APEST: We need it for full-orbed Jesus-incarnating ministry

Much has been written to praise and critique Alan Hirsch’s book 5Q; Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ. Despite what is being said, I find Hirsch to be particularly compelling on a couple points:

First of all, when Jesus bequeaths 5Q to his church (See Ephesians 4:11ff), he is not expecting the church to do works of service or kingdom building that are fundamentally at odds with anything Jesus himself came doing. Hirsch points out that Jesus himself is the measure of 5Q. Who can deny that Jesus is The Apostle, the one sent from God to fulfill God’s mission? Who can deny that Jesus is the Prophet par excellence, speaking God’s truth in boldness, calling people to holiness? Who can deny that Jesus is the ultimate Evangelist, preaching the good news of salvation and the kingdom to the masses? Most people, obviously, are very comfortable thinking of Jesus as shepherd and teacher, the one who, like in Psalm 23, leads us through darkness into his salvation. Jesus’ ministry can be categorized through the 5Q lens of apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd and teacher. And as Hirsch points out, the church is not called to do anything other than continue the work of Jesus by his power, in his name and with his presence. In fact, Hirsch says that to the degree a church is fulfilling all five functions, that church is incarnating Jesus in the world today. I think this makes a lot of sense.

Secondly, Hirsch’s urgent call to recover the original 5Q “DNA” is critical for the reasons Hirsch lists. A church with only a teaching and shepherding function is incomplete at best. Modern times demand a full-orbed ministry that includes the prophetic, apostolic and evangelistic. Why? Because how else is the church going to adapt to the immense cultural and missional challenges it currently faces? Hirsch is right - many seminaries have trained shepherd-teachers. They have not recognized or trained apostolic leaders, evangelists and prophets (I’m speaking about primarily Reformed seminaries). We’ve defined ministry strictly in terms of the “resident theologian” who cares for the sheep, calls on the sick, and preaches two gospel messages each Sunday. Will this style of ministry help the church in the increasingly complex multicultural and dare-I-say pagan post-Christian world we live in? Churches need to recover the apostolic so that the it can live into its “sentness,” its missionary calling to fulfill the Great Commission. The prophetic needs to be recovered so that the deep secrets within our hearts are exposed and people recognize, “God is in their midst.” (See I Corinthians 14:25). The Evangelist is needed more than ever to bringing the message of the Gospel to the lost and hurting world! “Resident theologians” (the old seminary ideal for pastors) are important for guarding the institutional wisdom and tradition but wholly ineffective for helping the church think about how to reach its neighbors or how to bring healing and liberation to those in spiritual and emotional bondage. The choir is less and less preset. Why preach to it? Why only do ministry aimed for the loft? We need to go where Jesus went and reach those whom Jesus reached (the spiritually and socially marginalized).

Third, APEST thinking is extremely helpful for encouraging lay leaders to see that their role in building the church and seeking the kingdom is JUST AS IMPORTANT as that of the paid shepherd-teacher (pastor). New wine needs new wineskins. God is waiting to pour out his blessings on churches when the priest-in-the-pew wakes up to his/her calling. Waiting around for the paid pastoral staff to do all the ministry is the reason pastors are burned out and churches are dormant. APEST is needed to equip the body to be and function as a body. And as Hirsch points out, APEST is already in the body. The code is there. The gifts have been given and are irrevocable. Apostles, prophets and evangelists are sitting in the pew; they just don’t know it because they don’ have language for it and they haven’t been given permission to function in this way. Recovering 5Q and identifying them in your church will mobilize your congregation to begin engaging in Jesus’ ministry at a whole new level. In fact, I would go so far as to say that your church will never be the church Jesus intended if it doesn’t have a way of helping Joe-in-the-pew identify where he/she’s at on the APEST scale and giving him/her encouragement to begin stepping more fully into that role.

Hirsch believes APEST is almost the silver bullet for helping churches navigate the incredible missional challenges of the 21st century. Maybe you disagree. That’s okay. But if you haven’t already, it’s worth educating yourself on it to begin to imagine the potential it could have if even half of “5Q” is right on the money.

Read more and see how Nehemiah Project will be incorporating 5Q into its renewal and church planting philosophy.

Critical articles on 5Q

Other Resources