The Pattern for Church Growth (5)
And He Himself gave some to beapostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints… Ephesians 4.11, 12
The Greek word employed by Paul is καταρτισμός, which signifies literally the adaptation of things possessing symmetry and proportion; just as, in the human body, the members are united in a proper and regular manner; so that the word comes to signify perfection. But as Paul intended to express here a just and orderly arrangement, I prefer the word (constitutio) settlement or constitution, taking it in that sense in which a commonwealth, or kingdom, or province, is said to be settled, when confusion gives place to the regular administration of law.
- John Calvin, Commentary on Ephesians 4.12
One primary task
Those who are called as pastors and teachers in the church are appointed for one primary task.
They may be involved in many different kinds of work, including: visiting people in homes or hospitals, conducting meetings, preaching, leading worship, teaching groups of various kinds, counseling, performing weddings and funerals, and doubtless more. All these works are important. But they will only be valuable works for Christ’s agenda – building His church – when they are done as part of the one primary task to which the shepherds of God’s flocks are called.
And that task is equipping the saints for works of ministry.
It is worth repeating: a pastor, elder, or other church leader may become involved in many good works within the local church. He may be busy all the time, with not an extra moment to spare in his weekly schedule. Church members may concur in his busyness, agreeing that all this work is important, and must be done.
But if these many and various works are not pursued on that incline that results in equipping church members for ministry in their daily lives, then those works are distractions from the shepherd’s true calling, rather than important components thereof.
Pastors and teachers and all who are appointed as shepherds of God’s flock must devote themselves, in all they do, to equipping the saints for works of ministry. No church will be healthy in unity and maturity where such equipping for all the Lord’s sheep is not the primary task of those who lead and care for the Lord’s flock.
For church members to do those works of ministry that build the church in unity and maturity, shepherds must focus on one primary task – equipping. That task involves three main objectives.
The first and most important of these is Christ-connectedness. The saints of the Lord must be equipped to abide in Christ.
All good works are works of the Holy Spirit. He is at work within us to will and do of God’s pleasure, bringing forth fruit, exercising gifts, and exerting power for witness as any situation or opportunity requires. The life of the Spirit will flow from within a believer, like rivers of living water, where connection to Christ and His Spirit is established and maintained (Jn. 7.37-39; Jn. 15.1-4).
Pastors and teachers must equip all the members of their church for connectedness with Jesus. They must teach the people entrusted to their care to pray, read and meditate in God’s Word, walk in the Spirit, deal with temptation, confess and repent of sins, and wait on and abide in the Lord. And they must look well to their flocks (Prov. 27.23) to make sure people are abiding in Christ, drawing spiritual nourishment from Him, waiting on Him, and delighting in His presence.
Equipping church members for Christ-connectedness, is the most important objective to focus on in all the work we do in the task of equipping the saints for ministry.
Second, shepherds must equip the sheep entrusted to them for Christ-likeness. The saints of the Lord must be equipped to grow in Jesus.
The Spirit of God is at work within believers, using the Word and glory of God to transform all believers increasingly into the image of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3.12-18). Being like Christ means having His mind, outlook on life, and worldview (1 Cor. 2.16). It means possessing a heart shaped by the Law of God and all His Word (Ezek. 36.26, 27; 2 Tim. 3.15-17). It results in a conscience purified of all evil and devoted to the values and priorities of Jesus (Heb. 9.14). And it means putting on Jesus so that His words and works replace those which characterized the old person we were before coming to know Him (Eph. 4.17-24).
Equipping church members for Christ-likenessis the second objective shepherds must embrace in their task and their work of equipping the saints. The saints of the Lord must be equipped to be like Jesus.
Finally, shepherds must equip the sheep entrusted to them for Christ-readiness. Every member of the congregation must be equipped and made ready to serve in Jesus.
Believers are called to good works of love. As we have seen, the good works for which they have been redeemed, carried out in their own Personal Mission Field, are the works of ministry that result in the local church being built-up in unity and maturity. Jesus, to Whom church members are connected, and in Whose likeness they are continually advancing, will show Himself in and through the members of His Body in good works of loving service to the people around them. Those who are called to equip them for this work must help them to identify their calling and mission from the Lord, and work with them to acquire the particular skills of speaking and doing that will allow them to be agents of truth, grace, and peace to the people in their lives.
Equipping church members for Christ-readiness is the third objective of all equipping. The saints of the Lord must be equipped to serve as Jesus did, and thus to be His witness by their lives and words.
If you are a pastor, teacher, or serving as a shepherd in any other capacity in your church, and these objectives are not the driving force of your ministry, then you are not working in the place where Christ can work through you to equip His sheep and build His church in unity and maturity. Whatever truth, grace, and peace you may be imparting through your various works, if those works are not devoted to and aimed at equipping people for Christ-connectedness, Christ-likeness, and Christ-readiness, then your efforts will not have the staying power they otherwise might possess.
Pastoral Hope Initiative
Prayer for Revival: A Jonathan Edwards Reader
Studies in Christian Worldview
Pastor, are you receiving our ReVision teaching letter on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday? Here are timely topical studies in Christian worldview to help you in thinking through the work of equipping God’s saints for living their faith in our secular age. Delivered to your desktop three days a week, and each seven-part study is available as a free PDF download for individual or group use. Subscribe at the home page, using the pop-up.
“It is not to be supposed that as with the first three … he has allotted different offices to shepherds and teachers. For he does not say ‘some shepherds, some teachers’ but ‘some shepherds and teachers,’ meaning that he who is a shepherd should at the same time be a teacher. No one in the church, even a saintly person, should take to himself the name of shepherd unless he can teach those whom he feeds.”
- Jerome, Epistle to the Ephesians 2.4.11-12
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T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Church fathers are from The Ancient Christian Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press).