Most apostles have been used by the Lord at some time in their lives and ministry in the ministry of prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. They often are a gift mix. In other words, some fivefold ministers are prophetic teachers, others are pastoral teachers, others are apostolic evangelists. Paul was an apostle, a prophet, and a teacher (1 Corinthians 9:1-2; 15:9; Acts 13:1; 2 Timothy 1:11).
As I look at my gift mix, there are a number of things that are becoming clear. I have a strong pastor gift, but in some ways that has lessened over the years, even though it is still evident in the way that I think and minister. I also have a prophetic gift at work. I travel constantly to minister prophetically in a number of nations. The Lord is always faithful to provide prophetic insight and ministry to individuals and the church as a whole. While my prophetic gift is not as strong as some who are purely prophetic in their makeup, there is a discernible prophetic flow that comes out of me. Additionally, there is the apostolic gift that is affirmed by others to whom I give apostolic oversight.
An apostle must have the character qualifications of those in Church leadership (1 Timothy 3:2-7). Just as Christ, the Apostle, came with a servant’s heart, a modern day apostle must have a servant’s heart (Matthew 20:26-28). As a representative of Christ, an apostle must be clothed with humility.
Sent by Christ to do Christ’s work (Philippians 2:5-8), an apostle must have a parent’s heart. This means he has a desire to see his spiritual sons and daughters far exceed him in ministry (1 Corinthians 4:15-21).
An apostle will have a heart to release others, Since his work is to build, he is not afraid to release others to the work of God. He sees others as helping to bring completion not competition to the ministry that the Lord is building (John 3:30).
An apostle will be someone who other leaders will want to emulate and serve and follow (Acts 13:13). An apostle is willing to sacrificially suffer for the Church (1 Corinthians 4:9-13). As a father, he gives no thought to himself, but is concerned only that the vision of God advances.
The thumb, in this illustration, is symbolic of the apostle. The thumb is the driving force that can be powerful when curled into a fist using the other four fingers. If the apostolic gift rises to its place of power and function, bringing the other gifts together, a deafening blow can be dealt to the spiritual powers of darkness.
The apostolic gift is needed to bring the best out of the other four gifts. There is a healthy, divine tension that is present in the spiritual realm between the different gifts. Because of this divine tension, it requires the apostle in the centre to see the whole picture in order to take what the teacher, prophet, evangelist, and pastor are saying and move forward with a united and whole vision of the Church that Jesus is building. Otherwise, the tension may instead cause the other gifts to work against each other.
God has created the apostolic gift to help move the other gifts forward successfully. An apostle has the God-given ability to walk with the prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher, drawing them together with a common vision and purpose.