Biblical Body Language

By Mike Ruhl  |  March 1, 2016

While ‘killing time’ at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, I purchased a book purported to be an international bestseller: The Definitive Book of BODY LANGUAGE (Allan and Barbara Pease).  The book explored the scientific fact that people’s gestures give away their true intentions.  Yet most of us do not know how to read body language – and fail to realize how our own physical body movements speak volumes to other people. 

Apart from His spoken words, even the body language of Jesus spoke volumes about His mission of vicarious satisfaction through the Cross.  Whether standing silent before Pontius Pilate and His accusers, carrying his own cross to Golgotha, stooping to rub spittle on the eyes on a blind man or leaning over to touch the corpse of a deceased human being, Jesus’ body language proved to be a wordless thesaurus of self-sacrifice in order to accomplish human justification.

We recall how the Apostle Paul referred to the church as the BODY OF CHRIST.  What a magnificent metaphor!  In Colossians 1:18, Jesus is the Head of the Church – and the church is the Body of Christ.  And the way that Christians hold and embrace the Head (Jesus) is through the Body of Christ (church).

And should it surprise us that the Body of Christ (church) also is designed and gifted with its own unique BODY LANGUAGE?  We read In Ephesians 4:11-13:

It was Christ who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

In the Incarnation, Jesus had a human body communicated to His Divine Nature.  In that body, Jesus declared that He … came to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10).  And now Jesus (the Head of the Body) says to the Church (the Body of Christ):  In order that you (church) can do with your Body what I did with My Body (to seek and to save that which was lost), I wish to bless, anoint and empower you with five FUNCTION-gifts of grace … a kind of dynamic ‘body language’ which will empower you for a complete and effective mission:

1. APOSTLE – There will be those who will GOVERN and Urge you to GO beyond Jerusalem - to Judea, Samaria and to the Ends of the Earth.

2. PROPHET – There will be those who will GUIDE you and even GOAD you to repent and continue faithful to the Word and the Covenant of Grace.

 3. EVANGELIST – There will be those among you who are passionate to GATHER and assimilate new disciples through the witness of the Gospel.

4. SHEPHERD – There will be those among you who GUARD the flock from sin, Satanic (wolf) attack and loss of faith and who GROW disciples to maturity.

5. TEACHER – There will be those among you who GROUND new and mature believers in the Word and Will of God.

It is noteworthy that a number of missiologists (I.e. Alan Hirsch) are convinced that the Apostle, Prophet and Evangelist function gifts drive the missional (outreach) surge of the church – while Shepherd and Teacher drive the more nurtural (in-reach) surge of the church.  Obviously, all five of the function-gifts are essential for a balanced and well-rounded ministry.

Is it not a worthwhile endeavor for all of us to think and pray about this ‘biblical body language’ of a healthy church?  How are these dynamic gifts and capacities from Jesus himself being unleashed and released in your congregation and / or missional community?  How has the Holy Spirit gifted you in support of one or more of these ‘body language’ functions?

Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to make biblical and missionary discoveries in your Word!


Moment Extras

Questions for Discussion

  1. Which of the Fivefold Function Gifts are being powerfully released in your ministry?
  2.  Which of the Fivefold Function Gifts are being ignored or underdeveloped in your ministry?
  3.  Some feel that the pastor alone is the ‘incarnation’ of the Fivefold Gifting for the Church. How do you and your leaders feel about that?
  4. How does the Fivefold Gifting of Ephesians 4 relate to the ministry of Mission Planting?
  5. How would you describe ‘modern day’ apostles, prophets and evangelists?

Resources You Can Use

Fivefold Survey – is an initial survey to sense your alignment with one or more of the fivefold giftings.

The Permanent Revolution by Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim

Fivefold Ministry Made Practical by Ron Meyer

The Forgotten Ways - A description of the 5-Fold Function Gifts (APEST) and links to two self-assessment surveys


Mission Moments is the e-newsletter sent by the Center for U.S. Missions to bring information and encouragement to all who desire to share God's great love in Jesus Christ with others. Permission is given to copy this article for distribution within your congregation or organization. Please credit the author and the Center for United States Missions.

For more information contact the Center at (952)-221-0362, or visit our website:  | Rev. Dr. Peter Meier, Executive Director;  | Rev. Michael Ruhl, Director of Training;  | Kathy Meier, Coordinator;  | Mil Behnken, Office Manager;