In Acts 1, there were only “Apostles” as ministers. Let’s call them the twelve Apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14).
In Acts 6, as the congregation grew, there was a need for more ministers. These seven were called “deacons.” Many of them were Greek speaking.
In Acts 8, because of persecution, dispersion of the Jerusalem community and the spread of the gospel message, there emerged a new ministry called “evangelist.” The first to be called evangelist was Philip, who had previously been ordained as a deacon (Acts 21:8). He went to Samaria.
By Acts 11, the congregations had multiplied to the point that new leaders were needed. They called the new congregational leaders “elders” (Acts 11:30, Acts 14:23). By Acts 15:2, the local congregational elders and the inter-congregational apostles had formed an extended leadership body.
In Acts 13, when the congregation in Antioch grew, additional types of leaders developed, along with the elders and apostles. These were called “prophets and teachers” (Acts 13:1). The name “prophets” represented a new stage of prophecy: part of the “normal” congregational leadership. Until that time, the teaching ministry had been done by the Apostles (Acts 2:42).
By Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas were well into their mission, sent out by the congregation at Antioch to preach the gospel and teach the scriptures. They were among the prophets and teachers at Antioch. But when they began to multiply congregations, and appoint elders in those congregations, they became “apostles” themselves (Acts 14:14). Paul and Barnabas were obviously not part of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb.
Paul and Barnabas represented a new stage of multiplication and extension of the original apostolic ministry. Many other apostles were to follow (including “Andronicus and Junia” of Romans 16:7). Some were even “super” apostles, like Apollos (I Corinthians 3:3-6) and James (I Corinthians 15:7). There were so many new apostles, that some of them were fake, and the early community of faith had to discern what was true and what was not (Revelation 2:2).
This new stage of normative, apostolic leadership increased until it became an accepted part of the gifts and functions within a New Covenant congregation (I Corinthians 12:28-29).
The fullness of the multiplication of the original “Apostles” may be found in Ephesians 4:11, where there are “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.” The original Apostles did all of those functions. But now the apostolic role is refracted into different roles, sometimes called the “five-fold” ministry. These roles are gifts of the Holy Spirit given by Yeshua to the community of faith after His ascension (Ephesians 4:7-10). It was a logical and necessary development of multiplication and diversification.
Interestingly enough, the word “pastor” (poimen in Greek) as a ministry role is mentioned only ONE time (!) in the New Covenant –in Ephesians 4. According to that context, it would seem that there should be no such thing as a pastor who is not in teamwork with apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers.
It is ironic that the role of pastor is not explicitly found in the book of Acts, whereas apostles were plentiful. Today, many think there is no longer a need for apostles, but that rather, every senior leader of a congregation should simply be called “pastor.” I see many senior congregational leaders as actually more teachers or apostles than they are pastors.
It would seem that the role of pastor is a type of lead-elder in the local congregation.
Let’s summarize the chronological development and multiplication of the Apostles’ unique ministry into the full spectrum of servant leadership:
- Acts 1 – Twelve Apostles
- Acts 6 – Seven Deacons
- Acts 8 – Evangelists
- Acts 11 – Elders
- Acts 13 – Prophets, Teachers
- Acts 14 – New apostles
- Ephesians 4 – Pastors.
Therefore, it might be more accurate to say the “seven-fold” ministry. The one role of original Apostles actually became seven roles, cooperating together. All of us together, as the “saints” of God, continue on as the extension of the original apostolic commission.
Together we reflect the wondrous nature of our Messiah Yeshua, who Himself is the chief Apostle and Shepherd of our souls (Hebrews 3:1; I Peter 2:25).