In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul explains ministry functions are carried out by five unique types of giftedness: apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, teaching, and shepherding. Collectively, these five gifts are often referenced as APEST. “Individually, these gifts reflect parts of a whole that, when seen together, manifest the full image of God and the full measure of Jesus Christ,” explains Neil Cole in his book Primal Fire. J. R. Woodward describes these five gifts in this way, “Jesus’ Church is made of Dream Awakeners (apostles), Heart Revealers (prophets), Story Tellers (evangelists), Soul Healers (shepherds), and Light Givers (teachers).
Since Jesus incarnated all of these gifts, when any one of these gifts are missing from the church, the church is not a reflection of the fullness of Christ. Without all five gifts working together in collaborative ministry, the church will not be effective in its mission of making disciples to transform the world.
“Operating in the waters of Christendom for nearly two millennia has warped the Western church; we overemphasize the inward-facing functions of community care and theological formation and neglect the outward-facing function of culture care, kingdom expansion, and missional engagement,” says Jon Ritner in his book Positively Irritating.
One of the major causes of the inward-facing functions of the church is the lack of the full expression of the five areas of giftedness. And, as the inward-facing function becomes more pronounced, the decline increases because the range of giftedness grows even more narrow. The cycle continues and the downward spiral escalates.
What gifts are missing at these churches with this inward-facing function causing such disastrous decline? The people who have gifts in being apostolic, prophetic, and evangelistic are missing. The APE’s (apostles, prophets, and evangelists) are primarily the ones who have given up on the church and are long gone. Most all the activities of our churches are centered around the shepherding and teaching gifts. The outward-facing functions and ministries using the gifts of the apostles, prophets, and evangelists are mostly non-existent in the church.
Here are a few signs that indicate why the APE’s have likely gone missing from your church:
- There is not a culture nor resources to stop old ministries so new ministries can be launched that might be more effective in reaching new people.
- It takes multiple steps, committees, weeks/months, and meetings for decisions to be made (if they are made at all).
- Leaders stay in positions for years. There is no leadership development process.
- Hours are spent at meetings discussing facility matters (paint, roofs, HVAC, mold, parking lots) while there are little to no discussions regarding how effective the church is serving its purpose of making disciples.
- Shifts and changes occur in the neighborhood surrounding the church without any leadership conversation or any ministry adaptations.
- The congregation expects the community to show up on Sunday and like the same things they like and do the same things they do. The congregation has not yet realized that being Christians is now the minority population and no longer the majority population.
- The leadership is reluctant to go through a visioning process and/or strategic planning.
How many of the signs above resonate with how your church functions? What does this indicate about the giftedness that is present and what is absent from your church? How is not having the people with these gifts in your church affecting your church’s ability to reach new people? What next faithful steps will your church consider to better reflect the fullness of Christ so it can be more missionally effective?