Q&A: Is this “a Comprehensive Pauline Account of Leadership Gifts/Roles?

Original question(s): “Do you think Paul has clearly delimited distinctive roles in mind here? Relatedly, do you think this is a comprehensive Pauline account of leadership gifts/roles? These are general questions about what you think Paul is doing in this text, the answers to which will, I assume, relate to the way you are using the text to answer your DMM-specific question. Watson’s reduction to two categories at the end of the post seems to indicate that you take Paul’s categories to be sort of broad strokes that get at tendencies. Is that fair?”

My Response: Questions and answers always have a context. Greg and I both know that from our life experiences and our efforts to study the Bible. In 1 Corinthians Paul responds to numerous questions which he was asked via a letter that had been sent to him from the congregation in Corinth. Many commentators on those sections have wished to have the actual letter and additional background information so we could explore Paul’s responses in that greater and more detailed context. It is possible some of our teachings from those sections would be transformed by a clearer picture of the specific context which Paul and the Corinthian believers knew all too well.

I personally read Ephesians as a circular letter written for all the churches in the Roman province of Asia (along the coast of modern-day Turkey). While he spent the longest time in Ephesus of any of the places where he made disciples of Jesus and nurtured emerging communities of faith, Paul never refers to anyone there by name. This is so different than what he does in his other letters. I think Paul is addressing a broader context than is true of his letters written to Thessalonica, Philippi or Corinth. Ephesians speaks of “church” in a more universal sense, rather than a more particular sense, in my studied opinion.

When I think of Pauline writing about leadership and gifting, as a whole, I see more diversity than uniformity. Ephesians 4 is one of three diverse passages from his pen that list “spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 are the other two). Laying these three lists alongside one another and it is striking how many different roles/functions are listed. While there is some overlap of these three, there is great diversity.

My personal reading of Ephesians as a circular letter prompts me to see those four or five roles (A.P.E.S-T) as leadership categories which take their unique distinctions from one another out of other more specific usages. Because of this nuanced reading, I often reference “apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral.” While there are people who function fully, with incredible divine empowerment, in these roles, Paul seems to me to be addressing the need for everyone in the universal body of Christ to have exposure and training from all in order for us to be equipped for ministry. Not everyone in the church will become an apostle, but there is some apostolic thinking that will and can enrich their efforts to live out the life of Jesus. Not all will be prophets, but Paul certainly admonishes the people in the Corinthian church to “earnestly desire spiritual gifts” especially the gift of prophecy. While many of us may not feel as out-going (never met a stranger) as someone we think of when we read the word “evangelist,” all of us are to become evangelistic.

In this swirl of Spirit-empowered context, I addressed a specific question, from a specific context where the prophet, pastor and teacher roles are much more emphasized. The questioner is asking “What about those roles? DMM seems to be emphasizing the roles of evangelists and apostles, in working among the lost. What about the roles we talk about being used primarily among those who are already saved? Where are they in the DMM world of thought and emphasis?”

I wrote a response to a more specific question than many of the readers of my blog realized. I posted a link to that article in a social media in hopes that others would click through and consider what I have written. One friend responded at the place of that link, rather than here in the blog. Context matters, greatly. Many people don’t want to dig deep enough to discern the nuances that context can create. They want snippets here and there. Just give us quick easy answers, don’t make us think or dig too deep.

I will explore this further in some additional posts. I do not want to overestimate your interest, even if you have subscribed to this blog.

Follow-up Questions

Today I will be posting some questions which my last blog post prompted. They come from my friend, Greg. We go to church together and have talked about DMM on multiple occasions. Greg has some concerns about aspects of DMM and I appreciate him and his heart for truth and making disciples. He posted the following questions on my Facebook wall, where I had shared a link to my previous blog article, https://dmmcoach.com/2021/09/09/what-about-the-other-gifts/. If you have not read that article, yet, Greg’s questions will be more meaningful if you read it first.

Thanks, John. Various questions arise. We can talk in person if commenting becomes ponderous.

1. Do you think Paul has clearly delimited distinctive roles in mind here? Relatedly, do you think this is a comprehensive Pauline account of leadership gifts/roles?These are general questions about what you think Paul is doing in this text, the answers to which will, I assume, relate to the way you are using the text to answer your DMM-specific question. Watson’s reduction to two categories at the end of the post seems to indicate that you take Paul’s categories to be sort of broad strokes that get at tendencies. Is that fair?

2. My second question, regarding the evangelist, is threefold.

(A.) I’m having trouble distinguishing it from your account of the apostle. “Apostolic workers are those who intentionally go to new places,” and evangelists are “able to cross many cultural barriers” and “intentionally bring good news into dark places.” Both seem to be about “going.” Is it that you see evangelists as a subset of apostolic goers who specifically cross cultural barriers?

(B.) I’m curious where you derive the cross-cultural component of the evangelist from. Obviously, one needn’t cross cultures to bring good news into dark places. But more the point, what about Paul’s claim suggests crossing cultures is a specific feature of this gift?

(C.) The phrase I’m struggling most with (as you’ll have guessed) is “without requiring specialized training.” As with the cross-cultural dimension of your definition, I’m wondering where this assertion comes from. It seems to me that, on the one hand, this is a claim that you (i.e., those who understand “gifts” this way) would be interested in appending to each of the gifts. Because it is a gift (and not an accomplishment of “training works”?), the apostle’s ability to be apostolic requires no training, and so on. On the other hand, it seems to me that this is a commitment DMMers are bringing to the text, which makes no claims about the means through which God bestows gifts. Isn’t it the case that DMM is already committed methodologically to leaders not needing specialized training? If so, does that lead you to find an affirmation of that presupposition in the definition of gifting?

Finally, I’m wondering what specialized training includes, given that the training (equipping) of the church is in view in this text. If we assume that being gifted definitionally entails no specialized training, then once the gifted train the church for service, can those so trained “become” gifted, or does being trained rule that out? Or is it just that such training is not “specialized”? Or perhaps the training—say, for crossing cultures—is simply irrelevant to the question of being gifted, so that those trained by the gifted may be equipped for service, but whether they’re gifted for it is another matter altogether?

More than enough for one comment. 😬 I look forward to the dialogue.

[NOTE: I use social media (Facebook and Twitter) as a place to post invitations for deeper conversations. I prefer having those deeper conversations in person, or here on my blog. Others do not agree that this is best, but it is my choice to this point in time. I do this because I want my deeper conversations to be with people who want to converse. I do not like the “drive-by shootings” which often happen on social media. I want a real dialogue. I plan to respond to each of Greg’s questions here in future posts. I shared that with him and will post my responses here. Due to some travels I may not make my usual Tuesday and Thursday morning times, but will try to stay regular in my responses. After I finish with those I will return to the list of questions which arose earlier this year at the Salt & Light Conference.]

Q&A: Do You Recommend “Pitching” the Text?

Original Questions:

What do you think about the general idea of using these kinds of passages (like the Sermon on the Mount) with Discovery? I know that narratives tend to work better than teaching blocks, but I have a preference for reading through blocks of text, in order to model what we expect people to be doing on their own, and learning to listen to God through all of the Bible.

Also, in the light of this list, how do you recommend “pitching” the text? Reading the titles (and those on your bookmarks), I realize that our general approach is just to introduce the text as “the next one to read”. We don’t ordinarily put a title on it. Probably because we want to encourage people to hear God speak through the text, without being prescriptive! But looking over the list, I wonder whether it is better, particularly in a church setting, to “orientate” the work that we’re doing. What do you think about this?

My Reply:

I did my Masters thesis on Matthew’s Gospel, so it holds a special place in my heart and mind. In church settings it is appropriate to go deeper, I believe. Jesus certainly gives his disciples “insider” information when they asked. If we want to transition from a consumer mindset, though, we must maintain some strong inductive rhythms. 


“Pitching” the text gives a group a heads up that we are hoping to mine it for certain insights. The whole series I sent you is certainly “pitched” as it explores the first Gospel looking for Jesus teaching and modeling of Kingdom definitions and callings for leadership. 

One of the unique characteristics of Matthew’s Gospel (compared the Mark, Luke and John) are the five large teaching blocks. Interestingly, in the first Gospel Jesus is said to have a threefold ministry (proclamation of the kingdom, teaching and healing). When he commissioned the 12 and sent them out (chapter 10), he empowers them to do two of the three. The one which is withheld for Jesus is teaching. Some commentators believe Matthew did this to parallel Jesus with Moses and the Pentateuch. I think that usually gets overworked. But Matthew contains that interesting directive:

““But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭23:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Everyone is discipled to the same Rabbi because we all have the same Teacher. His name is Jesus. Actually, the Great Commission is the only place in the first Gospel where the disciples are to teach and then, we teach people to obey all of Jesus’ commandments. 


Clearly other biblical books present the idea and importance of many of God’s people functioning as teachers. This is part of the spiritually empowered ministry in Ephesians 4. But Matthew emphasizes there is One Supreme Teacher. The rest of us are focused on getting others to listen to and obey Jesus. When you call the church to the Sermon on the Mount, it is appropriate to consider, weigh and explore who we are listening to and what his desired outcomes are as we explore. 


While we call it the “Sermon on the Mount,” Matthew actually tags it as teaching his disciples (Matthew 5:1-2). Much is made of the crowd, because we call it a sermon, but the first Gospel makes more of this being a setting where he is teaching his disciples and the crowds overhear. What does following Jesus look like? What should it look like? Jesus casts a kingdom vision in these three chapters which are very challenging and counter cultural. 


As long as the “pitch” is true to the context, I am okay with it, personally. I do much less of it with lost people. 

Q&A: Why Start There?

Q&A: “Most of the Scriptures used are in the Synoptic Gospels. Can you show how this is worked out in the ministry of Paul? There seem to be some differences. Explain?“

Discovery is more easily accomplished by the use of narrative (story based) sections of the Bible. Do you remember the interaction between Phillip and Jesus? Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:8-9) Since watching Jesus is the best way to see God the Father the Gospels are foundational resources.

Evangelicalism has made much of the Pauline corpus, and rightly so. But, there are times we make this material oppositional to the Gospels, and that is not good. Having a good understanding of the differences between these two genres and their functional roles is important.

Disciple Making Movements are focused on getting the Good News of Jesus planted into families–especially families who have little or no access to the Bible. These are folks who have almost no knowledge of Jesus. As a result, we believe they should spend lots of their initial time in the Bible discovering what is revealed about Jesus. The Son of God is the only one who ever said that as he is lifted up he will draw people to the Father.

When you read through Acts, and pay close attention to what Paul writes in his letters about his early days in a new city, it is obvious that he also made much of the Gospel. Consider, for example, his comments about coming to Corinth: “And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified“ (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).

Many of the questions and objections we encounter arise from the difference between starting towards faith and efforts to ground and mature those who are already believers. Are you reaching out to lost people? If so, we recommend spending lots of time in the Gospels. As they come to faith and simple churches emerge, there will be plenty of time to spend time with the letters written to churches.

Question 1: Thankful?

If you search for DBS questions you will find multiple lists which are quite diverse. But they almost all begin with some version of the following question: “What happened last week for which you are thankful?”

Some think of the first two questions as “Ice breakers” designed to get a group started talking. Please remember that ideally a Discovery Group will happen within a household of peace. Here you have a family and/or group of friends who already have meaningful relationships. They do not need an ice breaker like a group of relative strangers do who are pretending to be family (many efforts to change the questions are actually driven by this “strangers” context).

In the household of peace this first question is designed to invite the group into a spiritual conversation. What has been happening in your life which produces gratitude? This is a powerful question which allows a group of active listeners to communicate, “We care about you and really want to know what you see as good.”

For Discovery Groups that become overt, intentional disciples of Jesus, this first question lays the foundation for praise. While the household of peace will not know or trust God enough to overtly praise him, yet, they are being discipled toward praising him once they come to surrender to his reign.

This question is crafted to get us to look for good. After a rhythm has been established of asking this question, spiritually open people will start taking note of good outcomes during the course of time between meetings. Rather than arriving unprepared, these seekers will have multiple options to choose one from that they enjoy sharing with others. Those who choose to make a written record of these good experiences may well become future psalmists who compose hymns of praise after they gradually discover that the God of the Bible is the “giver of every good and perfect gift.”

Starting with this question avoids the trap of starting off focused on what we do not have. It unlocks the power of gratitude and disciples people on the path to faith toward praising the Creator of the universe for his provisions and holiness.

Q&A: Multiple Questions

Actual Questions:

1. Compared to topical study in small group discussions where we can discuss from various passage from bible, if we stick to one passage don’t we miss other key principles from scripture about same topic? 

2. When we ask questions of what can we obey from the passage, should it be group obedience or as per what person discovers? If it is based on what person discovers then wont we miss on key principles that they miss?

3. What shall we do if some members in the group are not obedient to their commitments made in last week?

My Responses:

  1. Please remember that the Discovery questions and approach were developed for lost families and/or friends who are open to exploring the Bible together to especially discover what God is like. One of their fears of church people is that we have them at an unfair disadvantage because we are familiar with the Bible and they are not. Staying with one text is for their benefit. But this can be good for ordinary church members, too. If there are multiple passages related to a biblical theme, then work through them one at a time as a small group. Then spend a session (every 6-8 weeks) tracing out the insights that flow from the collection of passages. In this scenario, every participant will have been part of discovering from all of the passages together. The insights which are traced out will be more widely shared because of the earlier group times. Most of our thematic studies are dominated by a few who expect others to absorb and accept because we have declared it so, rather than guiding a process where people discover for themselves whether or not it is from the Lord. Trust the Holy Spirit.
  2. In highly individualistic cultures their “I will…” (obedience) statements will most likely be based on what each individual hears from the passage. Yes, there is some risk attached with this, but the same is true of deductive teaching or other forms of inductive study. More significant than the statement of what they are going to do, is what they actually do in obedience to what they hear from God. In collective cultures it may be more valuable to coach the group toward a shared, “We will….” Statement of obedience. If they hear from God an action to take and they act on it, their hearts will become increasingly open to hearing from Him. Drawing attention to good quality “I will…” Statements (after everyone as shared their own) often results in those with weaker statements beginning to make better commitments and actually working on obeying them. What happens in the group gathering is significant, but what happens outside is often more transformational. Trust the Holy Spirit to work before, during and after the Discovery gathering!
  3. Modelling making good “I will…” Statements, doing what we commit to do in them and then transparently sharing what happens when we attempt to obey is the best path forward with the resistant. Do not shame them. Love them. Ask privately if there is a way you can come alongside them to see a different outcome next week. Most importantly intercede for them throughout the intervening week. Trust the Holy Spirit to work in their life!

Q&A: Are Addition Growth and Multiplication Complimentary?

Here is the full question from the Salt & Light Conference attendee: “Shouldn’t we say that growth and multiplication are complimentary, where we see growth in Acts with Peter’s preaching during the day of Pentecost first and the process of discipleship done throughout the church thereafter by Paul with the Corinthians or with his spiritual son Timothy telling the church to imitate him as he imitates Christ or Peter with the Jews in 2 Peter 1:12?”

My studied conviction is that something fascinating happens when you overlay Jesus’ three promises regarding fruitfulness in John 15 with the A.P.E.S/T. section from Paul (Ephesians 4:12).

Jesus affirms that those who abide in him will be pruned by the Father so they will

  1. bear fruit (John 15:4)
  2. bear much fruit (John 15:5)
  3. bear fruit that lasts (John 15:16)

His analogy is powerful and significant in Israel’s history. In the vine and the branches analogy we know fresh grapes and wine are the fruit being referenced. Papa God tends the branches to ensure they have optimum opportunities to produce grapes. Their fruitfulness is fundamentally about abiding in Jesus. Later, the way grapes become “fruit that lasts” is via wine making. In Israel’s history there were crops that were incredibly significant for sustaining life and as economic resources: wheat, barley, olives (for oil) and wine were life sustaining. They were bartered and sold by people in this nation right at the point of convergence of two major trade routes: shipping vessels on the Mediterranean Sea and cross land caravans coming from far eastern regions of Asia and the southern regions of Africa. 

The Hebrew word “shalom” is most often translated “peace” but it probably would be better translated by something like “flourishing.” It is a wholly positive word about well-being. Fruitfulness is about wholeness. God created the world and man and called for all of creation to be fruitful and multiply. He works so we will flourish—becoming and producing everything we can and were designed to bear.


The critical piece for us to do in response to God’s purpose and ongoing work is to abide in the vine, to stay connected to Jesus and his life giving nourishment (sap as it were). Every new grape has seeds for replication. 

Apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers are the functions Jesus has graced the church with “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” (Ephesians 4:12). The body of Christ flourishes when every part is being equipped. Apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers all have essential functions to see each part equipped, empowered and bearing fruit.

Wine making takes more resources than starting new vines. But without the new vines, there is a limit to how much wine can be produced. Apostles and prophets are especially significant to getting new groups started among new people groups and in new places. Paul and his missionary band were the tabernacle-like portable church. They reveal the incredible value and need for the church on the go, seeking out where God desires to be working next. Evangelists and pastor/teachers follow and are critical empowering every new believer to begin “bearing much fruit” and arriving at the place where “fruit that lasts” can be produced, too.

In DMMs the evangelists who bear much fruit are insiders to the culture who are quickly involved in reaching their friends and neighbors. They are like the many plant cuttings which are taken off a growing vine and re-planted to result in many fruitful vines (all taking their DNA from Jesus). Wine making is about preservation. It is about long-term access to the life-giving resources given from the vine. You don’t start by building your wine press, you start by planting a vineyard. It is my conviction that Church Growth models lead with what should follow. Far too often, they also export lots of foreign culture. They have taken far too much DNA from the business world, I fear.

Yes, addition (“much fruit”) is complimentary to multiplication (“bear fruit), but there is an orderliness we need to recognize and honor. And we must recognize that preservation comes even later in the cycle.

Q&A: When & how do you invite people to believe & obey Jesus for salvation in a DBS?

We invite people to believe and obey Jesus for salvation when they are showing evidence that they are trusting him enough to become obedient in small, simple ways. We do this primarily through the passages which allow them to Discover what happens when people in the Bible are coming to faith in him and obeying him.

Everything participants discover sticks with them better and becomes more powerful for them. Premature calls to faith and obedience can result in premature births and we know preemies have great risks and require extensive neonatal care. A “normal” gestation period is the preferred route. But we always stay open to the miraculous movement of the Holy Spirit. For example, if a Muslim person in a Discovery Group has a dream of Jesus while the group is still in the OT passages, we likely would transition into relevant NT passages corresponding to the theme of the dream. Later we will return to our previous place, but we trust God to know better than we do.

One of the “counter-intuitive” insights summarizes this concept. It says: “Start prepared to take a long time making strong disciples, but stay open to the miraculous acceleration of the Holy Spirit.” The Creation to Christ Scripture set contains 26 passages. If you study one a week, then it will take six months (with weekly Discovery gatherings and no interruptions. There are lots of evangelistic strategies which are much quicker than this Discovery approach. But our goal is not to just have people make professions of faith, we desire to also equip them to becoming disciple makers.

Multiplication requires raising up many disciple makers. The goal is to equip every person coming to faith to lead others to faith by the same strategic approach used with them and their family/friends. Replication, coaching and building a culture of intentionally focusing on outreach are critical for multi-generational movements. This approach starts slow. It proceeds slowly. The appearance of speeding up comes when more and more disciple makers are intentionally making disciples who are making disciples.

The tragedy is that many believe they can be faithful disciples to Jesus without ever making other disciples. Remember his words to the fishermen he called to follow him?

Our global experience reveals that when people come to faith by hearing God’s word, they open the conversations about what living by faith looks like in their life. Pentecost was a response to people coming to the conviction that they had contributed to the crucifixion of the Son of God. Let’s be sure people have experienced some of what the Word teaches about Jesus before we call them to faith.

Q&A: Do you have any suggestions on who to invite to a DBS?

It is best to have intentional overt spiritual conversations with lost people. Those who respond with curiosity and receptivity should be invited to host a Discovery Group where they will invite some of their family and/or close friends to join them in participating. You may have to take them through 2-3 before they will invite others to participate and that is fine.

Other believers can be invited to participate in a multi-week experience of DBS as part of a training program to get them to begin using the format in their own disciple making efforts. But mixing this type of group with the one mentioned earlier is not preferable. Lost people are often concerned that they know so little of the Bible that their ignorance will show, so they hold back if they are with too many people who know much more than they do.

Inviting one other person who is training to become a Multiplier to sit in on a Discovery Group comprised of a lost family/friendship group can be very valuable. But you need to coach this person before they meet in this setting. They absolutely must not “show off” their extensive Bible knowledge! They need to model a humble learning spirit. They must obey their own “I will…” Statement and attempt to share with the person they name, if they are to return. Their greatest contribution will be serving as a role model of someone on a Discovery journey.

Many Christians will not do what is discussed in the previous paragraph, regretfully. Those who will not, will botch a Discovery Group.

Q&A: How do you deal with the very tough and difficult Scriptures?

Tough and difficult Scriptures are best studied after people have Discovered enough about God to trust that He loves them and only wants their best. When they have that level of trust in Him, they will be willing to explore the places where His Word confronts their lifestyle choices.

Too often, disciple makers who know one of the “hidden sins” of a lost person or household feels the need to confront that sin with a “head on” passage, or worse yet, with a personal rebuke. If the Holy Spirit produces that feeling, take action ASAP, but what if that feeling is really motivated by your own fear that other believers might condemn you for being too “soft” on sin?

Do you remember the saying Jesus quoted in Matthew 1:17: “We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.“ (NIV)? Jesus used this to probe the charge that John the Baptizer’s choices to not eat and drink brought the charge that he “has a demon,” while Jesus’ choice to have close fellowship with sinners brought the same people to say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.“ (vs. 19). Consistency cries out, you cannot have it both ways.

Do not allow your fear of “what others may say” drive you to taking a premature action. Always do what the Holy Spirit prompts you to do. After people have established faith in God, forged through a process of hearing his Word and seeking to respond in obedience, they they have a foundation of trust strong enough to withstand the challenges of learning that some of their actions run contrary to what the Word reveals. Never rush this process because of your fear of what others may think or say. You know your heart is to see lives transformed and your trust in the Holy Spirit to bring conviction is strong enough to overcome your fear!