"And [His gifts to the church were varied and] He Himself appointed some as apostles [special messengers, representatives], some as prophets [who speak a new message from God to the people], some as evangelists [who spread the good news of salvation], and some as pastors and teachers [to shepherd and guide and instruct], [and He did this] to fully equip and perfect the saints (God’s people) for works of service, to build up the body of Christ [the church]; until we all reach oneness in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, [growing spiritually] to become a mature believer, reaching to the measure of the fullness of Christ [manifesting His spiritual completeness and exercising our spiritual gifts in unity]." Ephesians 4:11-13 Amplified Version
Ephesians 4 provides a model of five specific spiritual gifts for the equipping and building up of the church (the people) to display the fullness of God in the world.
What is the main job of pastors and teachers? What is the main job of evangelists? What's the main job of apostles and prophets? To equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ. And such training is not just to equip people for church building centred ministry. People need to be equipped for whatever God has called them to do, whether that be church programme, business, work in the community, public service, etc.
Are people with such gifts spending most of their time equipping (training) believers or are they being expected by the congregation to be the ones that pastor, evangelise, teach, etc?
How much equipping/training is going on where you lead/attend? Is there an unhealthy expectation from the congregation that their leader needs to take care of them rather than to spur them on? The church cannot grow when that is happening and it will atrophy.
A balance needs to take place - a leader's job does involve pastoral care, teaching, etc., but surely a greater proportion of time must be allocated to equip to train up believers, both young and old, maybe one-to-one, maybe in a small group. And also being open to inviting leaders from other churches with other gifts to come and take an equipping session - this will also help build unity.
Maybe God will be calling some of the congregation to train properly for 'formal' ministry but some will be strengthened and spurred on to be salt and light wherever God has led them in their weekday roles.
Does the congregation think that their work doesn't matter to God? Do we have people working in hundreds of trades and professions who think that? We have a large mission force, mobilised every day of the week in the world as people go about their daily work but have we intentionally resourced the people of God for this missionary encounter? Do they understand it to be a missionary encounter? Do we unwittingly imply that Christian work is really about what we do with our spare time rather than what we do most of the time?
"People spend about 40 percent of their waking hours at work. By contrast, most Christians spend less than 2% at church during their working years but the church puts most of its energy into that 2% and almost nothing into the world of work." Calvin Redekop, Professor of Sociology Emeritus at Conrad Grebel College, University of Waterloo, Ontario.
Equipping people will eventually free up time for the leader as others take on more responsibilities. Here are some ways I've experienced this or seen this in various churches:
A preacher started a preaching group which met at 7am once a week for 45 minutes before people went to work. Collect a tea/coffee and croissant, a short bit of teaching and then 1 person in the group, chosen some time before, brought a sermon for 15 mins on a scripture passage that they felt God had spoken to them about. There was then a 15 minute critique from the leader and group.
An evangelist put on a short course on various examples of evangelism in the New Testament. Each week, the attendees identified actions they could do during the coming week in their neighbourhoods, workplaces, etc and reported back the next week. Participants practised sharing their testimony with other attendees and developed such things as a personal tract. Sometimes the group would head into the town centre to talk to people and then come back, share, learn and pray.
All housegroups went through a book, Foundations of Christian Living. This took several years.
A person with a prophetic gift taught on prophecy and encouraged each of the attendees in small groups to start to share words of knowledge, prophecies, etc., with each other.
Christian directors of a business meet with a person with a prophetic gift every 4-6 months about strategy for the coming period and issues facing the business. This leads to prayer. This also happens with trustees of a charity as well once a year to form the strategic plan - they only want to do what God is directing. Of course prophecy needs weighing but this has led to fruitful change of directions.
Housegroup leaders visited people in their businesses, workplaces, etc., and discussed/prayed with them re issues they were facing.
Business people in the church had 1 or 2 people in the congregation or from other churches that they connected with and prayed with regularly - accountability groups.
I guess the first question is 'What proportion of time is being used on maintenance ministry versus training and developing others?'. We can all fill our diaries but building an increasing proportion of time for training and, as those trained, train others, must be vital for a healthy, growing church and kingdom.
Part of the challenge here is to get congregations to say, "I am not waiting for the minister to come and visit me." Other people can do those visits, the church needs to free the minister or ministers to equip God's people to do the works of service.
If we're going to re-evangelise this nation, we need people who are equipped. We need churches (the people) who want to be equipped and trained not just want to be cared for pastorally and expect leaders to do all the work. They want to be spurred on to be able to pass the word onto others. They desire to know God more deeply. They desire to see the work of the gospel spread.
If you train then you are training up multipliers. They will multiply the kingdom of God wherever they go. This is crucial and it's challenging!
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