The called-out ones

5. The work of the Ascension ministries

[Click on the image to enlarge in a new window.]Ascension

Eph 4:11-13 (NIV) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

These are the ministries Jesus gave to the church after His resurrection.

Given to the whole of the body of Christ and receiving into their ministry a particular task these disciples are found throughout the churches of Christendom. They are and have been blessed by the living Lord with insights and an anointing that when used wisely strengthens the body of Christ and supports the Eldership in their task of shepherding.

As new local churches are planted their service to the developing flock is very valuable and near to essential if the true foundation is to be laid.

The furniture in the tabernacle of Moses portrays the nature of these “ascension” ministries.

The Tabernacle


This diagram portrays the Lord Jesus in relation to the articles of furniture and illustrates the central concepts behind each ministry.

The placement of these ministries agrees with Ephesians in pairing the Pastor and Teacher. They are placed over the body. Their ministry is intimate to the body and its functional needs. Heart, digestion, elimination, procreation are all in this responsibility.

Evangelism is to do with walking and the feet. Feet and it associated ministry takes the body to places where it needs to go in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The evangelist keeps the church at the feet of Jesus.

The two other ministries are concerned with establishing and shedding God’s light on all that is being done in God’s mission and in His house. These are the arms and hands ordained to keep the body suitably dressed, obedient, orderly and visible in the sight of God and humankind.


This is a person who has a distinctive ministry. He/she is a bearer of the message of good news of the saving gospel of Christ. The prophetic word in the Hebrew of the Old Testament speaks of a messenger who preaches, publishes, brings and carries good tidings. Jesus gave a summary of the Evangelist ministry when He quoted Isaiah. As a person seeks to approach God the first piece of furniture after the entry through the gate is the Bronze Altar. Here stands the Evangelist proclaiming salvation.

(Luke 4:18 NRSV) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,

The ministry or service


The word defined

a. To publish the good news

a. (Eph 4:11 NRSV) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,

.a. A preacher of the gospel.

b. To win the lost through preaching, miracles & spiritual gifts

b. (Acts 21:8 NRSV) The next day we left and came to Caesarea; and we went into the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the seven, and stayed with him.

b. A gospel messenger

c. To break new ground for the planting of new churches

c. (2 Tim 4:5 NRSV) As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

c. A harvester of grain

d. To bring good news to the lost.

(Rom 10:15 NRSV) And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

d. “evangelistes” = literally, a messenger of good


This is one who is called to hold up a mirror to people of God. He/she is able to instruct in the Word of God in a way that brings clear washing by the water of the Word.

(Eph 5:26 NIV) to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

Through this ministry the church is able to understand Christ in His church more clearly, by seeing ourselves in the reflection given by looking into the revealed Word. As we see more clearly our souls are humbled and cry out for God to prepare us for his service

(Psa 51:10 NRSV) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

In the approach to God this bronze laver is the place of preparation. By cleansing the priest in water they were ready for ministry in the Holy Place. In the church it is here the humble see the truth of the doctrine of baptisms and willingly receive the Holy Spirit’s blessing. With joy they may then enter into the priesthood of the believer.

(1 Cor 13:12 NIV) Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

The ministry or service


The word defined.

a. To establish truth and doctrine from the Bible

(1 Cor 12:28 NRSV) And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers;

a. A teacher and instructor in/of God’s Word.

b. To correct doctrine

(Acts 13:1-2 NIV) In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers:

b. An educator who is able to IMPART Knowledge

c. To guide others who teach e.g. elders & pastoral teams

(2 Tim 2:2 NIV) And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

c. One who instructs systematically the fullness of the Word in proper balance

d. To balance the inspirational ministry of the prophet

(2 Tim 2:15 NRSV) Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

d. “Didaskalos” = a teacher


(Isa 40:11 NRSV) He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

This ministry is placed over the heart. Without a shepherd’s heart no one can be effective in this ministry. The true shepherd will give his/her life for the sheep. There can be no room for ambition or pride, for this is a life ministry of caring service. Contrary to a much held view, this ministry is not a “ruling over” ministry in the local church. Ruling and governing is an eldership function.

All ascension pastors are of course elders, but they are not necessarily the oversight in the local church. Heeding their primary calling, they may be busy ministering to the universal church and shepherding the flock.

The ministry or service


The word defined

a. To show the saints the way of righteous living and guide them to walk in victory.

a. (John 21:17 NIV) Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

a. One who leads, into fresh pastures, watches over the sheep nutrition. sheep follow a true shepherd

b. To counsel the saints

b. (John 10:16 NRSV) I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

b. A good shepherd guides the sheep in ways best suited for growth.

c. Commits completely to caring for the saints at the personal level. Carrying the lambs, close intimate support and comfort.

c. (John 21:16 NRSV) A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

c. One who tends the sheep, Cares for their feet, keeps away vermin, infestation & disease. Knows them intimately.

d. Protects and warns the church of danger

d. (John 10:2-3 NRSV) [3] The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

d. One who the sheep recognize and listen to

e. Lays aside personal ways/needs/wants/ ambitions, in order to serve the church

e. (Mat 18:12 NRSV) What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?

e. “poimen” = shepherd


The prophetic office is given by a specific and personal call from the risen Lord. One who is so called, stands before the people as a man/woman who has been made to stand before God. He /she becomes privy to the “counsel” of God. A prophet stands with the apostle as a foundation ministry in the churches.

He /she brings the light of God’s Word.

The ministry or service


The word defined

a … To confirm ministry direction

a. (Acts 11:27-28 NRSV) At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. [28] One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world;

a. A foreteller of God’s Word and future events.

b. To pronounce judgement

b. For example: Ezek 35:2 (NRSV) Mortal, set your face against Mount Seir, and prophesy against it,

b. A forthteller of God’s Word.

c. To team with the apostle

c. (Eph 2:20 NRSV) built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

c. An interpreter of the Word

d. To speak the “rhema” word

d. (Acts 13:1-2 NIV) In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: [2] While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

d. A mouthpiece of God by the Holy Spirit.

e Interpreter of the oracles of God

e. “prophetes” = a proclaimer of a divine message; one who speaks forth.


(Psa 23:5 NRSV) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

The apostle stands with the prophet as a foundation ministry in the church. This ministry sets in place the bread of life in balanced order in the local church. Founding, establishing, setting in order are all part of this ministry. The calling has the meaning of being sent on a commission of witness and preaching as an ambassador for Christ.

The ministry or service


The word defined

a. To be a spiritual father to others

(1 Cor 4:15 NRSV) For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.

a. A delegate or ambassador

b. To bring revelation of the Word

b. A commissioned one.

c. To establish local churches


.c. One given a charge.

d. To ordain elders

(Acts 14:23 KJV) And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

“apostolos” = one sent forth


These ministries are given by Jesus after His resurrection. As Ephes.4:11 points out, they are anointed individuals, not gifts as with the nine gifts of the Spirit.

These persons are given to the church universal in order to bring the saints to a state of maturity such that each and every believer will be able to effectively serve, as the Lord desires. This Ephesian 4:11 charge is the most important and the central function of the five ascension ministries.

Being elders, they all have oversight authority IN a church, but notice this is not authority OVER the church. . Local church government rests with the elders in each of the individual churches. An ascension ministry is always part of the oversight in his/her own local church, but in other churches is subject to the local elders.

The pattern has been confused by the misuse of the word pastor. Pastor began to be used in later times to mean chief elder or minister, so hiding the fact that the ascension ministry of this name is given to the church universal not the local church.

The local elders have the responsibility of testing ascension ministry before accepting the message being shared.

(Rev 2:2 KJV) I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

There is an implication that these specially gifted persons are “travelling” ministries who like Jesus may find few places to rest their heads.

(Mat 8:20 NRSV) And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

The Ephesians 4:11 charge is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, or works of service.

Does this mean that like any trainers or educators they should move on from local church to local church and in the process grow each church into a more adequate witness?

We are still not agreed on the exact function of the ascension ministries and our lack of clarity continues to hold back the saints in their Royal Priest calling. A suggested approach to this difficulty is given later in this paper.

Some groups suggest that a single ascension ministry be given headship of the local church. This policy lacks balance and the church becomes skewed towards the fruit of that “Headship” ministry.

For example

A Teacher will tend to bias the local church into an overbalance towards bible study.

An Apostle will tend to always be establishing some extra function to the church. Missions, outreaches, new departments etc. Sometimes wisely, sometimes over reaching the capacity of the local church. Unbalanced enthusiasm can result.

A Pastor at the head brings out the caring emotions of the church. Results are often seen in strong hospital visitation, care for the poor, counselling, individual nurture in social activities etc.

When the Evangelist is in charge the local church becomes focused on salvation. Plenty of lambs but the sheep are often lacking in spiritual food needed for their growth.

Similarly a solitary Elder in charge of a local church who does not have an ascension ministry calling tends to skew the church in line with his own personality.

Scriptural teaching is clear that all the Elders (who in many/most cases do not have an ascension calling) should govern and minister to the local church. Their plurality establishes the necessary balance. The pattern is in David’s Tabernacle where all the Levites ministered before the Lord.

Wise Elders draw on the Ascension Ministries to strengthen weaknesses or support some new initiative in the local church as necessary.

The wisdom of all this is clearer if one again considers the story of Saul. Israel moved out of God’s perfect will and cried out for a king rather than the plurality of the judges

The NT church may well be doing the same. The effect on the growth the Royal Priesthood is an oft seen reluctance of church members to equip themselves for the full work of ministry and the reluctance of many Elders with a “clergy” orientation to allow or encourage them to do so.

The shadow of the early church after Constantine that established the Roman concept of a priest who stands between the people and God and offers up a sacrifice for them, colours the way in which the church goes about its daily duties.

This is a clinging to the OT priesthood and a denial of the Royal Priesthood of the believer. We must all remember that Scripture calls us to grow into the full stature of Christ. He was a priest after the order of Melchisedec.

(Eph 4:13 NRSV) until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

All of the forgoing is to lay a foundation for the thoughts that follow.

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