The Stewardship of Equipping the Saints
Ephesians 4:11-12—Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
The reality of Christ permeates the true church as the body ministers to itself in love. We are to equip the saints within the local body to live and serve in harmony and to edify one another in love (Ephesians 4:16).
The reviving life of the Vine thrives in an atmosphere of love where people are laying down their lives for their friends. Our job as shepherds is to equip them to minister to each other. Discipleship is focused on the growth of the individual; this stewardship focuses on the health of the whole body.
I was introduced to the concept of equipping the saints when I was thirty, just prior to starting my relationship with my second church. Before that I basically understood myself to be a preacher, teacher, soul winner, visitation pastor, and activity director. I was your typical “one-man band.” Again, it was all I knew. My beloved seminary professor and predecessor in my second church, Dr. Gerry Benn, shared this concept with me, and my ministry life took on a whole new adventure. The Bible says that the pastor is Christ’s gift to the church to equip the saints for the work of ministry. I resisted this truth at first because I feared the delegation of ministry would be interpreted as laziness on my part. However, when our people saw the effect of many hands and felt the joy of ownership and my trust in them, they formed a great team to minister with intention. I like to think of it like coaching. Help each member to assess his or her gifts and callings, train him or her in how to use those gifts in the body, and then plug everyone into practical ministry within the body to serve one another. I suggest you familiarize yourself with the motivational gifts of Romans 12 and then lead members to identify which ones best describe their heart throb for ministry.
Here’s what each heart-gift might relate if you asked them what they were looking for in a church. I was taught these at the Institute of Basic Life Principles advanced seminar one year after I realized I needed to equip my flock. God has always provided just what I needed at just the right time.
Here’s the list of gifts in order with their emphasis.
• Prophets: Look for well-prepared sermons exposing sin, proclaiming righteousness, and warning of judgment to come.
• Servers: Look for practical assistance to each member of the church to encourage him and to help him fulfill his responsibilities.
• Teachers: Look for in-depth Bible studies with special emphasis on precise meaning of words.
• Exhorters: Look for personal counseling and encouragement for each member to assist him in applying Scriptural principles to his daily living.
• Givers: Look for generous programs of financial assistance to missionaries and other ministries.
• Administrators: Look for smooth-running organizations throughout the church so that every phase will be carried out decently and in order.
• Mercy Showers: Look for special outreach and concern for the precise and varying feelings of individuals with a readiness to meet their needs.
While an attitude of serving should always prevail, knowledge of specific giftedness and motivation helps the servant to better enjoy the journey and bring maximum benefit to all. Warren Wiersbe says, “Ministry happens when divine resources meet human needs through loving channels for the glory of God.” God is always the source, but loving channels properly placed are a God-send to the body. You can never be everything to everybody, but the body working together becomes the fullness of Christ in your midst. Again, quoting Wiersbe, “We are not manufacturers, we are only distributors.” A good pastor learns how to distribute the gifts God has given. This stewardship of body life also relates to the first two stewardships of grace and faith.
Paul lists five qualitative goals that flow from a body that effectively edifies itself in love (Ephesians 4:13-16).
|Unity of the faith (v. 13a)||This is a unity of confidence in the character of God as well as a unity in transforming gospel doctrine.|
|Christlikeness of believers (v. 13b)||This is a church with members that are becoming like the perfect One. They are approaching the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.|
|Stability of believers (v. 14)||These are Christians who know what they believe and why. We especially need this in our postmodern, post-Christ, subjective-truth culture. Every worldview must be accountable for its own interpretation. When I started 50 years ago, the landscape of the culture looked quite different. Many of my younger disciples are coaching me in the changes in today’s mindset—another example of the ministry of the body even to its pastor. Changing winds of doctrine should not blow us off course. Revival thrives best where doctrinal stability secures the foundation.|
|Truthing in love (v. 15)||This is a literal translation of the original. Speaking the truth in love is an indication of growing up into Christ our Head. When our confidence in God is strong, then Christlikeness dominates our attitude, and our doctrine is secure. It becomes us, then, to be able to speak the truth in love. Truthing in love serves the gospel well whether we are witnessing to the lost, correcting our children, or confronting our peers with sensitive issues. The life of the Vine flows freely through this quality of the branch.|
|Harmony of the Body (v. 16)||Here we see that Christ makes the whole body fit together by flowing through each member as he or she does his or her part, thus helping other parts to grow so that the whole body is healthy and growing in full love.|
Pastor, if you’re like me you would rejoice to see this happening in your church. At this point, equipping the saints for ministry should look valuable to us.
Our Lead Pastor not only role modeled this for us by equipping His own disciples, but He considers us as His gift to the church to do the same.
The life of the Vine also freely flows amongst the branches as we embrace our call and commitment to the “one another” commands of Scripture, both positive and negative. Don’t overlook the Holy Spirit’s curriculum for supernatural body life. Lead your flock to carefully consider the dynamic of each one as it is fleshed out in a real world. Imagine how a newcomer feels when he or she comes into an atmosphere where these are in place.
Here’s a sample of them.
|Romans 12:10||Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another . . .||God’s way of giving significance and defending the gospel|
|Romans 12:16||Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.||God’s way of developing fellowships|
|Romans 15:7||Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. God’s way of showing acceptance||God’s way of showing acceptance|
|Romans 15:14||Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.||Paul was encouraged that they could minister intelligently to one another.|
|Galatians 5:13||For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.||The freedom of liberty provides the energy to serve other believers.|
|Galatians 6:1-2||Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.||Even the restoration of a fallen brother is a team effort of body life.|
|Ephesians 4:32||And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.||Kindness and forgiveness are major components to loving, long-term relationships.|
|Hebrews 3:13||. . . but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.||The pastor doesn’t have to be the only one who confronts and encourages.|
|James 5:16||Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.||Healing physically and spiritually through honest confession before trusted friends and prayer breeds revival in the church.|
|1 Peter 4:9-10||Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.||In a broken world, generosity ministered through hospitality gives a feeling of home and security to needy souls.|
Think of it. If these ten dynamics were functioning in our church through Spirit-filled believers, the reality of the life of Christ would be evident. In this context, we model Jesus with skin on, incarnate! This kind of love draws true believers back to the assembly to enjoy the presence of Christ. The assembly of “freed up” believers is unselfish and contagious. This is a worthy stewardship for any pastor to teach, train, and model.