Sunday Message, 16th October – Lifeshapes – The Pentagon: Knowing your role in life
Circles, Semi-Circles, Triangles, Squares and today a Pentagon: if you thought your geometry lessons were over think again!! If like me you have at times despaired of living a fruitful Christian Life as a disciple of Jesus then actually these gathered insights, if taken to heart and acted on in our lives, have the potential to transform our fruitfulness for the Master. The discipline of repenting and believing, having our life balanced so that we work from our rest, keeping our relationships with God, fellow disciples, and others in balance, and treading the path of youthful enthusiasm to mature discipling of others the Jesus way, are huge in terms of getting Christians mobilised afresh in our nation once again.
Now I guess that what I will share with you this morning may come as a shock to those who believe the New Testament and the Early Church espoused a spiritual elite of big guns, without whom the Body of Christ can’t function! Add in ordination and you have a premier league, which all the others can only dream about. But hey what about the growing churches around the globe today: almost without exception they are led by the nameless one, idiots (fools for Christ), who are doing the Jesus thing of discipling and releasing the saints, and as they are released all without exception are making their own unique contribution to building the Body of Christ.
Ministry was never meant to have a capital M! The Ministry has always been that of Jesus, we at best share in it as He leads, and the broader the base from which that ministry is exercised the more effective it is. So today the bad news for some of you is that you are receiving your call up papers into Christ’s Ministry (no avoiding the draft and remaining in a religious hinterland, no conscientious objecting), you are signed up for God and for good. But the good news is the ministry you will share in is resourced by grace, shared in by all your brothers and sisters, and has a goal to make beautiful and complete the Body of Christ. So no more depending on the pastor, minister, or the Church Council, it’s in your hands Church and its put there by Jesus!!
So Paul in Ephesians shows us the Pentagon of Five key roles (apostle, prophet, teacher, evangelist, pastor) that each of us is designed by God to fulfil. Put together in Ephesus they made for a Church, which not only grew exponentially but also, planted at least six other congregations in other cities mentioned in Revelation 2/3. If we had the Trinity Gym at Harvest then this is Body Building at its best and all are involved. All you need to do is recognise your worth before God, receive buckets of grace by standing where the downpour is, and get on with shaping the Body of Jesus today.
But first let me burst the bubble of the suggestion that your Spiritual Gift is your ministry: it’s not, The Bible suggest two kinds of gifts are given to us: Motivational Gifts in Romans 12 and Manifestation Gifts in 1 Corinthians 12.
The seven motivational gifts: prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership and mercy are the things you and I do that bring us most joy, and that we do with a certain ease and effectiveness. They are foundational and motivate us to do what we do in the Kingdom. They are not the ministry but they are exercised through a ministry.
The nine manifestation gifts of the Spirit are evidence of the Holy Spirit’s action in the believer’s life. The dancing hand of the Spirit causes us to exercise one or more of these gifts but they are given by the Spirit and remain his ministry. No one walks around always speaking in tongues or always healing people as they walk down the street. To claim that one is a healer, for instance, is to deny the ministry of Jesus and the action of the Spirit. You see these are not permanent roles: they are given at a special time for a special purpose of God.
So as I follow God’s leading in my life, I will take my motivational gift (the way I am wired) and exercise it through a ministry. If God should find it necessary for me to need a special manifestation of the spirit, He will grant me a manifestation gift to carry out my ministry.
Traditional teaching says that the fivefold ministries in Ephesians 4 are five roles for leaders in the church. But what about the phrase: “But to each of us is given” “To each one” refers to every member of the church, not just leaders. Each one of us has received a portion of grace in at least one of the five roles, a call to be one of five types of people. There is no mention of leadership in the passage, it’s not just for the ordained or trained, they are for each of us. “Grace has been given as Christ apportioned it,” says Paul: Jesus, by His gift of grace, has empowered and equipped every believer for service: all different sized portions of grace and anointing. We each receive part of the whole, Jesus’ ministry fully demonstrates all five roles: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher. These five gifts of grace to what is needed to prepare people for service and build the Church of Jesus today. “That the Body of Christ may be built up.” When all believers are working by grace in these ministries given them by the Holy Spirit the result is unity in faith, a continual growth in their personal knowledge of Jesus, and maturity or wholeness, which all lead to the fullness of Christ. “ Until we all reach unity…..whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Jesus embodied these roles perfectly. We are His body called to step into His shoes just as 2000 years ago He stepped into ours.
A, P, E, P & T: these are heavy-duty words or are they? It’s not God’s idea to weigh us down with these words but to liberate us with them: we are called to serve but in very different ways. We are created to be whole people not chopped up into how we are at home, at work and at church. Our personalities weave together all aspects of our lives, the characteristics that make us who we are whether in Tesco’s or leading a Life Group. Despite these heavy-duty sounding words we find our personalities generally reflected in these five ministries. So lets take a look at them and see where we fit.
Apostle: Apostles are visionary and pioneering, pushing into new territory, establishing new churches or ministries, being innovative in Kingdom Work. They enjoy dreaming, performing new and challenging tasks. Change is always a good thing. The names of people you know may be springing to mind right now because they can’t seem to sit still, they’re constantly seeking some new interest to explore. Jesus was apostolos: the one sent by God (John 3:16). In turn He prepared others to go on to the next frontier: the 12 disciples didn’t huddle in Jerusalem for long: they spread out over the expanse of the Roman Empire. Paul encountered Jesus and became apostle to the gentiles. Priscilla & Aquilla who then pioneered new churches with Paul: yes a women apostle, shock horror!!
Prophet: Prophets hear and listen to God: they stand back or apart to get a clear picture of what is happening. Their clarity of vision results in creative solutions and a vision for situations that others don’t see. Prophets understand the signs of the times and what people should do. They enjoy being alone with God, waiting and listening. Jesus was prophet par excellence: every word he spoke was from the father, He foretold events (like Peter’s denial and about his own death) and was himself a fulfilment of old testament prophecy especially in Isaiah 53. Anna and Simeon prophesied over Jesus in Luke 2, Agabus prophesied about a severe famine in Acts 11 and later about Paul’s imprisonment in Acts 21. Philips daughters were referred to as prophetesses in Acts 21. Oh how we need prophets today!
Evangelist: brings good news, shares the message readily, loves spending time with non-Christians. They are not all Billy Grahams or J John’s but they do tend to be people gatherers. They make each person feel as if they are the only person that matters. They know God’s word and can communicate it relevantly. They are not timid about their faith and share it with others regularly: maybe you know some people like this? Jesus embodied the Good News. He was the Good News. His encounter with the Samaritan Women is a great example of the Evangelist in action. He dared to cross cultural boundaries and speak to someone the world disdained. Philip in Acts 8:12 was an Early Church evangelist: people believed when he preached the Good News about Jesus. Again, how we need Evangelists today!
Pastor: cares for others with a tender heart. They see needs, provide comfort and encourage. Pastors spend most of their time with other Christians. Their goal is to build them up for effective service. They feel the burdens of others problem’s and have a knack of speaking the truth in love! Jesus himself was the Good Shepherd who cares for His Sheep, knowing each by name and loving them enough to give His life for them. Barnabus was a pastor: travelling with Paul in Acts 15 he wanted to return to see how the Christians were doing in the towns already visited, and to give John Mark a second chance.
Teacher: is the guardian of the Truth and is excited by it: they explain enlighten and apply truth to help Christians grow. They love to read and study the Bible and help others understand it. Jesus was often referred to as Teacher or Rabbi; his students often remarked that his teaching was different because he spoke with authority. Apollos in Acts 18 taught with great enthusiasm but didn’t quite have all the facts so Priscilla and Aquilla invited him to their home and explained more fully the way of God to him: he went on to have a very fruitful teaching ministry.
We all will have some part of one of these ministries at our core, and then at times as the Lord leads you another one of these ministries might be yours for a season. But it’s your main ministry, which will refresh and inspire you. Don’t ever thing you must excel in all five: only Jesus could do that. Such a goal will lead to burnout and failure. But do remember this. We are not all called to be pastors, but we are all called to care. We are not called to be teachers, but we are all called to hold out the truth. We are all responsible for learning how to listen for God’s voice, something that comes more naturally for the prophet. We are all called to share the Good News with others, but this takes all those who are not called to be evangelists out of their comfort zones. And we are not all apostles, but must all learn to walk out into what god calls us to do, however uncomfortable we are.
We are the Body of Christ, which means that together, we represent the ministry of Jesus who was the embodiment of this Pentagon of Five ministries given to us all to exercise: and to Him be the glory!
October 16th 2011.