Monday, November 3

Neil Cole's "Primal Fire: Reigniting the Church with the Five Gifts of Jesus"

I ended up highlighting 138 separate passages in this book. What a gold mine of insight about the Eph. 4 APEST team and how they function! So much of what is written in these pages expresses my own heartbeat concerning the forgotten and yet-needed roles of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. We need the APEST functions as much today as when they were first given to the church in the first century.

I found the author's treatment of 1 Timothy 3 passage to be especially thought-provoking. Cole points out, for example, that some translators assume the role of 'overseer' in 3:1 to be an 'office' and hence, "stopped translating and started teaching something that Paul did not intend." In 3:8-13 I found his suggestion compelling that, "the roles of deacon and deaconess are the fulfillment of the equipping gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11—that is, deacons and deaconesses are the mature apostles, prophets , evangelists, shepherds, and teachers who equip the saints for the work of service." He goes on to state,

"From this perspective, an elder’s role is less broad in influence than that of a deacon or deaconess, and more focused on a specific spiritual family (what we would see as an oikos, which is a spiritual household of faith or a missional community). As such, the necessary abilities for the elder’s role are more specifically defined, and teaching is essential to that more limited role. In contrast, perhaps deacons and deaconesses are capable of many more ministry assignments (five, to be specific) on a broader scale, only one of which would be as “teacher.” That is, deacons may serve as apostles, prophets, evangelists, or shepherds."

I also resonated with the description of apostles and prophets (AP) being the START AND GO team, while evangelists, shepherds and teachers make up the STAY AND GROW team building upon the foundation set by the AP team. If you've ever wondered about what each of these five functions entail, this book does a wonderful job in spelling out how these work together and how each is needed.

The book repeatedly emphasizes something I have long believed and taught others, that each of the APEST are there to equip the saints for the work of service. They do not exist to be DOING the work themselves, but "for the EQUIPPING OF THE SAINTS for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." Since this goal has not yet been reached, there is still the ongoing need of modern apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers to be about the appointed tasks. Cole does a good job in pointing out counterfeits to the real thing.

All in all, this is an excellent and much needed read for the greater Body of Christ, especially those in church leadership roles. We need to get back into a more Biblical balance in regards to being servants first and foremost.


Anonymous said...

Love Neil's book! Here are some quotes from Primal Fire that impacted me!

Tim A said...

I have not read the book yet but have been seeing the need to reconsider the traditional thoughts that only these 5 gifts are equipping gifts. This is a key passage of those who separate believers into different classes or casts of ministry. Leaders vs followers, equippers vs doers and builders. This thinking assumes this is a limited list of gifts in this text. None of the other lists of gifts are limited or seen as a complete list. Why limit this one only to the gifts listed? If we consider all the gifts, are they not all for equipping there rest of the body to do well what they are gifted in?

There are scriptural instructions for believers to work and do ministry in every area that there is a gift regardless of whether they have that gift. Every believer is instructed to grow in mercy or giving or evangelism or teaching regardless of whether they have that gift or not. How does every believer grow in every gift ministry? Those gifted equip the rest to grow in that arena. The gift of mercy equips the evangelist grow in mercy. The gift of giving equips the gift of pastor to be a better giver. The gift of encouragement helps the teacher to grow in encouragement. The gift of leadership helps the gift of mercy grow in leading others. - And on and on.

Tradition uses the gifts to carve out compartmentalized territories for some to be in the compartment and the rest to be out of it. Such as: The gift of mercy should never teach. The gift of service should never lead, etc.

Gift = compartment seems to be very limiting and a gross contradiction of the cross pollinating and mutual equipping we see described in the scriptures. It gives believers not gifted in any gift an excuse to reject serving in areas thought to be not gifted or "enjoyed". I don't have that gift - I should not do that... Bob has that gift - let him do that.

Compartmentalization produces horrible mutuality and body building.

J. Guy Muse said...


Thanks for stopping by and for the comments. Interesting observations. I don't believe Neil is trying to discredit any gift. What I got out of the book is a clearer description of what the APEST gifts are about. I would encourage to pick up a copy of the book if you get a chance. I found the book quite encouraging.