oldish Blog, but still very relevant, helpful and true. What you have said Frank is radical, but only because we (the church) have radically strayed from these simple but profound Biblical truths. I fully endorse what you have said about the raising up and functioning of these gifts. They have only been given so that each member of the Body of Christ can ‘grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ That we corporately will be able to give the fullest expression of Christ on earth. My only minor variation from your understanding is that I see the pastor and teacher as two separate gifts.(Some pastoral ministries of course do have the aptitude to teach). In Antioch there were prophets and teachers,(Acts 13) also 1 Cor 12:28 … “first apostles, second prophets, third teachers”.
    Thank you for your insights….. brilliant! Praise the Lord!

  13. says

    I enjoyed your perspective on the five fold and the organic church & also the comments above. I have wrestled for years over the five fold and have come to look at them not as offices, but as passions and points of view. The evangelist has the passion for the lost and sees everything that way. He cares less about shepherding them but will let others do it, thus the need for the pastor/shepherd whose passion and point of view is to nurture, develop, then release those in his sphere of influence for Christ. I could do the same with the other three.

    Five fold is all about “relationship” and “service” not office, so the Holy Spirit is beginning to “teach us all things” about it in an organic, non-clergy, non-oyramidal structural, non-hierarchal way! The only way you could have 5 different points of view without division is relationally taking it to the cross: John 3:16 is the vertical relationship with God and I John 3:16 is the horizontal relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The only way the five fold will work will be by each of the five to “lay down our lives for our brethren.” If those with differing views and passions would lay down their lives for each other and serve one another there would be accountability in the church built on relationship, not office, something most of the current church has never practiced nor experienced.

    The strength of the other four would support my weaknesses, thus helping me to become more “mature” in Christ (individually) in His likeness and bring unity to the body of Christ (corporately). Pouring out my gifting, passion, strength, whatever you want to call it, would bless them in becoming more Christlike. This is the result, the true fruit of the five fold (Eph. 4 – read beyond the list).

    Accountability would come from the strength of our relationship of giving and taking through service to one another. It’s relational; it’s organic; it is not institutionally structured in a pyramidal pattern of power by offices.

    I understand why you won’t give personal examples about the way the gifts now flow differently than under a pentecostal/charismatic framework, because the Holy Spirit is creative, and works creatively through relationships and circumstances, and each relationship and each circumstance is uniquely different. The Holy Spirit works individually and corporately and can do it through these five passions and points of view very effectively.

    Thanks for your insights!

  14. ROXANNE H THE P.O.W. says


  15. Dave Dengler says

    1 Cor. 1:27 is positioned at the very top of the page in my best Bible. Right above it in the margin I have written in ink: the Five Fold Ministries.

    God has chosen 1) the foolish, 2) the weak, 3) the base, 4) the despised, and 5) the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.

    I definitely believe we should include these words of Paul in any discussion of ‘The Five Fold Ministries’, a title never used in the Bible.

  16. Pat says


    Thanks for writing this blog. I haven’t read the books, yet but plan to soon.

    The church that I attend is unusual in that it teaches organic community, but it seems to me that the only organic community that is happening is with the staff who are together just about everyday. They are the ones who get to do “life together”. Sure we have small groups, but, none of the small groups that I’ve been apart of have ever actually done “life together” which is difficult meeting just once a week or twice a month. I’ve tried to “do life together” with people, but everyone is so consumed with their individual lives, work, family, etc. I often wonder ‘do I HAVE a life?’ They all seem perfectly okay with meeting once or twice (1 week day for small group & Saturday or Sunday for church) a week.

    I was being discipled by one of my pastors and we used to meet once a month. But we haven’t met on a regular basis since last August. I wondered why, until I saw that she was “doing life together” with a couple of staffers at the church. I was becoming jealous because I wanted that, too. But, reading your blog, I just realized that what I am really longing for is organic community where I can know and be known completely without the titles of pastors, leaders, etc.

    It’s good to be able to “name” what’s going on inside of me.
    Just gotta read the books to see what to do about it.

    Thanks, again!

  17. says

    Hi Frank,

    Just read your take on the “five fold ministries” and some of the many comments. A friend told me, about your site and your book. I thought it would be a nice change of pace to see things from a different perspective. I’m also a blogger ad could use different POV for my own writings.

    I like the picture presented of a pastor sho takes care for a small # of people. I have some friends who pastor small institutional churches and I can see the toll it takes on them. When I read “Pagan Christianity”, I was thinking of my friends. I can easily agree that this is not how God intended for the shepherds to operate.

    I have a question for you, though. What does the gift of prophecy look like when it’s in an organic church environment? I’ve seen it in the established church and am learning to distinguish between soulish words and spiritual. I’ve seen prophetic words that sounds great to the soul but I can’t help but be suspicious. I’ve also seen prophetic words that did come from God.

    So, how does this look when in an organic house church setting?

    • says

      hi Barry. thanks for coming to the blog. That’s a difficult question to answer in a small space if someone hasn’t had experience in authentic organic church life and only knows the charismatic version of this gift. My book “Reimagining Church” will give you a good understand of the issue:

  18. MichaelO says

    Frankly Frank,
    That book of yours:
    “Reimagining Church”, David C Cook Publishers, Colorado Springs, CO, 2008, ISBN 978-1-4347-6875-9.
    Is really somethin somethin.
    Splains all that apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers/elders/shepherds/pastors, stuff real good.
    It begs the question?
    In your opinion, is it a 7 fold,6 fold,5 fold, or 4 fold ministry to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry?
    Or should we care about a number?
    I’m leaning toward a 4 fold with the last one a combo, would you like fries with that :)

    • says

      Michael: thanks for the kind words on “Reimagining.” I point out in the above article that shepherds/teachers are two sides of the same gift. Thus I agree with those who see four mentioned in Ephesians 4. Other gifts are mentioned in other texts.

  19. MichaelO says

    Sounds to me like Tetzel was born 500 years to early. Can you imagine Tetzel on one of the religious channels during telethon week? If you will just go to your phone right now, come on go to your phone, right now, do it now, there are only 103 lines lit up there are 22 lines still open. Praise God! I’m a thousand dollar man, I gave a thousand dollars once and I haven’t bought any clothes or cars or houses or planes since. People just walk up to me and hand me planes and cars why it looks like liquadaters warehouse around my place, praise the Lord and pass the taters :)

  20. Link says


    Charging for prophetic dream interpretation? That’s shocking.

    Some of the things religious people do for money reminds me of what I have read about Tetzel in the 1500’s. He used to sell indulgences to supposedly free dead relatives from purgatory for a donation. This was part of a huge fund-raising effort.

    I read about a certain nobleman who asked Tetzel for an indulgence for a sin he had not committed yet. Tetzel agreed as long as he paid up front. The nobleman then beat Tetzel up and took his money back. When the artistocrat who governed the area heard about a nobleman beating a priest, he was going to punish him, but he didn’t after he heard the whole story.

    Tetzel was reported to have said that if you had fornicated with the virgin Mary, that the indulgence would take away your sin. I’m not Roman Catholic, but that makes me a bit angry 500 years after the event. I can understand why someone would beat the man up.

  21. MichaelO says

    Na, an apostle is a guy who wears one of those hats sort of like the Pope with a white gown trimmed in gold with a big Jesus ring that everybody kisses and goes around from town to town pontificating on important God stuff to lower chain of command who in turn lets the commoners in an all the neat God stuff and reminds the commoners by the way to don’t forget to pay for all of this neat important God stuff. He also reminds them that they can’t use iphone apps to do confession, or take the holy sacrements by iphone, but they can make contributions by the new and improved iphone tithe app. It is available at your local religious icon/saint statue/book store they are running a sale now. The prophets are running a special right now, they will come in and do a special 3 day seminar on how to interpret your dreams, but when you get there it is really on how to communicate with God better, because the prophet makes his money by dream interpretation and charges 30.00 dollars US per interpretation, 5 for a 100.00. These are actual recent stories in the religios blogs and the prophet one I personally was treated to. This is comedy by the way HAHAHA.

  22. Link says

    Thanks for posting this. There are a lot of people nowadays who think that an apostle is some kind of archbishop who wears a suit and tie instead of a fancy robe. Or their definition of an apostle is, “That guy is so anointed that he must be an apostle.” It doesn’t take much time to sit down with a Strong’s concordance and see that the 12 start being called ‘apostles’ right before or after they go on their preaching and healing journeys in the Gospels, and to see that Acts starts calling Paul and Barnabas ‘apostles’ after they were sent out on their first journey to preach, teach, evangelize, and eventually to appoint elders in (some of) the churches that formed through their ministry.

    I’ve read a bit about Irving and Drummond and that movement. It sounds like they became high liturgical after Irving died. I didn’t realize that Irving had coined the phrase ‘five-fold ministry.’ That is a juicy little tidbit. Would you happen to recall the source for it?

    I don’t know of any real apostolic work the Catholic Apostolic Church movement apostles did. The Barlteman accounts of Azusa Street meetings sound something like some of the house churches have experienced, with people speaking as they sense the moving of the Spirit. Some of the Pentecostal apostles may have really been functioning in the gift. At least, Howard Carter seemed to have a fairly Biblical concept of the role. I don’t know to what extent Latter Rain apostles did apostolic ministry, but I hear there were some who had it prophesied over them, were recognized as apostles, but did not function in the role. The dominant view in the NAR, based on my limited experience, seems to be that apostles are set over pastors and serve as their mentors.

  23. says

    Susan: Yes. In the NT, shepherds (which are the equivalent of elders/overseers) are always plural in the churches. I discuss this point in REIMAGINING CHURCH.

  24. Vina23 says

    Thank you for the distinctions and profound information. I am hearing much about the “organic church” and want to study more from a biblical standpoint. I appreciate your approach.

  25. Eclideia Maciel says

    I totally agree that church has lost its core and real purpose in favor of men’s own purpose. However, How are we supposed to change a whole and traditional minset? How do we go about taking the first steps into going organic???

    Dil – Brazil

  26. Tobie van der Westhuizen says

    Frank, thanks for a great article. Just two comments: I cannot imagine that Paul would have written to the Corinthians that “God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating” etc. if he held to some sort of a five-fold understanding of the gifts. Sure, he was writing to the Corinthians and not the Ephesians, but there is nothing in the arrangement of the Corinthian list that appears to address a particular need on their side big enough to justify such an extreme adaptation of a vital and fundamental doctrine. Rather, we get the impression of a man who composed his lists on the spur of the moment by using whatever gifts/ministries came to mind during the time of writing. The list in Rom 12 seems to confirm this as it deviates from both the other lists. Secondly, the inclusion of apostles and prophets at the top of both the Ephesian and Corinthian lists may be explained by Eph 2:20: “…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone”. It would appear that these were the only ministries (two-fold ministry?) that were clustered together in Paul’s mind, the common denominator being their foundational character. If he preserved their status in the Corinthian list, could he not have done the same with the other three? Just wondering.

  27. says

    Very interesting observations! Thanks for sharing!

    One point that I would like some clarification on is your statement in the paragraph on Apostles, “And they always left the churches they planted on their own without installing a clergy or religious ritual.”

    Thanks again!

    Fr. Wade+

  28. Tassos says


    Nice article.

    One point to make: you group pastors and teachers as one. You base this on the fact that the word “some” is not mentioned for the teachers. I’m a native Greek speaker and the not mentioning of the word “some” for the teachers does not mean that they are the same with the pastors. When you give a list like the one given in Ephesians 4 it is fine to use the word “some” for all categories and skip it in the last category. The fact that you skipped it does not mean that the last category is the same as the preceding to it category. I believe teachers is a gift on its own and shepherds, though, being elders, they should also be apt to teach, they are also a gift on their own. Of course we are speaking about the New Testament shepherd and not the modern pastor.

    • says

      Tassos: That’s not the only reason why I group them together. You’ll find that many Greek scholars do the same for various reasons. Btw/ the Greek that the NT was written in (koine) is not the same as the Greek spoken today. The former is a dead language.

  29. Gilbert Plumat says

    Thanks for the last post too, in my opinion it is very important to be “actif” with this new and fresh revelation of Christ. Each day is a opportunity to testimony and explain about it. I open my house every week and shared with brothers and sisters about radical reformation and we are very blessed each times in the freedom of Christ. I live in Switzerland, a “neutral” country and people are a little too much “neutral” too. We need braves voices to speak about this radical reformation…and it suppose bravely.

  30. Abel Avram says

    Frank, you said: “What is needed, then, is not a restoration of the so-called “five-fold ministry.” What’s needed is the restoration of organic church life.” That is on my heart too. Put in different words, it is the restoration of Jesus Christ on Earth. It is so important before God, not men, that Jesus Christ is visible on earth, without being distorted by human intervention.

    We are such earth-bounded people, so human, so not like Him, that it seems so difficult to see this restoration taking place. It is a job for the Creator. To bring us back, to pull us out of earth, to enlighten us, to make us see into the unseen.

    I used to think that we can do it, only if we wanted, but not anymore. It’s a monumental task. May He bring us into Him, and let us see the day when His Son is visible again, all around us, not just in some remote, isolated places.

    • says

      Abel: Only God can give birth to His church. However, we must be very careful here lest we fall into passivity and disobedience. The Lord uses human vessels, and our *cooperation* with Him is required for His will to be fulfilled. If all of His people just go along with the status quo rather than to respond to the call of His eternal purpose, there is no restoration. I’m thankful that the Lord is restoring more in this hour than in years past, and I’m excited and honored to be a part of it.

  31. Jeff Domansky says


    I like your metaphor of gifts being like utensils. It reiterates something the Spirit reveal to me years during the renewal years of the late 90’s. I was in my late 20’s and really hungry for more of Jesus, and His gifts.

    During this time the Lord used the analogy of a Master and His apprentice. He said that if I seek Him he would lead me in the knowledge and proper use of His gifts. If I saught the gifts I would master very few at best; damage the gift and creation/vessel at worse.

    It helped me avoid many mistakes in my journey toward great maturity in the faith, and kept me from many more distractions.

    Thanks again, for the clarity you bring to all of this.


  32. Julio says

    According to Romans 11:29, God’s multiple gifts to the church are meant to correspond with His singular calling to all believers, in relation to His eternal purpose in Christ. However, it is possible to operate in a certain God-given gift(s) and totally miss the calling-been there, done that.

  33. John Wilson says

    I love what you said Frank about the analogy of forks and spoons related to gifts and the food to Christ! Makes so much sense! We are so quick to focus on self instead of Christ.

    I like Milt Rodriguez’s description of “liquid leadership” in his book “The Community Life of God” and the aspect of God flowing like a liquid, a river, through His body as He desires. Through Christ’s headship of His body, He love’s and build’s up His people through His corporate body together so that any member at any time can guide, care, instruct, model, protect, and serve one another in love (all of the words used in a title in some form from the institutional church). At least it seems to me from my limited viewpoint of organic church life, the little that I have experienced.

    What a great article! Timing is so right on!

  34. Anthony Rose says

    Thanks for this, Frank, I have found this, my 2nd read of your weekly blog, as refreshing as the first.
    I just have two questions, (if you have the time and inclination to share more please!).
    1. When you say “The gifts of the Holy Spirit function very differently in an organic expression of the church than they do in the typical institutional church.” and go on to mention your personal experience, you do nto elaborate. I am very curious. I have been in small groups and churches where the gifts operated and never seen a difference in the way they operate. It has always (if valid and not imitated) been under the gentle influence and leading of the spirit. I have, however, seen their expression truncated or limited in various ways…? But I would be very grateful if you would describe the two ways, and specifically your experience over those years when they died and revived.
    2. While I fully agree with you that titles are used to create rank and power and authority is abused, nevertheless my understanding is that there should be leaders in the church, and that those leaders should be assigned by the Holy Spirit, especially via (but not limited to) existing leaders. My unsure opinions is that it is more a question of using that authority to serve, to carry out responsibilities, and to love sacrificially, than scrapping official leadership positions such as elder and pastor altogether. Not to start an argument… just to get your further explanation, if you can.
    Thank you very much for your time.

    • says

      Anthony: thanks for the comment. 1. I’ve already answered your first question on the blog in the comments section. You can scroll them all and you’ll see it. 2. Your second question is answered in depth in my book REIMAGINING CHURCH. Not a small subject by any means. Takes a lot of groundwork to explain. Yes, leadership exists of course, but it comes in three layers. No time for more. Get the book: – it’s very detailed and addresses every text in the NT on the subject.

  35. J. Michael says

    I enjoy the dialogue and discussions. My question is, in light of the core issue being Christ’s life being lived out through each believer, how do you go about learning to live by the indwelling Christ? What scripture and resources do you recommend?

    • says

      J. Michael: I touch on the principles in numerous messages in the Christ is ALL podcast , in “Jesus Manifesto,” and in “From Eternity to Here.” But I really don’t know how to make it practical without working directly with a group of believers who wish to journey together in making Christ their Life in a practical, hands-on way. I refuse to put that in a book. It’s something that needs in-person, hands-on, live ministry with a group of people who are already or wish to share their lives together. (I discuss the scriptural process in “Finding Organic Church”.) Living by Christ was never designed to be an individualistic pursuit; God made it for face-to-face community, and it only really works well in that context.

  36. says

    I see men and women putting all their attention on a window, a roof shingle, a board, a stone of the right wall. But they fail to see the glory of the whole house!

    Thanks so much for this post!

  37. Kat says

    All the positional titles elude me altogether. I just never have had a concept of the perspectives that many deem as so vitally important it divides us into a multitude of individual religious ideas of man called religions, organizations, denominations, sects, groups, and churches of these titled ideas. Imagine what would happen if all these religious ideas were replaced with Life, the Life of Jesus Christ. It is simply Him who is Life we are longing for and not ideas bound up in the prideful mind of mankind. Life is the idea, the living Life of Christ Jesus with exclusion of all religious, human presets build with the hearts and minds of mankind. We either live the Life of Christ or we live caged by our ideas of His Life. I am a simple person and just do not see what the fuss is about, because the Life of Jesus Christ is All. I really do not have much to say regarding all the human mindful ideas, my mind and heart may be simple, but I soar with freedom as Jesus Christ lives His Life in me. Life is the only idea I have to offer to this conversation.

  38. Sybiljean says

    Some of us have felt “the ouch” that comes when men and women make use of the 5-fold ministry gifts outside of the organic expression. The hurtful fruit speaks loud and clear against the misappropriation of these gifts. I’m so grateful that there are those who take this topic seriously, and I pray that much good fruit will come from this discussion.

  39. says

    Frank…. Thank you for staying the Course, which the LORD has Given you… Many people will continue to pull from your shelves and find great conformational empowerment as they are Exiled out & thrust into the Wilderness… as they redefine their faith & find reformative ways to be Christian & be the Church… You have helped me much…as I follow the Course that the LORD has set before me… Thank you… Grace & Peace

  40. says

    For years I’ve seen well-meaning people in churches get all worked up about discovering their gifts and exercising them–and mostly focusing on the gifts that will get them up front of the crowd, and too often getting a stiff case of pride.

    Over thirty years ago I reached the conclusion (and have taught it as I had opportunity) that the gifts of the Spirit are given to the Church, to meet its needs in the world, and we as individuals are the delivery system, not the recipients.

  41. mark says

    @Rebecca: This is such a beautiful question! “Since these “gifts” as scripture defines, are given by Jesus to men (us) for the euipping of the saints for ministry …. then why are so many saints not equipped?”

    Some comments here refer to the rigid way we tend to adhere to certain lists in the Bible. I just wanted to offer that some who may generally, for example, be a shepherd/teacher will also at times evangelize or prophesy. It’s not an all exlusive label that we have to fit into. One may have a strong gifting in an area, but it doesn’t mean they will only do that one thing. I wouldn’t say I’m a gifted evangelist, but at times, the Lord has gotten the job done through me.

    In my little bit of organic church experience, I’d say the most important thing is learning to live by Christ’s life and then expressing Him as He leads. Christ as the Head will use those who are humble to function for the body’s benefit.

  42. Jeff Stucker says

    Frank, thanks for addressing the question of focusing on gifts in organic church. Here’s a follow-up for you. I still can’t shake the fact that Paul mentions gifts multiple times, so they must be valuable in some sense, though certainly not in the way for example he focuses on the supremacy of Christ, which is paramount.

    Has all of your experience in organic church included folks who had a “gifts” oriented spritual background, like pentecostal and charismatic? In such a situation, I would think backing off on the gifts would be quite healthy. On the other hand, where I witnessed gifts being brought out in a seemingly healthy way was where the majority of folks came from a less-gifts-focused tradition like Conservative Baptists. In that case, it seemed they were swinging the pendulum back more to the middle from a “no gifts today” mindset and simply learning to participate more as actual members of a body. Just curious what your thoughts are on that angle, thanks. (I’m guessing the answer will be gaze on Christ, glance at the gifts. 😉

    • says

      Jeff: In most cases where Paul discusses gifts, he’s bringing correction to the church. I’ve addressed gifts too to a church for the same reason. Luke just talks about people doing certain things and uses verbs to describe it. They aren’t nouns, but verbs. Descriptions. We’ve made them into nouns. I ‘splain this in some depth in REIMAGINING CHURCH.

      In my next book which comes out in April of next year, I give a chapter to the ministry of the Spirit and tell a story in more depth of two groups coming together. One charismatic/pentecostal and the other non-charismatic. (I alluded to it here.) That may help more on this.

  43. John says

    great article. i got alot out of the replies as well.
    i see even in simple/housechurch circles there is a lot of talk of identifying gifts etc… whereas for me i just don’t see that as an emphasis in NT or my life.
    I thought well Paul gave those lists because out of experience thats the patterns he has seen, as opposed to he received this list from heaven then tried to fit everyone into those roles.
    I also think that once someone gets a label its like they must operate in that gifiting at all times, it can become a burden as opposed to something we just see flowing from their life at various times.

    I would like to hear more descriptives and stories of how giftings manifest organically. I think many of us just don’t have much of a frame of reference except what we learnt in institution. Maybe thats covered in one of your books in depth or maybe its more of a case of us hopefully experiencing organic body life and seeing it in action, though thats easier said than done.

  44. Steve says

    Frank, do you think it’s possible for a congregation of people with traditional roots, gathering in a building etc to come into this revelation of organic church and gradually morph into it ? Can an existing church congregation with a history of tradition make the shift ? Have you ever seen it happen ?

    • says

      Steve: I’ve seen it a few times, but in every case the congregation split. You have to understand, to have the real thing, the clergy has to get out of the way (leave) and someone(s) need to come in to equip the saints who know how to do that and are called to it. It’s too odd for many Christians who enjoy filing into a building and listening to a sermon, then going home to live their individualistic Christian lives. Which makes up most people in most congregations (that’s nothing new by the way.) In FINDING ORGANIC CHURCH, there’s a section for pastors who want to make the transition. But I go into the cost attached to it. Yet it’s quite practical.

      Note that I’m talking about a true organic expression of the church that’s under the Headship of Jesus Christ. Of course, some clergy have claimed that their groups are “organic” and they’ve made the “shift,” but in every case I’ve seen (which is many), those congregations weren’t experiencing authentic body life as I’ve experienced and described it on this blog and in my books. So the labels can be tricky here.

  45. Joshua Tongol says

    I enjoyed this a lot, Frank. I have read a lot on the whole “Five-Fold Ministry” being restored and have been to many charismatic gatherings that have empahsized it as well. I, too, have been unimpressed with the whole “new apostolic movement.” This organic perspective seems to be the most biblical one that I’ve seen and I personally have seen it played out in real life as well.

  46. Kelly Deppen Bridges Revelatory Ministry says

    Thanks for this, Frank…
    Because, today I needed a “hand.”
    Could not resist…and amen your writings!

  47. Rebecca Susan says

    This is an excellent article!
    There was a time when I felt like I would be committing blasphemy if I didn’t use the title “Pastor” or “Apostle” before the persons name, thinking I was being respectful, now I realize I was in bondage. A title placed in front of a name doesn’t mean they are being honored. Honoring has less to do with titles and more to do with how you express the love of God to others.
    I can’t help but wonder … where I’d be now if I’d known this truth 30 years ago :)
    I am learning to be grateful for my journey. I’ve learned a lot of “what not to do” and now I’m finding out why.
    Frank, I thank Father God for you. Your books and writings have made my transition easier.
    Bless you, my brother in Christ!

  48. says

    I didn’t get to where I am today (and where I suspect I’m headed) by reading only Reformed writers. Quite the opposite!

    Thanks for the helpful follow-up; I am sufficiently shamed for not reading those books—yet.

  49. Jim Wehde says

    This is a great post, Frank. Almost everything I’ve ever read by you has been a springboard that the creative God has used to organically grow new things in my mind.

    I have asked the same kinds of questions you posed above to our (somewhat famous in house-church circles) brother here in Spokane…but the insistence on the Five-Fold Ministry as it has been taught is apparently a very hard thing to let go of…I have not heard back from him on any time I’ve asked the question.

    I loved Alan’s question: “Do you think that Paul intended the gifted individuals listed in Ephesians 4:11 to be exclusive?” I am not positive where the certainty comes from in your answer:

    ” However, there are specific ministries that God has set into the body for the “equipping” task. Paul names them all in Ephesians 4.”

    This has the feel of being very limiting to the creativity of the Spirit to me. Paul’s list has the FEEL of something that might say, “Etc., etc.” at the end, but I wouldn’t say I’m sure of that : )

  50. Rebecca Susan says

    The name of this article interests me, because I too have been “rethinking” the meaning of what much of the church calls Five-Fold Ministry (along with many other things).

    After leaving “church” as I’d known it for 30 years, I began to question many things that I had once considered “sacred” (and later learned they were sacred…..sacred cows!).

    I began to wonder why an entire organizational structure which gives titles to men and women (or rather entitles them ) to “platform” ministry is built on only one (1) verse in the book of Ephesians. And if we’re going to be honest, it should be Four-Fold, since pastor/teacher is connected in the text.

    Since these “gifts” as scripture defines, are given by Jesus to men (us) for the euipping of the saints for ministry …. then why are so many saints not equipped?
    In the summer of 2007, I asked this question and heard Holy Spirit just as clear as day say, “they have been gathering the saints to themselves … to have people come watch them and hear them, but have done very little equipping.”

    Ok… I’ll stop rambling and read Franks article.

    • says

      Rebecca: I resonate with what you heard in the summer of 2007. It’s a nice summary of parts of “Pagan Christianity” in fact. There’s a lot of talk about “equipping the saints,” but as I’ve often said and as the research shows, hearing a 45-minute sermon doesn’t equip. There must be practical handles given.

  51. says

    “In all the years I’ve been a part of and worked with organic expressions of the church, it’s proven harmful to focus on and given attention to “gifts.'”

    Like surrounding an ususpecting newcomer and laying hands on him so that he’d miraculously begin speaking in “tongues” (and thus [inadvertently] making him feel less-than when nothing happens), right? Just making sure we’re on the same page . . .

    Thanks also for the clarification on the argument re: Pagan Christianity. Regarding #1, that’s partially beside the point, if by “no biblical basis” you mean “isn’t articulated in Scripture.” That’s an unliveable (if not unbliblical) “regulative principle.” But if you meant “no biblical basis” as “in certain senses antithetical to Scripture,” then I agree, but that’s really your point #2, that some of those practices actually end up redefining the ekklessia in an unbiblical way. And I fully agree with that sentiment. But I suspect we disagree on the details.

    • says

      Chris: No, point #1 simply means there’s no root in Scripture for it, particularly no shred of support in the NT. That’s an important point only because many Christians *assume* and *defend* certain “sacred cows” like the modern pastoral office and the Sunday morning sermon as if they were codified by God. So we dare not tamper with them and you’re a heretic to even question such things. But if folks can see that these things have no root in the NT, then the second point is far easier to grasp and digest.

      Regarding whether or not you’d disagree on the details, or if you’ve be convinced by my arguments, awaits the time when you will seriously and prayerfully read both books in their entirety. :-)

      If a person only reads Reformed writers, it’s difficult to see anything outside that box. I’m not suggesting you’re doing that, as I don’t know. I’m just sayin 😉

  52. mike says

    “In 1999, Wagner sought to organize the movement under the name “International Coalition of Apostles” with Wagner as the “Presiding Apostle.”’

    thats my favorite statement in the whole text

    isnt that how it all starts………every time?

    great stuff

    no further questions

  53. Michael O. says

    First I love the post. It is a great distilled recap on Reimagining Church which I devoured with great slurping noises. It is perfect world.
    Having been intimately involved first hand smack dab in the midst of the Charismatic movement/Maranatha Movement/Vineyard Movement/Mega World Outreach “church”, and all of the associated side issues and goings on resulting from same.
    Such as: “Shepherding”, “Here Come The Prophets”, “Jesus People”, “Planting churches just to be planting churches”,
    “Miraculous manifestations through homosexuals, freaks, dopers, drunks, adulterers, swindlers”, “Covering”, “Raising up Elders and Deacons”, “Here come the Apostles”.
    Imperfect world.
    I throw a couple of pieces of red meat out here.
    I am never ceased to be amazed by the creative, uncanny, weird, unnatural, inexplainable, supernatural, mystifying, incredible things the Holy Spirit does in the Body of Christ.
    Despite our imperfection and historic dysfunction. Even in the first century amongst Apostles.
    The Bible is full beginning to end of the record of God laying down the law, and His children doing just the opposite, and He despite little or no help from us, getting it done despite through imperfect obstinate vessels.
    On the 3 + half+half fold ministry, sometimes looking like 3+1+1 fold ministry, sometimes looking like the 4 fold ministry sometimes looking like a 5 fold sometimes looking like none. It is not whats important, IMO.
    God sets the standard for doing it as Frank has laid out. It should look pretty close to that.
    Will it? Probably not? But should it? Yes. Those 31/2, 4, 5 folders should be building up the Body with a generally clear picture of how and where.
    I’m thinking Frank is 99% on the subject my having lived through this stuff for so long.
    Does God do it that way every time? No. He gets a big kick out of being sovereign once in a while.
    I have experienced God dealing with me on “blind spots and weaknesses” quite adaquately many times with general unbelievers outside the church as well as with common institutional church members and almost daily with my dogs. Is a “right environment” preferable? Yes. Mandatory? No. Possibly another 80/20 rule.
    Lets avoid being pedantic and just get the job done.

  54. Jose Bosque says

    You can also reach me at Relax people “that’s a Joke!”

    Frank, Thanks for going deep and not giving this topic a simple response. I am with Him and you 100% on this. As you and I have discussed I believe we need to shoot the Clergy- Laity distinction before true organic can be birthed. Be blessed keep wrting and I will keep promoting!

  55. Elizabeth Chapin says

    Thanks for the tag. Interesting thoughts and helpful snapshot of history of doctrines of five-fold ministry.

  56. Jeff Stucker says

    I get a kick out of the names that each of these groups come up with, but have to say the “New Order of the Latter Rain” movement is my favorite!

    Frank, I do have a question for you, based on your experience in organic church. How much do you think it’s helpful to encourage people to become self-aware of their gifts, in order to understand themselves and others more? (Maybe something you could post on separately if it’s not too close to this topic.)

    One thing I saw promote every member functioning in a slightly more traditional setting is helping each person become more self-aware of their gifts, for example, using inventories or questionnaires. Of course, some of those “spiritual gifts inventories” were slightly better than useless, playing back to you superficial activity like program involvement. Others were quite good, just like personality profiles are, when they captured some of the subtleties behind the essence of each gift. I can imagine both dangers and benefits in an organic setting. Thanks.

    • says

      Jeff: In all the years I’ve been a part of and worked with organic expressions of the church, it’s proven harmful to focus on and given attention to “gifts.” Instead, loving, pursuing, sharing, and knowing the Lord Jesus Christ has been the focus. And the gifts, functions, ministries, etc. just happen without calling attention to themselves or the people using them. We don’t have to label them, they’re just present and they all point to Christ. The parable of the centipede works here. When it gets its eyes on it legs, it becomes paralyzed. But when it looks ahead and just walks, it moves and makes progress.

      Gifts are like utensils. Christ is the substance. When I think about eating a meal, I don’t give too much attention to spoons, forks, and knives. I’m more interested in the food that’s being served. :-)

  57. says

    What you have written makes a lot of sense to me but I do have some questions. When we center on Christ what does that mean? Do we center on the Christ that fellowshipped with harlots and tax collectors and was called a drunkard? Do we center on the Christ of the Sermon on the Mount spoken to Jews under the Mosaic Covenant before the cross? Do we center on the Christ who was concerned for the oppressed? Do we center on the reigning overcoming Christ that has put the whole world to rights already? What I see is this…. so many people have their view of Christ so ingrained and informed by various doctrines that they cannot and will not hear Christ. I feel that I have rebuked Christ in the past for speaking to me something so radical that I did not dare think it was really his voice. I think that doctrines, dogmas and, “truths” are so deeply embedded in the minds of the people of God that it is difficult to hear and form Christ in our midst.

  58. says

    Frank, as expected, thought-provoking stuff here. I’ve always been concerned to think organically while simultaneously being steeped in early church/medieval traditions ever since I read Mark Strom’s Reframing Paul: Conversations in Grace & Community. Have you read it?

    What I like about Strom, if I can be semi-critical here, is that his discussion doesn’t devolve into the tired argument about the “pagan roots of post first-century Christianity.” Rather, it (indirectly) lifts up that which is good among the traditions of Spirit-filled men (who have used their God-given creativity to envision fresh ways of doing church) and thus (indirectly) seeks to revitalize them in much the same direction that you do. That’s what I took from it, at least.

    Blessing to you and thanks for the good read (now off to think how this can be fleshed out in the Anglican way)!

    • says

      Chris: Thanks for the comment. I’ve heard of the book, but haven’t read it.

      Note that “Pagan Christianity” and my other work doesn’t argue that if something has pagan roots it’s wrong and should be abandoned. That’s a silly argument and one that it’s impossible to believe and practice in the 21st century. The argument is that many sacred practices that scores of believers unthinkingly and whole-heartedly embrace (1) have no biblical basis as is often mis-assumed and (2) actually REDEFINE the church of the living God and come into conflict with the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. Unfortunately, that’s not a tired argument, but one that many Christians have yet to seriously explore in the light of God’s Word and church history. “Reimagining Church” presents a whole theology that’s constructive and roots the practice of the ekklesia in the Triune God. It’s an important read for anyone interested in the subject.

  59. says


    Thanks for the answer. Why do you think Paul didn’t name all the gifts in his other lists? Also, do you think it’s important that grammatically there are only four items in Paul’s list?


    • says

      Some of his other lists aren’t meant to be exhaustive statements, but leave with the flavor of “etc.” as is pertinent to his point. Yes, I think the grammar argues for shepherd/teacher being one gift.

  60. says


    Do you think that Paul intended the gifted individuals listed in Ephesians 4:11 to be exclusive? In other words, are those kinds of gifted individuals the only ones who “equip God’s people for the work of service”?


    • says

      Alan: For Paul, every member of the body supplies Christ, every member is gifted in some way, and every member is a functioning priest (1 Cor. 12, see also 1 Peter 2) and has the right and the privilege to speak and minister in the church meetings (1 Cor. 14; Heb 10, etc.). However, there are specific ministries that God has set into the body for the “equipping” task. Paul names them all in Ephesians 4. However, I am not sure if one can prove 100% that they are the only ones he had in mind. But if there were others called to that particular task, one would wonder why he didn’t mention them in that discussion.

  61. Nathan says

    Thanks Frank I’m thankful for this post I’m going to share with so many brothers and sisters. Very profound stuff.

  62. Jeff Rhodes says

    Very insightful. I have heard many rumblings about this subject over that past several years, but you have helped clarify some stuggles within my own mind regarding the five-fold ministry. As you so often do, you have pointed us to Christ, the gift-giver Himself, rather than focusing our attention on externals. I appreciate that so much. Coming from a very conservative Baptist background, this subject was typically elluded and ignored by my teachers. Usually it was tossed aside with a “those aren’t in effect anymore.” They were virtually forgotten. When the subject did come up it was usually to point out the wrongs of some charismatic group.

    Thanks for your thoughts!


  63. says

    Excellent points! Another thing I notice about the function of these in organic church is that people don’t need to declare themselves (or to have others declare them) to be a “Prophet,” “Evangelist,” “Apostle,” “Teacher,” or “Pastor.” Instead of using those words like a title, they just humbly function in the role on equal footing with all other believers. Amos (a real Old Testament prophet) said: “I am neither a prophet or a son of a prophet.” Titles feed ego; organic church cultivates considering others above yourself. Titles represent positional authority, organic church is built on spiritual life.

    • says

      Steve: Right on. The NT never uses these words as titles (they are but descriptions of a function). And in the West today it’s quite harmful to tag a person with a title for the reasons you stated. The *function and reality* is what’s important. Thanks for your insightful comment.

  64. says


    I really like the way you described the gifts functioning in an organic church life. Having recently left a church where the pastor was controlling on a good day and abusive/manipulative on a bad day, it’s nice to see another model for these gifts. I’d be really interested in actually seeing them in operation in an organic meeting.

  65. says

    Frank…thank you for this…and other thoughts you so freely share. Currently I’m mentoring a number of young church leaders, including several seminary students, and your fresh, engaging, disturbing (in a sacred, healthy way!), writing is providing some rich conversations. Keep at it. I’m “listening” and passing it on. …Wes

  66. Miguel says

    You certainly enjoy shaking things up brother.

    I do too. Only one point of disagreement in the post:

    “Authentic apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherd/teachers are gifted people who grow up in organic churches—not as leaders, but as brethren.”

    I think to limit authenticity to one expression of how believers gather together is presumptuous. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherd/teachers are gifted with those characteristics by the Lord himself and are not dependent on a local body being organic or any other form of ecclesiastical gathering.

    I do agree with you, however, that in less “organic” settings those characteristics do remain dormant or under developed.

    I am glad to be a first hand witness to the natural and powerful growth of these giftings in our work with the people in the Cloud Forest region of Ecuador.

    • says

      Miguel: Only one point of disagreement!? I must be getting wiser in my young age 😉

      Note that when I say “organic church” I’m not speaking of a particular form or structure. But the reality of ekklesia as a community of believers who share life under Christ as Head and where the whole body functions to express Him. In my experience, the ekklesia accurately knows what our true gifts and functions are. She’s quite perceptive that way. And those gifts grow up *naturally* in my view (rather than artificially or with traditional baggage) in the native environment of body life. The gifts really do look very different in other environments. That’s been my observation anyway. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing will depend on one’s opinion of course. For me, I’d trust a prophet that grew up in a real experience of body life any day over one that grew up in the modern prophetic movement.

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