“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith of the knowledge of the Son of God…”Ephesians 4:11-13
Ephesians 4:11 is the basis of what is sometimes called the “Five Fold Ministry.” If you’re unfamiliar with this teaching, it can be a helpful paradigm for understanding how believers fit into a diverse body. I especially enjoy Danny Silk’s teaching on the subject (check it out on YouTube here).
There are some movements and churches that apply this passage very rigidly. Whether you’re on board with that or not, we can still find a lot of value for our creative work here.
In this verse, Paul says that some of the core roles in the church are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
Our creative work—writing, music, film, visual art, etc.—can and should serve one of these purposes.
There’s some debate among theologians about the translation and importance of these verses, but there is considerable consensus on the meaning of the roles themselves.
- Apostles challenge, train, and inspire believers to step into their calling and advance the Kingdom.
- Prophets reveal the active word of God, they provide a perspective of what’s happening right now in the spiritual realm.
- Evangelists share the good news of Jesus resurrection with those who don’t yet believe.
- Shepherds, often translated as pastors, care for and encourage the community of believers.
- Teachers help believers to understand the word of God and they make seemingly complex things simple.
Each of these purposes is equally important. They are all necessary to a healthy church.
Each of these purposes can be achieved through art.
You can write fiction with a prophetic inspiration. You can write fiction that teaches. You can write fiction that gives believers the courage to step into their calling.
I’m a huge proponent of taking a wider view of Christian art. Not every book needs to directly teach the Bible, talk about Jesus, or be an allegory for the gospel. Art is always a relationship between the artist and the receiver of the art, there’s real spiritual value to inviting the Holy Spirit into that relationship. I believe that when the artist is spirit-filled, the work of art can unknowingly become a conduit of the Holy Spirit.
Nonetheless, I do think we need to be careful to be purposeful in our art.
In book publishing, we don’t even know what “Christian” means any more. In the present market, Christian books don’t need to serve any purpose to the Church or the Kingdom at all. Just so there’s no swearing or sexy stuff, we’ll call it “Christian fiction.”
Christ has purpose. Mindless stories do not become “Christian” just because nobody used the f-word. Writing is a calling and a ministry. The gift of writing is given for the work of the ministry and the building up of the body of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11 provides a helpful rubric for determining if our work is serving the Kingdom, for determining if it’s purposeful.
Does this work of art teach us something about the Bible or the Kingdom? Does it share the gospel? Does it reveal something true about spiritual reality? Does it encourage and care for believers? Does it challenge or inspire others, or help them understand how they fit into the Kingdom?
We can be creative in the ways we answer these questions. Not everything has to be in your face. Honestly answering yes to one of these questions is what turns our writing into a ministry.
But if the answer to all of these questions is plainly “no,” then we should proceed very cautiously.
Where do you see yourself in these five roles that Paul proposed? Which of those things does your art work accomplish?
Does it teach? Does it encourage? Does it challenge? Does it share the gospel? Does it prophecy?
This week, spend some time with the Lord and ask him how you fit into Ephesians 4:11. It may bring new clarity and purpose to your work. You may find the value in your work that you’ve been missing.
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