Some Working Definitions of APEST

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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.

[bctt tweet=”As the name itself suggests, ‘apostolic’ (sent) it is the quintessentially missional function.” username=”AlanHirsch”]

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).

[bctt tweet=”Prophets are passionately concerned with life, guardians of the covenant relationship with God. #5Q” username=”AlanHirsch”]


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.

[bctt tweet=”Discover how #5Q creates a fresh lexicon that helps us understand the Bible.”]

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.

[bctt tweet=”#5Q is coded into the whole Body of Christ.” username=”AlanHirsch”]

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