One of the things us evangelical Christians like to do is to take a small passage of scripture and hang an entire praxis on it.
This gets us into a bit of trouble sometimes, for example:
I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.
1 Tim 2:12
This was (presumably) fine for the specific context Paul was writing to, but applying it as a global practice for all time doesn’t really stand up against the weight of the rest of scripture regarding the place of women in the Kingdom of God (and the church). I recognise that others see it differently.
But scripture always asks us a question, and demands a response, which is good and right.
Another passage evangelical churches particularly like is the so-called “five-fold ministry” from Ephesians.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may 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.
This “five-fold ministry”, also known as APEST (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors (or Shepherds), and Teachers) can be used as a way to check the balance of your church leadership. Are we strong on pastors, but don’t have any evangelists, for example?
I personally don’t think this bears an awful lot of theological weight – as I’ve already said we need to tread carefully with this sort of stuff. However I was having a conversation about this recently with my vicar Mike, and he told me a really good way of remembering APEST, which assigns a type of each digit on your hand from thumb to little finger, and goes like this (my interpretation):
- Apostle – Thumb, because this is the only digit which can touch all the other fingers.
- Prophet – Index finger, because this points out/at things God wants to draw attention to.
- Evangelist – Middle finger, because this is the longest finger to reach out to people.
- Pastor/Shepherd – Ring finger, because it’s all about relationships.
- Teacher – Little finger, because this is the only one that can get right inside your ear
This isn’t a great hermeneutic – but it is a neat way of remembering this passage, and I am all for memorising scripture!