Why are they called different things?
As I have visited different Christian groups, I notice that they have different ways of referring to the ministries listed in Ephesians 4:11 (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers). One of the common names I hear is the “gift ministries.” Is there a proper way to refer to these five ministries as a group?
Ephesians 4:11 mentions five specific ministries in the Church that are especially given by the Lord Jesus to prepare and equip Christians for service to God. Scripture does not specifically refer to these ministries collectively by a particular name, so different Christian groups call them by different names.
Some groups call these five ministries “gift ministries,” but we feel that name is misleading because it implies that these five ministries are gifts, as if other ministries are not. The Word of God teaches us that each Christian has a gift ministry, that is, a ministry he or she is to carry out in the Body of Christ. “Ministry” simply means “service,” and every Christian has been specifically enabled and empowered to serve. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 makes it clear that God assigned each Christian’s position in the Body of Christ, and that every member is necessary. Also, Romans 12:3-8 informs us that although we are different members of the Body and have different functions, we each have a gift of grace that was given to us, enabling us to serve a specific purpose in the Body. Thus, each Christian has a “gift ministry.”
We have also heard the five ministries in Ephesians 4:11 referred to as “ascension gift ministries,” because Jesus gave them when he ascended. However, Ephesians 4:8 says that when Christ ascended, he gave “gifts to men,” and “men” is used as a generic term for all Christian people. We know this because it is defined in the preceding verse, which says, “to each one of us grace has been given” (Eph. 4:7). So again, each Christian has a gift that was given due to the ascension of Jesus Christ, not just a few select Christians. The epistles of Romans, Corinthians, and Ephesians, are all in agreement that each Christian has a “gift” ministry, a way of serving that is specifically given to him or her.
We feel that the best name for the five ministries of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers is “equipping ministries.” Although that is not a “group name” given in the Bible, according to the Word of God, that is the purpose for these five ministries. They are “for the equipping” of the believers (Eph. 4:12; NASB), and many other versions recognize that “equip” or “equipping” is an excellent translation in this verse. The Greek word the NASB translates as “equipping” is katartismos (#2677), and it means “a process of adjustment that results in a complete preparedness” (Friberg Lexicon). Various Greek lexicons define it as “equipping, preparing, training, perfecting.”
The word “equipping” is not only a good translation of the Greek text, but we also feel it clearly implies that the process of equipping is an ongoing one. The work that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers do in the Body of Christ is an ongoing one, both in the individual lives of the believers, and in the entire Body of Christ, because new believers are being added and older ones are falling asleep in the Lord.
It is a good practice for Christians to use the vocabulary of the Bible whenever possible to describe spiritual realities, and we feel that “equipping ministries” is an appropriate use of biblical terminology.
For further study on each of these “equipping ministries,” please click on the hyper link: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers.