God’s Fabulous Five Fold ~ Ten Years Later

Sharing Observations and Answering Objections

It is a little over ten years since I wrote my book on God’s Fabulous Five Fold. In the years since then I have added a chapter here and there, and watched with hope and anticipation for some signs that the church is moving into her destiny.

The effects of this revelation have been two fold. One, I have hope for a much better future for the Church of Jesus Christ. Two, there have been times when this Biblical revelation has seemed as much a curse as a blessing. I now sit in church and see “pastors” struggling, congregations praying for their overburdened and overwhelmed “pastor”, and churches staggering along trying to function and fulfill their destiny in a system God never designed and within which He is severely limited, all the while knowing that the un-Biblical leadership model - not the minister, nor the load he carries - is the real problem. It has been extremely frustrating. The one thing that has sustained me is the simple profound beauty of this truth.

So after ten years I would like to share several observations and answer some objections.

Observation # 1 - Simplicity

I have watched people struggle with the concept of the Five Fold as if it is hard to understand and even harder, if not dangerous, to implement. But it is neither. God would not make something which is so vital to the healthy functioning of His Church a deep mystery requiring a profound revelation. God’s truths once revealed are always simple and easy to understand. And the truth of the Five Fold is one of the simplest, clearest, and easiest understood in the New Testament. It is only difficult to understand and impossible to implement when looked at through the lens of the present “pastoral” paradigm.

Mutually Exclusive

This is because the present system is not God ordained and the two are incompatible and mutually exclusive. The Five Fold model is the only Biblical one and in God’s economy

  • it will not work under the present leadership model, and
  • it cannot work with the present leadership model.
  • It must totally and completely replace the present Pastoral leadership model.

Why would God make doing
the work of His Kingdom
such a burden?
Why would He not
make it an abundant joy?

This is good news! It is good news for younger folk newly called to and entering leadership in Christ’s church. When church leadership is done God’s way they won’t have to spend years toiling in a system promising that with great sacrifice, superb organization, and inhumanly hard work they can please God and find success. And it is good news for veteran and mature leaders who have faithfully toiled in the Lord’s Vineyard for many a year. It means that most of the men and women laboring so diligently in the present “pastoral” office, with all of its ups and downs and excessive demands, can gladly set that to one side and before the end of their days joyously do one of two things. They can step into an Apostolic role and lead a Five Fold Team which will then lead the church. Or they can with great joy become a healthy, happy, fully functioning member of such a Team. They can have the delight of doing only what they are gifted, equipped and strengthened to do and no longer be burdened with the things they hate and for which they have little or no grace. Ministry and leadership will become much easier. They can end their days with a lighter, gladdened heart and a richer harvest.

Is this too good to be true? Certainly not! Why would God make doing the work of His Kingdom such a burden? Why would He not make it an abundant joy? Once we realize that the traditional role of “pastor” is not God’s idea and that we no longer have to bear the burden of the church alone, we can come into the bright light of God’s glorious new day.

God’s Suffering Servant

But to make the transition we will have to lay our agendas, our need to be doing most of the work, and our need to be in full and total control at the foot of the cross. And perhaps most difficult of all, we will have to relinquish our role as “God’s Suffering Servant.” We have born the heat and burden of the day. We have been faithful and true. We are battle worn and weary and sadly being God’s martyr for the cause has become part of our identity. If we are not in pain and under some sort of strain, continually stretched to the limits of our endurance . . . perhaps we are not being a faithful and true Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not everyone has this martyr complex, but for those who do, surrendering it can be quite a struggle.

Observation #2 - The Renewal and Five Fold

During my lifetime I have seen several wonderful waves of the Holy Spirit, each reviving our spiritual life and bringing fresh truth. The most recent, the Renewal or Toronto Blessing, is just about to turn 20. In 1994 a small congregation in Toronto was turned upside down and inside out by a fresh visitation and in turn multiplied thousands were blessed with signs and wonders and miracles, and much joy and laughter and unusual manifestations. Father Heart of God. I drank from and played in the River and I know it is real. But while we enjoyed the party the Renewal came to do more than to make us happy and whole. It is built on the foundational revelation of the Father’s Heart of Love. This revelation brought massive inner healing to the walking wounded. But that was not its ultimate purpose. Its ultimate purpose is the restoration of the Apostolic and the Five Fold.

Apostles are Fathers. Their call is to more fully demonstrate the Father Heart of God in the administration of Kingdom of God. A kingdom is a system of government. The Father Heart of God as revealed in the Renewal will only find its ultimate purpose and full expression as the old one-person “pastor” system of monarchial church government is replaced by Five Fold Leadership Teams of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers.

The Apostle and the Father Heart of God

The Apostle leads this Team as an expression of that Father Heart of God, and the Team leads the Church. This is God’s New Testament model of church government where each of the Five Fold functions in their individual role with co-equality and mutual submission. It is not a hierarchy. Nor is it an organization governed by rules and regulations. It is a living organic relationship, with the added blessing that the mutual accountability within this Team provides each leader with the protective spiritual covering promised but usually absent in the regular hierarchical structure.

And it might not need to be said but a church board comprised of committed and responsible members of the congregation with good hearts and a common vision is a good thing, but it is not a Five Fold Team. The early church had both deacons responsible for business (Acts 6:1-7), and a Five Fold Team providing spiritual leadership (Ephesians 4:11-14).

Observation #3 – "Pastors" Are Not Called
to Release the Five Fold Ministry

I believe in the twenty-three aspects of the risen Christ. The nine fruit of the Spirit reveal His attributes; the nine gifts of the Spirit express His abilities; the five leadership gifts demonstrate His authority. His authority is expressed as Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers work together for the building up of the body of Christ. As we leave behind one-man pulpit/platform and leadership ministry and “do church” Gods way His Five Fold Team will equip and release body ministry.

“Releasing the Five Fold Ministry?”

The idea of one person, commonly and erroneously called a “pastor”, raising up and releasing the “Five Fold Ministry” is the antithesis of the will and plan of God. It is trying to fit God’s plan into man’s failed invention, the new wineskin into the old. It unintentionally manifests control, and it just will not work.

"Pastors" are not called to “release the Five Fold Ministry.” Instead those presently in leadership are called to first

  • recognize the Five Fold Leaders God has brought together. Then
  • relinquish the cultural role of traditional “pastor.” Lay it all down,
  • assume an Apostolic role (if that is the thing to which the Lord is calling them) and
  • collaborate in a relationship of co-equality with the rest of the Five Fold.

Five Fold Leaders working together as a team are called to do what the traditional role of “pastor” can never properly do - equip and release Body Ministry. This is an important distinction.

Believe it or not there are leaders who strongly object to all of this. Heavily invested with a lifetime of their own “sacred tradition”, they unintentionally manufacture many and sundry objections to God’s design for church government. But the laity seems to think it is totally Biblical and a marvelous idea.

Observation #4 - The Church’s True Leadership Foundation

The church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, with Jesus Christ being the true Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). It is not built on the foundation of the “pastor”, whether it is the current cultural role of pastor, or the very much needed Biblical one. The Apostles and Prophets in relation to each other are the true foundation of the church.

Roadblocks to Apostle-Prophet Relationship

The problem here is that many Prophets are too contentious and critical to be in solid relationship with anyone, and many called to be Apostles are way too controlling. This is complicated by the fact that Prophets at the best of times can be unpredictable and hard to control. And both can be very independent minded.

Seriously folks, we really don’t have a lot to figure out. We simply need to humbly realize our weaknesses and let God shape our character. The Apostle and Prophet are the two main pieces in the leadership puzzle. They desperately need each other. Once they learn how to trust each other and fit together in harmony, the rest will more easily fall into their rightful place. Since they are meant to function in relationship with each other, an apostle without a prophet or a prophet without an apostle is an aberration.

Observation #5 – Word Keys to Understanding

Let me say this and say it loud and clear. I do not believe in Five Fold Ministry. I believe in Five Fold Leadership and Body Ministry. Big difference! The words and phrases we use when discussing and exploring issues are important. When we stop using the word pastor as if it means “person who leads the church” and start speaking of Five Fold Leadership instead of Five Fold Ministry we will have come a long way toward a more Biblical mindset.

The old language
of our religious culture
does not work well
with a Biblical revelation.

The old language of our religious culture does not work well with a Biblical revelation. It confuses things, preventing us from fully understanding what God is saying in His Word. Using the word pastor correctly - one with hands-on care for the sheep - will help us better understand the ministry of this important leadership role in God’s church. We should no more use the word Pastor to mean “the person who leads the church” than we would use the words Evangelist or Prophet. It is inaccurate, obscures the truth, and hinders the work of the Kingdom.

Let me draw an analogy. The construction of a building requires the services of a carpenter, a plumber, an electrician, and maybe a mason, as well as a contractor to supervise the whole project. It would be confusing and inaccurate to continually call the person who organizes the project a carpenter. And to expect a carpenter to have oversight of the whole project while still struggling to use a hammer and nails - when he has the time to do so - would be counterproductive. Much better for the contractor to do what he does best and for each skilled tradesman to do their job - the carpenters, plumbers, and electricians working together to complete the building. A contractor has some knowledge of each tradesman’s strengths and skills, but a tradesman would probably be hard pressed to fill the shoes of a contractor. Only when we more fully understand each function can we give proper honor where honor is due.

To those leading congregations and still self identifying as “pastors” I want to say, “Really, you are a pastor and you also manage to lead the congregation? How do you find time and energy with the day to day care of the sheep to do that as well?” It is hard, if not impossible, to do both. Pastors need to be concerned about the gritty details of individual’s lives. The person leading the Team who shepherds the flock has a much broader perspective, and they need to focus their relationship energies and vision more on the Team than on individuals in the congregation.

Objection #1 – The Church is not
Mature Enough for Five Fold Leadership

Those who protest that the church is too immature and not yet ready for Five Fold Leadership have the cart before the horse. They are intimating that the present day man-made, man-centered, man-controlled system will someday be able to do what it has never done and will never be able to do - prepare us for God’s perfect plan, and the end time harvest. Hey, don’t do it God’s way. That is too difficult, and too dangerous. The church is not yet mature enough for that! Let us work on them some more to prepare for the transition. We haven’t succeeded with more than a century of Spirit-filled history but all we need is more time and greater effort.

Actually this is saying,
rather ironically, that the
saints are not mature enough
for the only thing whereby
they can be brought to maturity.

Actually this is saying, rather ironically, that the saints are not mature enough for the only thing whereby they can be brought to maturity. Ephesians 4:11 says very clearly that that is the function of the Five Fold.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 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, 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)

Sadly, much of the church is immature, easily swayed by the latest theological novelty and nonsense, and easily influenced by manipulative money seeking religious charlatans. The Five Fold working together will first bring the church to a solid and stable maturity, and then equip each member to function in their ministry.

We must overthrow the enemy’s diabolical scheme and work with God’s plan and pattern for church leadership. We will then see the Body of Christ grow, mature, expand, and take her rightful place in the earth. Praise God.

Objection #2 – The Five Fold Model
is too Hard to Understand

I think I covered this under Observation #1, but let me reiterate. This is God’s plan. It is His only plan for His church. It is illogical to think He would make His plan complicated or obscure in any way. Some say we need to first understand the Biblical role of the Apostle. Not so. We need to first understand that the traditional role of pastor has no foundation in scripture and is not what the Bible means by the word. Amazingly the word Pastor is used only once in the New Testament. This is shocking, considering how much we use the word. And there is no suggestion that it means “the one who leads the church.”

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” Ephesians 4:11 (NASB)

Well, let's look at how often the other leadership offices are mentioned:

  • Apostle - 35
  • Prophet - 12
  • Teacher - 9
  • Evangelist - 3

That is a ratio of 59 to 1! Once we get over the pastoral hurtle and remove the pastoral blinders, we will see the simplicity and beauty of Five Fold Leadership and be able to move ahead with ease.

It is not easy for those who self-identify as "pastors". Some have dreamed of this their entire lives. In their church culture becoming a "pastor" is the Holy Grail, the pinnacle of success, the ultimate way to serve God. It is not easy to let go of something so deeply engrained. But let go they must if they are to fulfill their destiny. And we must move past this leadership model if the Kingdom of God is to have its ultimate manifestation upon the earth.

God’s way is so much easier, and more effective. No matter how hard you try, how diligently you work, and how well you organize the old wine skin, it can never contain the New Wine of God’s Presence and Purpose. Something will break – either the man or the method. Thank God there is a better way and a flexible wineskin that works.