I have been part of a functioning APEST (Apostolic, Prophetic, Evangelistic,Shepherding, Teaching) team for over 20 years. Together we helped catalyze the organic church movement. We also combined to write Primal Fire.
Left to myself I honestly would have formed a team of apostolic people and ignored the other gifts. This grave mistake is unfortunately quite common. By God's grace, I was not alone at the start, but with Phil Helfer (the Shepherd on our team). Because of Phil's gift the strengths of each gift were equally important and we built a team based on mutual submission rather than individual strengths.
Mutual submission is particularly necessary when addressing the APEST roles of Ephesians 4:11. In our twenty plus years of experience, we have found that focusing on our own gifts and the strengths they bring to the church does not produce unity at all. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed to bring separation. Rather than starting with our gifted orientation, we must begin by establishing genuine relationships with one another. Surrendering one’s own strength and glory for the benefit of others–which is really just love–is the foundation of unity. Focusing on one’s gift usually turns selfish, rather than unifying it tends to separate and divide. Our relationships must be more important than anyone’s agenda or ability. We have learned that abandoning all of our goals and dreams to maintain our love for one another can actually birth a far greater outcome.
Each one of the five gifts has an area of weakness that casts a shadow—a consequence of the gift that is not always positive. This shadow is always easier for others to recognize than it is for the one who casts the shadow. Until we recognize our own weaknesses, we will not achieve real unity. But when we come to recognize our own shadows, we begin to appreciate the other gifts more. The secret to forming a team of the various gifts is not to focus on the strengths of each one, but rather on their weaknesses. Only then will we have the unity necessary to be a potent, diverse team.
This post is adapted from our book Primal Fire