André Baard

‘The Fivefold’ … Spiritual Ecosystem of Life

 “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

Eph 4:11-13

Robert Whittaker introduced the Five Kingdoms of Nature system in 1968 as a way to order all biological life. It has stuck and today scientists regard this division as basic but reliable.

Below shows the approximate proportion of each kingdom of nature of all living creatures.

©2018 by National Academy of Sciences

I think we can match the five kingdoms of nature with the Fivefold ministry that Paul mentions in Eph 4. What are the similarities? Both demonstrate the five principle pillars that support the formation and continuation of LIFE. Five types or orders of life that speak to spiritual formation. God encoded creation with his secrets of Life, here are five of them.

The Fivefold are gifts given to the church to found and equip the church to function as a healthy ecosystem of spiritual life. I see each of the five kingdoms of nature corresponding to the five gift ministries.

Animals – Apostolic

Plants – Prophetic

Fungi – Evangelists

Bacteria – Pastors

Algae – Teachers

The sixth mentioned are viruses but they are interestingly not considered living … more about that later.

So God gives us gifted saints to help establish a living spiritual ecosystem, which we called Church … not much better a definition of church you shall find.

Apostolic Animals

Apostles are like the animal kingdom because they are the fleet footed, boundary crossing pollinators of the church. They cross pollinate communities with good gospel pollen! They are like the birds and bees with pollen all over their feet … bringing glad tidings of good spiritual pollen and causing fruitfulness wherever they land.

Prophetic Plants

Prophets are like plants, they are the indispensable Part II of the Apostolic-Prophetic foundation laying team, upon which the church is built. They are the oaks of righteousness and the terebinth’s. If the prophets and their words are absent, nothing can live, you have drought, things die. A ecosystem cannot function wordless. It lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. When there is a famine for the word of the Lord in the land, nothing can grow as God upholds all things by his Word. Churches and ecosystems collapse without the word.

Fungal Evangelists

Evangelists just love dark places, they burrow down deep in the crevices of darkness to bring light to those caught in darkness. They call the lost to come out and to come to the Light. They thrive in the dark. The darkness hates the glow in the dark fungal-light-of-the-evangelist because it enters without invitation deep in the underground, where those trapped in prisons of darkness are held captive. They draw out of the church the adventure to go hunt for the priceless truffles and mushrooms, hidden in darkness by darkness.

Bacterial Pastors

Who can flourish without a strong immune system? The Bacterial Pastor ensures the flock has a healthy gut so that the flock does not need anti-biotics. They are the good bacteria, so that the bad bacteria gets squeezed out. They are the immune system boosters of the body. They are those great yogurt cultures that keep our guts healthy so we can eat good grass as good sheep. They are the defence against poisonous pathogens and life sucking viruses. They protect the flock from the viral colds and spiritual influenzas sown by the agents of darkness. God bless the Bacterial Pastor.

Algae Teachers

Teachers grow you, just like algae grows. Algae grows like crazy … all that is needed is a little water of the word with a little sunshine of the Spirit and whoosh you have an algae bloom! Teachers quickly grow spiritual mass but need the other ecosystem fivefold to ensure the algae does not grow quicker than its ecosystem can carry.


And Viruses? So for all this life, there is the vicious virus.

Viruses are not living things. Viruses are complicated assemblies of molecules, including proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, and carbohydrates, but on their own they can do nothing until they enter a living cell. Without cells, viruses would not be able to multiply. Therefore, viruses are not living things.

Sound familiar? Surely viruses represent the works of the sons of darkness? Just like a common fly accurately represents Satan, so viruses speak of that which is dead, even though it may seems alive. Viruses have no life of their own, they grow by killing. By killing their host. They do not have hosts, they have victims. Viruses help us understand the agents of darkness well. They help us understand well how the devil operates.


Churches with Low Immunity

When a churches life-ecosystem is compromised, when its immune system is impaired so to speak, viral infections are all the more possible. Viruses are everywhere, they are latent, they are the default evil resident in and around our everyday lives, waiting for compromised individuals and churches. How does a church become compromised? They have one are more of the pillars of a healthy ecosystem, one or more of the Fivefold absence or poorly functioning.

How does the Jezebel-virus take hold? In a church with Ahab’s who sponsor her usurping evil ways. The wolves seek out the weak brother or sister, someone wronged, someone bitter, these are all fertile grounds for spiritual viruses to take up residence, multiply and eventually overpower the host. However swift interventions can save the life and restore the health of a ailing virus infected church. Heavy hitting apostolic-prophetic teams may need to do emergency CPR or apply a high voltage word-spirit defibrillator!

Growing Beautiful in its Time

Therefore, we have the five kingdoms of nature speaking to us about the equilibrium of a well ordered ecosystem, with the nasty viruses whose sole role seems to test the health of the other kingdoms of nature. And the devil buffeted Peter.

May our churches function as well as a divinely tuned ecosystem! May we learn from God’s creation principles. May we co-create and co-labour with Lord to found churches that work so harmoniously like the Five Kingdoms of Nature do in a exquisitely balanced healthy ecosystem. May The Fivefold ministers each do their crucial part. No duplication needed or wanted. Not one left out, every gift needed, an so the whole system becomes strongly immune to decay and sickness and excess.

Are you in a well balanced, healthy spiritual ecosystem? Do you have exposure to all five of the fivefold in your church community? If not, get to one, because there, like in the Garden of Eden, things grow really well and in order and in a wonderful divine equilibrium, where each part does its part, ensuring everything grows more beautiful in its time.

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