Ephesians chapter four makes it clear that there are five expressions of the one ministry mantle of Christ: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher (often referred to collectively as the fivefold ministry). Some in the Church today do not believe that people can operate in the office, or official capacity, of all five expressions any longer, but that is another topic altogether.
I believe it is sufficiently clear that the work of Christ through the full five expressions is still active and necessary until a specific time: “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Ephesians 4:11-14 (ESV)
We see here that this passage refers not only to five expressions of ministry, but to people whom Jesus prepares and gives to the Church as a gift for a fivefold purpose. Their purpose is to:
- Equip the saints to do the work of ministry,
- Build up the body of Christ,
- Lead the Church into the assurance of truly knowing Christ (not mental knowledge, but to experientially know Him),
- Raise up the Church into the fullness and full maturity of Christ, and
- Bring stability to the body of Christ and protect it from error.
Those people who are commissioned by Christ for this specific responsibility are called fivefold ministers. In some circles, fivefold ministers are more commonly referred to as those who operate in the office of one of the five ministry expressions. In other words, a fivefold prophet may be referred to as one who stands in the office of prophet.
All believers are called to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18-21) and are a holy royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:5, 2:9; Rev 1:6, 5:10); but not all believers are called to be fivefold ministers. All believers are called to minister, but some are called to equip, build up, unify, mature, and protect the body of Christ at large. It is worth noting here that working full time in ministry is not the distinguishing factor of fivefold ministers; neither is effectiveness, power, or spiritual gifting. The distinguishing factor is that they have been called and commissioned by Christ for a special responsibility to the Church.
Levels of Ministry
Even though most believers are not fivefold ministers, we all typically identify more closely with one or two of the five expressions of ministry. Let me illustrate what I’m saying. All believers can flow in the prophetic, but not all are prophets. All prophets are called to minister prophetically, but not all are fivefold prophets. All fivefold prophets are called to do what all prophets do, but they are also specially commissioned to equip, build up, unify, mature, and protect the Church.
In this illustration, we have identified three distinct levels of ministry. I often distinguish between these three levels of ministry in the prophetic expression by using the following descriptive terms:
- The prophetic ministry of all believers,
- Being a prophetic minister, and
- The office of prophet.
But I am just as comfortable using the equivalent terminology:
- Prophetic ministry,
- Prophets, and
- Fivefold prophets.
Consider how this relates to the other four ministry expressions as well. All believers can minister evangelistically (evangelistic ministry), others are powerful dedicated evangelistic ministers (evangelists), and some are fivefold evangelists with an additional special responsibility within the body of Christ (the office of evangelist).
Finding Your Place
After years of equipping the Church, some of the most common questions I receive are, “How do I know where I fit in?,” “How do I know if I am called to full time ministry?,” or “How do I know if I am called to the office of prophet?” Take comfort in the fact that it’s far less important that you have it all figured out than it is that you simply follow where you are led. Most often, you will find who you are and where you fit through the process of walking with God and in relationship with others, not by trying to figure it out beforehand.
If you identify the most with people who are prophetic, then follow that lead. If you identify more with evangelists, then come alongside evangelists and learn from them. In the process of walking together through relationships with those you identify with, you will grow and find yourself coming alive. And as you go, God will lead you into becoming who you are and lead you to where you fit in. You can trust that as you go, God will guide you; but until you start going, God only says, “Go.”
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21 (ESV)
Jeremy Caris is the founder and president of Caris Ministries. Since he is called as a prophet and gifted as a teacher, much of his focus involves equipping believers to hear, know, and follow God in their own daily experience. He teaches the foundational truth of the Word with simple clarity, while revealing deep things of the spirit in practical ways. He has the unique ability to demystify the supernatural side of real relationship with a living God and make it an embraceable and accessible reality for all believers. Jeremy has been married to his best friend, Mandy Caris, for twenty years, and is the proud father of two boys.