The Church Will Be Sunk Without This

I am so grateful for the insights of my friend Alan Hirsch – particularly for the gift that he has given back to the church to reignite its missionalDNA and particularly reclaim the need for apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers (APEST) to operate, for the church to be optimal.

As he says, the systems we are presently running are perfectly designed to give us the results we are seeing. So I’m fully convinced and committed that it is almost the silver bullet the church needs. When we activate the 5Q ministries of Ephesians 4 through the church, everyone will see Jesus coming and the world will be changed like it has not since the beginning of our movement before it became an institution.  

Yet as I read through the NT I’m reminded that there are other lists of gifts and ministries in various places, and as a church planter, network leader and coach I’m increasingly convinced that they are also vital for this to happen. 

Paul wrote to the highly gifted church at Corinth, which despite its charismatic glories it was beset by doctrinal errors, celebrity preacher based factions and toleration of immorality in the church that even shocked the world outside (sound familiar?). But I’m sure the band was awesome and pretty much everyone spoke in tongues.

But God didn’t just want the church to grow, he wanted it to mature. So he told Paul to remind them of how the body works. 

In Chapter 12:27-28 he says, Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.”

APT is there, but APTMHHAT doesn’t quite fall off the tongue like APEST. That’s okay, because Paul’s doing something different here with this list of God appointments to what he wrote to the Ephesians. There is not one single list of the gifts, he lists others later, more in Rom 12:6-8. and Peter adds a couple more.

Which is okay because Paul already said there are different kinds of gifts, service and working – but the same Spirit, Lord and God, so this is not an either/or but a both/and. 

Then he asks a question set grammatically in such a way that expects a negative reply, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (29-30).

It seems he doesn’t expect us all to be miracle workers, which for many church leaders will be welcome news! Actually it’s good to remember he’s talking here about having a special ministry gift in those areas.

And while I love to speak in tongues personally and eagerly desire all the gifts especially prophecy, it seems from this that for anyone to insist that everyone who is ‘a real Christian’ has to speak in tongues, I’d say, “Shabbadabadoodoo” – and no doubt you can interpret that.

What’s missing off the ‘not everybody’ list? “Helps, and Administrations.” I chatted with my friend Ian Paul who’s an expert on all the Greek here and he advised me not to make too much of their non inclusion, but how often do we not notice those with the vital yet unapplauded gift of…


The fact is that without people who just roll up their sleeves and help, however gifted a church is – nothing happens. Thank God for the helpers! Maybe the reason Paul doesn’t take this out of his list is that that every Christian disciple must help the church and serve in what needs to happen – whether or not it’s your ‘gift’.

You may have heard the old story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody?

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

But the next thing everyone who makes a difference in the church needs to grow in is leadership, which the next word on his list which most translations render as, though some render it Administration.

Now again in my chat with Ian he warned me that administration is not the best translation of the root word here Paul used. He said to be careful about translating it straight as leader, because in our western mindset that comes preloaded as a title and a type A.

But I’m not sure then how we best translate kubernesis them as we’ll see, unless we are doing church on a ship or a plane – but it has elements of both.

Britain’s foremost leadership expert John Adair in his book The Leadership of Jesus which I have used for years as a core text for my teaching through Westminster Theological Centre tells us that the root of the word leader is one who steers a ship. And that’s the word Paul uses here.

Before I became a Christian, I wasn’t interested in leadership, because I had no purpose. Nothing to steer toward, my life went adrift as I was blown along wherever seemed to head toward that elusive island called ‘Fun.’

I had very little interest in making a difference through my life, until I met the Lord. And the Spirit of the Lord must surely be the Spirit of a leader! God put a leader in me, and then it was up to me to grow. I’m also naturally quite disorganised rather than administrative and detail focused.

However I believe this is another gift that every Christ follower must grow in, if we want to make a difference for the one who made ours different. Don’t elevate others as leaders at the expense of your own responsibility to grow as one. Leadership is influence as Maxwell says and we will use that influence for good or ill. To have the Lord lead your life first, then as you follow him you look behind and see others are following you.

And whether or not its an accurate rendering (Ian!), I found the hard way that nobody can be a leader without learning to administrate. No matter if I’m an apostle, teacher, evangelist or miracle worker, we can’t just pass on all the organising to someone else. It’s something that we should all grow in for the benefit of everyone.

In 1 Corinthians 14:12 he says, “So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church”. Do you really want to see the Holy Spirit flowing in the church? Don’t neglect this. Arranging, administrating and managing has to happen. Elijah builds the altar a particular way, the right way – and he puts it a certain way, then the fire falls. He’s confident. The fire is going to fall. He’s done what is necessary on his part – now the fire is going to fall.

Nothing just happens.

I spoke at a men’s day on Saturday and I was blown away by how amazing this church was. The building housing Urban Church near Warrington didn’t look much from the outside – but when you went inside they’d transformed everything. It was excellent. My definition of excellence is that they did the best the could with what God gave them. That’s excellence. Everything was put together really well. It didn’t ‘just happen. Nothing just happened.

But that’s the problem in too many churches. Nothing… just… happens. 

Only God ever made something out of nothing. In Genesis he says over and over, “Let there be”, and there it was. Since then, we can’t do that. We are created. People say they’re creative, but really we are rearrangers. All humans can do is take what God has already created and rearrange it into something else. We just take the neutrons, portions and croutons he made atoms from and make something out of them. We’re not really creative. We’re just stickers together so something is something else. Combiners. Arrangers. That’s what leadership is too. 

The NLT translates the word in 1 Corinthians 12:28 as “the gift of leadership” and with all the books out there on leadership, and all the others on ‘Christian leadership’ it might surprise you that this word is only used once in the whole Bible like this. It was used four times in the OT, and each time had something of a nautical air in the way I’ll describe. The word is KUBERNESIS.

In those days, if you were a merchant who needed to get your cargo from here to there, you would take your olives or wine, grain or gorillas to the port and hire a ‘kubernesis’. To get your crate to Crete needed somebody to be the pilot (steersman) of the ship. They would get out the maps and plot the course. They knew the waters, anticipated the likelihood of stormy weather. They’d figure out where to put the items in the ship so it would balance rather than sink and then navigate from where it is, to where it needed to go.

That was the job of a ‘kubernesis’. Somebody who thought through the implications of the venture to get you from here to there so you arrived, with what you needed, able to do when you set out to do rather than end up on the wrong island, or adrift hanging onto a piece of driftwood shouting “Jack” in a croaky voice.

Zoe and I recently decided to learn how to go kayaking together, on a beautiful calm lake in North Wales. It was great, a beautiful sunny day. But the woman who was our instructor was an expert in sea kayaking, and when we enthused about how before long no doubt we would be able to row on the sea she said, “Well if you really get into this, of course the next thing will be you’ll want to go out on the sea. But if you’re ever going to get more than a little way out out from the shore and actually get anywhere, you’ll have to learn all about the tides.”

Within five minutes my enthusiasm drained as she pulled out various maps and plans out that she used just to go around Puffin Island off Anglesey. 

“If you try to go at the wrong time, that will make such a difference! Every day, you have to know not just where you want to go, but that there are times when the tides will be totally wrong for you to go out. They’ll be going one way, you want to be going a different way and they will win so no matter how good you are rowing, you’re never going to get there. These are the things that you need to work out. It matters if the time is wrong, if the tide is wrong. You can’t just go out anytime you want to.” 

The kubernesis would know this.

I realised, I would have had to hire somebody! Thank God some people are particularly gifted and through their helping and ‘administrations’ they can help me as I follow the Holy Spirit’s lead. 

I’m desperate for the church to release the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry. I long to see more and more miracles, healings – all the gifts. That’s how the church gets built up. But without helps, plans, strategies – nothing just happens.

I want to take a moment and thank God for those who serve in these ways at the network of churches I’m blessed to belong to. Without various people who give themselves and their gifts of administration and leadership to help us to be able to do all we do at Ivy, nothing would happen. I’m grateful to for NewThing, that being part of such a smart yet humble group of leaders for the Jesus mission continually raises my game to set God-sized goals and then see them happen.

I’ll always have lots of great apostolic ideas – that’s how I’m wired, we’d hear from the Holy Spirit words about what God wants this particular ship to head toward next. I’m grateful we have evangelists chomping at the bit, ready when we land to tell people about the good news, shepherd hearted people already caring for those on board, and teachers who could tell you about the history of sailing.

But I want to grow my own administrative/leadership gifts and honour and learn from those who have it in spades here because I know we wouldn’t go anywhere, or get there on time, or run aground, unless we have God’s gift of nitty gritty leadership that gets the detail done – to get us where He wants us to go.