The system of church leadership we inherited from Christendom heavily favors maintenance and pastoral care, thus neglecting the church’s larger mission and ministry. Consequently the A, P, and E leadership functions were marginalized from the church’s leadership structure.
This divorce of APE from ST has been disastrous for the local church and has damaged the cause of Christ and his mission. In my opinion, this contraction of fivefold to twofold ministry is one of the main factors in the decline of evangelical Christianity in the West.
This article by Alan Hirsch was really interesting to me. When I look back on the leadership team that we were a part of, I can see the potential for five-fold ministry. Lack of understanding and appreciation for the diversity of gifts represented among the leadership prevented this from happening. Rather than developing a dynamic APEST team, the senior leader systematically went about getting rid of his APE.
The A (apostle) of the team was the first to go with accusations of not submitting to the senior leader’s vision. He had the audacity to have original ideas. The E (evangelist) was next to be dismissed when it was decided that he didn’t have the anointing for church government. My husband and I were the P (prophet). What are you going to do with them? I am surprised we lasted as long as we did.
Within an immature and dysfunctional team, the differences created conflict as the various perspectives were pitted against one another. The tragedy is that the talents, gifts, and perspectives available on the team were not only disregarded, they were continually belittled and criticized.
I do not believe the five-fold functions always fall into concrete categories represented by specific individuals. However, I do believe that these anointings to equip are always available in the body. We each have a blend of the five with perhaps a natural tendency toward one perspective. We also walk in seasons and circumstances where particular graces in our lives are used to a greater degree to serve the needs that are present.
That is the tragedy of the false apostolic movement. At a time when we should be discerning the grace and gifts of God that are available for equipping the body, we find false apostles and prophets building platform ministries for themselves rather than serving the kingdom. Do not believe everyone who promotes themselves as an apostle or prophet. Learn to discern five-fold ministers according to the fruit of ministry that is actually equipping the body of Christ.
Here are the descriptions of APEs.
- APOSTLES They are always thinking about the future, bridging barriers, establishing the church in new contexts, developing leaders, networking trans-locally.
- PROPHETS 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.
- EVANGELISTS They call for a personal response to God’s redemption in Christ, and also draw believers to engage the wider mission, growing the church.
Now back to our little team. I am not saying that one was “An Apostle,” the other “An Evangelist,” and the other “A Prophet.” These roles describe the perspectives that each one brought to the team.
For example, the A in our APE had strong teaching and pastoral gifts also. However, within the leadership team he and his wife brought an entreprenurial perspective. They naturally had ideas to initiate, but sadly their ideas were perceived to be undermining. They were viewed adversarially as competition and accused of creating conflict.
The E on our team was also pastoral. He and his wife were not respected by the leadership because they were usually off rescuing some misfit rather than paying attention to the important visionary stuff we were implementing.
As the P of the team, our prophetic bent was tolerated in the area of platform ministry and teaching, the things that made the church charismatically attractive. However on the leadership team, we existed under the label of being difficult and contrary.
Leadership theory says that the conflicting agendas and motivations of these five kinds of leaders will tend to pull them in different directions. But if these five could be properly developed, focused, and coordinated, together they would create a very potent leadership team.
The key was learning to manage the dynamic in order to draw upon the increased energy of the team and not be torn apart by opposing opinions.
It was the healthy trust developed on the team that allowed divergent opinions to be expressed without fear of offending one another. It was the strong sense of commitment to one another that gave each member permission to operate out of his or her own ministry biases, and then unapologetically represent their perspectives on the issue at hand.
It is sad to think about what could have been. What were the factors contributing to the failure of a potentially dynamic leadership team?
- Hierarchical leadership structure
- Insecurity and control from the senior leader
- No appreciation or respect for diversity
- Lack of trust among team members
- An unhealthy view of conflict
- Valuing conformity rather than unity
- Lack of commitment to each team member
- Inability to manage conflict
Many of these factors created and perpetuated one another creating a vicious cycle of dysfunction. It is not possible to have an environment where five-fold ministry can function until the ST release their stranglehold of leadership and embrace the diversity of other gifts.
This post by JR Woodward has related ideas about dysfunctional teams, particularly point 1 and 2. Alan’s article ends with a great description of creating a climate for working together as a diverse team. I can only imagine what that might have been like.