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A: Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the people of God who walked in godly offices were identified by their ministry. Whether apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher, Bible ministers were identified with their ministry office. This served a two-fold purpose. The first was to establish the individual as called of God. In ancient times, people were intimately associated with their teachers and the schools of thought that came from their teachers. It was not uncommon for people to receive a certain rite into the school of thought associated with their teacher to show forth solidarity. This is where the controversy over whose name Christians should be baptized in rose up in the first century. Some were baptizing in Apollos, some in other names identifying their Christian teachers. To be identified with God’s offices was to identify the individual with God’s call and His divine instruction. The second reason comes from the ministry identity factor. An individual could be identified in their service for the Lord by the very office they held in His service.
Even in Biblical times there was the rise of competitive and false ministries where individuals held titles they attributed to themselves. They used legitimate-sounding terms to make themselves sound like legitimate purveyors of truth. In actuality, such individuals were just trying to capitalize on an anointing and authority that was not theirs to have. Their intention? Destroy the church and lead people away from truth.
Those legitimate ministries within the church were well aware of false ministers. They acknowledged the issue, warning God’s people. They taught on signs of a false ministry and educated in the truth of true doctrine. Even with the rise of false ministries, true ministers of God kept going. They did not stop calling themselves what God had called them or denied the ministry they operated – whether apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher. They did not continue to do God’s work, but disassociate with the office because false offices arose. In a stand of warfare, they stood strong and continued to be who they were called to be in Christ.
It is a false humility to think we can do the work of the five-fold ministry without identifying ourselves with our office. If we are called to a certain ministry by God, it is most appropriate we stand in that ministry as we are duly called. To compromise that call is to compromise the Word of God upon our lives. Many think it is showy and offensive to refer to oneself as an apostle or prophet; yet no one thinks twice of a pastor referring to themselves as such, whether or not they are called to pastor. People can refer to themselves by non-Biblical religious terms such as bishop (added to the King James Version in spots in place of pastor or elder to validate the Anglican Communion) or father, and no one thinks about that, either. Yet many find “apostle” or “prophet” offensive. This does not make sense and establishes certain offices as humble and others as haughty. This is not God’s way!
In the Bible, all of God’s apostles and prophets identified themselves as such. There was no shame in being called to apostolic ministry. None of them found it necessary do to apostolic work, but call it something else or nothing at all. They all met the criteria God established for being part of the five-fold ministry (which still applies today). They continued doing what God called them to do all along in the face of bitter competition and opposition. That is the same duty we have today. As five-fold ministers, we cannot stop calling ourselves what God has called us to make other people happy. We can’t compromise on the things of God! If it means we are set apart from others, that is the price we must pay to serve in the ministry of our Heavenly Father. People can’t discern a true ministry from a false ministry if there are no true ministries available to see, grow, and develop!
It took me many years to be comfortable with God’s call on my life as an apostle. For many years I tried to use different titles and even ascribed to the belief I should just do work without “titles.” I have walked my own battle with this concept and come out on the other side with a stronger understanding, not just of my identity in this world, but who I am called to be in Christ and what I am to do for Him. Even now I still battle with those who try to compromise, add, or dilute God’s ministry. It is not an easy journey to be a five-fold minister, and that is why we do not take lightly the call of God upon us. Being an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher is not something to mock, insult, or alter. It is no place to mislead or misunderstand God’s calling. The association of one with their ministry calling is a serious pursuit of the things of God with understanding and grace. Above all things, it is probably most relevant we do not become consumed by the concepts of titles. “Apostle” isn’t my title, it’s my office. When anyone refers to me as apostle, including myself, it is a recognition of the office I walk in within the Kingdom. It is a reminder of the journey to this point and both the call and experiences of God within my life. It doesn’t entitle me to special privileges or to mistreat people. It’s not an exploitation of God’s ministry or godly things; rather, it is an upholding of the ministry. It is a celebration, a joy, and a continual reminder of the apostle’s call to proclaim Christ, as we have died to ourselves and operate a life in the Spirit. Far from being a title used out of conceit, the very reference to myself and other true apostles is an extremely humbling reminder of a ministry lived totally in Jesus Christ.
I agree the five-fold ministry offices should not be used as titles. Abandoning their usage all together, however, is equally misguided because it is the denial of the five-fold ministry in those God calls.
(Do you have a question you want to ask Apostle Dr. Lee Ann? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)