There’s more than one way to plant a church, and a lot of that is determined by the giftedness and calling of the leader. This week we’ll be looking at the five different types of church leaders—Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher—and what each of them means for church planting.
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11)
An Apostle is one sent to lay a foundation for the expansion of the church with a specific, God-given assignment. 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. Yet 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. (Note: This definition is a composite drawn from Beyond Church Planting by Robert E. Logan and Neil Cole and from The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch.)
Generally speaking, planters who are Apostles are better suited for a “start and go” approach. Essentially, the more toward the apostolic side you are, the more you need to think through a strategy that raises up other leaders so you don’t have to stay on and manage it. Think Paul and Barnabas. Apostles need to move on. They do best in pioneering situations, and attempts to stay on and pastor the flock can go badly wrong, unless they have fully empowered co-leaders with gifts from the other end of the spectrum.
If you want to find your own leanings and where you fall on this continuum, take the APEST online self-assessment inventory.