Hirsch’s main argument is that if we look at church leadership from Ephesians 4:11 we see five different leadership roles (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, but that the Church for too long has only focused on teachers and shepherds at the exclusion of the others. Hirsch says:
While at South, I was invited to lead a revitalization movement within my denomination—the fourth largest Protestant denomination in Australia. Seeing things from this higher altitude, I recognized that South was not the only church facing a crisis. My entire denomination needed to shift toward a missional culture if it was to grow and survive. But how?
We needed a new type of leadership, one with the courage to question the status quo, to dream of new possibilities, and to innovate new ways of being the people of God in a post-Christian culture. We needed missionaries to the West, but our seminaries were not producing them. If we take the five categories of church leadership from Ephesians 4:11, they were training leaders to be teachers and pastors for established congregations, but where were the evangelists, the prophets, and the apostles to lead the mission of the gospel into the world?
Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers—I refer to these together as APEST. But when I looked at my church and most others, I saw congregations dominated by leaders who were shepherds and teachers. What happened to the other leadership types?
Hirsch points towards much more of a collaborative team effort than what is seen in many churches where there is one pastor (head pastor, preaching pastor, exec. pastor, etc.) who makes all the decisions, or there is a very limited group in the decision making process. With a more diverse and collaborative team effort there is an increase in tension which brings fruition the best of all the leadership roles, rather than excluding some to the detriment of others.
Most of the people I know going into church planting today are wanting to go in with an egalatarian team of leadership roles that work together, rather than a hierarchical structure.
Here is how Hirsch describes the leadership roles:
We need more than a pastor and/or teacher leading a congregation. A missional church requires pioneering, innovative, organizationally adaptive, and externally focused leadership, and this means a five-fold understanding of ministry leadership. Let me describe each of the APEST roles, the core task of each, and the impact when one dominates or works in isolation from the others.
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. They are always thinking about the future, bridging barriers, establishing the church in new contexts, developing leaders, networking trans-locally. Yes, if you focus solely on initiating new ideas and rapid expansion, you can leave people and organizations wounded. 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. They bring correction and challenge the dominant assumptions we inherit 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. 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. Evangelists can be so focused on reaching those outside the church that maturing and strengthening those inside is neglected.
SHEPHERDS nurture and protect. 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. They may also foster an unhealthy dependence between the church and themselves.
TEACHERS understand and explain. 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.
When all five of these functions are present, the church operates at peak performance. To use Paul’s terms, it “grows,” “matures,” “builds itself up,” and “reaches unity in the faith.”
Sometimes it is easier for people to see the wisdom of this fivefold structure when it isn’t presented in biblical language. If we apply a sociological approach to the differing ministry styles, we discover that Paul’s missional ecclesiology is confirmed by the best current thinking in leadership theory and practice.
In most organizational systems, there is acknowledgement of the importance of these leadership functions:
* The entrepreneur: Innovator and cultural architect who initiates a new product, or service, and develops the organization.
* The questioner: Provocateur who probes awareness and fosters questioning of current programming leading to organizational learning.
* The communicator: Recruiter to the organization who markets the idea or product and gains loyalty to a brand or cause.
* The humanizer: People-oriented motivator who fosters a healthy relational environment through the management of meaning.
* The philosopher: Systems-thinker who is able to clearly articulate the organizational ideology in a way as to advance corporate learning.