Gifts of Leadership

I’m very happy to share with you some comments by Dr James Nored on the topic of spiritual gifts/roles found in Ephesians 4:11-16. James is the minister at the High Pointe Church of Christ located in McKinney, a northern suburb of Dallas. He is also the founder of the Missional Outreach Network, and designer of the Spiritual Gifts Inventory and resources found at www.YourSpiritualGifts.com.

James, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

In his books, The Shaping of Things to Come, and The Forgotten Ways, Alan Hirsch emphasizes the five fold gifts of Ephesians 4:11–apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher.

Apostle – the entrepreneur or mission leader who is asking, where are new mission fields?  Who has not been reached?

Prophet – the questioner of an organization or church who is probing, pointing out what is wrong, calling the organization/church back to its purpose/God.

Evangelist – the salesperson of the organization/church, who asks, who can I share the good news with?

Pastor – the HR, caretaker person of the church/organization, who asks how to bring peace and stability and healing to the organization/church

Teacher – the systemitizer of the church/organization, who seeks to deepen understanding, asking, how does all of this fit together and make sense?

Hirsch theorizes that the five fold spiritual gifts draw upon these parallel natural gifts found in any healthy organization. It is an intuitive argument that I agree with and have witnessed. I believe that it also has a biblical/theological basis. I would love for someone to do more statistical research on this.

Hirsch advocates that a healthy church will have each role represented in its leadership team. He also says that it is the nature of institutions–and churches–to be dominated by the pastor-teacher role. The apostle, prophet, and evangelist roles all are “disruptive” to the system, and the nature of pastor-teacher roles is to keep peace and prevent disruptions, making sure things get back to “normal.”

On the organization side–who in the record business wanted to have a prophetic voice telling them that they might soon be out of business with the advent of tape cassettes? Or who at Blockbuster wants to hear that it would go bankrupt unless it changed its business model? Think how hard it is for Microsoft to think beyond its cash cow of Microsoft Office on personal PCs to a cloud based Office model that might be less profitable–but in the end, might allow Microsoft to survive the Internet age.

On the church level, think of the bus ministries of the 1970s. They disrupted the local church, and despite the fact that they did reach a lot of people, many local churches were too disrupted by these ministries to continue them.

Hirsch says that the APE gifts (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist) of the APEPT Eph. 4:11 gifts become marginalized in the local church. They have little voice in leadership and the “system” pushes them out due to the disruption they cause. So those with this gifting usually go overseas on mission trips, go into church planting more recently, or become a part of para-church organizations that focus on feeding the hungry, taking care of the homeless or battered women, reaching out to minority groups, etc.

If those with APE giftings are not “in the room” when decisions are made (which historically, has often been the case), then the PT giftings (Pastor, Teacher) will dominate and always advocate the least disruptive path–which will inevitably lead to the church’s or organization’s slow decline and eventual death (businesses do fail and individual churches do close, even if the Church will always continue).

So what do you think?

  • Do you agree that church leadership lives with a natural tension between disruptive and soothing voices?
  • Have you seen people with APE spiritual gifts squeezed out of leadership, or at least have their voices muffled?
  • How can churches launch and maintain “disruptive” ministries while still keeping “peace” within the congregation?
  • What characteristics must a church adopt or emphasise to support these “disruptive” leadership gifts?
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