When we look at the Church in the West, for the most part there is a major problem. When we look at the Church in America, we see this problem amplified-followers of Jesus looking to government to fix the heart issues of their society, people in the Church frustrated with needs of people not being met and therefore start a para church organization, and the Church continues to lose it’s influence on society. We’ve seen this, others have written books on it and many groups have called for a unification of the Church. But, it seems hard to figure out how.
Alan Hirsch takes this into account with his book 5Q focusing on the APEST descriptive we find in Ephesians 4-Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd and Teacher. Hirsch argues that, “Any attempt to restrict God’s gifts to the so-called “spiritual” gifts imparted following our conversion to Christ ignores the breadth of Scripture’s thoughts on the subject of God’s gifts to his creation and to his people.”
Before I mention what takeaways I have to implement in my own life and ministry, let me share with you some of my frustrations with the book. First, the book comes across as the “be all and end all” of what the Church should be doing. I am always wary when books suggest that they have new information that will somehow revolutionize the Church with “this one simple idea.” There really is nothing new under the sun. Because of this, the book comes across as being very prescriptive. In other words, do this and that and the Church will be fixed of all her issues and problems. Again, I am wary of books that are cast in this type of light. This is partly because it could dilute the really meat of this book into someone thinking it is just another self help book, and partly because there is nothing new under the sun. There are however, different perspectives under the sun….over six billion to be exact. Hirsch’s perspective is too important to be overlooked, so please don’t immediately put it down based on just on this paragraph. This book could be considered coming from the Prophet end of the APEST as it is a calling us back to move forward.
If the reader can overlook the presumptuousness I mentioned above, this book is incredibly helpful for the their own personal life and their ministry, no matter the context the reader is in. What I first appreciated about Hirsch’s premise is that he simplifies what needs to be done without being simplistic. As mentioned earlier, by focusing more thought and energy on these five quotients, it simplifies how we as the Church need to interact with each other. He points out that just as the Catholic Church has been splintered into different orders such as the Franciscan, Benedictine, etc., that focus on different needs of the world, so have we in the Protestant Church with our myriad of para-church organizations. This becomes complicated, divisive and almost a “survival of the fittest” contest for financial resources and partnerships.
Looking at the APEST and the spiritual gifts as an addition to these five quotients, helps us boil down to what really matters and build into those five first. This is counter cultural to the Christian world today with the amount of resources on strategy, vision, obstacles, training, leading and growing our congregations and influence. Many of these books, conferences and seminars deal with the symptoms, putting a massive amount of our energy towards those things instead of really digging down to the foundation and starting from there.
Another point I resonated deeply with 5Q is that Hirsch spends a great deal of time pointing out that Jesus exemplified all five aspects in His earthly life. He was an apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd and teacher and to their fullest extent. However, Hirsch also spends time reiterating the fact that we are not each called to be fully all five of these aspects. This relieves pressure so as to not have to live up to being Jesus fully, like it is so easy for me to feel. Instead, Hirsch points out that the Church needs all five. If we are the Body and Christ is the head, then we are to be the embodiment of all five with some of us being apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and so on. Striving to find those to fulfill these roles and empower them to do so, is when we are truly living out our lives as THE Body.
5Q is a calling back to the basics of who we are to be and what the Church is to be in the world in which we live. It’s a calling back to what the Early Church lived and breathed in a way that we can simplify our lives from all the distractions of fixing symptoms. And it’s a calling back to the unifying attributes we once had. Only then can we move forward in being the Body as Christ intended.