The A-team: A question

For years I have been pondering a question. Should we be looking to form five-fold ministry teams?

I hear this subject talked about quite a bit. It seems fairly obvious. A team consisting of an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor and a teacher would provide a well-rounded team to help lead a network of simple/organic churches.  The only problem is that in decades of experience with much travel around the world, I have only come across one that I consider functions effectively. That is the CMA team with Neil Cole and friends–and they are extremely effective.

In the past, (ie, not in the present simple/organic church movement) I have seen many try it, but it usually ends up with a dominant apostle, with a group around him that don't really function in the other ways described. On the other hand, I know several groups where, for example, apostles and prophets work well together, or a group of primarily prophetic or primarily apostolic people form a team. I also see this in the Scriptures where, for example, Agabus traveled with a group of prophets (Acts 11:27). or in Antioch, a group of prophets and teachers came together (Acts 13:1-2)

What is your experience? Have you seen a five-fold team that functions well? What do you think?



16 replies on “The A-team: A question”

It has been my experience that where God calls He provides. So let me ask you the same question God asked Moses: “What is it you have in your hands?”
God has already orchestrated h2h (or any group really) and He will continue to give new gifts and take some away. As the needs change God will adapt, develop, or refocus the team. I will be interested to hear what others think of your question. As always, your post is very thought provoking.
I appreciate you,

IMHO the key is in Eph 4:11 – “And He gave…”. I believe if we are obedient to The Spirit and The Word and allow The Church to develop organically, then God will provide people who serve in each of the 5 ministries AS THEY ARE NEEDED by His Body. I think this is one of those cases where if we step in and try to make something happen, we’ll only get a mess.
That being said, most of the time I have been frustrated with a community is when it didn’t have both an evangelist and a pastor/teacher among the elders. Missing either one of those, the gathering seems to get lopsided quickly (either too outward focused and filled with baby Christians who were not growing, or too inward focused full of “mature” Christians with no new ones being brought up). But that may just be my experience.

I think this is a matter of government, and because a government requires authority levels in sincronized operation, 5MT groups struggle in their adaptation for lack of humility of each member.
I think if we allow Jesus to act as head of the group through a good relationship with him, we have a 5MT impact group and the Kingdom will expand.
An Apostle is the person in charge tu execute God´s instructions, so, the four next need to integrate in the global vision. Apostles mostly need to have the profile of an Integral Leadership and Interpretative Managment as well. Blessings.

Just musing, but would it be natural that the Apostle is more likely to travel a lot planting and watering whereas a pastor is more likely to be a stay at home guy shepherding a local group. Variations in between might be that a teacher may also be more committed to a group whereas a prophet and evangelist also may be more on the road, so to speak. So it might mean that you never really have all five in one place and an attempt to create that mix would be artificial. Bottom line, I think I agree with the previous posts that God gives these people as needed. Like I said — just musing, walking around the topic.

Neil Cole says something very similar to you. The apostle and prophet are traveling ministries. The pastor and teacher remain local. I guess the evangelist could be either.
Like you, I think it’s probably a lot more fluid and situational than we, with out Western mindset, try to organize. At a personal level, I actually am not sure which one of these giftings I personally primarily function in. I’ve functioned in most of them at one time or another. I just get on with the job!

Thanks for commenting. The only reference I can think of to government is from Isaiah, where the government is on His shoulders. Jesus is head of his church, and that needs to become a practical reality in our lives. Check out my post on apostolic and prophetic leadership the 02/07 post.

David and Steve,
Great comments. I agree with what you both say about God providing what is needed at the right time. A little like the gifts of the Spirit. You function in what is needed at the time it is needed.

How you approach the letter we call Ephesians might impact your view of this matter. If it was written to the church in the city of Ephesus, you might have a different mental picture than if it was written to the churches of Asia that grew up because of the influence of the people Paul trained while he spent three years in Ephesus.
While there likely would have been a network of households that had come to faith in Ephesus (similar to what we see in Rome in Romans chapter 16), if this was a circular letter to the believers throughout the province of Asia, then your text describes what God gives the believers throughout that region.
My studied conviction is it is regional. This makes more sense of the older manuscripts which do not contain the words “in Ephesus” (Ephesians 1:1b). This also fits well with the testimony of an enemy:
24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” (Acts 19:24-27)
God gave apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers to that region. Their combined efforts are to equip all the believers to function as the mature body of Christ. God’s passion is for all the peoples of Asia to see his glory, not just those in Ephesus.

John, good and thought-provoking insights. I’m in India at the moment, so have written several blog posts in advance. I’ll be interested to get your take on the one I wrote on elders and deacons that will come soon.

Felicity: Wonderful question! It has been a pursuit of mine since about 1998. Results are a mixed bag but here are my quick thoughts:
-Our team in DFW is now more of a situational team. As the functions are needed in various groups, they are called upon.
-Apostle Paul seemed to do a similar thing with his teams. Sometimes, Barnabas, or Timothy, or Silas,or Priscilla and Aquila.
-The idea for us has been as the Lord connects trustworthy 5-fold types, get to know one another deeply, and trust each to function as the Lord needs them.
-Last thought, we have ceased trying to MULTIPLY 5-fold teams for sure and concentrated on each function multiplying others with the same function.
We are still learning and loving it!

I’m glad to see the thoughts I had when I read this post and tried to answer the questions, in my own mind, are being addressed by others. For me it is confirmation.
To summarize: we tend to think of the “team” part of a five fold team in ways that are too Western. We need to think more on a network scale and more relationally. We also need to think in less planned and more situational ways. Finally there is a special relationship between the apostolic and prophetic.
How does this look practically. Within a network the more mature apostles, prophets, evangelist pastors and teachers know who each other are. When situations come up, those in the network know who is both mature and gifted to deal with a given situation. If a teacher is called for a teacher will be called. All of this under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
At the same time apostles and prophets probably have a closer, more intentional working relationship. I would agree with Joseph Cartwright that we should concentrate on each function multiplying others with the same function. But I wouldn’t discount the Holy Spirit developing some relationally based teams that work well together.
All of what I’ve said above should be led by Jesus our Lord. It is not some technique or model we reproduce. Jesus will give us what we need, when we need it and he will coordinate it. But we need to pay attention and obey.

When I first gave my life to Jesus in 1983, the following year in a prayer meeting the Holy Spirit showed me a five fold ministry team could be dropped off anywhere in the world and a church planting movement would start to grow. That’s from a missions perspective, which of course apply everywhere… If a team like that is like any other team, their personal life and walk with God, not just focusing on ‘flowing’ in their ministry as a primary identity, when we do that’s when things have a higher potential to go wrong, like control, pride, lording over people, so if everyone in the team have open lives submitted to each other ‘without walls’ then it has a way higher long lasting potential and growing a healthy community, equipping every believer in their callings and gifting and with an fellowship planting outflow…
Anyway, I like your dialog here, keep it up! 🙂

I think we have misunderstood the nature of God’s gifts and his calling. The gifts of God are without repentance–or put another way, God has a place for each member of the body of Christ. I believe that God’s place for each of us was determined when we were first born again.
He had an idea of where we would function best. Contrarily, God does not give gifts “for the moment” but places callings and gifts upon individuals to serve in the body.
Put another way, if a group of ten people get together and decide to do house church, and not one of them is called by God to the five fold ministry, they will not grow “organically” into any of those [five fold] gifts because gifts are not “grown”; they are given and set in the body as it has pleased Him.
I believe this is a fundamental error of the house church camp that needs to be addressed.
Gifts are not given organically nor can you “grow” into them. You are either called or not called to the five fold ministry.

I agree with David Owens. The Lord provides. At the moment I don’t see 5 fold teams, rather people coming and going. May be it is because we don’t rely on the Lord of the harvest but on our so called mission strategies and recruitment?

(read about half the responses above). I’m like you Felicity, I have functioned in all at some point or other depending on what was going on (of course my friend Ian McCormack says that that would be the mark of an apostle—able to function in all the fivefold…..). I have a problem with the continual focus on ‘leadership’ anyway.
Rather, as I believe strongly, if we all soak ourselves in the gospel that Paul tried to get out there…you can’t help but do the ministry, whatever it looks like.
But then, what do I know?! God has had me STUCK in one town with few resources FOREVER. How does anything work? What is a simple church like? There are 2 families here, us/our friends and our lives are about survival.

This is a great discussion. Many thanks to everyone who has contributed. As yet, we are a very young movement. As this movement matures, maybe the answers will become more obvious. What I pray is that we don’t default to what we’ve known in the past. That’s a real danger. I would rather we were not dogmatic about how this works until the Lord makes it more plain.

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