I No Longer Know What APEST I Am

21866-knowWhat’s APEST? It’s an acronym for the people gifts in Ephesians 4:11. Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers. Forget for a moment that there is adamant pushback against two of these (Apostles & Prophets) and slight disdain for one (Evangelists). There are still large segments of the Church that put ALL of the emphases on Pastors and Teachers, which are often congealed into one person, “The Pastor-Teacher,” as if that person, on their own could equip his people for works of service, build the body of Christ up, foster unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and be the maturing agent for brethren. (Ephesians 4:12,13) Yes, forget all that for a moment. Let’s assume that ALL of these gifts ARE for today and that each believer has the DNA for at least one of these ‘Apostolic’ gifts because they are in Christ and Christ is in them.

Time and again the resurgence and import of these gifts bubbles to the surface. I believe now is one of those times. And while I may completely agree with most of the propositions about the need for fully functioning APEST teams within the body of Christ, It has become personally burdensome. The pressure to know what I am and how I should function has become a heavy yoke. Just when I think I’ve nailed it down and try to develop my gift ‘with the Spirit’s help,’ or draw close to another with the same gifting to ‘learn’ from them, I’m met with all the reasons why I’m not practicing my gift correctly. Just when I’m convinced that one of the five is surely not my gift, one comes along and says that it definitely is.

Admittedly, I have been caught up in the most recent resurgence of APEST. I’ve taught on it, I’ve read thousands and thousands of pages about it from historical and contemporary authors, taken every ‘spiritual gifting test there is,’ and have tried to develop those roles/functions in others.  I’ve even seen these gifts, or so I’ve thought, being conceived and birthed in others. You’d think I’d be more certain about things like ‘my calling,’ ‘my ministry,’ and ‘my purpose,’ on this megadiverse of a mission field. I’ve even taken one of those assessment tests where you ask a bunch of other folks to answer questions to help you identify your primary and secondary APEST gifting. (BTW, That came out overwhelmingly ‘Apostle)

Now I no longer know what I am. I know what I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be a Pastor, or an Evangelist, or an Apostle. I’ve told myself that I am a Prophet, and whether you like it or not, I can finagle your tests to my unconsciously desired outcome (probably the Prophet in me), but in reality I’ve often used the ‘Prophet tag’ as an excuse to be a bully in the Church. I am a good teacher. It comes easy for me. It’s something I love doing. But I have this unsettled feeling that it’s not ‘God’s best’ for me.

I’m left wondering today If I’ve made too much of nothing and I am meditating on Bob Dylan’s song of the same title:

Too much of nothing
Can make a man ill at ease
One man’s temper might rise
While another man’s temper might freeze
In the day of confession
We cannot mock a soul
Oh, when there’s too much of nothing
No one has control

Bob Dylan – Too Much Of Nothing – Lyrics

I’m not after ‘control,’ or maybe I am. I just don’t know. I suppose if I am feeling this way, that others are too. I want to know so I can act. But maybe Jerry Sternin is right when he said in his book: The Power of Positive Deviance:

“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting.”

At first glance it seems to contradict Solomon’s words in Proverbs 23:7 “As a man thinks, so is he,” but that just might be the teacher in me.

What if I wanted to hit the reset button? What if I wanted a ‘do-over?’ Would it be ok for me to just be unsure for a while, listen to the Spirit, not accept any classification or designation and just go where the Father says to, say what He tells me to say, and do what He wants me to do? A few questions:

Are any of you feeling this way?
What ‘advice’ would you give to me or others who are feeling the same?
Is the attitude ‘I just want to make Disciples’ ok?

0 thoughts on “I No Longer Know What APEST I Am

  1. chosenrebel says:

    Miguel,
    Personally, I think the whole APEST formula is overblown and your schizophrenia over the issue is a proof for me. All the “tests” are manipulatable. All of them depend on particular definitions. If the definitions are wrong the test questions can’t be right. Which means the test results are all thrown into doubt.

    God gives these gifts (or, alternatively, these gifted persons) to the church. That’s his business. I can’t find or make a good biblical case for any obsession with trying to find or identify personal gifting. God gives the gifts, we know we need them and value them in their expression. End of story.

    My motto, “Dwell in the land and be faithful.” (biblical)

    The task is to make disciples. Keep at it. You are doing a magnificent work.

  2. Heather says:

    I have taken several test to try to figure out what God wants me to do…
    I think our “gifts” change over time. When we are active in the ministry God may use one “gift” and then later change that to fulfill another of His purposes. Sometimes we try to narrow things into our thinking when really it is God who knows and is trying to teach us.
    I am constantly feeling the need to do what God wants me to do, but very unsure of exactly what to do…
    I do believe that sometimes we are in one place for a period of time and then God calls us to another so that we can serve, teach and learn… Pray, go will answer our prayers… In His time and His way…. We just have to be willing… Then when He answers your prayer, be obedient to Him.
    Making disciples, you are doing…. That can be done almost anywhere… To thoses who are teachable… I have been thinking for the past several weeks.. “Oh teach me Lord!” Then I hesitate…. I might be afraid of what He is about to teach me…
    Making Diciples is what Jesus did….

    • Miguel says:

      Thanks for Participating again Heather.

      I’ve been dwelling on Psalm 25:4 “Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.” When we ask the Lord to “show me” I suppose it’s not healthy to wait around for a teaching. I don’t know if it’s such a big deal, but I wonder if things would change drastically if I started praying for the Lord to “show me” instead of teach me.

  3. andy b says:

    As stated above, “dwell in the land of the fruitful.” Be what you are called to be while realizing each day has it’s own nature and conditions. We being flexible humans endowed with gifts of the Holy Spirit and leading are called to “ACT” appropriately to circumstance. Else you may find ourselves standing on the corner like a Jack-in-the-Box, saying…Can I help you Please?

    • Miguel says:

      Thanks Andy,

      “Each day having its own nature and conditions,” is an interesting thought. Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. Christie says:

    I feel your pain. As a youth worker, I feel lots of pressure to help them identify and develop in their “special area” at times, even though my own confusion about what letter I might be has led me to consciously refuse to label myself. I landed on the same thought you said at the end…to just follow God’s lead day by day.

    • Miguel says:

      Thanks Christie,

      What does identifying and developing others, particularly the young, look like in your context?

  5. I’m right there with you. These days I just put on whatever hat that’s needed at any given moment and go for it. I believe the more mature and complete we become in Christ, the more we become each one of them anyway, as Christ exemplified all of them in his life.

  6. James Marsh says:

    You are not alone, Miguel. I think the best thing in the world for all of us is to ‘push the reset button’ at times. We all can suffer from an obsession about what our spiritual gifting is, many times leading to the distraction from the Giver. I don’t personally believe that a strict categorization is necessary or even helpful for an individual in the Body. I think of Paul, who operated in all of these gifts at various times, as the Lord’s Spirit desired, appropriate to the need at hand.

  7. Graeme Cooksley says:

    The problem with this viewpoint, on this verse, is that it is too narrow and exclusive. As Keith Giles & Alan Knox has pointed out, why don’t we consider the other gifts mentioned in Scripture, the Eph 4 gifts are inclusive, not exclusive.
    http://www.alanknox.net/2012/03/five-fold-ministry-seven-fold-ministry-eight-fold-ministry-why-not-all-fold-ministry/

    I don’t sweat on it, a person functions naturally (ie they can’t help it), in their gifting. That is why it is a gift, it isn’t taught or “found” by tests.

    Always a great column Miguel. keep it up!! 🙂

  8. Claudia says:

    Thank you for your transparent post! I love you even more today!!

  9. neilcole says:

    Miguel, Here are some ideas from my book Primal Fire about this. You have inspired me to blog a little about this so watch Cole-Slaw.blogspot.com for a few posts about discovering your APEST gift. For now here’s a quote:

    “Approaching the APEST gifts based on our personal preferences starts us off on the wrong trajectory. And once the rocket has left the launch pad, it is nearly impossible to adjust our course to reach the right target. We must start with a right understanding of the gifts if we hope to see them develop as God intended.

    The gifts are not determined by surveys or interviews or personal preferences. They are discovered through hard work, failure, practice, and God’s calling and verification through others. This may not be as simple as taking a test, but in the long run it is far better because it not only reveals our gifting, but develops our gifting as well, which is something a test can never do.

    We believe that if you will simply focus on Jesus, love other people and serve them, the gifts will naturally come to the surface, and in time you and others will recognize them. The church is far better off when we just love Jesus and love one another, rather than worrying about how specially gifted we each and all might be. Of course, we can have both. If we focus on loving Jesus and one another, the gifts will manifest themselves. But as the Corinthians learned, if we pursue the gifts in the absence of love, we leave the most important thing behind. But if we pursue love, the gifts will come naturally.”

    From Primal Fire (Neil Cole)

    • Miguel says:

      Thanks Neil,

      I’m on my fourth pass through your book. Nutshell, “We believe that if you will simply focus on Jesus, love other people and serve them, the gifts will naturally come to the surface, and in time you and others will recognize them.”

      I look forward to seeing your posts and contributing the to the conversation.

  10. Steve Simms says:

    I believe that every believer can function in all 5 gifts. On any given Sunday in our participatory church in Nashville, TN, different people flow in different gifts. It’s amazing. Don’t limit yourself to one gift. Here are my favorite quotes from Neil Cole’s book “Primal Fire” about APEST. http://stevesimms.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/a-few-quotes-from-neil-coles-primal-fire/

    • Miguel says:

      Steve, I’m curious about the way you phrased this. “On any given Sunday in our participatory church in Nashville, TN, different people flow in different gifts.” How do people ‘flow’ in these gifts in a fellowship/meeting/church setting? For example, how does a Prophet act prophetic? Etc.

  11. Cody Smith says:

    I probably am over simplifying at bit, but as I go about making disciples I find myself functioning in all the gifts as needed. Today I am pastoral for a friend who is struggling with a traditional church structure. Just exactly the kind of place that likes to hang labels on people. this mna’s gift seems to be “willing and faithful servant.” which has translated into, not important at all..

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