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Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers - February 2021

Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift… And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:7, 11-13).

Last fall, some members of our congregation took an assessment called the APEST Diagnostic (About 5Q | 5Q Central). Why did we do this? With the departure of our associate pastor last summer, who took a call to another church in the Midwest, we wanted to get a better understanding of what are the strengths and weaknesses of St. John’s Lutheran Church at this particular point in time. In order to get a good representation of our people, people were invited to take the APEST Diagnostic from three separate groups of staff, congregational leaders, and members-at-large. Last month, we were able to meet virtually with Rev. Travis Guse, the Facilitator for Mission Engagement of the Central Region of the Southeastern District (lcms.org) of the LCMS.org - The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The APEST Diagnostic flows out of the gifting to Christ’s Church which Paul the apostle wrote about in the above Scripture passage. It is here in Ephesians 4 that the acronym APEST is found: A = apostles; P = prophets; E = evangelists; S = shepherds; and T = teachers. All of these gifts are found in the Body of Christ.

What we learned in our session with Pastor Travis Guse is that all of these are not so much offices as they are gifts given by Christ to his Church. For example, apostles are those sent ones who initiate new ideas, who do strategic mission planning, and enable rapid expansion to take place. Prophets are those who know God’s will and bring correction where it is needed as they challenge dominant assumptions, calling all back to obedience to what God has commanded. Evangelists are those who recruit people to the Gospel and help the church to grow. Shepherds nurture and protect as caregivers of community leading to maturity of faith. Teachers understand and explain the faith by communicating God’s truth and wisdom. None of these gifts is better or more valid than another. All are needed within the Body of Christ.

We discovered that these five gifts fall into two broad categories: APEs (Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists) and STs (Shepherds and Teachers). The APEs are the pioneers who are often out ahead of everyone else, and can be frustrated by the lack of forward movement in the church. STs are the settlers who come in and put down roots. They are in it for the long haul. These general observations are borne out in real life as we discovered most congregations typically do well in the areas of Shepherd and Teacher, but not so well in the areas of Apostle, Prophet, and Evangelist. Again, the ideal here in the life of any congregation is a balance between these gifts.

So how did our own congregation do with the APEST Diagnostic? There was agreement by all three groups who took this assessment that St. John’s strengths were in the areas of Shepherd and Teacher, but also Prophet. This is to say that staff, congregational leaders, and members-at-large all believe that we are gifted with strengths in nurturing and protecting this community of faith, as well as helping people to understand and explain the faith. Additionally, all three groups believe that our congregation can and does challenge assumptions, calling everyone to obedience to what the Lord has commanded. Where we need help is with the areas of Apostle and Evangelist – initiating new ideas with strategic mission planning, together with helping the church to grow.

So what happens next? First, let’s keep this conversation going and expand the circle to include others who may not have had the opportunity to take the APEST Diagnostic. With this in mind, you’re invited to join a Zoom conversation that will help discern our congregation’s future. We are moving into a different and unknown future, which might cause anxiety or stress. It can be strengthening during these times to identify and re-commit to core ideologies, our deepest beliefs, our sense of self and vocation. Why is St. John’s located where it is? Why do we exist as a congregation? What would be lost if we did not? What would be the impact around us, locally and farther out, if we ceased to be? What is St. John’s identity? What must we protect? What purposes and principles are central to our identity? What are we willing to let go to continue the mission? Your input and participation is needed! To participate in any of these conversations, please register at this link: https://sjlc.ccbchurch.com/goto/forms/294/responses/new.

With facilitated discussion, we will tackle each question and may end early if conversations are good! Times and dates are as follows:

  • Thursday, February 4, 7:30-9:00pm
  • Saturday, February 6, 2:00-3:30pm
  • Monday, February 8, 8:00-9:30pm
  • Thursday, February 11, 10:00-11:30am

No matter what the future holds, we know the One who holds the past, the present, and the future in his nail-pierced hands: Jesus Christ. We look forward to what our Lord Jesus Christ will make known to us about his plans for the days ahead. We entrust our life together as apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers into his care and keeping.

Pastor Jack Meehan