UNDERSTANDING MINISTRY GIFTS
In the past month or so we have been studying the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This week we will look at the ministry gifts.
Recall that in general there are 3 categories of giftings in the church: the body of Christ:
1 Vocational gifts
2 Spiritual gifts
3 Ministry gifts
It is important to state that in general every gift of God is administered by the Holy Spirit, and is actually a divine enablement contained in a measure of the life and power or ability of God to enable the recipient perform a specific task or function.
We shall briefly describe these 3 categories of giftings.
Vocational gifts are natural talents that can be activated at will. The Holy Spirit then anoints that talent to be used in the service of the Lord. For example Bezaleel’s talent as a craftsman was used in building the tabernacle of Moses. (Ex.35: 30-35; 36: 1,2)
Spiritual Gifts or the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are temporary anointings initiated by the Holy Spirit as He wills and not by faith, though faith through prayer plays a role in activating them by creating a conducive atmosphere in which we will be more sensitive to yield to the Holy Spirit if and when He initiates any gift (Rom. 12:6).
Ministry Gifts are anointings that enable saints to function in the offices of the Apostle, Prophet, Teacher, Pastor and Evangelist. These anointings are given by the Holy Spirit to an individual when he or she is called to a particular office. They can be initiated and developed through faith, prayer and exercise of the preaching and teaching of the Word of God that is relevant to the particular office (See 1 Cor. 12:28-29, Eph. 4:11).
What distinguishes the gifts of the Holy from the other 2 categories is that while faith, prayer and exercise can initiate them, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are initiated spontaneously by the Holy Spirit and not by the saint. Furthermore the operations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are spectacular: they will get your attention when in operation.
The operation of the vocational and ministry gifts are not usually spectacular except when embellished or complemented by the gifts of the Spirit neither are they usually spontaneous because you usually prepare to deliberately exercise them by faith, prayer and study. The operation of the vocational gifts and ministry gifts are supernatural but not necessarily spectacular.
Understanding the Ministry Gifts
An understanding of these offices is critical for the church in these end times because the fullness of these offices is being restored to the body of Christ. It will be through the operation of these gifts in their fulness that God’s purpose, of the church coming to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Eph.4: 12) and the consequent preaching of the gospel of the kingdom to all nations (Matt.24: 14), will be accomplished.
No Christian can enter into any one of the five-fold service gifts overnight. Without exception, each office is entered into as a result of progressive growth spiritually, and God’s sovereign call.
Service must always begin at the lower level with gradual increase in spiritual capacity and responsibility. The title of an office should not be applied to an individual until the anointing of that office, with results tested and proven over time, has done the work.
Operation in a particular ministry office is not fixed but dynamic and subject to spiritual growth and development and God’s sovereign call.
For instance, Paul did evangelistic work as a saint (Acts 9:20), and later became a prophet and teacher (Acts 13:1) and finally an apostle (Acts 14:14).
Philip started as a deacon (Acts 6:5) and later became an evangelist (Acts 8:5-8, 21:8)
Ministry Offices In Order Of Spiritual Power And Capacity
1Cor.12: 27-28 lists the five ministry offices in order of spiritual capacity and power of the anointings that empower the offices as follows:
1 Corinthians 12:28 (KJV): And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
First, the Apostle, second, the Prophet, third, the Teacher, fourth, the Pastor, and fifth, the Evangelist. The ministry offices of the pastor and the evangelist are mixed up in the latter part of the above scripture as “miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” Miracles and gifts of healings are characteristic of the evangelist’s office, whilst helps, governments and diversities of tongues are representative of the office of the pastor.
We see another listing of the ministry offices in Ephesians 4:11.
Ephesians 4:11 (KJV): And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
In this scripture, the offices are mixed, rather than listed in order, except for the offices of the apostle and prophet, which are listed in order of spiritual capacity and power.
For instance, compare Eph.4: 11 where teacher is listed last, with 1 Cor. 12: 28 where the teacher is listed as third in order.
Contrary to popular belief in church circles all the offices or rather the anointings on the offices are not the same in spiritual capacity and power.
This is shown from the fact that the pastoral anointing can do the work of an evangelist but the evangelistic anointing cannot do the work of a pastor:
2 Timothy 4:5 (KJV): But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
Here, Timothy was the bishop or pastor of the church at Ephesus when Paul wrote this letter to him.
Similarly, as we shall see in detail later, the apostolic anointing can do the work of the other four offices; the prophetic anointing can do the work of the other three offices: the teaching anointing can do the work of the other two offices: pastor and evangelist.
This is because primarily, the evangelist preaches and teaches the ‘what’ of the gospel, to get men born again. The pastor preaches and teaches the ‘why’ of the gospel to encourage the saints to continue in faith. Now you cannot teach the ‘why’ of something if you don’t know the ‘what’ of it. However if you know the ‘why’ you will know the ‘what’. This is why the pastoral anointing can do the work of the evangelist, but the evangelistic anointing cannot do the work of the pastor.
By similar reasoning, the teacher preaches and teaches the ‘how in principle‘ of the gospel to cause the saints to grow. The prophet preaches and teaches the ‘when’ of the gospel giving us an understanding of the timing of God’s purposes as typified by the sons of Issachar (1 Chr.12: 32), to cause the saints to progress and prosper in their understanding (2 Chr. 20:20) of the purposes of God for their lives and the kingdom. The apostle preaches and teaches the ‘how in detail’ when the timing has been confirmed by the prophet causing the saints to be able to experience the realities of God’s purposes and so become established in the faith (Rom. 1:11).
However, it is important to state that while the prophetic anointing, for example, has the spiritual capacity to do the work of the teacher, pastor, and evangelist, a prophet should not operate primarily in any particular one of these offices unless specifically called by God to so do.
It is unwise for a minister in a five-fold office to step into another five-fold office simply because the present office or anointing he functions in has the spiritual capacity to do the work of another ministry gift. He should wait for a specific divine call, before undertaking such a step.
For example, I was called into the ministry as a teacher of the Word in 1980. Although the office or anointing of the teacher has the spiritual capacity to do the work of the pastor and the evangelist, I did not start a church and pastor until I was specifically called by God to do so in 1984.
Purpose of the Ministry Gifts
The essence of five-fold ministry is given in Eph.4: 12.
Ephesians 4:12 (KJV): For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Ephesians 4:12 (NIV): to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
To perfect and mature the saints, to do the work of service in the body, which will in turn cause the body of Christ to be edified. As the saints mature, they will do the work of ministering to others, with the supreme goal of making every individual Christian conform to the fullness of Christ’s image.
Each ministry gift will impart its anointing to the saint who sits under that anointing, thus enabling the saint to do in smaller degree, the work of that ministry gift. For example, when a minister with the prophetic anointing preaches or teaches in a local church, the prophetic anointing will begin to operate in that local body. This will cause the saints, to operate prophetically, to confirm, clarify and amplify the present mind of God by revelation, which when the saints act on will cause them to prosper spiritually and physically. The same is true if an evangelist preaches in a local church. The anointing of the evangelist will become evident as each saint is enabled to do evangelical work of proclaiming the kingdom with signs following their personal evangelism (Mk.16: 17,20).
The Need For Mature Ministry
Lack of spiritual growth in the body is due to a dearth of mature, five-fold ministry in the Church. Many are simply launching into ministry without proper preparation and spiritual development. Paul specifically warned that no bishop should be a spiritually immature novice (1Tim. 3:6).
While head knowledge is good as a starting point, it is not enough to qualify a saint for five-fold ministry office. A minister at the five-fold office level must have also revelation and experiential knowledge, which can only come with time.
There are many local churches, which are not growing to spiritual maturity because their senior pastor is spiritually immature, and no man can be greater than his master (Mt. 10:24; Jn.15: 20).
In our article next week, we will look at a brief description in more detail of each of the ministry gifts and how they operate.