What Are the Leadership Gifts?

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We have been talking about the gifts of the Spirit in our Seek the Gifts series. In our previous post, we described the three categories of the gifts. In our next three posts, we will break down each of the categories and describe the gifts.

First are the leadership, or ministry, gifts. They bring leadership for ministry to the Church. They lead by example, and they have different areas of leadership. Let’s dive in and take a closer look at the leadership gifts.

The Fivefold Ministry

The leadership gifts are often called the fivefold ministry of the Church. These five gifts empower the Church for ministry to the body and to the world. They are on the front lines of their areas of ministry to the Church.

As we go through each of these five gifts, we will concentrate on how their area of ministry is vital to the Church. When you hear of each of the gifts, think about your skills, your passion, and if you believe the Holy Spirit has gifted you with any of them.

Toward the end of our serious, I will talk about how you can know your gifts and become effective in them so the Spirit can minister through you to those around you.

Their Purpose

We often get so excited about discovering our gifts we forget their purpose within the body of Christ. After Paul gives the list, he describes their purpose (Ephesians 4:12-16). I see four purposes throughout these verses that pinpoint the purpose of the fivefold ministry gifts.

First, Paul says these gifts equip the saints for ministry. They give us the ability to serve Jesus, one another, and people in our sphere of influence. They guide us into effective ministry. They teach us how to minister to others with our gifts.

Second, they build up the body of Christ. Elsewhere in the New Testament, several apostles described the church as a holy building, a house or Temple for the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:9-10; 2; 1 Peter Revelation 21-22). The New Testament talks a lot about building one another up, encouraging one another in the faith.

Through his leadership and ministry gifts, the Church is built up, encouraged to do the work of Jesus until He returns. Through each of these gifts, God places leaders in our lives to make it possible for us to continue working for Jesus and serving Him.

Third, they help us attain unity in the body of Christ. Without the unity of the Spirit, we would be going in different directions. We would not be a body. We would have different versions of the faith. But we cannot move forward for Jesus without unity.

There are many denominations and groups of Christians, but every Christian professes the major doctrines of the faith, or that person is not a Christian. Unity in the faith means we espouse the major doctrines together as one. We may differ on minor doctrines, but we major in the majors.

These five ministries keep us together. Through teaching and guiding everyone in the Church, they lead us into unity of the faith and the body. They guide us into proper doctrine and keep us focused on Christ.

This unity includes gaining knowledge of Jesus. This is not just had knowledge, knowing facts about Jesus. But they lead us into an experiential and personal knowledge of Jesus in our lives. We don’t just know about Him. We know Him.

Finally, they lead us into maturity in Christ. Through these five ministry gifts, we become more like Jesus. We become complete in holiness and righteousness. We don’t get tossed around by every wave of teaching. We know what we believe and why we believe it.

We combine truth and love. Truth cuts to the core, and can drive people away from the faith without love. Love seeks to cover over sins instead of sharing the truth of why they are so dangerous. We need the approach of love while we tell the truth.

Office or Function?

Scholars and Bible teachers have long sought to understand whether these gifts are offices in the Church or functions for ministry. If we see them as offices, we give titles to people who offer leadership in these five areas.

Thus, an apostle would be called, “Apostle So-And-So.” People see that person like the apostles in the New Testament, one who has authority over the weighty matters of doctrine and practice in the Church.

If we understand ministry gifts as functions within the body, we’re less concerned with titles and positions and more concerned about them guiding us. When we need to be taught what God’s Word means and how to apply it to our situation, we call on one who has the gift of teaching.

I can see the argument for these gifts as offices. But I side more with the idea of these gifts functioning within the body when they are most needed. This keeps us from thinking too highly of ourselves because we are part of an institutionalized office of the Church.

The leadership gifts are not about asserting authority. They are about functioning to lead the church in that area of ministry. Apostles do their work to build the Church up in new works. Pastors Shepherd the church in spiritual formation and growth. And so on.

Although I believe we should see these gifts more as functions, I don’t argue with someone who sees them as offices. As long as we allow these gifts to operate among us in the people who lead in their area of ministry, the gifts accomplish the Spirit’s purposes.

The fivefold ministry is not a list of gifts, but people the Spirit gives to the Church. Unlike receiving a gift, such as miracles or healings, the leadership gifts are people gifted to the church with these capabilities.


An apostle is a person sent by God to do His work. We get a better understanding of an apostle when we see how they functioned in the New Testament.

Everywhere you saw apostles like Paul or Peter, they were advancing the gospel in new places the Church had never been before. Peter ministered to the Jews while Paul ministered to the Gentiles.

The debate about apostles lies in understanding to eras of apostleship. While apostles in the New Testament and today pioneer new works for the Church, New Testament apostles also had authority to write Scripture. Today’s apostles do not have that authority.

So what do today’s apostles look like? We know them today as missionaries. Most apostles start new works in other countries or breaking new ground for the Church in ethnic areas. They spread the gospel by finding ways to connect to new cultures.


We know Old Testament prophets for some of the most fantastical declarations about future events, sometimes hundreds of years before they happen. Many people get the impression that the prophetic gift to the Church has the same predictive aim.

But the prophetic gift does not need to incorporate predictive capabilities. In fact, Old Testament prophets addressed their culture when its priorities didn’t match God’s law and commandments. They called out the wickedness and injustices of their culture.

This is the priority of prophets in today’s world. If you see that injustices around you don’t line up with biblical values, and address them, then you may have the prophetic gift. Prophets function in the Church to keep her from going astray, taking on the values of the world instead of godly values.

Many people don’t want to be prophets because they can be abrasive when correcting wrong values in the Church. They also speak encouragement to the Church, but when they speak against wrong values and actions, people see it as a harsh word.

But sometimes this attitude is warranted in the body of believers. When we aren’t doing what God wants us to do, He is angry first. He speaks His work through the prophets in the Church to correct us and get us back on the right path.


Jesus expects every Christian to be an evangelist. But the gift of evangelists for the Church takes the Great Commission for all of us and sets it on fire in evangelists. Evangelists are not just well-equipped to reach the lost, but teach others how to be more effective in evangelism.

They lead in witnessing about Christ and see greater results than most Christians. The Holy Spirit speaks through them to the worldliness of this culture. Their testimonies are powerful, and unbelievers notice their lifestyle evangelism.

But they are not better than other Christians. They only have the gift to lead in evangelism and teach the rest of us to be more effective in our witnessing efforts. God gives them new ideas on how to reach this world for Christ.


The original word for pastors carries the idea of shepherds. Pastors have a gift for shepherding God’s people, caring for the flock of God’s sheep. They protect us from false doctrine and worldliness. They lead us into the blessings and promises of God.

These spiritual leaders give direction and vision to God’s desires for us. They are leaders of churches. They heal and counsel, serving the needs of those who experienced spiritual, emotional, financial, and relational abuse.

Pastors have a massive job, and some people don’t make it any easier. They deal with the underbelly of the church, Christians who do not act like Christians, and we must be thankful they are willing to serve as spiritual leaders.


Scholars debate whether pastors and teachers go together because of the wording Paul uses to describe the fivefold ministry. They think pastors and teachers may be one gift instead of two. But most people see them as separate functions in the Church.

While pastors may also be teachers, not all teachers are shepherds. Teachers expound the Word of God. They help us understand and apply the Bible to our lives. They illustrate biblical principles and help people understand God’s expectations.

Teachers keep the Bible interesting and bring it to life. They provide biblical wisdom and help us grow in godliness. Teachers may teach prophetically. But this teaching gift stands alone many times as they show us what the Bible says and how to use it in our lives.

Wrapping Up

The fivefold ministry leadership gifts prepare the Church for the Spirit’s purposes. He has given these pioneers to the Church to lead her in the areas of new works, addressing the culture, witnessing to the lost, shepherding the body, and expounding God’s Word.

Let us be thankful that the Holy Spirit leads through the leadership gifts, given people with these gifts to the Church. Where would we be without the leadership of these five gifts? Do you see something in these gifts in yourself? Perhaps you have one of the five leadership gifts.

Up Next

Now that we have looked at the leadership gifts and discussed their use in the church and the differences in their areas of leadership, we now turn to the service gifts and describe them as they help the body of Christ.

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