In Ephesians 4:11–12, the apostle Paul wrote: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” These five ministries played an obvious and fundamental role in the Church, according to the apostle, yet they are the occasion of no small amount of controversy today. Do the apostolic and prophetic ministries continue to operate today? If so, do they constitute offices within the Church? Should we call specific ministers “Apostle So-and-so” or “Prophet Such-and-such”?
Many classical Pentecostals believe that too much emphasis has been placed on office and more emphasize should be placed on function. In other words, the question should not be whether such-and-such a person bears the office and title of apostle or prophet but whether apostolic and prophetic functions are taking place in the Church. This emphasis on function is the position of the Assemblies of God. It is also the emphasis of Carolyn Tennant in her new book from Vital Resources, Catch the Wind of the Spirit. “The vast majority of teaching on this [subject] has focused on church leadership,” she writes. “I’m firmly convinced, however, that God is focused upon the ministry currents that each person is supposed to oversee. He means for the whole church to get involved.”
What are the five currents Ephesians 4 identifies? Tennant outlines them this way:
- Seeing people come to Christ (The Powerful Wooing Current)
- Ensuring new believers learn to follow Him closely and mature into what He desires them to be (The Radical Forming Current)
- Caring for His disciples in the body of believers so they may stay health, and connected, and know they are loved (The Synchronized Choreography Current)
- Providing direction for the church: correcting and restoring, affirming and encouraging (The Housecleaning Directional Current)
- Pushing back the darkness and taking new territory for the kingdom of God (The Miraculous Sending Current)
Each chapter describing these currents is paired with a chapter describing, “what kind of people are needed to oversee the current and where they might be in our churches.” Tennant seems indifferent to whether these “overseers” are church offices filled by paid ministers, and she pays careful attention to “misconceptions” that frequently attach themselves to the ministries of apostles and prophets. Here are the “overseers” for each of the currents above, respectively:
- The Evangelist
- The Teacher
- The Pastor
- The Prophetic Servant
- The Apostolic Emissary
Tennant clearly longs to experience the renewal and revitalization of North American churches. She is thoroughly Pentecostal in both theology and practice. (If you doubt that the Holy Spirit speaks directly to believers today, make sure to read the story she tells on pages 160–162 about the Spirit sending her to talk to a man in the parking lot of a run-down strip mall. It’s like a contemporary version of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.) In addition to sharp biblical insight and poignant personal anecdotes, Tennant highlights the Spirit-filled missionary endeavors of St. Patrick and other Celtic missionaries in the early medieval era. That’s a surprising move, given how many Pentecostals, charismatics, and evangelicals view the state of the early medieval Church. On the other hand, when you see how downright “Pentecostal” those missionaries could be—including St. Patrick’s experience with speaking in tongues—you realize that the connection between a vibrant experience of the Spirit and power for mission to the world have always gone together, both biblically and in Church history.
I’ll wrap up my review by quoting Tennant’s concluding words:
When God is free to move, as He is in revival, the Triune God brings a fresh flow of each and every current. The Trinity has been working in every one of them all along from the beginning, and the Three are all desirous of pouring out even more upon us. Will we receive it?
That’s a very good question.
P.S. This review first appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com.
P.P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon review page.