Preaching Articles



I’m often asked, “Do you believe in the five-fold ministry? And do you believe that God is restoring it today?” To my mind, that’s the wrong question. It’s pushing the cart before the horse.

The ascension gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4 are anointed people whom God gives to the body of Christ. They are the natural outgrowth and by-product of true face-to-face community under the headship of Jesus.

All in all, there are 20 gifts mentioned in the New Testament. If a group of believers gathers around Jesus Christ alone (rather than a doctrine, a theological system or a ritual)—and they are void of a clergy system—then that group will eventually produce all the gifts and gifted ones that exist within the body of Christ.

It’s no mistake that Paul used the physical human body as an apt image to describe the way the body of Christ functions.

When a baby girl is born, most of her capabilities are not present. She can’t ride a bicycle, add and subtract numbers or eat with a fork and knife.

However, within her body she possesses the genetic codes that will produce the physical development by which she’ll one day carry out these activities. If she is fed and nurtured properly, in time these abilities will automatically develop within her without being forced or manufactured by other humans.

She will organically grow into them. Why? Because they are native to her species as a human being. They are the product of human life.

In the same way, when a genuine church is born, it possesses within its spiritual DNA all the giftings that are in Jesus Christ. But it takes time for them to develop and emerge.

(Unfortunately, we live in a day when many church leaders don’t seem to understand this spiritual principle. Hence, they try to force the exercise of gifts and ministries in the body prematurely.)

What is needed, then, is not a restoration of the so-called five-fold ministry. What’s needed is the restoration of the organic nature of the New Testament church. And that is what God is seeking to restore today as He has in every generation.

Therefore, if we can discover how a church is born from God’s perspective and how it is to be nurtured and maintained, then we will see a restoration of all the gifts that are in Christ in the way that they were meant to be expressed.

The pressing question is, are we going to get serious about discovering how to gather around Jesus Christ in an organic (New Testament) way? Or are we going to blithely ignore New Testament principles and for the next 200 years continue to hope (and prophesy) that the five-fold ministry will one day be restored?

Again, God’s way of raising up the ascension gifts is by restoring true body life. The ascension gifts don’t magically appear because someone writes a book prophesying that they’re just around the corner. Nor should we assume that they have been restored when someone claims to be the “first,” the “last” or the “new” apostle.

Authentic apostles, prophets, evangelists and shepherds/ teachers are gifted people who grow up in face-to-face communities under the headship of Jesus—not as leaders but as brethren equal in status to everyone else in the church.

Because they have grown up out of the soil of authentic church life, they have been tested and proven to be safe to the kingdom of God and to the Lord’s children.

Their outstanding hallmark is that they glorify, reveal, present, magnify and bring into clear view the Lord Jesus Christ in unusual depths and practical experience.

This article is an excerpt from Frank Viola's new book, Jesus Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ.

Order Jesus Now by Frank Viola from Parable.com between May 5 and May 8 and receive the book at a 50 percent discount (the best price anywhere). PLUS you'll also receive the Study Guide as a FREE gift.

Frank Viola is a popular conference speaker and the best-selling author of numerous books on the deeper Christian life, including Revise Us Again, From Eternity to Here, Epic Jesus, and Jesus Manifesto (co-authored with Leonard Sweet). His blog, "Beyond Evangelical," is rated as one of the most popular in Christian circles today.

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Lawrence Mangone

commented on May 7, 2014

"void of a clergy system"??? So, let me get this straight. There will only be "pastors" if we have "no pastors"? LOL

Bill Williams

commented on May 7, 2014

No, that's not what he's saying. He believes in pastors, which is clear from this article. But pastors in the NT are not the same thing as the clergy system that we know today. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to read our modern notion of pastors back into the NT. What he is saying is that when we remove from the church our modern assumptions and "clerical system" from a church, the genuine NT gift of pastor/teacher (I believe they are the same gift) will naturally emerge.

Wyatt Timmins

commented on May 7, 2014

"Void of Clergy"??? It appears to be a core doctrine in many of the writings I have seen from this brother in the Lord. I take great exception to the notion that because a church operates in any form of tradition or has a 'Clergy' system, it is somehow not part of or is somehow less relevant in what the Holy Spirit is doing today.

Bill Williams

commented on May 7, 2014

I've read much of Frank Viola's writings, as well as listened to his podcast. What I have heard him say regarding institutional churches that operate under a clergy system is not that they are "somehow not part of or [are] somehow less relevant in what the Holy Spirit is doing today." Yes, I know, that's how it comes off a lot of the time. But he freely admits that God uses institutional churches, and that many people are saved through them, including himself, as he points out. His point is not that institutional churches are not part of what the Holy Spirit is doing today; rather it is that they are not God's ideal, and that many of the fundamental beliefs and practices of the institutional church are at odds with the principles God reveals in the Scripture. I don't agree with all of his conclusions, necessarily; but he does make many valid critiques, which it would do well for those of us in institutional churches to consider, at least. He is also very clear that no one should leave the institutional church unless specifically convicted by God to do so.

Christopher Cole

commented on May 7, 2014

Dear Frank Viola, Your anti-clerical stance and rejection of "doctrine" is simply not Biblical. Rejection of the teaching and order that the Holy Spirit has established - and the Church that He has built from the time of the apostles down through the ages... is clearly a rejection of what the Spirit has spoken through His word of truth and established in His holy word to us in the inspired books of Scripture. There was an order and hierarchy in the early Church, and that was passed on to "shepherds" (clergy) after the 1st generation and 2nd generation of believers. Clearly - an order of ministry was GIVEN by the LORD as a gift to the people of Christ ~ as taught by Ephesians 4:8-13 and I Corinthians 12 and the Pastoral Epistles of the Apostle Paul. Jesus Himself chose and ordered the leaders of the Church and the Holy Spirit confirmed His establishment of "Holy Orders" on Pentecost and throughout the Book of Acts and forward. Your statement, " If a group of believers gathers around Jesus Christ alone (rather than a doctrine, a theological system or a ritual)?and they are void of a clergy system?then that group will eventually produce all the gifts and gifted ones that exist within the body of Christ." - is complete conjecture and speculation of a post-modern innovation of established Biblical teaching. Your emergent church might claim "Christ Jesus alone"... but Christ Jesus is NEVER alone, He has established a Church ( and an order of ministry to that Church) to nurture an feed His "sheep" and witness to the world, until He comes again to fulfill the time of the Church (Colossians 3:1-4). Denial of this fact is promoting chaos in what our Lord has established for our benefit.

Bill Williams

commented on May 7, 2014

I'm not quite sure how you are inferring an "order of ministry" or a "hierarchy in the early Church" from Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12. These two passages speak of certain functions that God has given to the church for its edification. But I don't see anything in these passages from which to infer that these functions, much less those who are gifted with these functions, are somehow on a higher level above the rest of the church as a whole. On the contrary, the whole point of 1 Corinthians 12 is that all the gifts God has given to his church, are important. All are needed. None of the gifts places any Christian on a higher level in the "church hierarchy" than any other...oh, and by the way, the author is anything but emergent. Just thought you should know!

Frimpong Ben

commented on Oct 31, 2014

I think I agree with you brother. I read the post of Frank but didn't take critical notice of the idea he was conveying. Christ chose the twelve out of his numerous disciples because he wanted to establish leadership for the Church. The Apostles, after Judas Iscariot was out by the leading of the Holy spirit replaced him. We agree that in the body of Christ we are all brethren yet Christ established leadership perhaps to avoid chaos.

Bill Williams

commented on May 7, 2014

I figure this article is going to generate a lot of push back. But I'd like to see if those who critique it will do so using Scriptural support. The first two comments didn't. Christopher Cole's comments mentioned three texts, but frankly (no pun intended!), I don't see any support in any of those texts for a "clergy system," as distinct from the people of God as a whole. Perhaps he would be willing to elaborate. So my question is, is there anything in the NT that clearly establishes a "clergy system" as distinct from the people of God as a whole? And wouldn't such a system be fundamentally at odds with the key Protestant doctrine of the priesthood of ALL believers?

Dwayne Sims

commented on May 7, 2014

No Bro. Bill you are reading into what Mr. Viola said. He make his point very clear. I wanted just to deal with Mr. Frank, but now I see you have come to his defense. But I will address Frank and try and not respond to your posting after this one. It would be useless.

Bill Williams

commented on May 8, 2014

Forgive me for my confusion, but I don't know what you are talking about. On this board, I have responded to the comments of three people: Christopher Cole, Wyatt Timmins, and Lawrence Mangone. And I've written one general post for anyone who would care to respond. I haven't written anything directed to you. I haven't even seen a post from you on this board until just now. Hey, man, you don't have to respond to me if you don't want. That's your choice. But then, why is your first post on here addressing me directly? For the record, I'm not here to defend the author. But I'm quite familiar with his larger body of work, including his books, blog, and podcast. While I don't agree with a lot of his conclusions, I understand where he's coming from and what he's trying to communicate, as well as what he ISN'T trying to communicate. In fact, that was the subject of my responses to Wyatt Timmins and Lawrence Mangone. From the context of the author's writings as a whole, I don't believe these gentlemen accurately represented what the author actually believes. Of course, I could be wrong, and if the author is aware of this conversation and would like to clarify, I know he can do so. I've seen him do so on other blogs. And my response to Christopher Cole did not have anything to do with the author (other than a side comment at the end), but was simply a response to two Biblical texts he referred to, neither of which, in my opinion, offer support for a "clergy system" as distinct from the people of God as a whole. I hope this has clarified my intentions in this conversation. This is a forum where we can learn and discuss different ideas, strategies, approaches, etc. Some of the articles are helpful, others not so much. Some people resonate with certain articles, others disagree. No one usually changes their mind here, but at least we can listen to each other and consider a different viewpoint. You're welcome to join in the conversation, and you're welcome to choose who you will interact with, and who you won't. Believe me, I will not be offended in the least if you choose not to interact with me. Have a wonderful week, my brother, and may God bless you richly in your ministry!

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