I have spoken/written on many occasions on how I read Ephesians 4:7-16 –
that God has made each one of us primarily as an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor or a teacher;
that this primary role is nuanced by the degree to which God has gifted us, and by his drawing us into seasons of functioning in each of the other four primary roles;
that when we enter into his kingdom, we offer ourselves to the service of the king, who in turn gives us to his body – the church – as gift;
that each type of person plays a different, and necessary, role – but that our different approaches can cause real tension, even conflict, and so we must learn how we differ and how to work together, including confessing our failures and forgiving one another.
This is not a ‘church’ role, but a ‘life’ role – the way in which we are called to play our part in God’s mission to create environments for life to flourish, and preventing life from being overwhelmed by chaos...and at the same time, the way in which we can contribute to the chaos, if we misuse the grace we have been given.
Therefore, it is important to me to find ways of helping people to discover how God has made them, and how to live according to that grace.
One of the things I want you to see is that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers function in different ways in the same workplace. To illustrate, consider five British chefs: Heston Blumenthal, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver, Nigel Slater, and Marco Pierre White.
Heston Blumenthal : Apostle
Heston Blumenthal is a pioneer: absolutely committed to the tradition and discipline of cooking, but always seeking to push the boundaries, to do what has not been done before; to pursue a faithful improvisation, exploring, experimenting, re-inventing, paring back, challenging received wisdom. In this way, the vocation of preparing food is renewed – called back to, and forward in, its purpose.
Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall : Prophet
Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall is a prophetic voice, in particular addressing the supermarket Empires and the ways in which they exert control over producer and customer alike, and (as a meat-lover, not a vegetarian) excessive cruelty in the production of meat. In this way, our attitudes as eaters, and the practices of the food industry, are challenged to reflect justice and the care of the earth.
Jamie Oliver : Evangelist
Jamie Oliver is an enthusiast and passionate communicator, who is on a mission to bring people the good news that healthy and tasty eating is not beyond our ability to prepare, in time or financial expense or effort; and to encourage us to pass on what we have learnt to be true, so as to change the culture in which we live. In this way, the ability to cook is extended to those who previously lacked the knowledge, or even the knowledge that it was possible; and good news is shared, and shared in the face of many bad news stories about the state of our food health.
Nigel Slater : Pastor
In many ways, Nigel Slater is the antithesis of Heston Blumenthal, believing that “Real food means big-flavoured, unpretentious cooking. Good ingredients made into something worth eating. Just nice, uncomplicated food.” For Slater, food is about emotional comfort, and physical delight. His concern is that, in the pursuit of the vocation, the human need at its heart is forgotten. In this way, chefs are reminded that they do not serve themselves, but others; and that where in focussing on the food the person is forgotten, the vocation has gone astray.
Marco Pierre White : Teacher
Marco Pierre White was the youngest British chef to be awarded 3 Michelin stars. But White retired from cooking for customers, and has poured his energy into mentoring apprentices. Of course, the other chefs I have looked at in this post also train others, but in White’s case it is a primary focus, more than just an aspect of another pursuit. In this way, the next generation of chefs get their start.
This is just one example, and – as any one example inevitably is – a limited example at that. The point is to illustrate how different people-gifts serve different roles; that we need all five roles at play; and that the coming-together of roles can create conflict (some combinations more than others) (or blind-spots - some combinations more than others).
What has God given you grace and gifted you to be? Apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher? And how might you better work according to that grace?