The Equipping Church
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." 9 (In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:1-16 ESV)
A few years ago Amanda was talking to our neighbor who had four little girls. Rakel had been with her mother in law and had asked her “what would you do differently if you were to go back to being a mom with young kids?” Her mother in law said she would take more time to involve the girls in what she was doing, cook and bake and do the little things in life with the kids, and just enjoy the mess it makes. That report warmed the heart of both Rakel and Amanda. Spend more time with the kids. Involve them in the tasks you are doing. Show them how to do things and enjoy it. They loved the idea. But after a moment of quiet affectionate reflection they were struck with the difficulty of the task. The kids are going to cause so much extra work! I can get it done much faster doing it myself.
There is an African proverb that say “If you want to go fast then go alone. If you want to go far the go together” Sometimes in pursuit of expedience we lose quality.
Teaching others and bringing them into what you are doing takes time. But it can also be very rewarding and lasting. This is true in the home, it can be true in the office, school, and everything else we do. The church is to make disciples. The only way to do that is to involve others in our lives. Even in the church we can miss ministry opportunities because we just want to get our stuff done. We need to help others grow in their gifts so that they can minister to others. A key part of a church prevailing in its mission is that we are equipping others in ministry.
Prop: Christians are to employ their to equip others to do the work of ministry. If a church is to prevail it takes more than a couple paid staff to do the work. We need everyone in all their various callings doing the work.
- Every Person Gifted.
The first thing to see in this passage is that each person is equipped with a gift. They have been given a measure (metric) of grace (v7). Not everyone is alike or the same. baking a cake, you apportion as you think fit. Only so much in this one. and that much in this one. We don’t complain about what is given or how much is given, we just focus on being faithful with what is given to you.
V8 uses the language of triumph (ascending, leading captives in his train, procession, gifts to people). It is one who has returned from battle victorious and as the return to parade down the streets they are casting their spoils to the crowd. Jesus descended to earth to live the life of a humble servant, he obeyed, and suffered for sins, and then he rose again victorious over death. He now gives gifts to people. His grace changes people and giving them new desires and those desires produces gifts.
Different gifts lead to different offices. He gave apostles, prophets, evangelist, shepherds and teachers. Apostle means one who is sent out. Paul was sent out from churches to take the gospel to other lands. Prophets are those who proclaim the word of God, calling God’s people back to himself, and have a degree of spiritual insight to connect God’s word to people’s particular situations. Evangelists: these are those sent to proclaim goodnews, to tell others the Son of God has come and offers us new life. They share the gospel with those who are not Christians. I think the role of the evangelists is one of the gifts that most needs to be reclaimed by the church. We need to be sending people out into the community to reach others with the gospel. I hope people gifted with teaching will apply themselves to simply going out into our community to reach others with the gospel. Pastor and Teacher: in the Greek these two are not separate roles but designations for one role. It is interesting to consider why he didn’t just use one word. Take pastor, it has the connotation of caring for people, being with and among them, and providing leadership, guidance and protection. But alone it doesn’t convey helping people know the word of God. If you take teacher you would think of someone who comes in and lectures for 50 minutes and then packs up the bags and walks away. Someone who knows a lot but doesn’t connect with others. Pastor-teacher seems one office, and some have said it is the regular office of the church.
The shepherds and teachers
You may see your gifts line up more with one of the areas. It’s good to know where you are stronger. Use those gifts! A variety of gifts is needed. There needs to be many gifts for God’s church to be built up. We could have the apostle Paul employed at Bridgeway and we would be lacking. These are offices in the church and there are many, and it is certainly the case in the larger church body.
The end of this passage reminds us that we need each part of the body doing its part. We are built up only when that happens. I want to encourage you to use your gifts. What has God given you to do. Also find ways to serve in the church. I served on a setup team when I first came to faith. Serving on that team helped me grow in leadership that helped me in all parts of life. Guys were building into me and great friendships were formed that sharpened me. Use your gifts!
I hope this helps you see you gifts in perspective. We compare ourselves with others, elevate some gifts, belittle others. Aspire to these! Aspire to use your gifts! Need everyone doing this. Don’t say, well I’m new here or well i’m too old.
- The Gifts are for Equipping Others
But you also have to look at why these gifts are given. What is the purpose of there being apostles, prophets, evangelist, teacher/pastors. They are not given to be the ones who do all the work. They are not given to entertain us. What does v 12 say,
To equip. One of the things in ministry is that ministers are not there to do all the work but to equip others to do the work of ministry. It is the priesthood of all believers. We are all to do the work of God. v12. καταρτισμός, οῦ, ὁ as a process of adjustment that results in a complete preparedness equipping, perfecting, making adequate (EP 4.12 )
You may first think wow lets get paul in here and he can reach the people in our city. There is some truth to that, but his role as an apostle is to teach others to do what he is doing. You may think replanting a church is getting a new pastor to do all the work. That is not the NT church. In the church everyone is doing the work, and the role of church leaders is to equip others.
One of my favorite things to do in ministry is to see young people grow in their gifts. Sometimes a guys wonders if he is called to pastoral ministry. I always tell them jump into the life of the church. Reach out to people, care for the church, lead a small group, if you are gifted for that work then others will see it. You won’t be perfect but you will help people and bear fruit. People will want to follow and learn from you. And I want to help you through it, talk about what to do or how to do the difficult parts. Use your gifts! We want to equip others.
This affects the direction of the church. Everything is seen through the lens of discipling others. I don’t just want to do what is easiest for me. How can I involve others in ministry. How can we equip people to use their gifts. Small groups.
We want to be an equipping church. Teaching people how to reach out, how to lead Bible studies, sending them on their way to lead community groups, and lead churches.
Lets pull people along, help them fan their gifts, spend time with them, care for them. Everyone find a replacement and build into them. That’s what healthy organizations have. CEO moves on, another steps in and the org doesn’t miss a beat.
This should also affect the way we participate in services. Are we there to passively listening or are we there thinking about how to put to work what we are hearing.
Polity Class. Computer guy.
Bruce listening to sermon. Man, that is good” as he feverishly takes notes on everything. “You coming to Bible study with me on Wednesday?” I get there and the Bible study is exactly what we heard on Sunday. Fault him if you will, but developing Bible studies was not his strong point, but sharing what affected him was and he did it well.
Ministry in church should lead to others being fruitful in ministering to others. Each Sunday I want to remind you that you should put to work what you have heard. There is a big difference in listening to something when you know you will never do it.
Martin Luther “Every Christian is someone else’s priest, and we are all priests to one another.” Are you equipped for that. You know there is a big difference in listening to people when you know you will never have to do something. It changes when you realize wait a minute, I m called to do something this!?
Each person needs to do their part. Equip others. Seek to be equipped to minister to others.
- Goal is Full Health in Christ
We have opposition in this life. “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Eph 4:14 ESV). You are going to get pushed and pulled by deceitful, false theology, and much more.
You need to be strong in your faith. Be anchored in good theology so bad theology doesn’t lead you astray. Read good books on theology!
Upbuilding of body. Complete unity.
equipped (v12) means to make someone completely adequatee.
. grow into maturity.
Into complete, perfect (teleios) manhood. lacking nothing necessary to completeness; perfect: .full-grown, mature. with its chief component being full preparation.
stature of the fullness of Christ, (Eph 4:13 ESV). whole measure, fullness of stature. figuratively (EP 4.13); (3) as dimension of the physical body stature, size (LU 19.3; perhaps MT 6.27; **LU 2.52; 12.25)
Its going through life “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” (Eph 4:2 ESV). Maturity means we handle situations the right way. Doesn’t mean nothing ever goes wrong. No its handling those well.
Not children, not deceived, not pushed, not weak. Grown up, strong, stable, sound mind. Healthy.
If I could sum this up in contemporary language, I would say we need to be holistically healthy, and we find health in Christ. Healthy people go through hardship with faith, they keep loving others when life is hard.
Being healthy doesn’t mean you don’t have bacteria, or viruses in your system, it means that your body is able to fight them off. Being spiritual healthy doesn’t mean life isn’t hard and it doesn’t cut you. It means you are able to deal with those things appropriately. You lose a family member and you cry, cry hard, for weeks, months, years. Its OK. You have differences with your spouse and you talk through, you involve others, you get wisdom and counsel from others. You don’t get offended by someone and ignore them or push them away. When you hurt you tell people rather than ignore them and expect them to know what is going on. That’s immaturity.
This is where people need help. One of the things that I have found with our community is very few are open to talking about religious things, very few want to talk about their relationship with God. But everybody struggles. Everybody has ups and downs. Everybody has health concerns. Struggling with depression, anxiety worry. We have everything we want on the outside, but a million worries swirl through their minds. People are in search of mental health, holistic health, they want maturity, fullners, they want stability ,but it is not found in the things they are trusting in.
We want to grow healthy people. The gospel points us to this. It shows us that true health is found in Christ. We find fullness in Christ. We should just get in the habit that when people say they are struggling, they are lonely, that we invite them to church. You need some help. Come with me. It will be fun and you will be strengthened through it.
We “speak the truth in love” to people (v15). The truth is the whole system of Gospel doctrine. This is what we are to share with others. This is the great commission!
We need to be a church where we are all employing our gifts to help others find health and healing in Christ. Are we prepared for that? Are we going out to do that.
One of my favorite shows is Shark Tank. I love seeing how these investors know business so well and can sniff out potential problems so quickly. We were watching recently and a guy had a great idea that quickly perked the interest of the sharks. It was a great idea and they loved
it, and they were not sure why it was not successful. It turned out the guy had a lot of debt and then the reason for it was that his product went to production and the co
pany making his straps didn’t do it exactly right and so the straps didn’t fasten. They prodded him on this and he shared an employee made a mistake. This happened a few times and finally they said, “Why aren’t you owning this? People are making mistakes you should be overseeing. This is your puppy. If you want it you have to take it and own it and run with it.” He shook his head and nodded. HIs last failed attempt to get a deal was after they shared some criticism of him but their like of the product he said something to the effect, “I know these problems and I see my shortcomings, and I need some help, this could be your product and you could make it a million dollar business.” It could be yours. You could take it. You could make it this. He never owned what he had. The sharks laughed at him in disgust. He didn’t get it.
I think Christians can be like that with the mission. “That is a great idea, that needs to happen, so you go get to it.” Everyone of us needs to own our mission. Own in on Sunday mornings, Own it on Monday Morning. Own it on Tuesday evening. Your goal is to minister to others.Your church and the fits of others are to help you do that.