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Equipping Place (Why We Need the Church, Part 3)

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 edifying of the body of Christ… Ephesians 4.11, 12

Saints and members

The “saints” of the Lord, according to the New Testament, are all those who truly believe in Jesus Christ and in whom the Holy Spirit is working to flesh out their salvation (Phil. 2.13). The saints are thus members of Christ’s Body, and the health of the whole Body of Christ depends upon the health and contribution of each member of the Body.

The Church at all levels exists, in one sense, for its members, as a context within which they are being equipped for spiritual growth and life. In another sense the Church exists, by its members, since, as Paul explains, the edification of the Body of Christ depends on the unique ministry contribution of each of its members.

The Church, in all its expressions, is thus a kind of forge and factory for making disciples unto the progress of God’s Kingdom. As a forge the church receives the “fuel” and “raw materials” which the saints bring, in their gifts, callings, and needs. As a factory the church equips its members with the weapons of spiritual warfare, which they use in their day-to-day ministries to advance the grace and truth of the Gospel. This, in turn, builds up the Body, as existing members are strengthened and grow and new members are won through the proclamation of God’s truth.

The mission of the Church

We need the church to function for us in this way, for we will not be able to realize our full hope and calling apart from active involvement in the forming, building, sending, and receiving work of the Church as the Body of Christ.

As members we do not come to the Body of Christ ready to fulfill our assigned roles in contributing to the strength and health of the whole. We are commanded to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3.18) and to work out our salvation in fear and trembling with and among our fellow believers (Phil. 2.12, 13). The mission of the Church is to make disciples, not just believers, and not just worship-and-program-attenders. Disciples are those who follow Jesus as citizens and ambassadors in His Kingdom, witnesses to His resurrection, and builders of His Church. How can we build the Church if we maintain the attitude which says we don’t need the Church?

This is not to say that the Church today, in its various forms and expressions, is functioning as it should. In a typical church today one might expect to find a variety of programs and other activities intended to address some aspect of the life of faith. Sunday schools and other teaching programs, Bible study and fellowship groups, conferences and retreats, and, of course, Sunday preaching – these are the ways churches today approach the task of making disciples.

Taking our calling seriously

But as we have seen, real disciples, and real world-changing churches, are just not the norm within the Christian movement, at least not in this country. We are holding classes, having services, and running programs, but we are not making many disciples and we are not building churches which function as the witness to Christ’s resurrection and the power of His Kingdom for righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit.

The church is not fulfilling its function as a forge and factory, because the members of the Body of Christ do not feel the need for church to fulfill this role for them or by them.

A forge consumes all the fuel available to it so as to generate the heat needed for making implements. Only when every member of the Body of Christ presents himself to the Church for instruction, formation, and sending into mission, and only when the local church takes seriously its calling, not to run programs but to make disciples – only then will the Body of Christ begin to realize the kind of unity and maturity in the Lord which will allow it to fulfill its calling as witness to Christ.

Only when churches are committed and active to equipping the saints for daily works of ministry will we be what Jesus says we should be, the light of the world, the salt of the earth, and the leaven of grace and truth in the sinful and decaying loaf or this dying age.

Next steps

How would you describe the health of your church in terms of Ephesians 4.11-16? Download the free brochure, “Twelve Questions that Could Change Your Church,” and work through it with some friends to determine how well your church is functioning as a forge and factory for making disciples.

Additional Resources

Download this week's study, Why We Need the Church.

Sign up for ViewPoint Leaders Training and start your own ViewPoint discussion group.

The Church is the flash point for revival, but only if we prepare for it as we should. Order a copy of T. M.’s book, Preparing Your Church for Revival, from our online store.

And men, download our free brief paper, “Men of the Church: A Solemn Warning,” by clicking here.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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