What’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?