Friday, July 30, 2010

Where do the prophets and evangelists fit into the Body of Christ?

"To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift ...He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, & some pastors & teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ ..." Ephesians 4:7,11-12

As a person whose primary spiritual gift is as a prophet (the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy) and whose secondary gift is mercy, I have a desire to bring holy love of Christ into everything that I think, say and do. I want to be a blessing to Christians in the Body of Christ and be faithful to represent the Savior to sinners in the fallen world. As I studied the Bible on the subject of love yesterday, I noticed that the I Corinthians 13, the 'love' chapter, was preceded by a chapter of spiritual gifts. The notes in my Geneva Study Bible included the fact that scriptures make it abundantly clear that the essential condition for the proper exercise of any gift is LOVE. It is very interesting to ponder our great and mighty God, Who Himself IS love, Who also casts the wicked into hell in the day of judgment. I want to understand this perfect, just, holy God in all His beauty.

I began to ponder how a person with the gift of 'pastor' expresses love differently than how a person with the gift of 'prophet' expresses love. We think and act and speak love under the influence of the spiritual God has given us.

It has been my experience that it is a pretty serious challenge for people with the spiritual gifts of 'prophet' and 'evangelist' to find their place in the Body of Christ and in the local church. As we all know, when God sent prophets to His covenant people, they stoned them. And, most certainly, when God sent His Prophet, Priest and King to the covenant people, they beat Him, pulled out His beard and hung Him on a Cross.

The gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher are all given by God to equip others to do the work of ministry. They, of course, minister themselves, but their gifts are mean to help those in the Body to learn to do the good works of ministry which God has prepared for them to do. These individuals should all work within and without of the local church to be effective in helping every believer to find their own way of benefitting the rest of the church. No one is given a gift for their own private benefit, but to benefit the Body and to advance the Kingdom of God in the world for the glory of Christ and the good of our neighbors.

According to Ephesians 4: 1-16 all Christians fulfill informal ministering roles, but some hold formal and official ministerial offices. Ideally the formal ministers (pastors, elders, deacons) should facilitate the informal ministers. The individuals that are evangelists and prophets are not usually 'formal' ministers in the church. They often remain 'informal'. While the informal ministers should not be unduly defiant or disruptive, the formal ministers should be serving to direct their ministries in ways that edifies (strengthens and upbuilds) the Body. The Body of Christ grows to maturity as every part does its share in serving and fulfilling it's particular gift as granted by God's grace.

Did you know that the word 'gift' literally means 'donation'? Christ bestows a role on every believer so that, by His grace, they may fulfill their ministry, both in the local church, the greater Body of Christ and in the world.

Here are a few definitions I found in the study notes in my Geneva Study Bible which help explain the meaning of 'gift' as it is found in the Word of God.

1) A spiritual gift is an ability to express, celebrate, display, and so communicate Christ in a way that builds up and strengthens the faith of other Christians and enlarges the Church.

2) Spiritual gifts may be broadly classified as either abilities of speech or of loving, practical helpfulness.

3) Every Christian has a gift of ministry (I Corinthians 12:7: Eph 4:7). It is every believer's responsibility to find, develop and fully use whatever capacities for service God has given them.

It is my sincere hope that those who have more easily accepted gifts, such as pastor, teacher, giving, helps, etc, would consider how they might integrate those with prophetic and evangelistic gifts into the life and ministry of their local church Body. While these women and men often are ambitious for the Lord's glory, the proclamation of a true gospel and for the saving of souls, they very much need the loving support of the local church. I believe that the local churches also very much need the witness of these spiritual gifts of God's grace to keep the church pure and Christ/gospel-centered instead of syncretistic and culture pandering.

What say you? What is your gift and how do you minister within and without of the local church Body?

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