Updated — from first published October 18, 1999.
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up until we all 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,” Ephesians 4:11-13.
How often have we read this piece of scripture, and thought to ourselves, “Are some or any of these ministries better than others?”
I think that human nature would tell us that those who are set first here in this description: “Apostles, some to be prophets.,” are somehow considered “better” than those who follow in this list.
What I would say to you for the sake of understanding, and for clarity, is that ALL are important here, and without any of them operating, or working properly, imbalance occurs, and unhealthy doctrine and confusion sets in.
We must know that servanthood is of primary importance here, for as we should know:
“But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted,” Matthew 23:11-12.
Many of us have perhaps heard of the analogy of the hand used to help illustrate the five-fold ministries.
We have as our illustration, the thumb, which can reach all the other fingers, and is thus analogous with the apostolic ministry.
It is one of government and in “fathering” others, and working together with those in a capacity of wisdom, love, and understanding of each in their unique talents and giftings.
The thumb is analogous with the word “govern.” However, “govern” is not obviously, autocratic, but is one of servant-hood, as should ANY of the ministries within the Body of Christ be.
Next to the thumb, we have the forefinger, which for the purpose of illustration has been called “the prophet finger.”
It is next to the apostle thumb, and works together with them in “the foundational structure, or ministries.”
“Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone,” Ephesians 2:20.
We have yet to see how both of these ministries can and should, work together as one. They are foundational in their emphasis, and because of this, the rest of the structure of the building “rests” upon them.
This forefinger is one of being a “guide” to others, and in drawing the Body of Christ closer to himself, and calling the Church unto purity and truth.
The middle finger, the longest one, has been called the finger of the evangelist, simply because it is far-reaching, and because of the evangelist’s obvious ability to gather in the people, and spread the gospel, this has been the trademark.
We shall use the word, “gather” for this finger for the purpose of illustration. Next to the middle finger, we have the ring finger, (on the right hand), and this has been labeled for our purposes, the finger of the pastor, or shepherd.
The ring finger, because this becomes synonymous with caring for the needs of the flock, and the heart of the Church.
This finger then is analogous with “guard” because the pastor must guard the sheep from outside and interior influences, which might cause harm to those who are in their care.
Lastly, we have the small finger, but equally important, remember that without this finger, the hand has no balance.
We will call this finger the teacher. For the teacher “grounds” in The Word. Without this finger, or ministry, we are sorely lacking in a deep understanding of scripture, and in their very detailed approach to things.
All of these fingers, or ministries are important, and none are “more important,” than others. The paragraph below will perhaps give some better understanding of this thought.
It becomes a matter of function in how an individual minister or ministry works, and not in “ranking.” The ranking is a matter of Gods restorational plan.
I believe that the Father has been raising-up a blending of some of the ministries. Thus those who have been called as prophets may well remain as such and yet now because of God’s purposes and an expansion of His plan, there is a joining together of the apostolic and prophetic.
When Jesus said, “But many who are first will be last and the last first.” (Matthew 19:30; 20:16; 1 Corinthians 12:28), He may well have had some things to say which were relevant to these ministries for us today.
This type of restoration can be seen over the last 50 years of Church history. During the 1950’s, it was the time for the evangelist. In the 1960s, we saw the fruition and time of the pastor.
he 1970s saw a great influence of the role of the teacher. Finally, during the 1980s, the Church saw the prophetic movement come to the forefront, with the calling and restoration of the prophet.
Now in the 1990s, we see the stage set, where the apostolic ministry has come into place, and will continue throughout the next few years.
When Christ originally laid his plan out for the Church in the ascension gifts, the apostle first, and the prophet, secondly, were set into place.
They both worked together to lay the proper foundation for the Church, both doctrinally, and spiritually.
After this and thirdly, the teachers were set into place to help “ground” the Church, and get the body ready to be set into various Churches and fellowships. Apostles and prophet teams then worked together to help set various pastors and elders into local Churches, to help train, equip, feed, and protect the sheep, (Acts 15:32, 16:4; 2 Corinthians 1:19.)
After these pastors, elders, and deacons were set into place, then the evangelists were sent out to various areas and places, to carry the gospel to the needs of the people, (Matthew 28:19).
No one minister or ministry, has the full picture here. All have a “piece” to offer. The prophet has been holding his or her “piece” now for some time, as have the teacher, evangelist, pastor, and now, the apostle.
Only Christ has understanding of what these puzzle pieces will look like after each “piece” has been interlocked with the others.
Right now, and perhaps for a while yet longer, the purposes and understanding of how all of this will work together, is only temporary.
Only when each of these ministries have come into complete unity, will they attain to the fullness of their own individual callings and equipping.
We will most likely see a lot of restating, change, and reshuffling of how each of these ministries work together over the next few years.
Until a pastor and a prophet can work together will there be a better understanding of each others role, as well as how apostles work together with various pastors and prophets.
As each respects the others portion, and no longer fears what the other holds, then a greater unity will unfold.
I believe that as the apostle comes into the fullness of his or her commission, that this will in turn, raise the prophet, the pastor, teacher, and evangelist into their “rightful” place within the Church.
Then indeed, each “finger” will do its work, and will realize that without each of the others part, that they will then be an incomplete hand.
A few years ago, The LORD showed me a vision of a building, and told me that he wanted me to pray for the whole Body of Christ.
I saw this structure with the individual offices and various parts arranged throughout this building.
At the base were the apostles and prophets, and as I looked further up into the building structure itself, were seen how the varied ministries of pastoral, the teacher, and evangelist, as well as other ministries in the Church, fit within His Plan:
January 24, 1994
“Tonight I would have you to pray for the whole body — every joint and marrow. For My Church is made-up of many things, and on it at the very bottom, are the apostles and prophets.
They are the foundation and the founding structure. As you go on up the building, there are stairs.
These stairs are the pastors, and teachers and evangelists; for they are part of My original plan. Now know that I have founded it. The steps are made to hold the people.
For every step that goes up, has a representative of mine on it. For there are many stones in My building, everyone has a reason and a purpose.
Everyone has been joined together. Know that my building is made-up of many, many parts, and everyone that would bring that stone, let them bring it, and form and unite My Plan.
This is a building that I long to build. Let it rise to its full height. At the very top, I stand, and I search high and low for others to come and help Me with this building.”
We are then ALL a part of His ultimate design in the building of this structure, He calls His Church. Each has a place, each has a function, and each hold a “piece” of their own individual “pieces” to this great puzzle which God has very beautifully and incredibly wrought in His body here on earth.
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Here again is a Word from earlier this year which also brings to focus how important His government is for us to operate correctly within the Church, and again, how ALL of these various ministries and offices can and should work together in complementing and in “completing” God’s Plan for His Church in this age:
A True Government
January 1, 1999
“So… the New Year has started. It has begun, and with it, a New Year is ushered in.
What are the things you will find yourselves doing?
Will your activity be something of just running to and fro?
If you would follow it, there is a pathway which will lead out — it will lead out unto new beginnings. For surely, there are new beginnings for my people in this year.
This pathway will provide you with my direction, and the plan that I have for each of you. Stay on it, and do not veer off of it. There are many other pilgrims on this road.
Join with them in following Me. For day will turn unto night, and day unto night again. When it does, continue on. Walk unto this road, for it is my word unfolding.
My Word is filled with promises and warnings, and you will find these promises and warnings on this road. Surely, I stand with you at the entrance of this road, with all of the promises and blessings I can bestow.
As a Father with outstretched arms, I open wide my arms. I open wide my arms; I open wide the many things I want to give you, the many gifts of my Spirit, and countless blessings. I stand here with a scepter in my hand — it is the scepter with which I will rule the nations.
But that same scepter I AM bestowing upon My Church. For I want her to come into a true government. Not a government of this world, but a government which will instill my justice.
A justice not only for the poor and the broken-hearted, but a justice which will work amongst the members of my body; establishing them in their ministries, and helping them, and uplifting them.
A place where a pastor, a prophet, an evangelist, a teacher, and an apostle, can join hands together. Where the building of my body is strengthened through the union of these ministries.
This will be the culmination of my plan, for surely, I want My Body to come unto maturity. So, come unto Me on this road; come unto the things I have for you.
A new day is dawning for My Church. A temple is not built with human hands, but with each stone that you bring. Here, I cause this Temple to rise to its full potential.
And so… let there be a striving after this building, so that every stone and timber is employed, and then My Church will stand and will be strong.”
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Here also is a Word from this past Spring which addresses the concern of how the foundation of what the apostolic and prophetic ministries can bring to The Church.
Remember that this when embraced, then becomes a “teamwork” capacity, and not just a one or two-man show):
Rethink the Design for the Building
March 7, 1999
“If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the day will bring it to light,” 1 Corinthians 3:12-13.
“Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in The LORD,” Ephesians 2:20-21.
“This year as I’ve said before, will be a year of changes. Changes in many ways — changes in your personal lives; for in many ways, I AM redoing things in your lives.
Opportunities for ministry will open-up more and more. A new wave is coming upon my body, for this will be a new wave of My Spirit bringing new things… New things in your personal lives, and new things for the Church.
There will be changes in the way My Body functions in a Church setting. For My Ministers will function in the full display of their gifts.”
I was shown several layers of a stone foundation. It was made-up of a type of limestone rock. Then I saw the interior of a Church.
It had many beautiful wooden pews, brightly- painted walls, and various other objects in it. Then the scene changed to the basement, where I was shown the foundation. It had holes in it, and the mortar was missing in places, and it was done very crudely.
“The very structure of a building needs its foundation to be solid. For too long, you have been building higher and higher on this building.
You have not considered the WEIGHT of what you have been building with. Beautiful buildings filled with beautiful things. You spend much on your carpets and your walls. You have imported the finest wood for your altar piece.
You give and give to increase your own building. The exterior and the interior of this building seems to be in good shape. But if one was to go down into the basement, they would see some amazing things.
The walls which you thought were sturdy and strong, are weak. For there are holes in the foundation and cracks in the mortar throughout it.
The reason this has happened is that you have tried to do this without the help of my apostles and prophets.
What is to be done with this building? Can you lift-up the entire structure and make a new foundation?
I tell you….. it would be better to start all over again. Consider how a great monument is built. Its base is set and secured very strongly.
Otherwise, it would topple to the ground. Go back to the original blueprint, and rethink how this building can be created. And then, it will be sturdy and strong, and its height will be measured by its base.”
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Lastly, The LORD spoke this to me back in 1994 concerning some of the things which may soon transpire within The Church.
As it has been the time of renewal and restoration of the prophetic and apostolic offices and ministries, let us see the need how again, ALL can work together as one man or the rebuilding of this present Church age and structure.
‘New Wine’ for The Church
“My Church was originally meant to be a rock, and to be built upon the foundation of the Son of God.
But the foundation has become loose and fallen down; it has been crumbling down year after year.
Fancy buildings and organizational programs have replaced the original intent that I had for her. She has compromised herself with the world.
Pastors will no longer be the leaders of My People, for I will rule My People with an iron scepter.
I AM against those shepherds who lord over their Churches. The man I esteem is he who is humble and contrite in heart.
Are you going to be ready for my coming?
I’m not interested in titles or in who you are, for I look upon the inward appearance of the heart.
For Saul wanted to rule over his kingdom but I chose a young lad from out of the fields.
And it is the same today…. and he was a man whose heart was after my father.
A new era is coming for My Church though, it is a time for renewal and restoration. It is the time for the restoration of the prophet and the apostle.
Did I not say that My Church was to be built upon this foundation?
How else can the building be brought to its framework?
I AM breathing a breath of new life back into My Bride. But many cannot even see it or feel it.
You see, it’s because of how things have been done for so many years; but I AM a creative God, and I do things in a new way.
Have I not said that the latter house will be greater than the former one?
There needs to be new wine in new wineskins; the old will not work any longer, for the old container is falling apart; the old ways are no longer working.
Let Me clean out the cup and give you the new wine, for the old wine has lost it’s savor to Me. If you are to partake of The Marriage Supper of The Lamb then you must learn how the wine tastes.
Then when this begins to happen, the Church will “no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work,” (Ephesians 11:14-16.)
~ Stephen Hanson
Stephen Hanson of In His Truth Ministries came to The LORD is a special way in 1975 and has prophesied regularly since. In these end-time birthing pangs we are reminded that judgment must first begin with the household of God. Will we be prepared and ready?