[This is the second in a series. If you haven't read the first please do so before continuing. It is short.]
APEST is an acronym for the gifts listed in Ephesians 4:11: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher.
My views on this topic are heavily influenced by Neil Cole's book Primal Fire, especially Chapter 6. He lists seven characteristics that distinguish the Ephesians passage from the others mentioned in my previous post:
1. The source of the gifts in Ephesians is Jesus rather than the Holy Spirit.
2. The gifts mentioned in Ephesians are people rather than abilities.
3. All the gifts mentioned in the other passages have diverse and unique effects that they cause, but the gifts in Ephesians have a singular and unified effect: They equip the saints to do the work of service.
4. The recipient of the gifts listed in Ephesians is the church rather than individual believers.
5. The gifts mentioned in Ephesians are said to measure up to Christ and are given to bring the church to the full measure of Christ. We believe this makes the list comprehensive.
6. The APEST gifts are more like a calling (vocation) than the other gifts, which emphasize individual service and placement. They are roles to be filled in a person's life rather than a special ability to add to one's life.
7. The intent of the APEST gifts is the equipping of all the saints so that everyone grows to represent Christ completely. Therefore, we assume, there must be a comprehensive nature to them. (Primal Fire, p. 89)
So these gifts (APEST) are mature saints that equip less mature saints for servanthood. Maturity, individually as well as corporately, is the goal. So are there identifiable stages or phases? Cole continues, "There are three phases to our participation in Ephesians 4:1-6. We have a calling (4:1) that grants us a ministry (4:12), but not all will mature to become equippers (4:12). We all need equippers, but not everyone will become one." (ibid., p. 91)
He has this to say about our spiritual development: "Our maturity in Christ can typically be seen in three phases of development, which the apostle John depicts as children, young men (or sons), and fathers (1 John 2:12-14). We might also view these phases as a gender-neutral progression of roles: believer, disciple, equipper." He then includes this graph:
Combining his ideas with those of Wolfgang Simpson and Alan Hirsch (ibid., p. 84) I have come up with this graph:
My understanding is that every Christian needs to be apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, caring (pastoral), and didactic. (Although I don't have time to develop it here I believe that Scripture would bear this out.) These do not come naturally anymore than a child being potty trained. For example, if you attend a liberal arts college there are basic courses everyone must take regardless of your major. So it is in the spiritual realm. Christians should learn certain skills.
As we mature we will gravitate toward a ministry corresponding to one of these five. In 1 Corinthians 12:28 we see a list of ministries, one of which is prophet. Verse 29 points out that not all Christians are prophets. However, in 14:1 Paul says that we should all prophesy. What gives? Prophesying is at the first level, something every Christian can learn how to do. A prophet is at the second level. Philip was an evangelist. His daughters were prophetesses. These are legitimate ministries in and of themselves without the need to perform the equipping role.
As apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers mature, they can become gifts to the church as equippers. The 411 prefix to these roles on my graph refer to Ephesians 4:11. (Much more could be said here but I refer you back to Neil's book.)
I believe we can see the phases in Paul's life. Paul spent time in the church in Antioch. I believe he learned the basics there. Later he was sent out into ministry with Barnabas as an apostle. Later in his life he began equipping full-scale in a school in Ephesus.
I encourage you to buy and read Neil's book, Primal Fire. I am so sold on it that I am offering a money-back guarantee. If you will notify me that you have bought this book on my recommendation I will refund your money if you are not satisfied.