The Stewardship of Equipping the Saints
Our theme verse for this article is Ephesians 4:11,12: “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.”
At this point the reality of Christ permeates the true church as the body of Christ ministers to itself in love. This is called body life.
Our Stewardship: To equip the saints within the local body to love 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. This article is different from the previous one in that while 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 when I was thirty, just prior to starting my relationship with our 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.” It was all I knew. My beloved seminary professor and predecessor in our 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 each individual intro 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 speak if you asked them what they were looking for in a church.
Prophets—Look for well-prepared sermons exposing sin, proclaiming righteousness, and warning of judgment.
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 prevail at all times, knowledge of specific giftedness and motivation helps the servant enjoy the journey more 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 paced 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.
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another,” (Romans 12:3-5).
Paul lists five qualitative goals that flow from the body that effectively edifies itself in love (Ephesians 4:13-16).
Unity of Faith (v. 13a) – This is a unity of confidence in the character of God as well as a unity in transforming, gospel doctrines.
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 Christian, 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 actually 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, 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 pretty valuable to us.
In closing, let mention 3 more dynamics which enrich body life.
A life-giving class for new attendees who show an interest in becoming members–it will give all parties an intimate chance to go heart-to-heart about our church. This is my favorite thing to do.
A proper ministry to keep the radical cells of false doctrine, immorality, and division from destroying the spiritual health of a local church. Church discipline will not work in an environment where relationships are not nurtured. Rules without relationships breed rebellion. However, there is a sense of security when blatant sin is dealt with in an atmosphere of unconditional love. Jesus will be there, and the Father will work by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 18:15-20).
The life of the Vine freely flows amongst the branches as we embrace our call and commitment to the “one another” commands of Scripture. Don’t overlook the Holy Spirit’s curriculum for supernatural body life. In the “one another,” context we model Jesus with skin on, incarnate! The assembly of freed-up believers is both unselfish and contagious. This is a worthy stewardship for any pastor to teach, train, and model.