This past Sunday at Revolution Church, we continued our series in Ephesians called Image is Everything and I preached on Ephesians 4:7 – 16 and looked at how God has wired each of us and what that means in our church, our missional communities, at work and in our cities. Each of us have been given gifts by God and we are to use them to honor Him and move His mission forward, inside and outside of the church.
While there are a variety of spiritual gift lists in the New Testament (Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12), the one in Ephesians is slightly different. It lists the gifts of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers. Hence the acronym APEST.
Here are some descriptions of each and some questions to help you discern which one God gifted you in. In our missional communities, as we talk through the servant identity for our covenants this fall, we will use these questions to help deploy people in our missional communities to use their gifts in greater ways.
APOSTLES extend the gospel. As the “sent ones,” they ensure that the faith is transmitted from one context to another and from one generation to the next. They are always thinking about the future, bridging barriers, establishing the church in new contexts, developing leaders, and networking trans-locally. They challenge people to live out their calling, while awakening the dreams found within each of us. They are catalysts that create new things. Other characteristics of an Apostle are they are pioneers, entrepreneurs and architects. The vulnerability of Apostles is that they are hard charging, autocratic, pressure, wound people and can heap it on.
Are you an apostle?:
- Are you helping to cultivate a discipleship ethos in the congregation you serve?
- Do you demonstrate a passion to multiply disciples?
- Do you help people discover and live out their God-given calling?
- Do you have a history of calling people to participate in advancing God’s kingdom by starting new ministries and churches?
- Do you seek to bring the good news of Jesus Christ into places and people groups that have no tangible witness? Are you able to equip others to do the same?
PROPHETS know God’s will. They are particularly attuned to God and his truth for today. They bring correction and challenge the dominant assumptions we inherit from the culture. They insist that the community obey what God has commanded. They question the status quo. Prophets help to reveal what is in the hearts of those around them through their words. Without the other types of leaders in place, prophets can become belligerent activists or, paradoxically, disengage from the imperfection of reality and become other-worldly. The vulnerability of a prophet is they can be factious and dogmatic in their approach.
Are you a prophet?:
- Do you have a passion to see people walk with God?
- Are you sensitive to the Holy Spirit?
- Do you seek to help your community in live in the power of the Spirit and operate in the gifts of the Spirit?
- Do you spontaneously receive a word from the Lord for the sake of your community?
- Does your heart break for the poor and oppressed?
- Do you seek to help people be involved with justice issues either locally or globally?
- Do you seek to call people to live in God’s new social order?
- Do you cultivate an environment that includes the outcasts?
- Do you find yourself equipping others to do the same?
EVANGELISTS recruit. These infectious communicators of the gospel message recruit others to the cause. They call for a personal response to God’s redemption in Christ, and also draw believers to engage the wider mission, growing the church. Evangelists can be so focused on reaching those outside the church that maturing and strengthening those inside is neglected. The characteristics of an evangelist are they are a connector to a cause, a recruiter, entrepreneurial, and a storyteller. The vulnerabilities of an evangelist are they can see people as numbers and not care about people.
Are you an evangelist?:
- Do you have a heart for those far from God?
- Do you feel frustrated that the congregation is too inward oriented?
- Are you incarnating the good news in your neighborhood or within a people group?
- Are you helping your community represent God’s reign as a sign, foretaste and instrument of the kingdom?
- Do you find yourself helping others in the congregation view their vocation in redemptive ways? Do you find yourself equipping others to do the same?
SHEPHERDS nurture and protect. Caregivers of the community, they focus on the protection and spiritual maturity of God’s flock, cultivating a loving and spiritually mature network of relationships, making and developing disciples. Shepherds can value stability to the detriment of the mission. They may also foster an unhealthy dependence between the church and themselves. The characteristics of a shepherd are they are a disciple, harmonizer, a sustainer and a social integrator. The vulnerabilities of a shepherd are they can be codependent and can’t pass on their faith.
Are you a shepherd?:
- Do you have a heart for those hurting in the congregation?
- Do you find yourself seeking ways for your community to be more like a family?
- Do you feel that the other leaders are too outward oriented and are not paying enough attention to the internal needs of the church?
- Do you find yourself walking with people through their pain, helping them to pursue wholeness and holiness in the context of community?
- Are you a peacemaker in the congregation, seeking to help the congregation embody forgiveness and reconciliation?
- Do you find yourself equipping others to do these same things?
TEACHERS understand and explain. Communicators of God’s truth and wisdom, they help others remain biblically grounded to better discern God’s will, guiding others toward wisdom, helping the community remain faithful to Christ’s word, and constructing a transferable doctrine. Without the input of the other functions, teachers can fall into dogmatism or dry intellectualism. They may fail to see the personal or missional aspects of the church’s ministry. The characteristics of a teacher is they are a mediator of wisdom and understanding, trainer, educator, and love theological information. The vulnerabilities of a teacher are they can be moralistic, uptight and throw bombs at people.
Are you a teacher?:
- Do you have a hunger to devour and understand the Scriptures?
- Do you feel frustrated that others don’t have the same hunger?
- Do you find yourself helping others to inhabit the sacred text?
- Do you demonstrate a passion to help the community understand Scripture in order to live faithfully to God and his mission?
- Do you help equip others to do these things as well?