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Missional Communities series | Post #8

February 10, 2011

In our last post on Missional Communities we talked about how each of the 5-Fold Gifts from Ephesians 4 would start and grow a MC. Obviously each of them do it differently based on the way God has shaped them.

Now here’s the question I want to ask today.

So in Ephesians 4 we have Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, Evangelists and Pastors. When these people are released into mission, unbelievable things happen. But this is pre-supposing that each of these are mature versions of each of these gifts. But what happens when we have immature, underdeveloped people with these gifts?

Here are some tell-tale signs.

  • Immature Apostles | They are unable to distinguish between the constant flood of good and innovative ideas they have and the God-ideas that are being given to them. It’s about an inability to discern. They try out something new every week and never really develop any of their ideas and jump from thing to thing to thing. After a while, people stop following them because they have a hard time staying focused on the task at hand and people refuse to give their time and energy to something when they know it could change with any whim of an idea coming from the immature apostle.
  • Immature Prophets | Everyone’s favorite. 😉 While they have a natural gift to “see beyond” what most people can see, immature prophets make two fundamental errors. First, if they sense God is saying something, they provide the interpretation themselves and don’t release it to a community of people outside of them. Just as Paul said, the prophet will give their sense, but it’s up to the community to weigh and give an interpretation. Their job is to share, release what they’ve received, back away and then see what other people make of it. The proper path goes like this: Revelation to Interpretation to Application. An immature prophet, having received some sort of revelation, wants to go straight to Application. This is incredibly harmful and not the pattern that scripture gives us. Second, they assume they are always right. The problem is that often times they are right and this builds a false sense of confidence that they get it 100% of the time. Because of this, they can become arrogant, haughty and difficult to deal with. In contrast, a mature prophet is actually quite humble because they know that any revelation they receive isn’t their own and they entrust it to the community.
  • Immature Evangelists | Like immature prophets, there are two things they typically do that can be truly harmful. First, they present a reductionist Gospel that’s all about getting people out of hell, that while important, doesn’t always include Jesus’ invitation to discipleship and the availability of the Kingdom that Jesus’ central message was about. When they do this, they make faith and Christianity all about when they die and nothing to do with what happens here on earth. This is terribly destructive. Second, many immature evangelists can have sort of a “Love you and leave you” strategy. It’s like once you’ve “crossed the line” into becoming a Christian, they make world’s fastest baton pass-off and are never heard from again. They move on to the next person. Now this isn’t to say that evangelists need to be there forever, but that it shouldn’t be a jarring experience for someone who is just entering a discipling relationship! Being a disciple is about relationships and immature evangelists can make a bad first impression when it comes to Christians and relationships.
  • Immature Pastors | This one is pretty simple. Pastors love nothing more than being with people in the midst of their brokenness, pain and suffering. However, they can have a really difficult time in moving people from that stage to one where they are seeking healing, transformation and redemption. Immature pastors sometimes don’t have the confidence to push or challenge people to move forward, to take a step forward into the Kingdom, for fear that the person will be angry with them. The mature pastor can live in this tension while the immature counterpart stays a mile away from it and will let people sit in their brokenness far longer than should happen.
  • Immature Teachers | The good thing about Teachers is their profound love of scripture. The bad news is that scripture can be the end rather than God. Immature teachers tend to forget that scripture is a thing that brings us to God. Scripture isn’t the point. God is the point. They can suffer from Bibliolotry where they idolize scripture and put it over their relationship with the living and breathing God that we come to know by means of reading and incarnating scripture. There are few things more beautiful than watching a Teacher learn from a Prophet because their ability to teach goes to a new level as all of their teachings drive people to the arms of the Father. Lastly, immature teachers can rely on their own intellect to “wow” people rather than the authority that is given from scripture and from the Holy Spirit. People’s comments about Jesus were that his teaching possessed an authority that they didn’t see in the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees. Likewise, the writer of Hebrews says, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” A teacher’s authority doesn’t come from how smart they are but from the Word of God and the power of a transformed life. An immature teacher will often forget this.
10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 10, 2011 8:15 pm

    Mike, I’m fairly new to your blog and to the missional communities thing. I’ve not experienced missional communities, only read about them, but I have still seen plenty of what you describe in this post. Some of it in myself… Thanks very much for the insights.

  2. ShawnR permalink
    February 16, 2011 8:33 am


    I was able to identify my base better by looking at where I am immature vs where I have developed. I have been in a great huddle for a few weeks now and I am looking for that next rung on the ladder. Has 3DM thought about putting together a database of MCs that are in each state and how you can reach out?

  3. Dave permalink
    February 16, 2011 2:56 pm

    Great stuff on Missional Communities…will there be a blog entry in which describes how to help each “immature” 5-fold ministry grow in a healthy mature way? What insight or advice would you give ministry leaders as they help develop a person’s 5-fold ministry?

    • February 18, 2011 12:10 am

      Dave, we’ve got some stuff on that in the “Building a Discipling Culture” book we wrote. And actually, in April we’re releasing a new edition with even more material…with 5-fold ministry being some of the most revamped material.

      Great questions!

  4. Noel permalink
    February 19, 2011 8:06 pm

    Mike , I’m curious as to how Leviticus 25, (which states that there were 6 years of work, and then on the 7th year there was rest, the Sabbath year) fits in with your teaching on the semi circle. We are having this discussion in our group, and would love some incite.

    • February 19, 2011 9:59 pm

      I think what we understand about the rhythms of rest and work is that there are seasons for them, with each rhythm of each season looking different.

      Each day we have a rhythm of rest and work.
      Each week we have a rhythm of rest and work.
      Probably each month, quarter and year there are seasons of rest and work.

      And in Leviticus 25, we see Levitical law expanding that season to a year off every 7 years.

      It’s the same principle, over and over again, just in varying rhythms and seasons: We are designed to work from a place of rest, not rest from work.


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