In my first blog in this series I suggested that after years of teaching students to preach the way I was taught to preach (assign each student a text, which fit me well as a “teacher” on five-fold), I started to wonder, “Am I trying to force apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds, to preach like teachers?” I began to imagine, “What would it look like if apostles were freed to preach as apostles? Prophets like prophets? Evangelist as evangelist? Shepherd like shepherds? And teachers as teachers?”
In my second blog, I shared my observations regarding the unique starting point, motivation, outcome, and default message of each of the five-fold’s?” My hope was that those observations might free each of us to be truer to how God wired us as a proclaimer of God’s truth.
I ended, however, by pointing out a potential danger: that in our freedom we choose to fly alone, in isolation, apart from the flock. This, of course, is the opposite of Paul’s intent in Ephesians 4. He desires that we see ourselves as linked and joined together, as we each do our unique part in equipping our communities to be fuller reflections of “the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13d NIV)
Mutual Submission in Proclamation
I submit that it is in the interdependence of a five-fold community that each five-fold type is truly set free to offer its unique contribution to the body of Christ. In the dynamic tension of a mutually submitting community made up of at least one apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd and teacher, each member is safe to proclaim out of her or his missional passion.
For, like geese that take turns flying point in the V-formation, each knows that soon after their turn an apostle may come to inspire and motivate for a new challenge, or a prophet may challenge the community to hear from God, or an evangelist may invite in new people, or a shepherd may nurture the flock, or a teacher may explain the scriptures with great depth. As each takes their turn, each need not be compelled to be the other.
Of course, this requires a genuine ability to celebrate the other’s unique contribution to a proclamation team. It requires a willingness to submit to one another, trusting that God has work best done through the other. It requires dying to the belief that my five-fold contribution is most important. It requires rising to the belief that each member’s contribution is vital for a full reflection of Christ.
A Fuller Reflection of Christ
As each member of a five-fold team is free to proclaim in a way that best fits that person’s missional impulse, as the unique contributions of each is celebrated and honored, we will attain a fuller measure of Christ who was the archetype Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, and Teacher. In particular, a five-fold proclamation team helps five environments flourish in a Jesus community. In Church as Movement, JR Woodward and Dan White Jr describe these 5 environments:
When the proclamation in a community allows all five-fold expressions to have a voice, a community will be better able to foster and sustain these five environments. People will be equipped to offer their unique gifts and find their place of service in the “held together” community.
And, let’s not forget the fruit Paul says five-fold equipping can produce:
… the body of Christ will be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Ephesians 4:12b-16, NIV
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