Ephesians 4:11-12 And 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; ...
In the past, I had considered the gifs spoken of in Ephesians 4 to be spiritual gifts like the lists in Rom. 12 and 1Cor. 12. But my opinion has shifted a bit. I think the meaning is that these are people. That is, God has given us gifted people who are gifts to the church: gifted people who God gave the church to fill the roles of apostles, gifted people who God gave the church to be evangelists, and so forth.
This challenges my thinking about the leaders in church. We frequently hear the idea that our pastors, teachers, evangelists are just plain folk who aren’t any different from the rest of us. Even more so that the “calling” to ministry isn’t anything different or special from the calling to be a godly computer repair guy or Jesus-loving health insurance agent.
Something bugs me about that. I get it – of course the idea is to 1) prevent pride and arrogance from destroying our leaders, and 2) to affirm those that don’t have the ‘call to ministry' that God delights in them and their work, as well.
But when I look at scripture, I do not see leaders who are ordinary guys and gals. I see very high-capacity, usually well-trained, and high-functioning people. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Jesus, Matthew, Luke, Paul, John – all of these were not ‘just plain folk.’ And when I look at the pastors who I’ve been shepherded by: Ron S., Paul C., John M., Dan B., Ben B., Jack L., , Dave G., (a string of Bible names there!) Rob A., and Keith K. – these guys have uniformly been very bright, could’ve succeeded and prospered in any field they would’ve entered, and worked hard at their roles. The same goes for most missionaries I know and the few evangelists I know about (I admit to not knowing any folks with the titles of “prophet” or “apostle”).
What is impressive to me is that God captured these folks lives, shaped them, and then gave them as gifts to the churches they served. God gave gifts of specific people to fill those roles. That's how I now understand this passage.