A Pepper Grinder Post

Equipping

Sometime during the Ministry for the Average Person series, Joshua wrote and suggested a study of Ephesians 4:11-13. You can read his entire comment , but it seemed to me that a large part of what he was asking was for what type of ministry the people to whom Paul wrote were being equipped. Were they being prepared for something very special (going to the Amazon and starting a revival were the examples Joshua gave), or for things that might seem more ordinary?

I'm going to quote a larger section of Ephesians 4, even though I'll be focusing on verses 11-14, because the whole passage is tied together. Here is my translation of Ephesians 4:1-14:

mature treeI, a prisoner for the Lord, encourage you to live in a way worthy of the calling you received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, putting up with each each other in love. Make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism--one God and father of all who is over all, through all, and in all. Grace has been given to each of us--a portion of the gift of Christ.

So it says, "When he came up, he led a host of captives and gave gifts to men." What does it mean to say "he came up," if not that he had also gone down into the lower parts of the earth? The one who went down is also the one who went up and is high above all the heavens, so that he might fill everything.

It was he who gave the apostles, the prophets, and the pastors and teachers, for the equipping of God's people for works of service, so the body of Christ would be built up until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, as complete men in the full measure of the abundance of Christ, so we would no longer be babies, tossed and carried around by every wind of teaching and the trickery of men in their clever delusion. Instead, we should tell the truth in love, growing up into him in every way, who is the head, that is Christ.

When I start looking at the last paragraph of the passage above, the first question that comes to my mind (and one which Joshua asked) is whether this list of callings is meant to be a complete list. The answer is clearly "no." Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 both have completely different lists of gifts given by God for the building up of the church. 1 Corinthians 12:28 is even closer to home, since it lists the ministries of apostles, prophets, and teachers, as does Ephesians, but it leaves out pastors and adds in workers of miracles and those with gifts of healing, helps, administration, and tongues. Even if we combined all these lists together, I'm sure we could think of other ministries that have not been mentioned.

So what is special about the ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4? My first impulse might be to say that they are ministries of leadership, but I think this misses the point. On the one hand, I do think we should respect and honor people who are serving in these ways. However, this passage tells us explicitly why God set people with these particular gifts in the church. Notice what the passage does not say. We do not read, "It was he who gave the apostles, the prophets, and the pastors and teachers, so they could tell everyone what to do." Rather, it says, he gave us people in these callings, "for the equipping of God's people for works of service."

I have said before, and I will undoubtedly say again, that a big problem with the modern American church is that it often approaches leadership from a business model. The pastor is the CEO. The elders and/or deacons are the board of directors. In this model, the key thing provided by leadership is DIRECTION. The pastor and other church leaders tell the local church what ministry activities it should be engaging in, and the other church members carry out those ministries the leaders envisioned.

golf caddyBut what do we see the apostles, prophets, and pastors and teachers doing here? They are equipping God's people--giving them the tools they need to do whatever it is God has called them to. To put it in baseball terms, they are not the coaches, but the bat boys. They are spiritual golf caddies. "I might try a seven iron for this shot, sir." We, in the modern church, have made people like pastors into the stars of the church, but Paul presents Jesus as the only lead actor, with the church as the supporting cast, and pastors and such as backstage people. I don't think the switch to seeing pastors as stars happened solely because the pastor market has been flooded with egomaniacs. Rather, I think we, the ordinary church members, have asked for it. In our celebrity-worshipping culture, we have chosen to have rock star pastors rather than humble servants. In a similar vein, we have moved from seeing political office (especially at the national level) as public service to seeing it as a celebrity position.

And what are those equipped Christians supposed to be doing? If you were hoping for something specific, you'll be disappointed. They are being equipped for works of service. This could be all sorts of things, but it is clear that this involves something that doesn't just benefit themselves, but also other people.

And why should they be doing that? So the body of Christ would be built up. This is the point of it all--that the church (the universal church; not necessarily the local congregation) would become stronger. And what's the point of that? Are we working toward having a Christ-saturated culture, where most people are Christians and very little bad stuff is going on? Look at what Paul says:

… so the body of Christ would be built up until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, as complete men in the full measure of the abundance of Christ, so we would no longer be babies, tossed and carried around by every wind of teaching and the trickery of men in their clever delusion.

The goal is for the people who make up God's kingdom on earth to be united, strong, and mature. They should be together enough to see heresy for what it is and reject it. The goal is not to have the best worship band in town, or the funniest and coolest pastor. It is not even to have the largest and fastest growing church. The goal is for God's people to be strong, mature, and united. When those people are strong and mature, all sorts of good and exciting things may happen, but those things aren't the goal. Unity, strength, and maturity are.

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*Photo credits: Golf caddy from .