I preached the message that day using verses 13-16 as the picture of a healthy church. The church is to be a mature body joined and knit together and each member of the body is supposed to do the work God appointed. I went on to say that the way we become the church God desires is to do what verses 11 and 12 say. In the NRSV, these verses read,
“The gifts He gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
We need to understand that the apostolic amongst us are really those who push the church out into unchartered territories for Christ. The prophets are the ones who call people back to the heart of God and don’t get caught up with the status quo. These are certainly simplified definitions, but if we can see the roles with this understanding, then we can identify the ways people operate in these capacities.
The second mistake I made in preaching this text was assuming that Paul in our day would only have been talking to the paid professional leaders within the church. However, Paul says back in verse 7 that each of us are given gifts for ministry. The gifts He gives are:
When I finally did see a different way of reading Ephesians 4:11-12 —and I am thankful to Alan Hirsh’s book Permanent Revolution for helping to articulate this for me—it significantly changed the way I saw leadership in group settings. At my church, we started structuring communities around people’s APEST typology. Rather than having one leader for a missional community, people with the different APEST roles and appropriate maturity took leadership in different ways. As a result, these groups became stronger, healthier, and better at leading people to Christ. The individuals in the groups grew in their own level of discipleship to a greater extent.
We applied APEST with our staff as well. We began to allow the different typologies within our staff to mold and shape our leadership. Up to this point, the staff was shaped by my particular APEST typology.
When I travel and speak about ECO, one of the frequently asked questions is how does ECO live out the priesthood of all believers and shared ministry? There are many ways in which we are doing this, but one way to see it lived out in our local congregations is find ways to release the APEST typologies in our own congregation.
If you're curious to learn more, I encourage you to read Alan Hirsch’s Permanent Revolution. And plan now to join us at the 2014 National Gathering, where we’ll hear from Alan Hirsch and the process of leveraging everyone’s gifts to grow missional communities in our churches.