What would you do if somebody told you, “There’s $1,000,000 hidden in this room. Nobody else knows about it, but (shhhh!) I’m telling you it’s here somewhere and if you can find it, it’s yours.” Well as for me, after verifying that this news didn’t come from a spam email fished out of my Junk Mail, I would begin searching the room!
Something of far greater value than $1,000,000 is buried in one neglected, misunderstood and forgotten passage of Scripture. If you are willing to see this hidden treasure, it will change your life. On March 18th a team from Harvest International Ministries arrived in Lucknow and conducted a powerful leadership conference including casting out a demon. On the 21st they traveled by overnight train to our eastern Himalayan station. Meanwhile I was visiting a remote village in our western Himalayan region and along with some of our native leaders, drove across via the north route, and got closer than ever to the white mountains and the border of China (proximity to the China border was confirmed in that the small restaurant where we ate lunch served up sloppy bowls of tripe that smelled like… well, the insides of a chicken!) The team endured a grueling five-hour drive over mountain roads that still haven’t been repaired since the monsoon washed them out last June.
In both the Lucknow and Himalayan conferences Dr Mark Tubbs taught the five-fold ministry gifts. I’ve studied the gifts of the Holy Spirit and ministry offices many times but as I sat taking notes mostly to be a good example for my son Lakshman who accompanied me on the trip, I saw something amazing…
Today the most common title and function for a Christian leader is that of “Pastor.” Seminaries train pastors and almost every church is led by a pastor. Many who don’t have that title nevertheless perform that function when they care for the Body of Christ. Women who minister to others in a caring, nurturing environment are functioning as pastors to those individuals. Pastors are necessary to grow and nurture the body of Christ.
“Teacher” is also a common role. People gifted with the ability to teach lead Bible study groups in support of the pastor, or teach Sunday School classes. These individuals are also essential. A rare few are called “Evangelists” like Billy Graham, and in missions circles some use the term “native evangelist” for those who share the Gospel from village to village.
But what about “Prophet” and “Apostle?” How often does someone say “He is a prophet” or “She is an apostle?” Some traditions teach that the only apostles were the original twelve. Others suggest that prophecy was only for the Old Testament or for the original disciples of Jesus.
Both of these perceptions are erroneous. The ministry offices – all five of them – are intended for us, today! Otherwise why did Paul clearly state, “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” (Eph 4:11,12)? God’s Kingdom needs to be strengthened and expanded today just as much as when Paul penned these words. Nothing has changed. Why then have we dropped two of the five offices almost completely out of our vocabulary and out of our experience?
Here is the $1,000,000+ treasure: Mark uses the five fingers of the hand to teach the “five-fold ministry gifts.” But sadly, we have cut off and thrown away the two most important fingers! Notice that the order in which the ministry offices appear is important. Another passage makes it even clearer: “And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers…” (1 Co 12:28) So according to the Bible, Christ’s Kingdom should be led first of all by those functioning in the apostolic and prophetic gifting. Many who are called pastors today feel confined and limited by their office. They long to be doing more outreach and evangelism. These really should be freed to function as apostles or prophets. Others who are called pastors feel burdened by the need to do more outreach or to lead the church to growth or to influence in the community, and would prefer to focus on nurture and care of the believers. These are true pastors. But at the helm of every gathering of God’s people should be an apostolic leader who keeps the group focused on their purpose, which is to expand God’s Kingdom and reach out to the outside world with Christ’s love.
What is an apostle? An apostle is someone who sees opportunities for God’s Kingdom to expand and receives God’s strategies for it to happen. An apostle trains and mentors new leaders, imparting vision and passion to mobilize them to action. Those who establish new churches are functioning in the apostolic gifting. Those who train leaders and hand over to them new levels of responsibility are apostolic. In our work in India we have hundreds of apostolic leaders. I deeply appreciate Harvest International Ministries which in 2010 recognized and commissioned me as an apostle based on how the Lord has used me to develop native leaders and church planting movements in north India.
What is a Prophet? The New Testament role of a prophet is first of all to “speak edification and exhortation and comfort to men” (1 Co. 14:3). When the Lord gives us a prophetic word for a person, it should be encouraging and not condemning. Secondly, God desires to show us things of the future to warn and guide His people. An example of a true modern-day prophet is Rev. David Wilkerson.
My challenge to you: Do you feel limited by the title “Pastor”? Do you feel that your church needs more outward focus or more passion for the community and for the world? Then God may be calling you to more of an apostolic or prophetic role in His Kingdom! Right now these two most important offices and functions are almost entirely missing. Imagine trying to pick up a glass without your thumb., or to form a pot with only three fingers. One reason God’s Kingdom is not growing today as it should is our failure to recognize, teach on, and encourage people to function in these two essential roles – the apostolic and the prophetic. When God’s people rediscover these two awesome spheres of anointing and empowerment, we will have found a treasure far more valuable than $1,000,000.