Personal Calling: APEST – The Pentagon

Drawn from The Forgotten Path by Alan Hirsch and Building a Discipleship Culture by Mike Breen.  Both are available through on-line stores.

Key Passage: Ephesians 4:1-16

Five Fold Ministry is rooted in an examination of Ephesians 4, and especially 4:11-12.   APEST is an


acronym for each of the leader types mentioned in the passage: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds (The Greek word for “shepherd” is als

o translated “pastor”), and Teachers.  Everyone in the church who is 

filled with the Spirit of God is wired to function in at least one of these roles. Usually, people have a base gifting. For example, they are gifted as an apostle and are able to establish things, or they are gifted as a teacher and are good at helping others understand God’s Word. However, the Spirit also brings other giftings out in people as needed. The apostle, for example, may develop the ability to teach or evangelize.

There are many five-fold ministries/APEST tests available.  ( for example).  Alan Hirsch’s team has an in-depth test that costs $10 or $25 for a team – and it will provide you with a more thorough profile. However, the profiles aren’t enough. Discovering a gifting is a Kairos, and it needs to be discussed with the group and with a disciple maker. Often, those who are in community with us see how God has gifted us more objectively than we do than we do. We need to consider what God might be saying about us through the community?

Below you will find the APEST definitions from Alan Hirsch’s web site, or you can go there yourself here:

APOSTLES extend the gospel. As the “sent ones,” they ensure that the faith is transmitted from one context to another and from one generation to the next. The way they operate resonates with the work of entrepreneurs and developers. They are always thinking about the future, bridging barriers, establishing the church in new contexts, developing leaders, networking trans-locally. Yet if they operate from selfish ambition or immaturity, they can leave people and organizations feeling hard driven, used, and worn out. The shepherding and teaching functions are needed to ensure people are cared for rather than simply used.

PROPHETS know God’s will. They are particularly attuned to God and his truth for today. Their role is not unlike the role of artists and activists. They bring insight, correction and challenge to the dominant assumptions. They point out what we have imported unwisely from the culture. They insist that the community obey what God has commanded. They question the status quo. Without the other types of leaders in place, prophets can become belligerent activists or, paradoxically, disengage from the imperfection of reality and become other-worldly.

EVANGELISTS recruit like marketers and sales people. These infectious communicators of the gospel message recruit others to the cause. They call for a personal response to God’s redemption in Christ, and also draw believers to engage the wider mission, growing the church. But without balance, evangelists can be so focused on reaching those outside the church that maturing and strengthening those inside is neglected. If they get too ambitious, they can sacrifice the transforming, all encompassing nature of the Gospel, oversimplifying it as simply making decisions for Christ.

SHEPHERDS nurture and protect, like nurses, social workers, and counselors. They are the caregivers of the community. They focus on the protection and spiritual maturity of God’s flock, cultivating a loving and spiritually mature network of relationships, making and developing disciples. Shepherds can value stability to the detriment of the mission. Without balance, they may also foster an unhealthy dependence between the church and themselves and fall to the temptation to be “super Christians” which keeps the rest of the church from using their gifts.

TEACHERS understand and explain, like, well, teachers, professors, and instructors. Communicators of God’s truth and wisdom, they help others remain biblically grounded to better discern God’s will, guiding others toward wisdom, helping the community remain faithful to Christ’s word, and constructing a transferable doctrine. Without the input of the other functions, teachers can fall into dogmatism or dry intellectualism. They may fail to see the personal or missional aspects of the church’s ministry.

This balanced approach to leadership may seem new to many. Many churches, even generations of churches, have emphasized only two of the leadership giftings in local churches. Those two callings were pastors (shepherds) and teachers. The roles of apostle and prophet were often considered to have ceased.   Evangelists were relegated to traveling preachers who tried to win converts. Worse still, the only ones considered to be in these roles were ordained clergy. This was deeply unfortunate, for in many places the gifts of God’s people were not allowed to thrive. But God’s Spirit worked around that.

But we are better off to cooperate with the Spirit in this. We need all five gifts operating in the church. The good news is that everyone who has surrendered to Christ has received the Holy Spirit and has been gifted in one of these ways for ministry as an apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd or teacher. Naturally, each of us should be curious about how they are gifted and called by God to build up the church.

Jesus had all five giftings. Most of us have one—a base area—and the Lord may develop other giftings as needed and as we grow. But all are usually present in the church.

How are you gifted? How are the people in your huddle gifted? Use surveys, Bible studies, feedback from other members of your group, and prayer to discern how you have been gifted. Use the Learning Circle to discern what God is saying to you and respond.

None of us should waste our gifts.

Questions for Reflection:

1) How can knowing how you are gifted shape your work? As a disciple? Disciple maker? Church goer? Missional community member? What are the consequences for yourself and the church of not knowing? What are the consequences for not doing anything about it once you know?

2) What are secular parallels to each of the five types?

3) Connect APEST types with the characters in the stories in the book of Acts? For example: Peter and John in Acts 4? Philip in Acts 8? Ananias in Acts 9? James in Acts 15? Paul in Acts 16?

4) How many rolls can you identify in the description of the church in Antioch in Acts 11:19-30?

5) Is God saying anything? What will you do about it?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s