What is the Ministry?

by Pastor Matthew Norville, Sr.


The ministry is an office of service that a person is called to by God. “To minister” means “to serve.” A minister is one who serves the people with the gospel.

Ephesians 4:8 says, “Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”

Ephesians 4:11–12 says, “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

I Corinthians 12:28 says, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”

Miracles and gifts of healings is the evangelist's office, that is, the equipment that verifies that an evangelist is an evangelist. Helps, governments, and diversities of tongues is the pastor's office, that is, the equipment that verifies that a pastor is a pastor. Since the Word of God says that miracles and gifts of healings come “after” thirdly, they must be “fourthly.” Since helps, governments, and diversities of tongues come after that, they must be “fifthly.”

So we have two passages of scripture that mention the five different offices of ministry in the New Testament church. Since Ephesians 4:8 says that these people are “gifts” that God gave to men, and Ephesians 4:12 says that these people are given “for the work of the ministry,” these “ministers” that God has set in the church, are called “ministry gifts.”

In the New Testament church there are five—and only five—types of ministers. There are apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, and pastors.

In the New Testament church there are five—and only five—types of ministries. There is the apostolic ministry, the prophetic ministry, the teaching ministry, the evangelistic ministry, and the pastoral ministry.

Apostles have apostolic ministries. Prophets have prophetic ministries. Teachers have teaching ministries. Evangelists have evangelistic ministries. Pastors have pastoral ministries. (Pastoral ministries are usually called “churches” or “local churches.”

I teach my congregation the acronym “APTEP” (pronounced with a short “a” and a short “e” with the accent on the first syllable: “AP-tep”).

A.........Apostles
P..........Prophets
T..........Teachers
E..........Evangelists
P..........Pastors

Because there are five types of ministries, this is often referred to as “the five-fold ministry.” In order to be a minister of the gospel, a person must stand in at least one of these five offices of ministry.

Only ministers can be in the ministry. There may be other people who “help with” the ministry, or “work for” the ministry, but such people are NOT IN the ministry. In order for a person to be in the ministry, he (or she) must meet certain criteria, and then be placed in the ministry by God.

First of all, the person must be “called.” The person must be called by God into at least one ministry office.

Second, the person must actually be a Christian. The person must be “born again” or “saved” according to Romans 10:9–10. (see What is a Christian?)

Third, the Christian must be filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. (see What is Being Filled with the Holy Spirit?)

Fourth, the Spirit-filled Christian must be counted faithful by God, and then be put in the ministry by God. In I Timothy 1:12, the apostle Paul says, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.”

Let's examine each of these in detail.

The Person Must be Called

The person must be called by God into at least one ministry office. The ministry is a “calling.” The ministry IS NOT a career. The ministry IS NOT a career choice. A person who is called into the ministry does not have a career choice in life.

Most of the people that we see “in the ministry” today are not really called. They should not be out there “being ministers” or “having ministries.” Because they are not called, they are not true ministers of the gospel. God does not recognize them as ministers. God does not acknowledge that they have ministries. They are fakes. They are frauds.

The Bible says in Romans 11:29, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” This means that a calling is unchangeable. (Once called, always called; not called, never called.) If a person is called to the ministry, he is called to the ministry. There is nothing that can happen or that the person can do to change it.

By the same token, if a person is NOT called to the ministry, he is not called to the ministry. There is nothing that can happen or that the person can do to change it.

A person who is NOT called to the ministry is free to choose any career or job that he wants. He can change careers or jobs as often as he likes. He can live anywhere in the world that he wants to. He can move as often as he likes.

A person who is called to the ministry has only two choices: to obey God and fulfill his ministry; or do something else and be in sin. He cannot choose a career. He cannot live anywhere he wants to. He cannot move anytime he would like.

(more to come)

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This page last updated May 1, 2016.