Intro to APEST

by | August 7, 2023 | Espresso

In these days there is a lot of leaders asking a new set of questions about the future of the church. The decline in church attendance and the dramatic increase in the number of people claiming they have no religion, has caused us to rethink our ecclesial models and practices.

For many leaders this has caused them to revisit biblical patterns and principles around evangelism, discipleship and planting new expressions of the church. For some leaders this has raised a new awareness, or a relearning, of the ministry of Christ as expressed in the “five-fold gifts” (Eph 4:11)

Many leaders and scholars refer to these as ‘APEST’ the acronym for apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher.  

Allow me to outline a series of headlines that highlight why I believe this is one of the most important developments (for some it is a major paradigm shift) in recent years.

Before I proceed, I am thankful to leadership authors Alan Hirsch, JR Woodward, Ben Sternke, Peyton Jones, Rich Robinson, Tim Catchim and Nathan Brewer, for helping me relearn the ancient genius found in Christ’s five-fold ministry.

1. Maturity and multiplication.

These are two current buzz words. Whether we are referring to making disciples, growing local churches, or planting new expressions of church, we believe we are meant to reflect the early church, and be mature and multiplying. However, according to Ephesians 4:11-16 this is not possible without the APEST gifts functioning.

As Alan Hirsch says, “the Ministry of Christ (MOX) is given to the Body of Christ (BOX) so that we may attain to the Fullness of Christ (FOX)”. When all five APEST gifts are expressed in His Church, it will be more Christlike and hopefully become mature, mobilised, and multiplying.

2. Jesus is the Archetype.

He is the fullness and perfection of each gift. APEST is how Christ ministered when He was on earth. He is Apostle (Heb 3:1), He is Prophet (Acts 3:22), He is Evangelist (Lk 19:10), He is Shepherd (Jn 10:14) and He is Teacher (Jn 1:14, 3:22).

At His ascension He gave these gifts to His church so that we could continue to do his work. He is the Head, we are His Body of Christ (Eph 1:22-23; 4:8). I like what Nathan Brewer said on this, ‘All gifts empower you to serve others for the purpose of building up the church and to make an impact in the world, flowing out of a motivation of love.’

3. APEST is seen in all creation.

APEST are embedded in the nature and character of our Triune God. As such they are evidenced throughout all of history since creation.

Have you ever met or read about a competent leader, visionary, or pioneer who is not a Christian? How about a generous, caring and encouraging person? Or a person with discernment, insight, and wisdom who is not a Christ-follower? Are these just personality traits and learned skills? I think not.

We are ALL made in HIS image. Or more accurately Imagio Trinitatis (Gen 1:26). Our Triune God expresses these five attributes through His character and His actions. He is apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, and didactic. As such, being made in His image, we bear these traits too.

4. APEST in the neighbourhood.

Following on from this thought, I have learned to appreciate more deeply the way God has made people. I can see the apostle in the entrepreneur, innovator, and visionary leader. I can appreciate the prophet revealed in the musician, artist, and futurist. I’m aware of the evangelist in the networker, recruiter, storyteller, and salesperson. I can see the shepherds (pastor) in the caregivers, social workers, and frontline workers. I appreciate the teacher revealed through coaches, scientists, instructors and teachers.

5. We are all gifted.

Paul teaches clearly these gifts are given in measures to each one according to His grace (Eph 4:7). Only Jesus has the fullness of all five, we have been given just a portion.

I know we agree with that in principle. I have heard thousands of sermons on this theme. However, many do not believe that applies to the APEST gifts. Many would argue the case that only a select few have these gifts; those people that lead large churches, mission organisations, successful businesses, or parachurch ministries. Furthermore, they are usually always referring to men.

I believe APEST resides within each member of your congregation. To fully understand this principle we must consider the historical context in which the letter to the Ephesian church was written. We discuss this more in the APEST colab and cohort.

6. We have a Gift-mix.

Paul teaches on the gifts given by our Triune God in Romans 12:6-8, 1Corinthians 12:4-11 and Ephesians 4:11-16. Gifts imparted to us by the Father, Spirit, and Son respectively. Various denominations emphasize one set of gifts over the other or ignore them completely. This truncated understanding of the God-given gifts has impacted the way in which in we have developed our limited leadership and church models.

Each one of us have been given a mixture of gifts from these 21 gifts described by Paul. I believe our Gift-Mix moderates and dictates our behaviour more than our personality, education or experience.

7. Redefining ministry.

APEST are not titles, positions, offices, roles, or endowments. Those are given by man. APEST are callings and capacities given to us by Christ so that we can minister His grace, truth, love, and power effectively to other people.

APEST is Christ’s design and pattern for continuing His work in the world through us. John Piper echoes 1Peter 4:10 by defining a gift as ‘the personally unique God-given capacity to steward His grace to others’. My ministry (calling) is shaped by my response to His grace.

8. By His Grace.

APEST are deposits of His grace! Ephesians 4:7 says ‘to each one of us grace was given’. Christ is the initiator, not us. We are not a particular APEST gift because we fasted and prayed, pleaded with God, desired them, received a prophecy, read a book, completed an assessment, and educated ourselves.

When studying Romans 12, 1Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, the connection between grace and gifting is undeniable. We don’t choose who is gifted a particular way. God does the choosing.  

9. Equipping Others.

As a mature leader I feel immense responsibility to train others through teaching, writing, apprenticeship, and life-on-life discipleship. To be an effective equipper I must be like Barnabas and be able to see the grace of God on people’s lives (Acts 11:23).

How do we develop immature apostles? How do we apprentice young prophets? When does that process start? What are the prerequisites for being recognised as an APEST gift in your tradition? Do they have to prove competency in certain programs? Do they have to be male? Your answer to these questions, will help explain why your church or denomination is experiencing certain challenges.


If you want to explore APEST further, and explore how this can help your ministry, church or organisation, contact me . I offer a one-day colab for you, your team or entire congregation. I also offer a more in-depth bespoke cohort for pastors and leaders.

Gary Rucci has been serving in christian leadership since 1989. Together with his wife Nikki, also a credentialled minister, he has served in various portfolios in a few of Australia’s largest churches and alongside many influential pastors and not-for-profit leaders. Gary loves to network and collaborate with others across the Body of Christ. Gary and Nikki live in Brisbane and have three adult children.