Is It Time For A DNR on APEST?

dnrWhat’s a DNR? A DNR is an order not to resuscitate a person who has stopped breathing by trying to breathe life back into them.

What’s APEST? APEST in an acronym for the people gifts in Ephesians 4:11 ~ “So Christ himself gave the Apostles, the Prophets, the Evangelists, the Shepherd/pastors and Teachers.”

What’s more important? Identifying who’s who in the spiritual gifts department or recognizing what people are gifted in what ways for God’s purposes, Kingdom living, and the edification of the church body? For example, what does a post resurrection prophet do? How can the church know what he or she looks like? How can the church foster those traits, or in the least, remove the obstacles which will allow them to flourish? Isn’t it more important to reinforce prophetic action than to reinvent prophets? Should we toss out the designations and focus on the discipleship?

Every APEST movement in recent history has fallen on its face. From Edward Irving in 1824, to John Alexander Dowie in 1896, to the Azusa Street revival in 1906, to the Sharon Orphanage in Canada in 1948, to the Charismatic Movement of the late 1960s, to Peter Wagner’s conference at Fuller Theological Seminary entitled the National Symposium on the “Post-Denominational Church,” to the current movements.

What makes the modern APEST movements a little bit different is that they, for the most part, are not seeking “titles” or pushing the positions of the Apostle & Prophet. Some still do, but they are usually the APEST movements that try to emerge from traditional, hierarchical, and clergical structures.  The TITLES of ‘Pastor,’ ‘Teacher,’ and ‘Evangelist,’ are readily accepted in those paradigms.  My point is that APEST movements tend to circle the drain. Why is that? I think it’s because the church, over and over again, gets more focused on categorizing than community, more focused on designation than discipleship, more focused on ‘cashing in’ than on Christ.

Here’s my proposition:

Let’s reexamine the examples of post resurrection apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. Let’s look at what they actually did. Let’s look at how their actions edified the church. Let’s figure out not only how to imitate them, but “do even greater things” (John 14:12), than they did. Let’s stop classifying people and herding them into anemic and abiblical roles for the advancement of our own agendas. Let’s not breathe life back into old and ineffective APEST movements.  Even the recently dead will twitch, jerk, and writhe about when zapped with shock paddles.

Am I wrong here? Feel free to “let me have it.”

This is a follow-up post to: “A Crisis of Sorts… Regarding APEST” That post will give you some background, and you may read it here.

0 thoughts on “Is It Time For A DNR on APEST?

  1. Mark Guinn says:

    Have you seen the M. Night Shyamalan movie Lady in the Water? It’s not a great movie but one of the interesting elements is that there are all these sort of mythical roles like “the guardian” and they’re trying to figure out who fits each role and (spoiler alert) there’s this interesting point where you find out the people you thought were the obvious choices are not the role you think. I always think about that movie when this subject comes up.

    I think the concept is clearly helpful in helping people understand and look for their giftings and value each other’s differences. I do think the tests and clear-cut definitions don’t hold a lot of water though. It does seem that in community and on mission it’s possible over time to discern people who God seems to have given us in each of those functions, but again, it’s not always the most obvious choice or the kind of thing you could have a 5 minute conversation with someone and figure out.

    I think that’s sort of what you’re saying as well?

    • Miguel says:


      I appreciate your view that APEST helps us to look for giftings and ‘value differences.’ I find myself thinking from time to time that “X” behavior in a person is characteristically prophetic etc…

      As a person who wants to see disciples made, local fellowships duplicate, and ‘motion’ in the body continue, I want to be able to recognize these gifts and ‘arrange’ them in the most conducive way possible. But, I’m beginning to question my APEST assumptions. Mostly, because classical, non-referenced, and vacuum packed definitions aren’t cutting it for me right now.

      I think you captured my somewhat scattered thoughts well.

  2. Stan Meador says:

    Hi Miguel!

    Valid question. I commented the other day about the necessity of understanding the NT church context if one is to understand APEST. I still stick by that. I do not think it wrong, nor a hindrance, to seek to understand the APEST roles today and even to see them thrive.

    One problem I have seen is that some people teaching about APEST believe that every follower of Jesus is one of the five or will become one of the five. I do not find that in Scripture at all. So, I think it important to understand APEST and for those functions to be active among the followers of Jesus – for the equipping of the saints.

    One of my big questions about the APEST is this – if all five were necessary in the first Century church why do people think they are not necessary now? Scripturally I can find nothing that says they ceased to be necessary.

    I personally am not concerned whether an apostles calls himself an apostle – most of the apostles I know do not like the title and do not call themselves by it. On the other hand, many who are false apostles really enjoy hearing the title before their name.

    As I was learning about APEST I came to one conclusion – nothing in Scripture says all five will necessarily be present at any one time. In my experience, God brings the right giftedness to the task in the right time. So, I learned that I cannot arrange them at all – that is the Holy Spirit’s job.

    Understanding the function of the five, and which of the five I am, allows me to understand what giftedness is needed at what moment. I can either watch for God to bring it into the mix or I can seek after someone I know who has that function. If neither is possible, I may have to function outside my giftedness, as each of the five must do from time to time.

    Does any of the resonate with you? Does it stimulate other questions?

  3. Jim Wright says:

    If anyone wants evidence of the long-running struggle by local churches over how to deal with the problems typically associated with roaming “apostles” and “prophets”, just look at the Didache.

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