The Missing APEs

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.


13 thoughts on “The Missing APEs

  1. Try giving folks who are used to having the pastor do it all and give them an apostle-type for senior pastor. Tends to make membership drop a bit as the more religious, unwilling to change folks go away.

  2. In my experience it wasn’t so much that the APE was dismissed but that it was marginalized, along with the S, to same effect. When any one aims to be more powerful than the others, we end up with imbalance.

  3. Although I am not ‘mainline oriented’, I am currently serving with a mainline denominational church that functions totally under the ‘ST’ model. Even though the denomination recognizes ‘Es’ in a very restricted paradigm, it pretty much promotes the idea that the office of ‘A’ disappeared in the first century (I guess when old St. John finally passed on to glory) and I don’t know how they fully deal with the office of ‘P’. My guess is that they believe prophesy is simply “speaking forth the Word of God”, so the ‘STs’ pretty much cover that base.

    My personal passion lies in Evangelism (the new paradigm – per Rick Richardson, etc.) and I believe I may have some of the elements of Prophet. The denomination in which I currently serve is making some strong moves toward missional church development, but I am convinced that they are going to have to not only acknowledge that there are APEs in their midst, they are going to have to let the APEs out of their cages and sit at the table (by the way, GREAT graphic).

    There are things we frustrated APEs can do to find some fulfillment in mission, but they often proceed outside of the regular ‘church program’. The real challenge is how can we/will God bridge these activities to the traditional body where we serve in order to develop the organic health so desperately needed – not simply for survival, but for reproductive fruitfulness in His Kingdom?

  4. Hierarchical leadership and the politics of conformity (in the name of truth, holiness, and submission) prevent the church from dynamically invading the world. I’m trying to imagine what would happen if we began to let go of power, trust Christ’s already finished work, and let the Spirit begin leading us in ways of His choosing. The sooner we dump this “pastoral vision” mentality the better.

  5. Great post, great articles. I’ve found that even when APEs are incorporated and affirmed in a group or ministry, sometimes problems arise when people identify themselves so much with their particular gift-mix, that they are unwilling to meet others halfway and recognize the other perspectives. (It’s like the intercessor who carries a burden for a particular issue and always wants to pray for that issue, no matter what the context of the prayer meeting!) :)

    I think when our goal shifts from being about functioning in “our gift” to cooperating with heaven’s purpose in submission to the King, we are able to be more flexible to hear from others – and we can have a fuller picture of what the King is saying and doing. I’ve learned this through my own trial and error process! :P

    But it only works when everyone shares that goal – or displays that level of humility and maturity. (Or else the same people will always give, and the others always take charge). This is also why the mutual submission vs. hierarchical submission is such an important distinction in the way the body functions together, as you mentioned!

  6. Really great comments everyone.

    Can the five-fold function in traditional leadership structures and congregational structures? Maybe, but as you indicated, it upsets the status quo.

    erin and jeff,
    Power and hierarchy automatically hinder this kind of expression of diversity of gifts. It doesn’t seem that those with the power are all that interested in letting go of it.

    What you describe is quite typical. The article said that many APEs have found a place of ministry with parachurch organizations. I loved your last paragraph and agree that we won’t see reproductive fruitfulness without all of the equipping gifts fully functioning.

    It seems so simple to say that we need the perspective of those who are different than we are. Yet, in reality the tendency is to treat opposing views as “wrong.” A healthy functioning team must have an appreciation for diversity as a foundational value, and as you said, mutual submission as a core value of functioning together.

    Amen Ron.

  7. I agree with your thoughts but am, not sure if the “five-fold” ministry talked about in Eph (why do we invent such terms) is all there is to it.

    We as a church could use only Corinthian gifts but we know other books talk of other gifts, so we don’t. I for one don’t see it limited to 5 ministries but whatever number of functions there are – it would have to been for the building up of the Body to unity.

    Hirsch has just compartmentilised what many others have already packaged up. In fact I don’t see that he offers anything new to the debate.

  8. I see the five-fold much differently than most. These are “maturity” functions to the body – not offices. When any person matures – they will function some way in one of these “five” areas. These are very broad areas – with tons of room for specialization – these are not narrow job descriptions.

    #1 – When a Levite turned 50 – he was no longer allowed to “do the work” – but instead he “assisted” the others in doing it. (Num 8:25)

    In other words – his job was to show the younger ones “how” to do the work. He really knew something about it – since he’d been doing it for 32 years – so his help to the 18 year olds was invaluable.

    #2 – The Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher is not to DO THE WORK – but to EQUIP THE SAINTS TO DO THE WORK. The correlation with the Levite is – the doer now becomes the teacher and the infant becomes a son (doer). So the maturity levels are infant – son – father (or infant – daughter – mother). (or first the blade, then the head, then the ripe grain) These are levels of maturity.

    To me – that makes the “five-fold gifting” a “maturity” function. If you want something to do (and you’re bent prophetically)- go show a kid how to prophesy. That’s called “building up the body”. That is you starting to walk in the five-fold maturity function of the prophetic – in the role of equipper.

    Problem is – people want to label the “five-fold” as an office – an elitist position that excludes everyone but themsevles. These “five-fold” elitists are actually hindering the growth process – not aiding it. The real “five-fold” is a father or mother by the Eph 4 definition. If people aren’t fathering or mothering – they aren’t operating in the five-fold maturity functions at all – they are simply using a gift.

  9. My reservations about making too much ecclesiology from one verse in Ephesians aside, your list of team dysfunction is hitting a little too close to home in reference to one ministry I’m a part of.

  10. mark, jerry, and leighton,
    In general, it is helpful to realize that within the church we will encounter these different perspectives/gifts/functions.

    My definition of the particular graces is quite fluid as I indicated in the post. However, I also think that it is important that we attempt to include and utilize as many of these perspectives as possible.

    The thing that I appreciated about Alan’s article was the practical suggestions toward embracing the diversity of perspectives and working towards unity which is the point of this passage in Ephesians.

  11. Leighton –

    I’ll willingly accept your argument of putting too much emphasis on Eph 4 – if you’ll do the same with the “pastor” – whose existance in scripture is found exclusively and solely in Eph 4.

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