Book Review – Primal Fire by Neil Cole

In the beginning there was “Missional,” then “Gospel-Centered,” and finally “APEST.” Don’t get me wrong I believe recovering the Ephesians 4 gifts (APEST) is super important, but at times it seems like it’s a niche that has been overpopulated, so when a new APEST book comes out you don’t need to take much notice – however that is certainly not the case with Neil Cole’s Primal Fire – you need to pay attention to this book.

Primal Fire is one of the clearest, most encouraging, and most biblically-theologically based APEST book out there right now. Not to mention, it will also ignite a fire up under you tPrimal Fireo discover how you can best serve the church to reach the maturity that God has intended for it.

Over the years I have come to appreciate any work done by Neil Cole – in fact his talk at Exponential 2013 was life changing for me. I am starting to feel as though this book is going to be life changing for me as well. It opened up a new paradigm of ministry for me and helped me clarify the call that God has placed upon my life. If you are trying to figure out your role in the Church this book will definitely help.


The book is broken up into three main sections: 1)Recovering the Lost Gifts of Jesus, 2)Reinterpreting the Roles in Ephesians 4:11, and 3) Reimagining the Gifts in Practice.

The first part makes a biblical/theological/practical case for why these four gifts, not just Pastor-Teachers, exist today. The second part takes each of these gifts and explains how they function and what their role is in the church today. The last part paints a picture of what it would look like if the church really recovered these gifts.


Neil Cole knows how to spur on the church for the sake of the mission God has called us to. He dives into exegesis and historical theology – thus he makes a solid case for the existence of these gifts. But he is not just a theoretician – he is a practitioner. He has actually done ministry using the Ephesians 4 gifts. He is somebody we can really trust when he speaks about these gifts and how they can be used.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was how Christological it was. It was always pointing us to the gospel and more importantly it was always pointing us to the life and ministry of Jesus. He points out that these specific gifts are the gifts of Jesus (not necessarily the Holy Spirit) and that Jesus embodies these gifts – so if we want to learn about these gifts we need to look to Jesus

Finally, I personally enjoyed this book because it spoke to me where I am at. I have always felt that I had certain passions and strengths, but I didn’t feel like those fit the traditional categories of Pastor-Teacher. I have always felt my call was to “equip the church for the sake of mission.” That is what I have been doing in my role and that is what I am most passionate about. Being able to expand my paradigm beyond Pastor-Teacher to Apostle-Prophet-Evangelist-Pastor-Teacher has really helped me understand and clarify my calling.


There weren’t many things that I didn’t like or necessarily disagreed with. For instance, I wouldn’t come down on hierarchical leadership as hard as he does (even though I personally hold to a more organic style of leadership) but that isn’t such a big deal to me that he is very opposed to hierarchical leadership. The only thing I had an issue with though was his discussion of deacons and APEST gifts. He equates deacons with the Ephesians 4 equipping gifts. I don’t think this interpretation holds exegetically.


The Church began with all five gifts. Eventually we lost all the gifts except for Pastor-Teachers. But we have seen a mainstream revival of Evangelists, especially during the great awakenings. Eventually with the acceptance of Charismatic giftings, the Prophet entered the mainstream. And now we are seeing the rise of the Apostle. We are living in an exciting time. I honestly believe that God is taking the church back to its roots in order to do something big in this world; that is why he has raised up these five gifts once again. Neil Cole’s Primal Fire helps us to better understand what God is doing by rising up these Ephesians 4 Gifts. I highly recommend you read it if you are looking for encouragement in your calling, if you want to learn what the APEST gifts are, or if you want to learn how to incorporate APEST into your ministry.

You can find out more about Neil Cole here:

Neil Cole


Twitter: @Neil_Cole

You can Download the 1st Chapter of Primal Fire here.

(Note: Tyndale House Publishers has provided you with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an impartial review.)


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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