22 Sep, 2010 Equipping the Members (Core Value #1)
‘…only 35 of 1100 Churches had done any evangelism training in the past five years!’
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” Ephesians 4:11-12
The equipping of the members by pastors is a foundational value for this ministry – I’m banking on pastors (reverends, vicars…) being willing to accept at least some responsibility as the equippers of their members for ministry. So, today we will reflect on the above important Scripture, which is where this belief comes from for me. Please understand, if you are reading this, that I do not stand as the judge of any pastor, and also that I appreciate something of the challenges of pastoring, having been a pastor myself for a number of years. Let’s look at what Ephesians 4 has to tell us 🙂
The terms pastor, vicar and reverend denote POSITIONS. The above titles of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher denote FUNCTIONS or giftings. These were the gifts that God gives to some in the Church to help its leadership. Somehow we have lost our understanding of these specific roles, which must be needed roles , as they are what God gave to us!
ABOUT THE LEADERSHIP FUNCTIONS GOD GIFTS TO SOME FOR OUR BENEFIT
If we were to describe this five-fold ministry (5 functions) in modern day terms, we could simplify them…
- Apostles = those gifted by God to bring pioneer leadership and direction to the wider Church
- Prophet = those gifted by God to bring messages from God for today
- Evangelist = those gifted by God to take the message of Christ to those who do not know it
- Pastor = those gifted by God to care for those in need
- Teachers = those gifted by God to teach and clearly explain God’s Word (the Bible)
HOW THESE FUNCTIONS FIT WITH THOSE WE CALL ‘PASTOR’
I propose to you that those we call by the titles of ‘pastor’ or ‘reverend’ or ‘vicar’ today are, ideally, those gifted by God to bring leadership to God’s Church, such as in the above areas (FUNCTION). As such, ideally, a person should only be appointed to a leadership position in the Church in as much as they are recognised to have one of the above gifts. Also, as such, our ‘pastors’ will not all be gifted the same!
THE UNEXPECTED TWIST
There is, however, a twist to this Scripture. Namely, that the function of those with these gifts was not to perform the function alone, but to prepare all of God’s people to perform that function !
I.e., those gifted as pastors are not supposed do spend all their time caring for people – they are supposed to be training us to do that!
I.e., any gifted in evangelism are not supposed to spend all their time sharing Christ with others. They are supposed to be training all of us to do that!
I.e., those gifted in teaching God’s Word are not supposed to just teach the Word in our Churches. They are supposed to be training all of us in how to understand, correctly interpret, and share from God’s Word.
…and this is how the Scriptures say the body of Christ will be built up: Those we call ‘pastors’ need to be our equippers. That is their FUNCTION!
THE FRUIT OF FOLLOWING PAUL’S INSTRUCTION ON THE IDEAL FUNCTIONS OF OUR THOSE IN OUR LEADERSHIP POSITIONS
Having been “…built up…” Paul goes on to tell us that the longer term result of this is that God’s Church will “…become mature…” (v13) I suggest to you that a mature Church can only be accomplished when the leaders (the ‘pastors’ / ‘reverends’ / ‘vicars’) assume their responsibility not only to run services and care for members, but to intentionally “…prepare God’s people for works of service” ! The ‘pastors’ are the equippers!
THE HUMBLE CONCLUSION AND CHALLENGE (for ‘pastors’).
Regarding the sharing of the Christian message (i.e., evangelistic outreach, which is the focus of this ministry and blog), it is logistically impossible in a nation like New Zealand to employ multiple evangelists to go around training Christians in all the Churches. The Churches simply do not have enough money. There are too few evangelists doing training. It is also a fact that the training is not being done. A pastor friend passed me the conclusion of a study of 1017 evangelical Churches in Britain. Of these only 36 had done any evangelism training in the past five years ! Therefore, another model is needed to supplement the great equipping some are already doing – because the majority are receiving / giving no training at all! What I believe is needed is for the ‘pastors’ in all our Churches to choose to become the equippers of their members. Does this sound scary? (Does this mean more work for ‘pastors’?) I believe there is an easy way! What I hope to do is to provide some simple sermon series that will…
- feed and inspire some passion for the gospel
- include some practical equipping
Why sermon series? Because if equipping were done in a separate ‘Christian education class’ (a) only a small percentage of members would attend, (b) the pastor would have even more work to do, and thus likely not even attempt it. This model would not accomplish the goal. Equipping members through well crafted sermons can! Pastors will be able to download these sermon series (sermon scripts with power points, handout notes and small group discussions), so as to adapt and use them however they want.
If every Christian pastor would give at least four weeks per year to talking about the gospel, I believe this could make a significant difference to outreach in NZ. At this point in time the majority of Christian believers do not know how to share their faith, were they to have a family member or friend ask. Expecting that a small few evangelists might somehow equip all the members of all the Churches is unrealistic… …but if the pastors could be give a month per year to preach a simple, motivating and equipping sermon series, the goal could be accomplished in this area, and I believe it could bear great fruit!