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The ‘5-fold gifts’ and maturity… something to ponder for growing in 2015

The 5-fold office, as they are described by some in Ephesians 4 offers us an important insight into Christian maturity. That is after all, the context in which they are mentioned:

To prepare God’s people for works of service

So that

The boy of Christ may be built up

Until we 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.

 

Paul is giving us a definition of maturity, the marks of it and the means towards it.

 

The definition of maturity is the whole measure of Christ. Paul is saying that God desires us to become Christlike in full measure as a church. We will grow towards Christ’s heartbeat, mission and way of life. We will see life through Jesus’ eyes and respond and live by His values and character.

 

The marks of this maturity, since there is only one Christ; involves our reaching a point of unity {one} where we know Christ and live out a faith that is centred on Him. Indeed, we see this happening. The Spirit of God has been moving the church in the last few decades in this direction. From Christ-centred preaching to Christ-centred worship… the Spirit of God is directing us.

 

The means towards this maturity is in the exercise of the gifts of God, in particular, the 5-fold gifts of teacher, pastor, prophet, apostle and evangelist.

 

And here is something important to know.

 

These gifts do not merely complement or contribute towards some church health; they are essential for maturity. In other words, Jesus as in individual and Christ as the church embodies these aspects:

 

God’s wisdom (teacher)

God’s Grace (pastor)

God’s ways (prophet)

God’s agenda (apostle)

God’s mercy (evangelist)

 

These aspects are seen in Christ’s earthly life.

 

Again we see the Spirit of God calling forth and establishing these gifts in the church in the recent decades as He matures His church, his bride.

 

I grew up in a Presbyterian church spiritually; but in my youth was greatly impacted by an Assemblies of God preacher, Abel Thomas. Later, I would come into contact with Pentecostal Anglicans and began to grow in my understanding of the gifts. Most of my growing years, the foundational seed planted in me that God desires us to reach the world steered me in many of my choices and even my vocational training. I have been stretched to consider how in my life I am growing in Christ’s heartbeat, mission and character.

 

What does this mean for us as pastors and leaders?

 

In view of the fact that Ephesians was written to expound on the grand purposes of God in the church, we should encourage each follower of Christ to be open to these gifts that will help us in our journey towards maturity and fullness. This needs to happen for the individual Christian as it does for the local assembly.

 

However, we are not to get anxious, worried or feel we are in lack if our churches do not seem to have these gifts. Certainly no one pastor or leader can ever embody all these gifts. God has provided for them in the larger Body of Christ. Great books and sermons have been written by pastors such as Henri Nouwen and prophets such as AW Tozer. The local church is strengthened by the ministry of many organizations. Missions organizations bring an apostolic edge while others have a wonderful teaching ministry for specific aspects of life.

 

In the end, it is our hunger and desire to grow into Christ-likeness that propels us to seek, feed and be willing to change in order to grow.

 

 

But the local church pastor has a special role in this. Called to be the shepherd, he is to find the appropriate pasture for his flock to feed on, to call them to rest, to hold them back by his staff of protection or his rod of discipline when the sheep is acting out of fear and in danger.

So, as Eugene Petersen the pastor puts it in The Message, it is all for this:

to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

 

What a wonderful picture!