One does not have to look very far to see evidence of a one-dimensional and immature approach to organization. For instance, a precocious apostolic leader/church will always tend to see the organization’s problems as being caused by a lack of more distinctly apostolic approaches, whereas the real answer might well be that the group needs more by way of the self-correcting dynamic of one or more of the other four functions. So, for instance, to an apostolic person the answer is always more church planting and leadership training. To a teacher, the answer to the church’s problems is always—yes you guessed it—more preaching and bible study, etc.

Think about it; so many evangelical churches seem to over-rely on the sermon (T/S) or put all their effort into the Sunday service (E/S) to the neglect of other vital functions of ecclesia such as evangelism, discipleship, mission, and covenant community. Attractional evangelism alone (E) over-relies on a particular and overused, entertainment-based method and loads that onto the Sunday gathering to the exclusion of the other functions of ministry. In all these cases the answer always seems to revolve around improving the sermon and getting people to the weekend service, as if more sermons and the latest worship music craze will solve the systemic problems of the church. This is reductionism at its worst! Churches operating like this not only fail to communicate the broader fivefold purposes and identities of Christ, but are precocious, disordered, deformed, and immature. Not pretty!

Moving away from the reductionist mindset of *preach better sermons* and *host better worship services* is necessary for the health of the church. What can turn things around? We believe there is an answer! Click To Tweet

Let’s focus in again on what unhealthy imbalance looks like in the Church:

Churches with a strong apostolic bias tend to break new ground, constantly pushing the bounds of creativity in ministry and forging ahead into new territory. In these communities, spirituality tends to be experienced as something dynamic, adventurous, and innovative. However, when the apostolic is dominant to the exclusion of the other types, the organization will be task-driven, demanding, and alienating.

Churches with a strong prophetic bias tend to speak truth to those in power and do well at justice-oriented ministry. In these churches, spirituality is equated with care for the poor, the marginalized and the outsider. These churches will also call forth a passionate response to God in worship and prayer. They will also engage in spiritual warfare and discernment of spirits. However, when the prophetic is over-dominant, the community can be outright whacky, overcritical, demanding, moralistic and judgmental.

Churches strong on evangelism and led by evangelists tend to be characterized by a heart for those who don’t know Jesus and have a strong emphasis on evangelism. In these churches, spirituality is equated with a heart for the lost and telling others about Jesus. When dominant, the church will feel like an Amway convention, relying on marketing methodology, charismatic leaders, and will very likely be shallow. The church will tend to be pushy, opinionated, and aggressive.

Churches led by leaders who are strong on shepherding tend to do well at loving each other and caring for the needs of the Body. Spirituality will be strongly communal and relational. But when the shepherding function dominates the others, the community can become risk-averse, co-dependent, cloying, exclusive, overprotective and cautious.

Churches with a strong teaching function tend to be well-informed, wise, patient and committed to discipleship. But when the function is dominant, the church will likely be an over-intellectual, objective, knowledge-based community where right doctrine is seen to be more important than right doing. Such a church is likely to be controlling, anxious, fussy and doctrinaire. In these teacher-dominated communities, spirituality can easily be equated with listening to sermons and acquiring Bible knowledge.

At its best, precocious asymmetry within the 5Q system creates a kind of obsessive narrow-mindedness that sees the purposes of the ecclesia in a constricted and exclusive way. The result is that the purposes of the church are reduced to merely one or two of the five necessary functions. At its worst, such a church can be dysfunctional and cult-like because it lacks the mutual self-correcting capacities inherent in the fivefold functions. This is hardly the image of the maturing Body of Christ given to us by Paul in Ephesians 4:12–16.

In order to be an authentic expression of the Body of Christ, each of the #APEST functions need all the other functions in order to be healthy themselves. Click To Tweet

When will we learn? In order to be an authentic expression of the Body of Christ, each of the APEST functions need all the other functions in order to be healthy themselves (Ephesians 4:12–16). The real answer to our complex problems is seldom one-dimensional. The answer I believe is at least five-dimensional: the symphony of 5Q.

Another problem associated with APEST asymmetry is that the asymmetrical churches always end up attracting people who are like-minded and therefore asymmetrical. The one-dimensional teaching church attracts people who love to be taught and tends to alienate other forms of spiritual expression. This is seldom a good thing because such churches simply become vulnerable to groupthink or even mass delusion. This has happened way too often … witness the many one-dimensional charismatic/vertical pro­phetic movements of the last century. Or consider the asymmetrical mega-church that markets religion and ends up producing consumptive, dependent, underdeveloped, cultural Christians with an exaggerated sense of entitlement.

The Body of Christ exists to extend both the logic and impact of the ministry of Christ in the world. If Jesus expressed his ministry in terms of the fivefold, then the church as the primary agency of the ministry of Jesus must correspondingly also have all the fivefold functions operative to do what Jesus did and to attain to the fullness of Christ. When we put it all together we can sense the wonderful symmetry that Jesus has built into the Body.

Each #APEST gift is critically important to the health of the others. Each actually needs to the health of the others. Each actually needs the other to make the whole work. Click To Tweet

Each one of the five major functions is critically important to the health of the others. Each actually needs to the health of the others. Each actually needs the other to make the whole work. (The church really is a body after all.) Together they represent Jesus’ ministry in a way that they cannot in isolation from the other. That we have sought to negotiate our way in the world without three of the five functions (by elevating teaching and shepherding and neglecting evangelism, the prophetic and the apostolic) accounts for so many of the problems we face in the church.


The purpose of this blog is to continue the conversation; to address the “problems we face in the church.” You can look forward each week to a new perspective on how 5Q knowledge, discovery, coaching and application can really move you and your team forward in a 5Q direction. For starters, check out these posts that address several important and common questions:

How is 5Q part of the solution?

How can 5Q help me bring transformation to my organization?

How can 5Q make a difference for my team? 

How can 5Q shape a new culture in my organization? 

Have you thought of entering a season of 5Q Coaching?

Leave us a comment below and let us know how we can continue to address the things that matter to you. What questions do you have? How can we best serve you and your team? 

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.

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