Over these summer months we have been looking at the seven key disciplines that the church has practiced since it’s inception. Seven key disciplines that shape the church for mission, these disciplines shape the church so it can be the presence of Jesus in our broken world.
For the sake of those who have missed a sermon here are the seven disciplines that we have been exploring:
The discipline of:
Being with the “least of these”
The Lord’s table
Proclaiming the Gospel
The Kingdom Prayer
The Fivefold Gifting
Being with Children
Today we are going to look at what scripture describes as “the fivefold gifting”. The fivefold gifting is about leadership and how God has structured the church through these gifting’s.
God has given the church positions, or offices that are based on servanthood, yet structured in a way that not one person is more important than the other.
These offices within the church have been a challenge to understand over the history of the church, mostly due to corruption and misunderstanding. This doesn’t surprise me, simple because they are offices that God has given as a gift to people. When there are people involved, there will be corruption, and misunderstanding.
If we were truly honest with ourselves when we think of positions within leadership structure, we probably think about status, or hierarchy. We think about who is in charge of what, who is the most important person within the leadership structure.
Yet scripture gives us a different picture or leadership, a different picture of what it means to hold an office in the church.
As Jesus and the disciples headed into Jerusalem the disciples started showing their human side, their need to be important and seen as leaders. They were clamouring for their place at the top of the pecking order in the coming new kingdom.
As Jesus talked about the coming suffering he would face, James and John asked to sit at Jesus’ right and left side in the kingdom. They were saying, “Put us in the best positions to be over people.”
I want don’t want you to miss this picture, Jesus is talking about his upcoming suffering and death, and his companions are busy clamouring for a high position in His kingdom.
That’s right they were trying to look after themselves, and make sure they were important.
Listen to Jesus’ response, it sets the stage for how the New Testament defines leadership structure:
Jesus called them over and said to them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. But it is not so among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you will be a slave to all.
For Jesus, authority in the kingdom would be exercised in no other way, it can only be exercised through serving others. There would be no hierarchy, no coercive power, no one person ruling over and above another person. His model, as we will discover, is mutual, shared leadership under one Lord.
But how can we be led into the challenges of being a Christian community without someone on top? How can anything get done without one leader to move things forward.
The answer is given to us by the apostle Paul. The answer Paul gives us is recognizing those among us who are gifted by the Holy Spirit to lead in their respective gifting and enabling them to exercise those gifts in mutual submission to one another. This is very different then how we practice leadership in the world.
Paul gives us a clear outline of this leadership structure for the church in Ephesians 4.
Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. For it says: When he ascended on high, he took the captives captive; he gave gifts to people. But what does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower parts of the earth? The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, to fill all things. And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ. From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.
Paul starts this chapter challenging the Ephesians to “live worthy of the calling you have received” (v.1). Paul is not speaking to individuals here. He is picturing a group of people brought together under the mutual worship of one Lord.
They were to lead a worthy life together in “humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (v.2).
There will be conflict, for sure. This is to be expected. But in these conflicts, we will make “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (v.3).
Because through one baptism we all participate in “one Lord,....one God and Father of all” (vv. 5-6). This is a picture of a people gathered under the authority of one Lord, working it out mutually.
Paul then quotes Psalm 68, starting with “When he ascended on high.....” Interpreting this as an enthronement psalm, Paul pictures Jesus as enthroned at the place of ultimate authority, the right hand of the Father.
It is from this place of ultimate authority that he gives gifts to his people (Eph. 4:8).
Paul then recites the five gifts that are given directly from the Lord in power. These gifted people are to lead in dependance on that same Lord, who is the source of the gift.
In other words, God has given five specific gifts to specific individuals to lead in the church, through mutual submission and authority to each other. None of these five gifts is more important then the other, they are all needed for the church to function properly in the Spirit.
The Five Gifts are as follows:
Apostles - Initiate, gather, and pioneer new works, calling people to live now in the kingdom.
Prophets - who speak so as to reveal the truth and call of God into a situation, especially the injustice and neglect of the poor.
Pastors - tend to and sustain people’s souls, especially the hurting
Evangelists - bring the good news to those who are hurting.
Teachers - help to explain and deepen people’s faith.
Can you point out in our church who has been gifted to what office within our church?
Each of these five gifts mutually work together for one purpose, to equip the saints for the work of ministry.
Each of these gifts in Ephesians are multiple, and they are interdependent.
No one person can carry out all the gifts in the community. Each person is to stay within the boundaries of their giftedness as “according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (v. 7).
Paul is talking specific to the five gifting of the Spirit, and not everyone receives these gifts, but those that do are to function together as servants for the one goal of equipping others for ministry.
This means they are not the only ones doing ministry, they are the ones who equip the church to do the ministry.
Paul give other direction concerning these gifts throughout scripture:
A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good:
These gifts are for others good, not for status, but for the common good of others.
One and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as he wills.
The Spirit allots the gifts to each person “individually as the Spirit chooses”.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
No one can say they don’t need one of these gifts, the gifts can’t function on their own, they must relate to one another.
According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; if service, use it in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.
Paul tells us that it is according to the grace given to us, that we have different gifts. We are to use these gifts as God has given them. In other words, don’t venture outside of you gift, function within it because there will be someone else on the team that will fulfill the need for the others gifts.
For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.
Paul is clear in telling us that no gift is better, they are all necessary. No one person can do all things.
If we look at the structure of a hockey team, we can see a great picture of what God is doing within the structure of the church.
On a hockey team there is a group of coaches, the coaching teams role is to equip the team with strategy, and help fine tune the naturally given gifts the players already have. But there is more then one coach, there is a head coach who sets the strategic plan of how the team is going to play the game, but He is not the only one who teaches it to the players.
There is always a coaching team, assistant coaches who work directly with the players to craft their gift, to encourage them when they are struggling, to work them harder when they are slacking off.
Picture the head coach being Jesus, and the assistant coaches being these five gifted people who have been empowered by the Spirit with a gift. But the forward coach doesn’t coach the goalies.
Each coach on a team has a specific area that they specialize in. One coaches the goalie’s, another the defence, another the forwards. There are coaches that focus on skating skills, and others on fitness. Each coach plays a role, and each coach is important to the big picture of equipping the players to win.
Notice something very important, coaches don’t actually go out and play the game for the players, they just prepare them for the game.
Each player has a gift, and the coaches have helped to organize how that gift can be used to help the team. There are position, centre, wingers, defence, goalies. Each of these positions play a role. Each role is important for the success of them team.
This is exactly how the church is to function.
God has given us coaches who are gifted in different area’s, but the church also needs to play the game.
No one person can win a hockey game.
There is one interesting point in all of this that I think is very important.
Notice we need a coaching team in order to move a team forward. In scripture we are given a head coach who is head over the church, this coach held all of the gifts needed to coach the team.
The only person that could do all things was Jesus.
Each of these gifts represent Jesus and his earthly ministry. Jesus was an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher!
Essentially through the power of the Holy Spirit, God is giving the church Jesus through each gifted leader. With the purpose of equipping for ministry to happen. It’s amazing how God has broken up the gifting of Jesus and given one gift to each office. I think there is a reason for this.
God is the one who is in charge, but since we have been tasked with being the presence of Christ in this world, God knows we need to be equipped.
So some are given gifts that serve God, and the church in a way that brings the Gospel message to the world!
The fivefold gifts are important within the church, but this doesn’t diminish the importance of the whole body. The entire body is to engage in ministry.
We are one body with many parts, the trick is discerning each part, then each part doing what they have been called and gifted to do.
These gifts are for the body, and they represent Christ’s leadership in the church.
But we are all called to minister, we are a Kingdom of priests, who have direct access to God through the High Priest Jesus.
Big Idea: The church needs to seek out those who have these five gifts, then let each gifted person function within their Spirit enabled gift. Then seek your own gift and use it to minister to others for Christ. This is the structure of leadership that God has given the church to be the presence of Christ in this broken world!