Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers, so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong.
He gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ.
-Ephesians 4:11-12 (CEV, MEV)
The ministry of Christ is meant to be done by the people who make up the church, who are ‘the Saints’. In Christ, we are all saints. Get rid of the legalistic idea that you are ‘no saint’, because in Christ, we are all saints.
The issue is being in Christ. If you aren’t in Christ, you simply are not a Christian, because that is what a Christian is.
Now, there has been a battle raging over ministry. This issue was not solved during the beginning of the Reformation. It is the church’s “third rail”.
In order to really come into what Paul wrote in Ephesians 4, professional ministers who’s vocation is ‘ministry’ are simply going to have to step down. They need to step down and be on the level with the whole church.
The ‘org chart’ of the church is flat, with one line pointing up, to Jesus. He leads and builds and we all serve and we all do the ministry. All of us.
The New Testament does not inaugurate a priestly class of people who are ‘the ministers’, that is 1, 2, 3, or 4% of Christians. Everyone is a priest and everyone is a minister.
For various reasons, around the 2nd or 3rd century, this problem started. The church invented the clergy/laity split that is not at all envisioned by the New Testament. The Reformation, with Luther and the others, did not finish reforming this issue; but it started to. That is when we started rediscovering the idea of ‘the priesthood of all believers’.
Many Christians nod to this while not being in favor of the concept of ‘every member is a minister’.
Ephesians 4 teaches us that all Christians (the Saints) are the ministers, in the church. Some people are ‘equippers’ or ‘trainers’, for the ministry done by others. These are people called apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, or teachers. That is what APEST stands for.
There has also been a debate as to whether Paul is talking about four or five groups of people. Are there pastors and teachers as separate categories or is it pastor/teacher as a hybrid? Both are probably true.
An aspect of the fierce debate is that the vocational ministry side, which is multifaceted; says that all pastors (ministers or preachers) have to be teachers. Their argument is linked to the idea that pastors (vocational pastors, ministers, or preachers) are elders and elders must be able to teach. That is true, but you can not superimpose that idea as your interpretive key to Ephesians 4.
The topic of Ephesians 4 is Christ and the church. Paul says that Christ has made some people equippers, so that the rest of us can do the ministry. This runs counter to the idea that the clergy do the ministry and the rest of us give them support money and passively receive their ministry.
Vocational ministers are defensive about Ephesians 4. Besides discounting the idea that ministry belongs in the hands of everyone, another point of contention is that these are not five equipping ministries, but four.
But the truth is that there is pastoral ministry that does not involve teaching and there is teaching ministry that does not involve pastoring. There are people who are gifted as pastors, who are not gifted as teachers. They would not be qualified to be elders.
It is that simple. Pastors who are not teachers are healers or caregivers. A hospice worker or chaplain, for example.
Some teachers are not pastors. They are outstanding at teaching, but do not have a shepherding giftedness.
We are all called to bear the fruit of the Spirit, grow in godliness and become Christlike. But some people are not the best ones at certain things
Ephesians 4 tells us that there are people who are in the five offices mentioned (APEST), who know their stuff so well that they are gifted to train the rest of us in how to effectively minister in that realm that they know.
When we look at the five APEST ministries, some or one will stand out for each of us in being what we are for or passionate about. Taking an APEST quiz might help you get in touch with what kind of ministry you are passionate about or feel designed to do.