Fathers in the Church by Arthur Burk
The five offices of Ephesians 4:11 are to be Father focused. The intent of those offices is to “build up” the body until they “become mature attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). The link from Christ to the Father is established in Colossians 2:9. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form…” Christ is the lamp revealing the Father. The five-fold ministers are the lamp that reveals Christ in such a way that the individual members of the Body are transformed, becoming more and more like the Christ they see revealed through the lamp of the ministers.
The burgeoning apostolic movement has terribly misrepresented the Father. The abusive use of authority and the focus on the people serving the apostle instead of the apostle serving the people has caused the term to fall into disrepute in many circles. I am encouraged by the fact that Bishop Hamon and Dr. C. Peter Wagner have both vigorously spoken out recently addressing the issue. Bishop Hamon stated that the apostle is not at the top of the heap, the superior gift that is answerable to none. Rather it is the gift that has the higher responsibility to empower every other gift. He has firmly and clearly inverted the pyramid and put the apostle on the bottom, serving, not at the top, lording it over all other giftings and offices. Bill Scheidler has published a book entitled, “Apostle: The Fathering Servant.” Dr. Wagner is vigorously promoting the book as one of the five most important books written on the subject of the apostle.
The Apostle Paul used the imagery of his fathering work on multiple occasions (1 Corinthians 4:15; Galatians 4:19; Titus 1:4; Philemon 10-12; I Timothy 1:2). He also overtly avoided being a burden to those whom he was nurturing and he saw no contradiction between his walking in apostolic authority and his serving those under him (2 Corinthians 11:7ff).
While I agree that the apostolic office is to be the premier reflection of the fatherhood of God, I still think that we have a vast amount of work to do yet in mining the Scriptures about Christ’s apostolic model and how the office itself is designed to reveal the Father’s nature in a transformational way. We are currently operating at a deficit since the initial work of the apostolic in our culture in the last decade has revealed more about the sin nature of man than the resplendence of the Father.
The prophet brings two major pieces to the table. The first is a statement of people’s identity and calling. A major part of fathering is to help the child who is emerging into adulthood know who he is and what he is to do because of who he is. The prophet’s insight into God’s design is life giving and since each person’s design is a reflection of the Father, the act of revealing God’s design of the individual also reveals the nature of the Father.
The less popular side of the prophet is his calling to expose sin. Each sinner who is exposed already knew there was sin in his life. He was merely living in denial. God does not do denial. It is not part of His nature to pretend that reality is not so. As the prophet exposes sin, he portrays the fact that God lives in reality and does not ignore the consequences of every act or thought.
The evangelist has three different angles to his presentation of the Father. First is the Father’s purity and His inflexible holy standard. Second is the Father’s love for the sinner reflected in an insatiable desire that all men be saved. Third is the perfection of the plan that God conceived and implemented in order to bridge the gap between His hatred of sin and His love of sinners. When evangelists start focusing on the Father and not the sinner, we just might get a lot of people saved from their sins instead of being saved from their pain. It will be a refreshing thing to see.
The pastor reflects the Father’s skills in maturing believers. John 21 articulates three distinct responsibilities of the shepherd. He is to feed the lambs, shepherd the sheep and feed the sheep. Each is a distinct skill for different periods of the sheep’s life. God is a tri-generational God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The pastor reveals the Father’s heart for the new believer to not only mature, but also to move to the point of reproduction.
The teacher gives people a reason for the hope that it in them. Through the systematic exposition of the interwoven truths of Scripture, there is proof that our faith is built on a solid foundation. It has been well said that every theological heresy is rooted in a misperception of the nature of God. The first assault the enemy leveled against humanity was an assault on the nature of God. It is the teacher’s job to reveal the nature of God that is expressed in every doctrinal system. If the nature of God is not accurately reflected in a doctrine, then the doctrine is false, flawed or incomplete. If the nature of God is not vigorously portrayed in the correct theological systems that are expressed, then the teacher has built religious structures that are deadly in spite of their accuracy.
Moving beyond the individual skill sets, it is my opinion that each one of these five OFFICES were designed primarily around a fathering role. Specifically, I do not believe the office of evangelist is to be occupied by the designated soul winner in the church. Rather, the office is to be occupied by someone who has a fathering anointing and can identify within the church those who have various kinds of evangelistic calls on their lives. The man in the office of evangelist then brings those emerging evangelists under him and fathers them. He nurtures their gifts and eventually releases them into the evangelistic work God has called them too.
Similarly, one would hope that the senior pastor is not the only person in the church who is doing shepherding. Pity the church where that is so. Rather, every small group leader should be actively engaged in shepherding those under him, and the senior pastor is in charge primarily of mentoring the shepherds under him in the art of shepherding. This is a fathering role.
It is interesting that after all these years of ruckus and religious chatter about the five-fold ministry, I have yet to see a single church that has those five offices filled with people who have a clear understanding of their fathering role. It would be even more exciting to see a church where the people in those five offices understood their role as lamps, commissioned to reveal the glory of the Father’s nature. Most people in those offices think their job is to help grow the church. What a pitifully small objective.
Los Angeles, USA