The Permanent Revolution, by Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim
Let the fireworks begin! You’ll either love The Permanent Revolution or you’ll hate it.
Hirsch and Catchim have opened a huge can of worms that has been rotting for centuries. What can am I referring to? The Apostolic can.
The authors declare that it is impossible for the church to reach maturity or unity without rediscovering the fivefold ministry in Eph. 4: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher (APEST). APEST is the genetic code of the ecclesia. But Western Christianity has diluted the genetic code by putting all ministry in the roles of pastor and teacher. Hirsch and Catchim declare that rediscovering APEST has the power to awaken a dormant, irrelevant church.
But wait – there’s more. This fivefold ministry is given to all Christians, not just the clergy. The authors go on to say that, without an active, present-day apostolic form of ministry, there is no hope for Christianity. According to the authors, only apostles can drive a permanent revolution.
But that’s not all. The authors take their challenge to the church to another level – when we relegate our definition of ministry to pastor and teacher, we are diluting the gospel to fit our inadequate paradigm of ministry. In essence, when we do this we extricate Jesus from our fellowship, because Jesus embodied all of the fivefold ministries.
“By effectively exiling the apostolic, prophetic, and evangelistic ministries,” the authors write, “we have meddled with the very mechanism Jesus intended for us to be a fully functioning ecclesia. The result is that all ministry has been forced to fit into the predetermined formats of shepherd and teacher and pastor and theologian, and nothing else has legitimacy.”
We need a lid for this can!
The problem is, the authors are correct in their reading of the New Testament. Most Christians have totally misread Eph. 4 and eliminated the Apostolic, Prophetic, and Evangelistic ministry of the text, fitting it into our preconceived notions about ecclesia. As a result of our failure to include the A in APEST, denominations have:
- Declined and become irrelevant to society
- Not matured as Jesus intended
- Become a fractured unity
- Become ingrown
- Relegated ministry to the professionals
Hirsch and Catchim have given us a wonderful treatment of one of the lost gems of our faith, and all of us will be indebted to them for a long time to come. They haven’t just made these claims; they have extensively documented their conclusions, using just about every known discipline, including the Scriptures.
This could be the first postmodern apologetic some of us have been waiting for. It will remain on my desk for some time to come. But be ready for a tough 325 pages.
Question: How would you move to return the church to the model of the fivefold ministries? Share your ideas in the Comments section below.