"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers to..." Eph 4:11
When I was first trying to understand the ways of God, I was very intrigued by the story of the Ark. My subsequent study seemed to point to this stunning conclusion - only one seafaring vessel would be able to withstand the forces from below, the power from above and the sheer turbulence at sea level. That was this vessel God designed. That made me sit up and ask: "The church faces similar challenges. Did God give such specifications for her as well?"
The church has been designed to withstand the forces of darkness from below, the weight and glory of God from above, and the turbulence from the daily fight . As specific as God was with the ark, he has not left us guessing. The Ephesians 4 gifts are major contributors to keeping the church-vessel buoyant and on course in this project planet earth.
To spell out what they do in a short blog like this is trying the impossible - so I beg your grace. These ascension grace gifts are those that Jesus distributed to certain folks - not all believers. [This is opposed to the "charismata" gifts of the Holy Spirit available to all]
Here is a very simple [or too simplistic] set of thoughts on each of these E4 gifts:
Apostle - the 'sent ones' who are entrepreneurial masterbuilders, laying foundations in churches so that the gospel can advance to all nations;
Prophets - by "foretelling" and "forthtelling" they are committed to ensuring that the "wells are unblocked and the life of God flows uninterrupted in each believer and in every church";
Evangelists - are proclaimers of the gospel, seeking to reach every man, woman and child with the gospel, being reapers of the harvest whilst seeking to give every believer a passion for this harvest field;
Pastors - their deep felt conviction is to nurture, disciple and walk every believer and church into health, wholeness and maturity;
Teachers -they are guardians of the truth. Their zeal is for accurate exegesis, that the bible is fully understood, communicated and applied, placing it in the context of the day.
For the sake of brevity may I make a few comments to bring clarity and a sense of value to these gifts as we understand it:
* These gifts are not for all but "he gave some to be...". They cannot be learnt or trained into. They are Christ given and he chooses who he gives them to;
* These gifts are not the top of the spiritual food chain - the new celebrities in a idol driven culture. They are servants of the Most High and eunuchs to the bride, readying her for her groom;
* They are not local church offices [like elders and deacons] but are trans-local gifts who dispense their grace to churches, that they have relationship with;
* In essence their task is not to "guest teach", but rather to provide ongoing collaboration with local churches to encourage, empower and equip them on their journeys;
* Every church needs all 5 these gifts to invest into their community as they bring vital anchor pieces for health and maturity;
* Sometimes their ministry simply blesses [it empowers but the E4 gifts and the church are not on the same journey], sometimes these gifts build [meaning their partnership in the gospel is ongoing to construct both a local and a larger story];
* Apostles and prophets lay foundations. These are needed when a church is being planted [launched], when a church is being replanted [she has grown stagnant, stuck in old ways], when she entering a new chapter [growth, influence, profile] or when calamity has struck [leadership failure, church split...], then these two gifts are needed on the ground with the community;
* Apostles have spheres of influence [2 Cor 10] that includes the specific churches that they are working with at present. These other gifts work with them to complete the mission God has given them;
* The local church is the big story NOT these gifts. This must be maintained at all times!
* These gifts not only build up the churches but offer the churches a togetherness "together we can achieve more" Terry Virgo;
* Like Jesus, these 5 [or some say 4 gifts as they see the pastor and the teacher as one office] gifts are there to multiply - like the parable of the mustard seed that becomes a large tree in which the birds make their nests - more churches, more leaders, more nations...
Although this is brief summary, I hope this peaks your interest for more study...