APEST: Language That Leads To Transformation

In the previous post, “Learning Language That Means Something: APEST In The Workplace,” we focused the idea on awareness; awareness of the fact that language is important when we are working to describe problems and define solutions that are accurate and effective. The example Alan provides from the aftermath of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster is helpful here.

NASA wasn’t able to see the problem coming because they did not have the language to discover it. On the other side, they didn’t have the vocabulary to define meaningful solutions.

And this is a critical issue.

We need the right words to talk about problems we are experiencing so that we are able to get to the solutions that we need. If we don’t have them, we keep doing what have always done, we just do it more.

“If you want transformational Gospel movement — really want it — then you are going to have to unlearn some very ancient churchly habits and be willing to relearn some new — and yet paradoxically more ancient — more authentically biblical ones.” @alanhirsch #5Q

The challenge ahead is about unlearning how we talk about the “who” of church ministry and re-learning a new, or ancient, way of re-connecting the “who’s” of church ministry: APEST.

[bctt tweet=”When we don’t have the right language, the words, to define problems and discover solutions, we keep doing what we have always done. We just do it more. Find out how to change this.” username=”5QCollective”]


This post is about application. How do we begin to apply new language and see it begin to change the “vocabulary of organization”? If we want to discover new solutions, we need new language to talk about them. So, how do we find and then use that language?

The answer is located in the language of APEST.

Let’s look at an example. One of the more obvious issues that we face in the Church today is the limitations of the title, “Pastor.” For many in mainline and/or evangelical circles, “pastor” is the catch-all name for the person who does “ministry.”

I once tried to draw out all (many) of the duties of the ”pastor” and it looked something like this:

How can the Body of Christ be the Body of Christ when one person is responsible for all of this? Years ago, Brian McLaren called this brand of organizational leadership “the suicide machine.” It’s not hard to see why.

APEST In The Laboratory

So what if we did a language experiment to see what happens when we change the way we talk about ministry in the Body of Christ? What if applying APEST to organizational transformation begins with one simple shift: try not using the title, “pastor.” At all. Really…like ever.

I know to some what is being suggested is akin to diving into a pool and trying not to get wet, but join us in an experiment.

Look at the gifts at work around you.

What do you see?

Where do you see the gifts of Shepherd being activated?

How about works of Prophetic ministry? Where are they? Who is doing them?

Are there Evangelists in your periphery? Sharing stories? Building relationships? Putting good news in new contexts?

You might look to the “Pastor” and not even see Shepherding gifts. Perhaps they are on the margin, dreaming dreams for the future; standing in the shoes of an Apostle.

What happens to your “organizational vocabulary” when you allow it to expand beyond the current ministry model lexicon?

[bctt tweet=”The language of APEST helps us see more deeply in to issues that often paralyze the ministry of the Body of Christ and creates an environment where new solutions can be explored.” username=”5QCollective”]

What happens when you change the way you see the ministry around you, when you look through soft eyes and view the Body of Christ through the APEST framework? How might it change your expectations of what the “Pastor” is doing? How might it change your expectations for your own work in the Body? How could it help others change their expectations?

Application isn’t really application if you don’t actually apply it.

So, try this: use the APEST vocabulary to help you work through problems and describe solutions. Help your co-ministers see themselves through the same lenses.

Say things like, “I love the apostolic vision you are sharing with the team! How is the Spirit leading you to get started moving in that direction? Who can you equip to help make it happen?”

“Can you gather other people that share your prophetic heart and dig in to prayer for a season, until we steer through this current challenge?”

“Instead of trying to fill pews, let’s set our evangelists free to grow relationships with our neighbors. They can help us discover the needs around us and create bridges for us to engage our neighborhood.”

“I’d like to train ten shepherds to lead the way in caring for our community. Take the pressure off the staff and move the ministry into the Body.”

“Can our teachers find creative ways to communicate a shift in missional strategy? Let’s let them find ways to communicate Jesus’ heart for our neighborhood and our biblical responsibility to follow Him into it.”

New Language of Problem/Solution

How many times do we feel tension in the Body of Christ and hear the phrase, “I wish the Pastor would…”? Perhaps it’s the decline in attendance, “If only the pastor would preach better sermons,” or “The pastor should really get out there and get new people into the church,” or “maybe we need another pastor to take on some of the workload.”

The language of APEST helps us see more deeply into issues and explore solutions differently: It’s not an attendance problem for a pastor to solve, it’s a community issue for a team of shepherds to help us heal from and move forward. It’s not a giving issue, it’s an opportunity for evangelists to reignite the passion of the people with stories of outreach, invitation and transformation. It’s not a staffing problem, it’s a vision issue that lacks strong apostolic direction.

You get the idea.

At first, this might prove to be challenging, but give yourself the gifts of grace and time.

Transforming the way you view ministry in an organization isn’t an overnight change. It takes time. It takes time to learn not to default to hundreds of years of “Pastor” language. We are confident that you can get there, though. We believe that you are on the brink of massive breakthrough in growing your capacity to describe problems differently and find solutions that really solve the issues they are designed to.

Another tool you can use is to look at situations through Learning To Think In 5Q Colors. This post should be very helpful.

[bctt tweet=”If you want transformational Gospel movement, then you are going to have to unlearn some very ancient churchly habits & be willing to relearn some new, and yet paradoxically more ancient, more authentically biblical ones.” #5Q” username=”alanhirsch”]

If there are an scenarios that we can help you see in a new, 5Q way; solutions that we may discover together using the approach described in this post, please use the comments below to ask questions, or simply say, “I have a question.” We will get the message.

And don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to learn more about 5Q Coaching. It’s something new that we are really to proud to offer you and your team.