Ever since I came to see the importance of the Ephesians 4 APEST gifting, I have been on a quest to find more ways to embed these functions in to the life of my local church to increase our church’s 5Q. I shared in earlier blog posts about using APEST as a guide for family prayer times as well as how our church taught through the gifts by visualizing them in a single diagram and contextualizing the terms with more modern language. Recently, I am experimenting with using the five gifts as a grid for structuring my annual preaching calendar.

Find out how you can add APEST to your pulpit planning for the coming year. NEW POST by @JRitner connects #5Q to every message you prepare, year round. Click To Tweet

But first some background. My traditional teaching approach is to retreat and reflect annually on the story that God is writing in my church and then pray about how it connects with the overarching narrative of God’s Word.  Then I work to organize a teaching strategy that combines a text from each of the main sections of Scripture with a major discipleship theme of the Christian life.

I delineate the six Sections of Scripture as:

  1. Pentateuch
  2. Historical
  3. Major and Minor Prophets (incl. Revelation)
  4. Poetic and Wisdom
  5. Gospels/Acts
  6. Epistles

I delineate Major Discipleship Themes as:

  • Relationships (community, family marriage)
  • Stewardship (Time, Talents, Treasures, Resources)
  • Discipleship (Spiritual growth, maturity, Disciple-making)
  • Missional Engagement  (Evangelism, Gospel, Kingdom)
  • Pain (Problems, suffering, grief & loss, weakness, failure, disappointments)
  • Sanctification, Holiness, Repentance, Worship
  • Church Vision, Values, DNA
  • Skill Set for Disciples (Spiritual Disciplines)

Then I combine a primary text from one of each section with a theme. For instance, I used the Psalms of Lament teach on Pain and Suffering one year, and then used the Psalms to teach on Worship another year.  I used the Gospels to teach on Stewardship one year and Disciple making the next year.  By doing this, I am sure that each year I teach at least one series from every major section of Scripture as well as addressing core issues that are relevant to my local church.

By establishing a 3D rubric for sermon planning (Sections of Scripture, Major Discipleship Themes, APEST capacities), @JRitner proposes a new way to preach #5Q every message, every Sunday, in a new post. Click To Tweet

However, I have found that it is very easy to teach each of these Discipleship themes with the same emphasis or tone.  Since I am gifted as primarily an Apostle and Evangelist, my tone often conveys that our community needs to take new steps of faith, be more adventurous, and that we all need to get on board with this vision or else you will be left behind.  Needless to say, without intending to, those who are wired as Shepherds and Teachers quickly find themselves exhausted by my enthusiasm and perpetual challenge to explore new things.  Upon reflecting on 5Q, I realized that I was neglecting much of the ministry of Christ in my teaching approach.

My new strategy still combines the series text with a major theme but also chooses one of the APEST ministries as my primary tone as well. So if I am preaching a series on Stewardship from the Epistles I may choose a very prophetic tone that challenges the status quo in our community’s generosity and calls us to new levels of grace oriented giving. However, the next series needs to balance that with a different tone, for instance a series from Genesis on relationships that is more shepherding in nature and emphasizes heath, nurturing, and harmony in our families and social networks. I rotate amongst all 5 gifts over the course of the year while remaining faithful to the intent of the text that I am using.

If I am preaching a series on Stewardship from the Epistles I may choose a very prophetic tone that challenges the status quo in our community’s generosity. @JRitner #3D5Q Click To Tweet

By rotating the gifts in each series, I find that different members of the community respond with enthusiasm and excitement as they hear messages that resonate with their own sense of gifting and APEST calling.  I also can better predict how people less gifted in that area will respond and what their pushback will be so I can address that in the message.  For instance, when I take a very apostolic tone, the teachers in the community often begin to get nervous about how these new practices or ideas fit in with our traditional values and history.  I can plan to address that in my messages and remind them privately when they push back that this may not be a natural area of gifting for them, but it is an important ministry for our church to embody and that others are very energized that we are celebrating it.

I have found a good rhythm to be alternate a series in the tone of A/P with a series in the tone of S/T.  The A/P series will often ruffle feathers with the S/T, which then is alleviated by the next series.  However my S/T series often seem to remedial or coddling to A/P who prefer me to shake things up. It is a nice way to intentionally balance of the old maxim “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I have found when I mix in an E themed series is tends to be very unifying for the whole body. (In my context in Hollywood, CA, most people who are not yet followers of Jesus will not attend a church gathering so rather than teach an Evangelistic series that intends to proclaim the gospel to non believers, I use those series to create unity around a core value of the church and try to get the whole community bought into our vision of every disciple making disciples in the places where they have already been sent by God.)

In the comments below, I would love to hear other ways that teachers and communicators are increasing the 5Q of the local church and emphasizing all 5 gifts across the community.

Jon Ritner
Jon is the Lead Pastor of Ecclesia Hollywood. He is an area Forge trainer, curating an internship of missional/entrepreneurial local creatives. Jon has been married to his wife, Kristyn, for 15 years and they have two children, Addison and Jackson. He enjoys coaching and playing a variety of sports, reading and blogging on the intersection of church and culture, cooking, travel, Bob Dylan, and post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction.

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