5 fold Ministry Problems & NAR

If you have been in church (particularly a spirit led or Pentecostal church) for more than a few years you have likely heard of the term “five fold ministry.”

In the last 30 years it has become popular to speak of “the five-fold ministry,” as a system of church government with apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. This concept comes from Ephesians 4:11-13, which states that Christ gave “some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.”

Most of the Pentecostal world believes in the 5 fold ministry, and as I don’t disagree with most anything said or taught about the 5 fold gifts specifically, I can also see how this term has become controversial and often thought of as divisive within the body of Christ towards the other gifts. I also Theologically cringe any time a doctrine or movement seems to be derived in large part by a singular text. (In this way the use of Ephesians to frame the 5 fold ministry as a doctrine has often been claimed as a “proof text.”)

One of the first things to consider is that Paul gave us two other lists elsewhere in his epistles. The lists vary from this one significantly. This list in Ephesians wasn’t intended to be a doctrinal model; if it was the NT or Paul sure didn’t do a very good job of articulating that. If the intention was to present the list as a model of hierarchy in the church, I would think it would have been presented much differently. In other words, the laws of hermeneutics simply don’t allow a scholar reader to interpret this way. To my point, 1 Corinthians 12 would speak to an 8 fold ministry where the order is different. In the same way Romans 12 presents yet another list. This Seven Fold list moves leadership to the very bottom, just ahead of showing mercy, and it moves service, teaching and encouragement to the top. It takes some theological gymnastics to make a doctrine out of the list in Ephesians.

Keith Giles shares that, “Jesus was serious when he said that we are all brothers and sisters and that none of us was meant to play the Father, or the Ruler over anyone else. (See Matthew 23:9) The goal in the Body of Christ is that we are all members of one another, and that no one person is given the preeminence over the rest of us.”


If you would like an in-depth theological view of Biblical “leadership” we did an X44 video that is posted below. In this video we show that Apostles are “sent ones” to be messengers and plant churches recognizing gifting areas and beginning the training up in those gifts. Then we go over the other gifts listed. They aren’t offices, or positions of power. There are many other gifts listed in the scripture, at least 22 and there is no reason to promote or exalt some over others. One gift wasn’t intended to be lorded over the others. The design given to us to bring order to chaos was in many gifts of one Spirit.

HISTORY: The 5 fold ministry push is relatively new. It is hard to put a finger on exactly who or where this idea started, but in 1996, Peter Wagner led a conference at Fuller Theological Seminary entitled, The National Symposium on the “Post-Denominational Church.” A few years later he organized a movement called the “International Coalition of Apostles” with Himself as the “Presiding Apostle.” The idea is that they would “restore” the 5 fold ministry of the New Testament church (which I would argue never existed in this way so it can’t be “restored”). From this movement came the “New Apostolic Movement,” (NAR) which established the “offices” of the 5 folds ruling the church. To be clear I really like a lot of Wagner’s work and think he has been one of the leading spirit led “theologians” of our time. I just think the emphasis on this view missed the mark which has unfortunately become what Wagner is most known for.


This conversation also ties into the ramifications of spiritual anointing theology. Some would believe that those anointed should be the only one’s worthy of the 5 fold gifting. This is a problematic notion, let me explain. There is a debate on whether every Christian is anointed or whether some are anointed “more” or perhaps for different “times” than others. (This conversation can get dispensational, but I am not going to open that door in this article.) The Old Testament clearly displays a sense of anointing as the falling of the spirit on someone or something in a sense of the spirits moving, coming and/or going. It is true that an OT King was anointed, but they were also the archetype (foreshadow) of what the people chose over or instead of God. They wanted a king not God to rule them. God anointing a king was to signify that His spirit would be with Him, but the anointed ones more often than not rejected that spirit anointing. God’s spirit was believed (by most scholars) to have moved away from the king in the same way that it moved away from the temple and eventually Israel.

When Jesus came, was crucified, and resurrected, allowing the spirit to fall at Pentecost, He brought equality to the body of Christ. The anointed were reconciled as the calling or return to Edenic thinking as the priesthood of all believers. I was at a wonderful conference last week and a dear brother in Christ (Pastor Jim Cobrae) shared a lesson on the anointed. I fully agree with everything he taught; but I believe everyone in Christ is given this anointing (not just some.) In the same was as an OT King, they can either accept it and let God bring their gifts to maturity or reject it. Often, I would admit that when people teach on “anointing,” the better Biblical definition of what they are describing is being spirit filled not anointed, but that is another post! I will admit that the terms are used interchangeably; but in a scriptural sense of definitions anointing and spirit filling are likely different.

The New Testament Greek word used for “anoint” is chrió which you will notice is essentially the root of the word for Christ Himself and means to “rub into” even to the point of flowing inside of you. As you can see it is a literal word reference in Greek to explain “Christ in us” and flowing through us. In other words, if Christ is in you, you are anointed, you are asked to mature in Him displaying the image of Him by the way you live Jesus out and bear fruit.

You are anointed already if you are in Christ.

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