We have now finished looking at ‘what spiritual gifts are not’, so over the next few days we will take an overview of some examples of spiritual gifts. Many of which we will consider in more detail later.
The ministry gifts serve to reveal the plan of God. We see that this spiritual gift is given by Jesus to the church. Ephesians 4:12 – 13 tells us ‘11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.’
1 Corinthians 12: 5 reinforces this saying ‘5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.’
The ministry gifts were once presented to me through a five finger illustration that I’ve found very useful:
Apostle – An apostle establishes and builds churches; he’s a church planter. An apostle may function in many or all of the ministry gifts. He is the “thumb,” the strongest of all of the fingers, able to touch every finger. Apostles see the big picture, look for the next kingdom venture (22 A’s mentioned by name in NT). Like Paul, after Rome, let’s go to Spain! Strategists, like generals in army, carrying the main burden for advancement. Apostolic ministry is a founding ministry, creating something out of nothing (entrepreneurs, opportunists, risk takers, possibility thinkers), uniting all gifts. A’s are the spiritual fathers/mothers who give birth to new churches. The church is built on the ‘foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus himself as the cornerstone’ (Eph 2.20). Their focus is on foundation laying, so that carpenters, plumbers and electricians can build on their solid foundation. Their ministry tends to be mission-directed.
Prophet – Prophet in the Greek means to “forth tell” in the sense of speaking for another. A prophet functions as God’s mouth piece, speaking forth God’s Word. The prophet is the “index finger,” or pointer finger. He points to the future and points out sin. Prophets are more interested in discerning God’s voice for a situation than listening to what people think of their ideas. Often difficult personalities with a radically different perspective, questioning everything from God’s perspective. As visionaries, they are usually at odds with pastors, who want to protect the status quo and have redeemed and smooth relationships within the flock. They have a unique ability to see and hear what others do not see or hear. Their ministry tends to be Spirit-directed.
Evangelist – An evangelist is called to be a witness for Jesus Christ. He works for the local church to bring people into the body of Christ where they can be discipled. He may evangelize through music, drama, preaching, and other creative ways. He is the “middle finger,” the tallest one who stands out in the crowd. He reaches out further then the others, seeking and searching the lost. Evangelists draw a lot of attention, but they are called to serve the local body. Evangelists have a clear aim to help people find Jesus. They introduce a healthy outward focus to church life, helping churches to become part of an evangelistic movement. They disciple new believers by reading the gospel to them. They work closely with apostles and prophets who bear the main responsibility of laying church foundations. Their ministry tends to be Gospel-directed.
Pastor – The pastor is the shepherd of the people. A true shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The pastor is the “ring finger.” He is married to the church; called to stay, oversee, nurture and guide. He shows commitment and love. Pastors are shepherds by nature – very loving people who can create a family atmosphere. Relationships are everything to them, so their main work is to build godly and healthy relationships in their churches. Nowhere in the NT do we find a pastor leading a congregation or house church (the word occurs only once in the NT). The elders led house churches. Pastors lose the big picture because of their preoccupation with the details of people’s lives. If apostles are ‘spiritual fathers’, then pastors are ‘spiritual uncles’. If pastors build churches, they will probably end up creating counselling centres, and helping more and more needy peopl. Their ministry tends to be need-directed.
Teacher – The teacher and the pastor are often a shared office, but not always. The teacher lays the foundation and is concerned with detail and accuracy. He delights in research to validate truth. The teacher is the “little finger.” Though seemingly small and insignificant, he is designed specifically for digging into tight, dark places, shinning light and picking apart the Word of truth. He gets into the places that others can not. Teachers hold truth at a premium and have a passion, not just to teach or preach, but to teach others to teach (cf. 2 Tim 2.2). Their greatest gift is not information, but their own spirit, caught like a virus. If a teacher builds a church, then it will develop characteristics like her own (lecture hall, bible school, preaching centre). Teachers don’t generally lay foundations, though they explain them well! The mark of great teachers is the number of teachers they reproduce. Their ministry tends to be truth-directed.