13 January 2007

Three-fold ministry and five-fold ministry

My friend John Smulo recently posted something in his blog about the five-fold ministry of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers, and he posted "job descriptions" for each of them. You can see his original posts here and here.

I originally posted the following as a comment in his blog, and then thought I would post it here as well, in the hope of getting comments from my Orthodox readers (all two of them!), who might be able to point out whether I have allowed any heresies to creep in.

The Orthodox Church has a distinction between ministries of order, ordained ministries - the three-fold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, and the charismatic ministries, of which the five-fold ministry is a sub-set (one could add, for example, healing).

It is quite possible for people to have more than one ministry, of both types. Philip, for example, was a deacon and evangelist.

I think your job descriptions are OK in practice, but not in theory. Good in application, but bad in principle.

Again, that might just be an Orthodox take on it, and it might look different from where you are. The thing is, the Church never "hires" apostles, prophets, evangelists etc. The Holy Spirit does. The Church never said "We have a vacancy for a prophet: here is the job description. Qualified candidates please apply."

Jeremiah didn't apply. God told him.

And so from the Orthodox point of view, the charismatic ministries are recognised by the Church, ex post facto. No one is "ordained" as an apostle. But when the Church recognises that someone has had an apostolic ministry (played an important role in church-planting), then they are called (usually after they are dead) "Equal-to-the-Apostles".

So Nikolai Kasatkin, a 19th century missionary to Japan, is now called "Equal-to-the-Apostles and Enlightener of Japan". Mary Madgalene, first witness to the resurrection, is also called "Equal-to-the-Apostles" (sucks to The da Vinci code).

If you look at most of the people who are called apostles etc., you will find that they have fitted the job description. But they weren't given the job description in advance and asked to sign on the dotted line.

When St Nina of Georgia was taken as a slave to Georgia she no doubt hoped that God would use her and be with her, but she never imagined that centuries later people would be singing about her as "Equal-to-the-Apostles and Enlightener of Georgia".

By their fruits shall ye know them, not by their job descriptions.

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