The Sharp Edge of the APEST Wedge

June 22, 2022

While I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a silver bullet—a single solution that will resolve all our problems—nonetheless I have come to believe that 5Q [the intelligent quotient represented by APEST, an acronym for Apostolic, Prophetic, Evangelistic, Shepherding, and Teaching intelligence that Jesus gifted to his body] properly understood and applied, is almost a silver bullet. Because of its sheer elegance, its theological resonance, and its promise of a more dynamic ministry, adopting it will change everything … for the better.

The metaphor “the sharp edge of the wedge” captures the strategic significance of the whole APEST conversation. Though sometimes used in a foreboding sense, when applied to a revolutionary idea the metaphor of the sharp edge of the wedge refers to something seemingly insignificant that, if adopted, will bring about major changes.

The metaphor “the sharp edge of the wedge” captures the strategic significance of the whole APEST conversation.

Picture a wedge used to split logs. The thin/sharper end breaks through the surface, making it possible to split the log into smaller pieces. The Bedouin Arabs use a similar metaphor: When a camel’s nose is in the tent, watch out!—the rest of the camel is coming in after it. I believe that the fivefold conversation is likewise the nose of the camel in the tent, ushering in a rush of insights and opening up a whole new way of seeing the church.

The mDNA of Transformational Impact in the Church

In the lifelong study of the nature (phenomenology) of missional movements that deliver societal impact articulated in my book The Forgotten Ways, I identify six crucial elements that are all necessary if the church is to achieve transformational impact. Each of these “mDNA” (Jesus Centered, Disciple Making, Risky Engagement, Incarnational Mission, APEST Culture, and an Organic System) must all be present and active in the system for movement to happen.

Furthermore, when one of the mDNA is removed or delegitimized, it diminishes the entire system and hinders the emergence of movement. This can be seen in later Methodism which undermined its own initial success by eliminating the APE from its orders of ministry. The basic theory underlying The Forgotten Ways has been accepted as sound by academics and leaders around the world. So when I say what I am about to say, I say it with some authority: As far as I can determine, there has never been a Jesus movement with long-term societal impact that did not also have the fivefold fully operative in its organization and among its members. As far as I can tell, it simply does not happen! Whether the New Testament church, the early church in the first few centuries, the Celtic movement, Early Methodism, or the Chinese underground church, the phenomenon and the explicit language of APEST is demonstrably evident in movements that change the world.

It is for this reason that any embrace of the fivefold typology holds out huge promise for the systemic renewal of the Christian movement and its ministry. All I know is that if I were a leader of a large denomination, I’d restructure its ministry and priorities around APEST. I’d do exactly the same in the local church or organization.

The Impact of APEST Thinking

At the risk of seeming to claim too much, as a long-term practitioner in APEST thinking, I suggest that fivefold-thinking:

  • Provides us with a much more biblically legitimate understanding of ministry than the disastrously reduced one we currently have among Western churches, which have almost universally narrowed ministry to suit (APE)ST understandings of the church.
  • Reminds us that ministry is the birthright of the entire Body of Christ— including all of God’s people—and not something limited to the roles of the so-called clergy.
  • Invigorates our theology by reframing the doctrine of God to include a theology of APEST, allowing us different perspectives on how we understand God, the world, and the church.
  • Provides us with an inbuilt self-regenerative mechanism for maturity, and the promise of a way to attain fullness in Christ.
  • Gives insight to people’s unique callings by creating a distinctive APEST profile that relates personal vocation directly to the ministry of Christ. I believe that APEST profile provides insights into people’s spirituality, motivations, aptitudes, and passions.
  • Develops pathways to discipleship and leadership both within and beyond the ecclesial community. In fact Paul directly relates “attaining to the fullness of Christ” to the levels of APEST present in the church. By discipling along APEST lines a church can become “mature” (Ephesians 4:13).
  • Helps us articulate ministry as something related to all of life and not something limited to the social confines of the ecclesial community.
  • Gives us practical tools for the assessment and development of ministry and mission along APEST lines.
  • Provides us with expanded ways in which we can interpret and understand nuances in Scripture (hermeneutics). The prophetic perspective sheds light on Scripture in a way that the pastoral does not. The apostolic approach would be different from the systematic theological approach of the teacher, and so on.
Alan Hirsch

Alan Hirsch

Alan is the founder of 5Q Collective and resident coach and consultant with the team. The 5Q Collective aims to create a training options where fivefold imagination and practice can be activated and developed throughout the Body of Christ. Alan Hirsch is the author of 5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ and The Forgotten Ways, and is the co-author of The Shaping of Things to Come, ReJesus, and The Faith of Leap (with Michael Frost); Untamed (with Debra Hirsch); Right Here, Right Now (with Lance Ford); On the Verge (with Dave Ferguson); and The Permanent Revolution (with Tim Catchim).
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