Editor’s Note: We are delighted to repost a blog written by our friend Alan Hirsch. In light of our recent interview, Leadership in Crisis, we invited him to explain APEST further. If interested in learning more about APEST, please visit 5Q Central.
The habits of institution that we have inherited through the European formulas are coded according to a different template than the fivefold one. Christendom churches have generally followed the Bishop-Priest-Deacons model, or the more generic Shepherd-Teacher model (the so-called two orders of ministry), or the Preacher-Elder model of the Reformed tradition. Most of these, as we have seen, have managed to assiduously script a full APEST typology out of the tradition. The net result is that we don’t know how to even talk about APEST dynamics, let alone implement APEST. We are out of touch with the more instinctive models laced throughout the book of Acts.
As far as I can discern, to reconstitute APEST ministry in the church is going to require at least three levels of work:
1. The most basic and fundamental change needs to be bottom up and take place at the level of discipleship. The main emphasis of biblical teaching is not on knowledge about God but rather emphasizes personal devotion to God, along with, imitation of, and obedience to him. This imitation is to be attempted by following a right way of living. The word discipleship has its root in the word “to be a learner.” Discipleship involves, then, the way in which one walks the way that leads to an ever-increasing approximation of God’s actions in the life of the disciple. Following this discipleship approach, the language, concepts, functions, and vocations associated with APEST must become second nature through practice. This is essentially what we in the Forge International tribe call “giving language and license” we must give people new language, but we must also then give them the license to go and do what God has called them to.
At this level, people must be able to discern and name their own ministry profile, while also understanding and cooperating with the other ministries in the Body. When people do this, they get in touch with their own sense of purpose and destiny. Also, if APEST is indeed a picture of Christ, then all disciples must grow in all these five qualities to be more like him.
So we need to further grow in each of the five elements and not allow for people to just be good at one or two. Most training in gifts tends to promote a kind of specialization and leaves people saying, “I’m not gifted in that.” The 5Q approach does away with the isolated individualism and recognizes the source and direction of the fivefold is Christ. (The vocational tools described later in the chapter, along with the statistically reliable APEST vocations test at http://www.apest.org, will go a long way to helping disciples connect with, and enhance, their own sense of calling.)
2. The next critical level that needs to be recalibrated to suit APEST dynamics is at the level of the local church or organization. This will involve the leadership of the church/organization coding APEST dynamics into the living culture (the rhythms of the gathered and scattered community) as well as its organizational structures (the programs, policies, and procedures). The idea is to make APEST inevitable in the very culture of the organization/community and inherent in its structures, to gear the church toward greater conformity to Jesus’ pattern of ministry and therefore to its own maturity and impact. I heartily recommend that you consider using the resource Tim Catchim and I wrote, entitled The Permanent Revolution Playbook. It is a great group resource. (The tools related to “functions” and “culture” later in the chapter, along with the APEST functions test located at https://5qcentral.com/tests/ will also help leadership in this important quest.)
3. If the first two represent more local, bottom-up approaches to recoding along APEST lines, then the third one relates to the top-down aspects of systemic change. In order to effect system-wide change, leaders need to create a climate of legitimacy at higher levels of the organization through the integration of the APEST theology, language, and practice. Permission has to be given at the macro level for a denomination to engender APEST forms of function and ministry. This is, in my opinion, a mission-critical issue for denominational leaders to pursue if they wish to lead their organizations into a viable future, different from the current one, which is geared toward decline. Once people in the movement are able to use APEST terms and express the functions without censure, new explorations and deepening of collective understandings of APEST can begin to take place
Activating change through all three levels will have system-wide impact, and this can be accomplished by:
- enlivening lost truths
- legitimizing new concepts
- repenting of the obsolete (or incomplete) understandings of function and calling
- embracing change
- reshaping culture
- permitting risk
- celebrating progress as it occurs
Even more crucially it will involve discipling not just individuals but the organization itself—creating new habits and patterns of behavior for the whole system. This is the function of new assessments, tools, and practices along with an accompaniment of a coach or guide: at this level of re-scripting or re-discipling, practice does make perfect. (Various levels of coaching and training in 5Q capacities is offered at https://5qcentral.com/)
Think about what it takes to learn to drive a car with manual transmission. The driver starts off with unconscious incompetence—not even knowing what she doesn’t yet know. How often have you heard a teenager say, “How hard can it be?” Then comes reality in the form of bunny-hops or questions such as, “Where exactly is the brake?” But through determination, regularity of practice, conscious learning, and the help and guidance of a driving instructor, the task of shifting gears while driving through traffic and changing lanes becomes second nature—automatic, as it were. And then eventually comes the stage of unconscious competence—the moment when we arrive in the parking lot and think, “how did I get here?” It becomes automatic and unconscious.
And always remember: According to Paul, the wholesale recalibration of the church and its ministry along APEST lines means that his people, now and everywhere, might so “attain to the fullness of Christ” and become mature. Maturity is attained through decisive, meaningful, and habitual actions, even when difficult and old habits come all too easy. Paul helped Timothy “learn to drive” (1 Corinthians 4:17). Much is at stake—much more than learning to drive—so keep trying.