Some working definitions and distinctions

The 5Q Central blog brings together practitioners to share their experience and advice on how to release the full potential of the APEST in your church or organization.

The following is an excerpt from 5Q and it explains some of the key terms used throughout.  

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Here are working descriptions of each of the fivefold functions/callings themselves. These are thoroughly developed throughout the book, and so here only rudimentary descriptions are offered. Because of the active historic suppression of the fivefold language and functions in our churches, and the subsequent lack of any mature self-awareness in all matters APEST, the reader will need to return to these definitions in order to be able to grasp the paradigmatic significance of the whole 5Q system.

Broadly defined, APEST is as follows:


In Greek, the term apostle literally means “sent one.” As the name itself suggests, it is the quintessentially missional (from missio, the Latin equivalent) ministry. Interestingly the French translation of the term apostle (envoy) picks up this sense of commission much better than the English transliteration—an apostle is an envoy.

As the name itself suggests, 'apostolic' (sent) it is the quintessentially missional function. Click To Tweet

It is very much a pioneering function of the church, the capacity to extend Christianity as a healthy, integrated, innovative, reproducing movement, ever-expanding into new cultures. It is also a custodial ministry—a guardianship. This ministry is therefore also profoundly interested in the ongoing integrity of the core ideas (DNA, organizational principles, or meta-ideas) that generate and maintain systemic health across the organization.


This is the function tasked with maintaining an abiding loyalty and faithfulness to God above all. Essentially, prophets are guardians of the covenant relationship that God has with his people. The prophetic is also passionately concerned with living a life morally consistent with the covenant—a simple and authentic life of justice, holiness, and righteousness. The prophet proclaims God’s holiness and calls for a corresponding holiness in his covenanted people (1 Peter 1:16).

Prophets are passionately concerned with life, guardians of the covenant relationship with God. #5Q Click To Tweet


The evangelist role involves the proclamation of the good news that is at the core of the church’s message. Evangelism is therefore all about the core message and its reception in the hearts of people and cultures. As such, the evangelist is the storyteller, the all-important recruiter to the cause, the naturally infectious person who is able to enlist people into what God is doing in and through the church.


This is the function and calling responsible for maintaining and developing healthy community and enriching relationships. This involves a commitment to form a saintly people, nurture spiritual maturity, maintain communal health, defend the community against breakdown, and engender loving community among the redeemed family of God.


This one is concerned with the mediation and appropriation of wisdom and understanding. This is the naturally philosophical type that brings comprehensive understanding of the revelation bequeathed to the church. It is a guiding and discerning function. In the biblical tradition, emphasis falls on wisdom and not simply on speculative philosophy. Teaching, of course, also involves integrating the intellectual and spiritual treasure of the community and encoding it, in order to pass it on to others and to the next generations (paradosis, or tradition).

On the Distinctive use of Words in the Book

The fivefold typology provides us a lexicon of words/ideas that help us better understand the Bible, the church, and the disciple’s purpose in this world. Most importantly, as we shall see, it helps us to speak more meaningfully about the work of Christ by bringing the Body into greater conformity with its Head. I will sometimes refer to the distinctly Jesus-shaped version of APEST as J-APEST to distinguish it from the creational and the ecclesial expressions.

Discover how #5Q creates a fresh lexicon that helps us understand the Bible. Click To Tweet

An important distinction that will be used throughout this book is the difference between the whole church’s corporate APEST functions or purposes with that of the individual believer’s APEST callings, ministry and vocation. I now believe we first have to see that the distinctive callings/vocations of any individual disciple in the church are actually derived from the purposes and functions first given to the whole Body of Christ as an entirety.

The callings of individual disciples are simply expressions of the purposes coded into the whole church by Jesus when he bequeathed APEST to the church in his ascension. In other words, 5Q is coded into the whole Body of Christ, and we are but the living expressions of that Body in our given time and place. Functions are therefore what I call "implicit APEST", and callings are "explicit APEST". Both are vital and both are inextricably interconnected— we are a functional body after all. Try keeping this distinction clear in your mind as it is a very important aspect of 5Q.

#5Q is coded into the whole Body of Christ. Click To Tweet

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Alan Hirsch
Alan Hirsch founder of Forge Mission Training Network, 100 Movements, and now 5Qcollective. He is author of numerous award-winning books on movements, organization, and leadership, and teaches extensively across North America, Europe, and Australia.

6 thoughts on “Some Working Definitions of APEST

  • April 21, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Thank you, Alan. Interestingly enough, I just taught most of Eph 4:1-16 to a group of leaders here in Cape Town, South Africa last evening. They were VERY keen on the idea that the APEST leaders of the Church should not only be fulfilling their ministries, but also equipping the saints for the work of ministry for the building up of the Body of Christ.

    They also liked the idea of a leadership round table where there is a representation of the APEST gifts around the round table sharing their insights and promoting the areas of their giftedness so the whole spectrum of leadership gifting is collaborated into the ministry’s vision and strategy.

    I’m wondering if your definition of prophet if there is room for the responsibility of sane predictive role – ala Agabus, Grudem, Piper. You do not mention this. I’m interested in why you left this dimension out. Here in Africa it is quite prevalent, though often abused.

    Thanks for highlighting this often neglected, misunderstood and abused topic that can be the rebuilding of the foundation of the Church – wherever it exists. We need it. The leaders here in Africa need it, especially.

    No doubt there will be some questions about this area as we finish the leadership conference. All I am doing is drawing principles from Eph 4:1-16 to address the areas they wanted training in – Church Heath and Church Growth (Growing Healthy Churches).

    Thanks again. I look forward to your insights.
    Rich Frazer
    SOS International

    • April 22, 2017 at 10:59 am

      Thanks Rich for your comment and obvious insight into the meaning of APEST in our time.

      RE the predictive element, I do actually enlarge on that when I get to deep descriptions. I relate it to the metaphor of the eye–of the capacity to see. I think of this as foresight for sure, but not in the sense of soothsaying and fortune telling as if that future is fate, but only in the sense of how the future impacts our present…calling us into relationship and faithfulness now. Also sight has to do with “insight” … the meaning of events as we experience them. Make sense?

  • April 22, 2017 at 12:02 am

    Thanks for sharing so freely from your lifework! Your deep-journey explorations of what many have previously referred to as Ascension Gifts, along with fresh-venturing incarnational mission experience, provide a well-articulated, essential resource for serious Christ-followers. Young or old, new to the faith or long-acquainted with it, dedicated disciples wrestle with the great cosmic questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What can I do? Teaching based on Scripture and tested in real time, impacts powerfully in real life. My observation is that your teachings do this, Alan, because they are refreshingly holistic in terms of a cohesive OT/NT theology through which the interconnection between individual and community vocation emerges.

    Release into the dynamic realities of the core functions and purposes of “the church” as a living organism, catapults us out of mechanised-modernism, trance-inducing, sleep-seducing rhythms which lull us into passive consumerism. Activation of what you call 5Q, transports us into our individual and communal vocation at the heart of all that matters i.e. partnership (teamwork) to bring about and/or re-establish Life… to live and to love resonant with meaning and connection, to move with God, fellow-human beings, and in fact all creation, toward newness, attuned with shalom. Thanks for deepening our understanding and widening the scope of our practice. Love is a verb!

    • April 22, 2017 at 11:01 am

      Wow Lucy…thank you for your kind words there sister. You own love of words and truth are evident.

      We will meet again…one day!!

  • April 22, 2017 at 8:43 am

    As I thoroughly enjoyed your book “The Permanent Revolution” I am chomping a the bit to get my hands on this book very soon. The 5 fold ministry is a vital yet misunderstood and largely ignored component to Godly discipleship. I am so thankful that Dr. Hirsch has an undeniable burden and heart for this as do I. But his fresh perspective and deep, organized clinical yet Holy Spirit led approach is refreshing and revealing. Thank you.

    • April 22, 2017 at 11:04 am

      Stuart. Thank you! Yes, it has been a burden of mine to somehow delve more and more into this. But it has been a joyful one. The new book takes APEST into a whole new dimension. I found that the writing of it blew my own mind. It was a deep revelation to me of the significance of the Ascension and the gifts bestowed in it. You will love it!

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