And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God … Ephesians 4:11-13
Walking worthy of the gospel call involves more than just being called ‘the church,’ or going to a church building once or twice a week – it is being and living as God’s people in a unified community, loving one another. The unity of Christ’s body is meant to display the very unity of the Trinity! But we need only look around to see how far short we are of displaying such a unity. However, just as God brings people, circumstances, trials and victories, into our lives in order to conform us into the image of His Son, He likewise has a plan for the corporate church to come to the unity of the faith.
While the goal of our individual pilgrimage on earth is that we would be transformed into the image of God’s Son (Rom 8:28-29), we also have a corporate image which we are being conformed into, as the body of Christ. God calls out a people (the church) and separates them from the world and unto each other, so that the corporate church might come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:13). Toward this end, God gives specific ministry gifts to His church. Spiritual gifts en masse are not in view here, but specific gifts for those whom God has appointed as leaders of the body. God’s plan to bring His church to the place of maturity and unity includes human instruments – namely, apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. These are gifted and qualified men whom Christ gives to the church, as models and channels of spiritual growth, so that you might be brought to maturity.
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers – their ministries are listed chronologically according to God’s plan for the development of the church. Some believe that apostles and prophets still exist in the church today, others consider these offices as passing away with the early church; but either way, these two offices are involved in the planting and genesis of church works. Evangelists mainly preach the gospel to the unconverted so that those with ears to hear might repent and believe and join the church. Pastor-teachers have the two-fold responsibility of leading and feeding the flock of God. Unfortunately today many view the church as a place they
go to watch paid professional “pulpiteers” perform and carry out church programs. This scheme is not only a violation of God’s plan, but an absolute detriment to the growth, health, and vitality of church members. Limiting the work of the ministry to full-time “Christian workers” hinders the spiritual growth of God’s people and stunts the process of discipleship. An excellent leader sees himself not as THE minister, but as one who equips the saints under his care for the work of the ministry.