Yesterday we continued our series looking at How to be a Missionary without ever leaving Lancaster. We talked about how a missional church should use the gifts that Jesus has given and how those gifts play out in the life of the community and the missional context that it finds itself in. We talked about APEST (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelistic, Shepherd/Pastor, Teacher) and even had each person identify what gifting they had, and had them brainstorm together ways of using that gift within Veritas. I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, insights, questions, and where you find yourself APEST wise (and if you need help visit fivefoldsurvey.com)
Last week we began the final section of our 3 section sermon series entitled “How to be a Missionary without ever leaving Lancaster.” The 3 sections that we have covered during this summer have been Engaging Culture, Forming Community, and finally Structuring Congregations.
A good missionary and a good missional church will spend time engaging the local context, the place or the people in which we have been called. We engage the culture by being a blessing, by seeking the peace of the city, by living sent lives (as Jesus live a sent life), by listening to our context (a crucial part of being a missionary to understand our local context) and by many acts of service.
A good missionary and missional church will fight the individualistic western mindset. All too often, especially in the west, we think way too often in individualistic terms. A good missionary and missional church will form community. We will realize that we can’t do life alone, especially the life of a missional disciple. That the early church was a community in which if things went south, they had each others’ backs in profound ways. Missionaries and Missional churches will create space for relationships to form. We should continue creating open space and opportunities for people to hang out together, and invite others into those spaces with us.
Lastly a good missionary and missional church will structure congregations based on the engagement with the local context. Based on the relationships that are being built. And most of all in allegiance to Jesus Christ as the Head of the church. But what does a missional church with Jesus as head looks like? How does a missional church with Jesus as head structure itself? How does a missional church with Jesus as head grow into maturity? Those are some of the questions that I have been wrestling with over the last few months. Especially the question of how do followers of Jesus grow into mature missional disciples. And so those are some of the questions that will be driving us this morning as we continue to look at how a missional church structures itself.
To look at these questions we’ll be turning to the letter to the church at Ephesus. And to a section that is the Apostle Paul’s primary tract on the nature of the church itself and the nature of the ministry of the church. In fact the entire section of this chapter has been entitled Unity and Maturity in the body of Christ. The Apostle Paul is getting at how the body of Christ becomes unified as well as becoming mature, obtaining what he calls the fullness of Christ. So let’s turn to Ephesians 4:11-13 and see what this passage of Scripture can say to us about structuring missional churches and maturing as followers of Jesus together.
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until 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.”
So the first thing that I need to share with you is that theologians aren’t united when it comes to this text. There are some who believe this is only for leaders and not the entire church. There are those who believe that if you are a follower of Jesus, than you can find one of these in your gift mix. Also there are those who truly believe that the APE part of the mix was only for Biblical times (or at least the AP part) and there are those who believe that our current expression of church only emphasizes and uses the gifts of the Shepherd/Pastors and Teachers and marginalizes Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists. But I believe that if we look back at the context of the 3 verses that we are looking at we run into verse 7 which I believe spells out that these gifts are for all, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” One of the ways that grace has been given to us is by the gifts that are described in verse 11. If we take that phrase in verse 7, together with the repeated phrase “gave some to be…” this quite naturally implies that all Christians are included in some part of APEST. APEST must not merely be limited to the leadership community within the church, but must be exercised by the whole church.
Verse 11 lays out 5 different gifts that Jesus himself gave to the church. These gifts were perfectly lived out in Jesus. In fact Jesus had all of these gifts. He was definitely apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, a shepherd and a master teacher. And so when we engage with others using our primary gift, we in a very real way are living into the reality of Jesus. That we are living out God’s divine reflection in our lives. So but what exactly do we mean by Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd and Teacher? What does these gifts that have been given to the church by Jesus look like lived out in our world and in the church? And what is the purpose of these gifts?
First of all the purpose of these gifts of leadership are very clear. It is so that the body of Jesus, the church, might be equipped for service, and that the body of Jesus, the church would be built and come to maturity and unity. This world equipping has the idea of being put right. It was used for setting bones and fixing nets. And so when we equip the body of Jesus in the world to live out their giftings, we are setting things right, and for things to properly grow and mature. Just like your human body can’t mature and grow properly if your bones are sticking out your leg, the body of Jesus can’t function, grow and be effectively missional unless the five fold ministry is operating. In fact, the Apostle Paul sees that APEST ministry as the very mechanism for achieving mission and ministry effectiveness which leads to Christian Maturity.
So what does it mean if you are an Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher. Well let me give you a brief run down of each of these gifts and how they function. (I could do a 5 week series probably and spend 1 week on each of the 5 giftings.)
The primary concern of apostles is to help people and communities live out their calling in the church and world. They do this by cultivating a thriving environment, calling people to join God in the renewal of all things. They create a discipleship ethos in the congregation and call people to participate in advancing God’s kingdom. While they can wear any of the equipper’s hats, they seek to build a team of equippers who activate the entire body to fulfill God’s mission in the world through the church.
The primary concern of prophets is that the congregation pursues God’s shalom. They do this by cultivating a liberating environment that calls the church to live in God’s new social order and stand with the poor and the oppressed, in the power of the Spirit.
The primary concern of evangelist is helping the community to incarnate the good news in their neighborhood. They help to cultivate a welcoming environment that helps the community practice hospitality as a way of life. They invite the congregation to proclaim the good news by being witnesses and being redemptive agents in their vocation and neighborhood. They help the community to live and share the good news.
The primary concern of soul healers is helping people to pursue wholeness and holiness. They do this by cultivating a healing environment where people feel safe to be real and move from their false selves toward authentic community. They create a sense of family and belonging, helping the congregation to love one another, encourage one another, exhort one another, get along with each other, comfort one another as well as play with one another. They help the community cultivate a life-giving spirituality and embody reconciliation.
The primary concern of teachers is that the community inhabits the sacred text. They create a learning environment where people immerse themselves in the scriptures in order to be formed by them. They shed light on the text in such a way that people hear the voice of God through the scripture. They encourage people to participate in sacred assemblies so that God’s story re-shapes them. They seek to help people understand God’s narrative so that they may live faithfully in God’s story and become signposts of the New Creation.
So when these gifts are functioning in the church what happens? Look at verse 12-13, “so that the body of Christ may be built up until 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.” In fact someone once said that “the primary purpose of the Church isn’t to convert sinners to Christianity, but to perfect (complete and mature) the saints for ministry and edification of the body.” I believe any missional church that will embrace the APEST model will find itself more equipped to be missional. More equipped to grow deeper in community with each other. More equipped to grow deeper in their relationship with Jesus. More equipped to do the work of the mission and the ministry and not to leave it in the hands of the “professionals”.
But what would it look like if our missional church were to implement the APEST Model within our own community? How would implementing an APEST model for Veritas help us grow in mission, discipleship and community? How would APEST equip and mature us as the body of Christ? And how would you and those who have the same gifting, whether apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding, or teaching, use those giftings together to build up, strengthen, encouraging, and push Veritas into great mission, deeper community, and deeper discipleship? That is what we are going to talk together, unpack together, and dream together about over the next several minutes.
1. What are your thoughts, comments, insights, questions, etc.. about the text, message and APEST? 2. What is your primary gifting (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor ,Teacher)? 3. Get together with those who have the same primary gifting as you. How could you individually and corporately live out the gifting that you have? Brainstorm ways that your gifting group could help mature and move Veritas forward. Come up with 1 idea that stands out and begin to work on implementation. What, where, when, how, who, etc… Share the idea when the entire groups come back together.