(Dr. Ashmore is a dear friend and former professor of mine. He is the author of several books: Thy Kingdom Come: Just Don’t Bother Us With It, Thy Will Be Done: Recognizing Temptation and Remaining Faithful, All Things To All Men: Developing an Incarnational Ministry, Let Your Light Shine: Recovering The Biblically Prophetic Church, and On Earth As In Heaven: The Christian Family In God’s Image.)
God has given spiritual gifts to the Church in order to develop spiritual gifts in the Church. “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.’ So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his 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 4:7,11-13 NIV)
Please consider this: how well does the institutional pattern of “Pastor and congregation” develop the people of God for works of service? Most Christians (around 80%) just sit, soak, and sour rather than becoming functional parts of Christ’s body. I know, I know. The other gifts ceased at the close of the Canon. Really, now. Then why didn’t the pastoral gift cease as well? After all, why do we need pastors when we have the Bible? Isn’t the Bible enough? “Well,” you say, “somebody has to be in charge and lead.” Hmm. You mean Christ isn’t enough of a leader to shepherd His own people? Reminds me of the old days; that is to say, the Old Testament days, when the people of God demanded a king to rule over them, rejecting the spiritual rule of God.
So, what happened to the other leadership ministries created by Christ to develop the children of the Most High? Did they disappear? Or we’re they simply neglected, redefined, or cast off? Sam Pascoe in Jacksonville, Florida made this world famous observation: “When Christianity was in Palestine it was a fellowship. When it located to Greece it became a philosophy. When it moved to Rome it became an institution. When it spread through Europe it became a culture. And when it came to America Christianity became an enterprise.” And we know that enterprises must have CEOs, or pastors as the case may be.
As for the Reformation, the doctrines of grace were recovered, but nary a hint about a recovery of the organic Church. The reformers simply adopted the Roman Catholic pattern of “institution,” minus the bells and whistles, icons, banners, incense, etc. From Priest/Congregant to Pastor/Congregation it was the same old stuff, just dressed down. And how is this pattern justified? By developing a false doctrine that denies the continuing existence of the five-fold team ministries.
The fact is, the five-fold ministries still exist. And in fact, they are being revived (spiritual CPR) in these final days in order to recover the Church from religious institutionalism and into the Kingdom body of Christ, fulfilling Christ’s prayer in John 17. Oh, and by the way, these ministries are not “titles,” created by the pompous to exalt themselves in the eyes of men. They are ministries of Christ in the truest and most biblical sense. After all, Jesus loves us, this we know. He won’t leave us in the clutches of hirelings, but deliver us into the care of those who are truly called to represent Him in His redemptive work.