The Missing Ministry Gift
by Rev. Eric R Towse

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
(Ephesians 4:11-13)

“We don’t believe like you Pentecostals. We believe that the gifts ended with the death of the last apostle!”

Did anyone ever say that to you? One of the things that makes Pentecostals unique is our firm belief in the perpetuity of the ministry of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Scripture from the very day that the Spirit was given until Jesus comes. Nearly 2000 years ago believers, in obedience to Jesus’ command to “wait in Jerusalem”, received the baptism of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire descended from heaven. (Acts 2:1-4) This was the beginning of the Age of the Church. Believers were cautioned never to attempt to use “enticing words of human wisdom” to persuade or reason with the unbeliever of the Good News, rather, that by a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, one’s faith should rest on the power of God. The apostle Paul was very clear on that. (See I Corinthians 2:4-5) Furthermore, that this ministry of the Holy Spirit would continue throughout this age is expressed plainly in Acts 2:38-39: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

Welcome to 'afar off'! God knew that a time would come that man’s wisdom would come into conflict with His wisdom. It is clear that God never intended man to take over from the Holy Spirit—reverting to human arguments and reason when it came to witnessing, since the ministry of the Holy Spirit was so powerful and effective. Yet, many of today’s churches have abandoned the supernatural for the earthly. It is the main reason why so many churches and ministries are literally dead, and the seminaries that train their clergy are appropriately nicknamed, “cemetaries”. The convicting, compelling, and comforting power of the Holy Spirit is no longer welcome —except on their terms. Bible-believing Christians with a true understanding of the relevance of Acts of the Apostles have a different approach to Spiritual gifts.

• We lay hands upon the sick expecting them to recover.
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15)

• We earnestly seek the fullness of the Holy Spirit both at the time of salvation, and for the power to serve:
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

“Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:30-31)

• We believe in the gifts:
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (I Corinthians 12:7-11).

But do we really believe that all ministries of Ephesians 4 are for today? Let us examine our practices, for actions speak louder than words. The Greek word apostolos, (apostle) means, literally, one sent forth with a message. All of Jesus’ disciples were named apostles: When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles. (Luke 6:13)
Their ministry is well documented in the New Testament. The apostles worked under the leading and anointing of the Holy Spirit to build and nurture the church. The ministry of the apostle Paul especially, resulted in churches being firmly established in cities throughout the Roman Empire. But what has become of that ministry gift today? Is the Holy Spirit still anointing apostles to establish and nurture churches or has that particular ministry gift come to an end? We need to examine this question carefully least we jump to a wrong conclusion. Since, as previously established, the Bible-believer accepts the power of the Holy Spirit working in the world today, the answer to the question of the continuance of the apostolic gift should be “yes”. But if so, then where are all the new churches?

Here, I believe, is the crux of the problem: In the Body of Christ today, with the exception of certain foreign missions, the focus of many church organizations is growth of the local church to the exclusion of planting. Sometimes a church needs to expand because of successful efforts in evangelizing the local neighborhood in which case a building program would be necessary and appropriate, but far too often the emphasis on local church growth suppresses the apostolic ministry and no consideration is given to church planting. In some communities it is less expensive to acquire a building and renovate it for use as a church than to modify an existing church structure. In addition to the concerns of planting new churches, another manifestation of the apostolic ministry gift is often overlooked and that is the training of ministers. Because of the emphasis on church growth, associate pastors are often encouraged to specialize rather than to receive the opportunity to develop through well-rounded experience. Some pastors express frustration when, following years of training, a seasoned associate leaves for his own congregation. But is that not a necessary part of fulfilling the Great Commission as well? The apostle Paul called Timothy “his son.” For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. (I Corinthians 4:17)

I believe more Paul-Timothy relationships need to be established in the Church of Jesus Christ today rather than the commissioning of Spirit-filled believers to “wait on tables.” (See Acts 6:1-6) The burden remains for the senior pastor of the established church to provide the opportunity for the man called of God to develop his ministry so that God’s plan for the establishment of new churches may be fulfilled. Many congregations may look to their contributions to foreign missions as an example of recognition of the apostolic ministry gift, but it is not—unless the contributing church established the foreign mission itself. Otherwise it is a much needed support of a ministry—although begun through someone else’s apostolic gift. The church today needs to be complete in its ministry gifts and in complete obedience to the Spirit of God. It should be the burden of every pastor and church member to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord and do so in such a way as to operate as close to the Scriptures as is possible. Since we are not able to “pick and choose” our spiritual gifts because, All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (I Corinthians 12:11)

We must accept the ministry gifts without exception as taught in the Scriptures, so that there will be no missing ministry gift, and that we all may come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)