Friday, May 17, 2013


Ty Grigg and Alan Hirsch had an interesting discussion on APEST last month on Reclaiming the Mission. APEST stands for Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher. Alan believes the church is dominated by Shepherds and Teachers and the Apostles, so Prophets and Evangelists need to be restored.

I agree with him, but the problem with Hirsch et al is that they approach APEST at too high a level. The Shepherds and Teachers are already in place of control of most churches. Adopting APEST puts the Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists into a struggle with them in a very clutter place. They cannot be slotted into the existing model, because there is not enough room at the top of the hierarchy.

There is only one hierarchy in the New Testament church: disciples and elders. We are all disciples and elders are those who are a bit more mature.

APEST is specialisation among elders. A church needs elders with balanced giftings to grow to maturity. These can only function fully when they are submitted to each other in a body. They cannot function effectively in a CEO and Vice President model.

Ty argues that these titles were not as common in the early church and did not last as long as some Christians assume. He could be right about the latter point, but saying that these titles were not used in the early church misses the points. The reason is that APEST are really verbs, not nouns. The people doing these gifts were elders, and would be referred to by that name. There may not be many references to apostles in the early church, but there was plenty of apostling going. No one is referred to as a pastor in the New Testament, but in Acts 20:28-31, there are plenty of elders shepherding and watching over the flocks in their care. Peter encourages the elders to shepherd the flock in their care (1 Pet 5:2).

The New Testament church often got eldership wrong. The book of Acts records stuff that worked, along with stuff that did not work. Although Peter had been sent out with the twelve, and provably with the seventy-two, he had difficulty getting hold of the idea that apostles should be sent out, and that he should leave Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit had to twist his arm to get him to go down to Caesarea, and even then he did not stay. It took more serious persecution to get him to go out seriously.

The so-called Church Council described in Acts 15 was a real shambles. The church had just broken out to the gentiles, and the best the elders and apostles could do was give the gentile Christians a couple of rules about eating meat and blood. There was not excitement or encouragement. Fortunately, this situation was remedied by Silas and Judas on the ground when they did much to encourage and strengthen the new disciples.

Paul understood the rule of the apostle much more clearly, but even he got side tracked into going back to Jerusalem. He did not have the confirmation of the Spirit for this change of direction, and it severely truncated his ministry.

At the time when the Didache was written at the end of the first century, the church had a problem with wandering prophets becoming a pest. That is not APEST. Prophets function best in a body, submitted to shepherds and evangelist, who are also submitted to them.

Ty argues that the APEST model has been developed by practitioners, but is not supported by biblical exegesis. I disagree with this view. The problem is that most bible expositors have grown up and worship in a church that is led by a senior pastor. The pastor-manager model shapes their thinking, so it not surprising that they interpret Ephesians 4 in that context.

Ty claims read Ephesians 4:11 is about people who have been given “spiritual authority to minister the Word of God among a community of believers”. This is misleading. The passage is actually about service. Our spiritual authority is authority over sickness and evil spirits. It is not authority to control other Christians. Ephesians 4:7-16 is all about service and the body growing up together.

1 comment:

Eli Chitaka said...

yes much of their teaching on this just seems to be an attempt to create new hierarchy. Authority, status/following and monetary reward unfortunately inform some of these types of interpretations as best I can tell. Descriptors and verbs is more appropriate than prescriptions and nouns in terms of APEST.
This can also lead to an over emphasis on another form of leadership, this time more broad than the office of pastors. It is no surprise when there are aggressive strategic goals in mind that need to be driven by full time leaders even if they don't receive a salary.