The team necessary for a mountain climbing expedition can be compared to God’s team necessary for bring the Body of Christ to full maturity.
“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.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)
Many have tried to emphasize the importance of the five-fold ministry. We know they are each ordained by God, but there still seems to be some confusion. So many factors contribute to our lack of understanding it is hard to put a finger on what needs to be said next. Regardless, each of these diverse gifts are vital. Perhaps just one more illustration defining some of their unique functions can underscore their importance.
To do this we are going to look at the elementary features of a climbing expedition.The parallels between our journey and an expedition are many. For the sake of brevity we will attempt to keep to the essentials.
To begin imagine an expedition up one of earth’s greatest mountains. What are the stages of assembling a team and making the journey? Now think of the five-fold ministry gifts in the light of the expedition. Here is a fresh look at the five gifts beginning with the Evangelist.
1. Evangelist – the evangelist is the consumate salesmen. He lives to promote the value of the venture. Like many salesmen he is focused on pure recruitment, not thinking of much beyond the sale itself. This gift creates enthusiam for the expedition. The thrust of this gift is to create an appetite for the journey and motivate others to want to ‘sell’ the prospect of the adventure. At the end of the day the Evangelist is looking to get you to commit to the expedition.
2. Teacher – this gift is all about training. The teacher longs to know and share what we need for the journey. Carefully meticulous about identifying stages in the journey to come, he will with delight, itemize future challenges and hopes for success. The teacher will identify in great detail each and every piece of equipment that might be used. At the end of the day the heart of this gift is to familiaze the climber with equipment and its uses. He is passionately given to ensure each is adequately prepared.
3. Pastor – the third of the five gifts is the pastor. He is the caregiver – a kind of ‘mother figure’. This gift is particularly concerned with morale. The pastor is your typical first-aid attendant. Should there be an injury or even a blister the pastor is there to mend, medicate and minister with a delicate touch. When a climber languishes behind plagued with fatigue, this gift will motivate and encourage. The pastor is indespensible in maintaining common vision and unity during the treck up the mountain.
4. Prophet – the prophet is relentless in focusing on the pinnacle of the mountain. This gift is all about creating vision in order to harness the drive necessary to reach the top. With powerful admonitions he hails the virtue of the mountain top as the supreme and only destination. Fanning the flames of passion for all the benefits of the experience and perspective only available at the top. The prophet inspires and challenges toward the final goal. This gift functions in close proximity to the apostle lending his gifts to uncovering necessary strategic steps.
5. Apostle – the apostle is the team leader. He is charged with the ultimate authority for the expedition itself. His priority is the overall success of the climb. Largely given to determining what is necessary he is compelled toward the collective good of the enterprise. The venture is the priority for this gift and it possesses a unique perspective on various routing options. Apostles are extremely conscious of the dangers and rewards. In addition they are defined by unusual wisdom. The apostle, like the prophet, is intolerant of any goal less than the one represented in the top of the mountain.
These five constitute God’s primary ministry gifts to the church. The characteristics we have itemized are by no means exhaustive, however they point to some concrete functions and differences. They all have solid primary strengths, but there are some needs they are not designed to meet. This is not failure, it is design. Hopefully these distinctions can help us see theirs limitation and benefits. Like tools in a toolbox, each is appropriate for its intended purpose. At the end of the day we need all of them. These five gifts for climbing mountains will take us to the apex of the Mountain of the Lord.