One of my abilities is the skill of simplification. It’s a gift, what can I say? I’m simple.
I take profound and even complex things and simplify them, reducing them to their potent core so that they are easily understood, communicated and transferable to other contexts and cultures. I do so without eliminating the most essential part of the idea.
It is tempting to think that the results of this sort of simplification is not deep or intelligent because it comes across as so simple, but actually the process involves a great deal of thinking and study. You really cannot edit something to simplicity until you understand it in its complexity. This sort of “editing” is only possible after considerable immersion in the concept so that you become so familiar with the idea that its most important core is discovered. After that everything else that is not the core is eliminated so that you communicate the most essential concept in a way that is understandable and easily repeated to others.
After near 20 years of learning about the five gifts of Jesus mentioned in Ephesians 4:11, I have been able to communicate the core idea of each gift with a simple description of only two words in my new book Primal Fire. Below you will find adaptations from Hirsch and Catchim’s excellent book Permanent Revolution addressing these gifts but you will also find my own two-word description of each. The first word for each description is the same. Because these gifts are meant to spread influence by equipping others to do the work, each description begins with the same word: contagious.
Don’t worry, the book Primal Fire goes into far greater depth, describing each gift, looking at both the strengths and the inherent weaknesses of each, and identifying how they were designed to work together. But for the benefit of more immediate understanding and communication here are five brief descriptions of the Primal Fire gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11.
He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. [Ephesians 4:11-12]
It is our supposition that the gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher were given to the church to bring about the full expression of Christ’s beauty and glory in the world.
- Apostles are gifted with “contagious empowerment,” and are tasked with the overall vigor and extension of the church as a whole, primarily through direct mission, apostolic designs of ministry and church planting.
- Prophets are attuned to the voice of God and how we respond to Him. They are gifted with “contagious insight,” and are called to maintain the body’s faithfulness to God. As guardians of our covenant relationship with God and connecting us all to the voice of the Head of His body.
- Evangelists bring “contagious compassion” to their role as the primary recruiters to the cause of Christ, enlisting people into the movement by transmitting the gospel and bearing the conscience of the gospel among God's people.
- Shepherds nurture the spiritual health and development of a loving community as they exercise their gift of “contagious unity.”
- Teachers convey wisdom and illuminate understanding of the revelation given to the church. These are a gift of “contagious learning” in the body of Christ.