Ephesians 4:11–16 →  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (ESV)
We are a collective body consisting of these five different types of people, and we must work together to fulfill each of these functions in order to represent the fullness of Jesus. None of these functions are complete on their own; rather, they must exist in unity for the world to experience the fullness of Jesus, who is the perfect Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, and Teacher.
TEACHING (“One who understands and explains”) → this function helps to keep the church rooted and grounded in the truth of God’s Word and its faithful application. It provides consistency, stability, and protects against heresy that might lead a church to fly off the rails. It regulates the church according to divine wisdom and knowledge. It helps perpetuate traditions, liturgy, relates stories, and passes on biblical doctrine to the next generation. The teaching function operates the organizational systems and structures that maintain repeatable processes, and provides resources for the other gifts.
Immaturity: They can be exacting and obsessed with accuracy that they project right and wrong. With the ability to collect large amounts of information and systematize it, they can be rigid in areas with little practical experience, and thus knowledge can be valued over wisdom. The teacher can value their relationship with information over their relationship with people. In their hunt for clarity, they can offend people with their bluntness, lacking empathy. Teachers are prone to become zealous, setting up certain knowledge and behavior requirements as litmus tests for being a “serious” follower of Jesus. They can speak in black and white terms that have a hard edge to them. Because they connect with information they tend to think right thinking fixes people rather than being present with people.
SHEPHERDING (“One who protects and provides”) → this function exists at the center of the body and serves to promote health and wholeness with the church. It cares deeply about creating bonds of community and nurturing expressions of love. It promotes honest communication between members, promotes unity, and is willing to fight for reconciliation when divisions arise. This function cares for the wounded and protects the weak. It monitors the health of the body and calls out for help when it senses dysfunction, injury, or fatigue. They often notice when people are alone or hurting and feel drawn to nurture the spiritual and communal health of the church.
Immaturity: They can be so sensitive to the feelings of people that they can be guided by the fear of offending. They can be panicked and unable to live with letting others down. They often overextend themselves because they don’t know how to set up appropriate boundaries. They are slow to act because they get anxiety about all the possible negative outcomes. They are so attuned to pain that they can be overwhelmed by their own pain and problems. They tend to pick up other people’s offenses.
EVANGELISTIC (“One who recruits and gathers”) → this function exists on the edge and seeks to build bridges to the world and invite others into the body. It desires to make the circle wider. It thrives on the fringes of the church where it can keep an ear tuned to the culture to know how to share the gospel story with outsiders in a way that is contextually relevant. It recruits others to the kingdom cause, often with strong charisma, infectious enthusiasm, and bold calls to action. When it operates within the church body, it creates points of connection between members and catalyzes people to action. As people who are bearers of good news, they have an attractional quality to their ministry.
Immaturity: They are so enthusiastic that they can be unwise in their decision making. They have tendencies to exaggerate (or even lie) in order to have people engage with them. They tend to be poor listeners, practicing selective hearing because they are only listening for what they deem is important. They might over-share information about other people. They avoid conflict because they want people to like them. They can be easily discouraged when things are difficult and no longer exciting.
PROPHETIC (“One who questions and reforms”) → this function maintains the church’s alignment with the heart and holiness of God. This function keeps the church attuned to God’s spirit and sensitive to God’s leading. It plays the role of truth teller and reformer and brings correction to the body when needed. This function thrives at connecting with God in prayer through both speaking and listening. The prophetic can be expressed vertically, as a call to get right with God (to tear down idols, repent of sin, and raise the standards for obedience to God); and it can be expressed horizontally, as a call to get right with others (to eliminate injustice, fight for the oppressed, and seek fair and ethical treatment of all people). Whether it is within the church or outside of it, prophets are quick to recognize the gap between “what is” and “what should be.” The weight of this tension leads prophets to question the status quo as well as initiate efforts of reform. Ultimately, they are not satisfied until they see a “closing of the gap” between God’s demands and our covenantal faithfulness. This desire to see the truth of God’s reality fleshed out in concrete and tangible ways gives an incarnational quality to their ministry.
Immaturity: They can be overly critical being hyper focused on what they dislike and disagree with. Can be stubborn and argumentative in the face of unfamiliar information. Judgmental in sizing others up. At times, they can be internally arrogant and self-righteous while disapproving of others. They have a hard time with ambiguity and desire immediate resolution of a problem. They often feel they have to point out every inconsistency they see. They can attach to idealistic expectations about how things “should be” and bitter when they don’t pan out.
APOSTOLIC (“One who is sent and extends”) → this function exists on the leading edge of the body to pioneer the church into new places and confront new challenges. It extends and expands the impact of the body and serves as guardian of the core DNA as the body grows. It thrives on taking new hills, breaking new ground, and leading the kingdom movement into new places. As it moves the body forward, it creates the map for others to follow and establishes the networks needed to thrive in new places. The apostolic function mobilizes the church and multiples Jesus’ DNA into the next generation. They are cultural architects who are concerned with the overall extension of Christianity as a whole throughout culture and society. Above all, they have a missional (sent) focus to their ministry.
Immaturity: Those with an apostolic calling can be so goal oriented that they run over people, or run people ragged. They can often place unhealthy emphasis on achievement, and at times lack gentleness and patience when people don’t understand them. They can be overly driven and overly demanding. They have trouble being part of a group they’re not leading. When they experience resistance from others, they tend to push harder rather than stepping back and evaluating.
When considering Micro Church leadership: it is essential to remember there is no one solution for every context. Practically speaking, when you begin incorporating APEST into your MC, here is one way to frame the conversation by sharing five sequential points:
- You should understand your own gifts in light of APEST because it will influence your focus.
- Teachers will often move quickly to the Sunday gathering so they can teach
- Shepherds will lean toward gathering community, etc.
- Understand the make-up of the micro church and recognize what functions may be missing
- If you are a gifted shepherd then you need to make sure you have someone more apostolic on your team or you will never start something new
- Likewise, if you are highly apostolic or prophetic you have to have a shepherd on your team or you will likely push people too hard and run the risk of burnout
- Remain aware of how each function can have equal input into the mission & ministry of the MC
- Paul (Ephesians 4) reminds us that maturity and unity is achieved through the activation and implementation of all five of the functions
- Multiplication: Ensure the continued equipping of the saints
- Encourage and empower those with the gift of teaching to equip other teachers?
- How will those who have an apostolic calling fan the flames of other “sent ones”?
- How will the gifted evangelist equip others who have the evangelistic calling?
- Frequently consider how your MC is being “success” from an APEST perspective:
- Is it extending the mission of God into every sphere of culture (A)
- Is it deepening through abiding in and obedience to God (P)
- Is it proclaiming the gospel of Jesus in word and deed (E)
- Is it cultivating a healthy community of unconditional love (S)
- Is it seeking to live out the truth of God’s Word (T)