Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The forgotten ways of ministry in the church
Alan Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways was hailed as a “marker in the field of mission” when it came out in 2006.
YESTERDAY we looked at why we find it difficult to use the spiritual gifts we have been given – years of learning to get by with our own wisdom and resources have made it difficult for us to rely on God working in us in unpredictable ways.
There’s a another reason why we don’t live in an empowered way – we may never have been shown. What we see modelled, we can usually follow. However, churches haven’t been good at seeking out the gifts of the equippers, the APEST team – the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching ministries. These are the ones that reproduce after their own kind.
Traditionally, we have had shepherding and teaching people leading the church. Even though these are different, we have tried to make them the same.
So we have been familiar with the ‘ST’ but five gifts to the church are clearly mentioned. What has happened to ‘A, P and E’?
The APE gifts have never gone away – they just have not been recognised in church. So they have had to find alternative places, and this explains the rise of a whole host of parachurch ministries and mission agencies and prayer networks and residential ministry centres. Taking a step back, that looks more like a work around than a proper solution. If Jesus put five gifts in His church, that is where they should be.
However, it is wrong to see them as leadership ‘offices’ where the holder finds an authority from being an ‘official’ in an institutional structure. We don’t see that in the New Testament. What we see is an emergent people movement with little centralised structure, no professional ministry class and no ‘official’ church buildings.
We do see apostolic ministry alive and present in the early church, extending the mission steadily and building the sustainability and health of the churches. The apostolic lead imparts and guards the missional ‘DNA’ of the organism. It has another important function. It creates the environment in which these other coaching and mentoring ministries emerge and grow.
The order in which these five gifts are given is not a hierarchy but a process.
- Apostolic ministry is the missional heart and reference point for the five. It establishes the covenant community – into which prophetic ministry can speak.
- Prophetic ministry attends to what God has to say and calls the covenant people to faithfulness – opening hearers to God’s call through the evangelist.
- The evangelist brings people into relationship with Jesus through the gospel – the starting point of the shepherding function.
- The shepherd creates the environment for developing in a Christlike way – which comes through teaching.
- The teaching ministry takes the revealed will of God, the Word, to grow people into maturity and understanding.
This is how Alan Hirsch explains it in his foundational book on this subject, The Forgotten Ways. He is very clear that the model for the apostolic is the Suffering Servant/Jesus and that it draws its authority from the idea of service and calling. He points out (and I agree) that the top-down, CEO kind of leadership adopted by many who claim an apostolic title is a caricature. The real thing is recognised by its being organic and relational, with a field of influence that comes from call, not position.