“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” – Ephesians 4:11-12.
Wow, this could be a long post! Apostles: Well, apostles means “Sent ones”. Jesus was sent by the Father: “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you” – John 20:21, so God gave some to be “Sent”. But Jesus said those words to His disciples, so isn’t every Christian “Sent”? Yes, to a degree, but there are some with a particular gifting in that area. They go out from the church where they are and plant other churches; Paul (the writer of Ephesians) was an example of this.
Prophets: Prophets are people who have words from God for other people. For example, when my uncle was in hospital with cancer, my earnest prayer to God was: “Heal him, Lord, because if you heal him and he becomes a Christian, then people will listen to him”: I wanted my uncle well; I wanted people to listen and come to Jesus; I wanted a harvest.
But one Sunday morning in church, somebody told us they felt God was saying: “This is not going to be a time of harvest, but a time of growth”.
I told the Lord: “Part of me doesn’t want that to be about my uncle”; I kept praying for healing, but the prophet’s words came to pass: My uncle wasn’t healed; he did die, it did bring me closer to God, and perhaps grew the faith of others too. God has shown me quite recently, though, that prophets don’t just have to use their gift during a meeting; they can operate in one-to-one situations. That was a relief to me because we’re told in the Bible to want the gift of prophecy, and I’m much more a one-to-one person.
Evangelists: These are people who share the good news about Jesus with others. Again, all Christians should do this to an extent, but some (like Billy Graham or Reinhard Bonnke) have a particular gifting in it.
Pastors and Teachers: Pastors care for the people they’re in charge of, and teachers teach God’s Word.
And why did God give these gifts? For people to show off? No, He gave them so we could prepare others to serve God. When people shared the good news about Jesus with me, it benefitted me; that prophet who spoke about growth helped my relationship with God, etc.
Do you serve God in any of these ways? Or has a Christian ever spoken into your life? Did it help you?