Don’t you love candlelight services? I especially enjoy those in which the leader lights the candles of a few, who then light other candles until the room is filled with light. It’s beautifully symbolic. Jesus is the light who enlightens us to share with others.
In a way, that’s what Ephesians 4:11 tells us: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.” Jesus lights the candle of some leaders, who in turn light the candles of others whose light will reach the darkest corners.
Leaders spread their light in different ways. Apostles were those who spent time with Jesus personally and then spread the light broadly. Today men and women who are gifted in broader ministry — such as district superintendents who oversee groups of churches or pastors who lead multiple campuses — may have apostle-like gifts.
Prophets are those who are gifted at preaching, communicating a message from God in a direct way. Evangelists are heralds who are especially gifted at sharing the good news. God has gifted them in leading others to Jesus. Philip, who led the Ethiopian to Christ (see Acts 8) was a gifted evangelist. Pastor-teachers communicate the Word of God and spiritual truth in a way that enables people to learn how to follow Jesus.
Paul says God gave these people to us. This means they are God’s gifts to us, preparing us to be more effective Christ-followers.