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Ephesians 4:11-12New International Version (NIV)
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
An Evangelical Christian belief that five offices mentioned in Ephesians (Ephesians 4:11), namely those of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (or “shepherds”) and teachers, remain active and valid offices in the contemporary Christian church.
God’s Hand of Ministry
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…“ (1 Pet. 5:6)
When Christ ascended, He took His whole ministry mantle, divided it, and gave it in five parts to men and women. All five are needed to perfect, mature and equip the saints “till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of… the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). The function of these gifts, also sometimes called equipping or ascension gifts, and how they fit together can better be understood through the analogy of how a physical hand functions.
The Apostle: The Thumb
The thumb is not in opposition to or over the fingers, but it is designed to complete the full function and power of the hand. Apostles function in administration and (together with prophets) lay the foundation with proper doctrinal and spiritual structure (Eph. 2:20). Apostles move primarily in the gifts of healing, faith, working of miracles, word of wisdom, discerning of spirits, and (sometimes) prophecy.
In a modern church setting, they would oversee the development and sending of apostolic teams for miracle ministries, as well as activating, imparting and demonstrating the apostolic anointing to other bodies of believers. They would participate in going to other regions and nations to establish new churches and help local pastors restore order and unity in existing congregations.
The Prophet: The Forefinger
The forefinger is often called the pointer finger—the prophet functions in revelation and points the way for believers. The office of the prophet is different than the gift of prophecy—it carries a governmental authority and role with higher responsibility. The gift of prophecy is for edification, exhortation and comfort, whereas the prophet flows in areas of guidance, instruction, rebuke, judgment and revelation—whatever Christ chooses to speak for the purification and perfection of His church.Prophets are also given the special ability to recognize God’s gifts and callings on individuals and can activate people into their ministries. Not everyone who prophesies is a prophet (just as not everyone who moves in miracles is an apostle). In a church today, prophets would oversee the development of qualified prophetic teams to be able to give accurate and timely personal prophetic words, and form prophetic presbyteries—groups of ministers and elders who come together for the purpose of ministering prophetically to individuals or a church body.
The Evangelist: The Middle Finger
The middle finger extends the furthest on the hand—it represents the outreach ministry extended to evangelize the world.
An evangelist in today’s church would oversee evangelism teams and outreach, and maintain passion and vision for winning souls to Jesus, in addition to training prophetic evangelists.
The Pastor: The Ring Finger
The ring finger is the wedding ring finger, symbolizing the pastor’s commitment to his flock. Prophets and evangelists might come and go, but the pastor is bound to the local saints in a shepherding relationship. Those in the pastoral department of a local church would oversee home group leaders and assist the senior pastor in duties such as weddings, funerals, visitations, prayer, counseling, and other ministerial capacities.
The Teacher: The Little Finger
Although it’s the smallest finger, the little finger is essential and provides balance. The teacher grounds the church in truth through instruction in the principles of the Word of God. The teaching department in a modern-day church would oversee the educational and training ministries, including writing and developing curriculum and performing teaching duties.