Issues of Life #21
The Call Part 7
“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 the edifying of the body of Christ…” Eph 4:11-12
Jesus has given the ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher to the Body of Christ for a specific task. It is to ‘equip the saints for the work of the ministry’! The modern church, for the most part, has ignored this truth and has relegated the responsibility for ministry to just a few. In our modern church culture you’re either a pastor, Sunday school teacher, worship leader or a missionary. We don’t leave much room for anything else. The result is then, that people who are gifted in other areas of their lives don’t find a place to fit in. You can use your imagination as to what might happen next. Here are some possibilities.
(1) Boredom sets in! We are created to be participants and not spectators in the kingdom of God! Jesus said, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.” By the Father’s design we are to be effective and productive in His call on our lives. When we are fulfilling that call, as Jesus explained, it brings honor to the Father. He goes on to say in that same context that, “These things I have said unto you that My joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full.” According to Jesus, true contentment and fulfillment comes from ‘bearing fruit’ and living out His plan for our lives.
(2) The gifts that God has given us to be contributors to the Body of Christ end up being used in other ways. For instance there are many very talented musicians who have to play in the bars and clubs because there is just no place for them in church. Their talent and ability comes from the Father and is intended to be used in a way that brings glory and honor unto Him.
(3) People just drop out. The natural result of boredom is that people just stop showing up! Talent is wasted but more important….destiny is postponed or missed entirely. A life is lived in obscurity. That is a great tragedy.
Issues of Life #22
The Call Part 8
When the family of God catches the Truth of this passage of Scripture, it will be an explosive thing! God’s intention is for the saints to be equipped for the work of the ministry. So, just who are the saints, anyway Well, first of all, if I were to ask you if you are a saint you would say no. You would base your answer on your conduct, your conversation or how you are living your life. But the Word of God declares that you actually are a saint! It’s not dependent on your conduct but on the finished work of Jesus on the cross. The blood of Jesus is able to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The dominion that sin previously had over us has been broken by the Lord Jesus Christ. When we receive Jesus as our Savior, our nature is changed. We were sinners by nature. We inherited that sin nature from Adam. But we have been washed, sanctified and justified by the work of Jesus on the cross. Our nature has been changed! The manifesting of our new nature begins at the point of conversion. The process of holiness and righteousness, however, is worked out in us for the rest of our natural lives. Our obedience or disobedience can speed up or slow down the work of God in our lives. But the amazing part is this; God sees us as perfect. When the Father looks at us He sees the cross. He knows that the work completed there is sufficient to accomplish true righteousness and holiness in us. God is patient with us in the growth process. The Bible says that He is longsuffering toward us. He will never agree with our sin. His plan is to deliver us from sin altogether. Here’s the good part; He doesn’t condemn us into righteousness. He doesn’t shame us into it. He loves us into it! That’s what develops true righteousness in us. The fact that God loves us without a real good reason to. It’s His nature and He’s desperately trying to develop that very same nature in us. He loves us as though we have no sin! That alone should cause us to love Him back. The greater our understanding of that, the more we will love Him. And it will be a true, pure love toward Him, the kind that He’s looking for from us. Oh, and the answer to the saint question…it should be yes! Not because of our conduct but because of what He’s done for us! We should make it the aim of our life to live up to what He calls us!
The Issues of Life #23
The Call Part 9
When the ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher are operative in the church…balance is the result. And without those five ministries input into a church, imbalance is the norm. There is a great need for balance in the body of Christ today. Show me a church where one or more of these ministries is absent and I will show you a church with apparent and obvious weaknesses. To edify means to build up, to strengthen and to mature the body of Christ. It speaks of a family of people (the church) who are well rounded in their relationship with, and their understanding of Jesus. The purpose of the ‘fivefold’ ministry is to equip each member of the body of Christ for ministry. When the church is operating as it should, everyone is involved in ministry. If that seems like a strange phenomenon to you it’s because our religious culture has deprogrammed us from the real Truth of Scripture. Most members of the body of Christ are waiting for someone else to do the ministry work. “After all, that’s what we pay the pastor for”, they say. It’s tragic, to say the least, because, first of all the pastor just can’t do it all. In addition to that, the saints are robbed of the joy of ministry. Even more tragic is the fact that the world is deprived of receiving ministry help because there are just not enough people doing it, to go around.
The apostle establishes and sets the church in order, the prophet foretells, forthtells, warns of danger and gives direction, the evangelist has an anointing to win souls to Jesus, the pastor shepherds and tends the flock and the teacher grounds the people of God in the Word. Until all these ministries are recognized in the church we will be operating with much less than the Lord has designed.
The Issues of Life #24
The Call Part 10
If the fivefold ministries are responsible to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, then what is the responsibility of the saints? The saints’ responsibility is to submit to training for ministry. After receiving the Bible’s truth concerning ministry we should be eager to learn and grow in the things of the Lord. We should be excited about the possibilities of the Father using us in a powerful and supernatural way. The world cries out for that quality of ministry. The world is so in need of those who are ‘sold out’ to the purpose of God and who are willing to allow the Lord to use them according to His plan and purpose.
Being equipped for ministry is not just about studying the Book, although it is very important. We should be growing and progressing in our understanding of His Word so that when ministry opportunities present themselves we will be ready, not with just our words and encouragement but with the Word of God. His Word is able to change, and set the course, of lives. We should be striving to have a good, ‘working’ knowledge of the Word of God.
We can be taught, and I highly recommend that, but we need to ‘get our feet wet’, so to speak, if we’re really going to learn to do ministry. Most people are afraid that they will make mistakes. The truth is, we will make many mistakes…..but that’s a vital ingredient of how we learn. You’re good at whatever you’re good at because you have learned from your mistakes. If a church is serious about equipping the saints for the ministry then we need to let them know that it’s OK to make mistakes. No, we don’t want to make a career out of it but let’s learn from our mistakes and go on to perfection.
The Issues of Life #25
The Call Part 11
A key ingredient of being equipped for the work of the ministry is to have our mind renewed by the Word of God. We’re born with a sin nature. We live in a world that is moving opposite to the kingdom of God. Our environment has trained us to act and to think in certain ways. We have received those ways as truth when many times, what we have accepted as truth isn’t really truth at all. So we need the Bible to direct our paths. His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. His Word is the true gauge of righteousness, or more specific His Word is the compass of what is right and wrong. It is vital that we learn God’s ways and turn from our own ways if we are to expect His glory.
We must have the help of the Holy Spirit if our minds are to be renewed. The Bible says that He is our Teacher, our Helper. The Holy Spirit gives us an understanding of God’s Word. He leads us into all Truth and gives us conviction of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. He reveals the Father to us. We cannot do it without Him!
When we read and study the Bible we should not try to make it say what we want it to but we should desire to draw out God’s desired meaning. We need not try to change the Word to make It fit our lifestyle…but we should seek to change our lifestyle according to the Truth of the Word of God. As our minds are renewed we think and act more like Jesus. We are becoming like Him.
Issues of Life #26
The Call Part 12
“And he gave some, apostles ; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith,” Eph 4:11-13
In addition to equipping the saints for the work of the ministry, the fivefold ministry consisting of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher is vital in helping to bring unity in the body of Christ. For those who would argue the validity or the need for the fivefold ministry today, the Book states that those ministries are valid and needed “till we all come in the unity of the faith.” I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not but we’re a ways from that happening. The Bible says that, “in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…we are all one in Christ.” I think you can add more comparisons to that verse without perverting what the Scripture is actually saying such as, ‘black nor white, rich nor poor, Baptist nor Pentecostal, we are all one in Christ.’ When God looks at our cities He doesn’t see thirty churches…He sees just one! All those who have been born again are a part of that ‘one’ church. We have been brought into covenantal relationship with one another. We use the terms, brother and sister, loosely these days and in most cases, sadly, it is only superficial. But the Father desires that our relationships with one another be deep, abiding and genuine. It is tragic that modern religion has taught us (churches) to be in competition with one another. We argue over doctrinal issues and we’re adamant that anyone who disagrees with us must be wrong. We compare how many people are in attendance in our churches as if this, somehow, proves our supremacy over another church. The body of Christ has been fragmented because of this and the manifestation of the power of God in our generation has been limited by the fact that true Biblical unity is non existent. It is true that there is great diversity in the Body of Christ. That’s how God made us. But that diversity should not be something that weakens us but something that makes us strong. Unity doesn’t mean that we all believe alike on every single issue of Scripture. None of us have all the Truth. We should stop acting like it. It is only when we come into true unity with one another that we’re able to stand against the enemy and be victorious. It would speak volumes to the World!
Issues of Life #27
The Call Part 13
In matters of actually being equipped for the work of the ministry there are a number of questions that might arise for the child of God. For instance, how does the equipping take place? How long does it take? Do I reach a point where I feel totally equipped? When am I ready to actually be sent out to do ministry? How do I receive ongoing training? At what point in my life do I quit doing ministry? These are just a few questions that might come up.
Jesus’ method of equipping consisted of taking the twelve with Him and as He did the ministry, the twelve watched. Then they went out, the twelve did the ministry and Jesus watched. He critiqued them and taught them how to be more effective. And lastly He sent them out by two’s to do ministry. The method still works today. Those skilled in ministry should take a novice with them and let him/her watch the seasoned person in action. Then, just like Jesus did it, the skilled person should go with the novice and watch him actually do the ministry. Then, soon the person has matured enough to be ‘sent out’ on his own or with someone that he also can train for ministry. Jesus also spent ample time with the twelve speaking His wisdom into them. So, equipping consists of training in the Word as well as actual hands on ministry training. Some of it is taught but most of it is ‘caught’. Not to be left out of ministry equipping is the importance of being led by the Holy Spirit. We will never get good enough at ministry to go it alone, without the help of the Holy Spirit! In fact if anything whatsoever positive happens in a ministry opportunity it is due to the work of the Holy Spirit. “It is Christ in us, the hope of glory.”
To the person interested in learning to minister to people, life is a laboratory. We should take the opportunity to learn from every life situation that we encounter. We should be students of the human race. After all, God’s only business is people!
Issues of Life #28
The Call Part 14
How long does it take for me to be equipped for the work of the ministry? This question as well as other important ones need to be answered. Leaders in the body of Christ need to understand that if we are going to encourage our people in personal ministry then we need to make it easy for them. We need to simplify the ministry process or at least answer questions like this so that the fear of actually doing ministry will dissipate.
Equipping starts now and continues for as long as we live! We need to commit to be ‘learners’. Wise learners know that every day is a lesson. We should never reach a point that we think that we know it all. When we take that position, whatever the topic, …we’re as smart as we’re ever going to get! As long as we are learning, we’re growing.
Even though the equipping process lasts forever, that doesn’t mean that we have to wait forever to start actually doing ministry. We should start immediately! A common mistake is to wait for that feeling that says we’re completely equipped. It is possible to postpone our functioning in the body of Christ indefinitely. So, it’s not about just ‘feeling’ equipped. Besides, there is only so much that can be learned from being taught and trained. You could read a book about how to fly an airplane but you really don’t learn to fly until you’re taxiing down the runway and about to be airborne! So, if we’re going to learn to do ministry then we must, just do it! We need to get our feet wet! We need to get out there and make some mistakes and learn from them. Of course we need to be submitted to authority. We don’t want to be a ‘loose cannon’. We need to take instructions from those that the Father has placed ‘over us’ in the Body. We should ask for their help frequently. Then, when we have completed a ministry opportunity, we should ask ourselves: What did I do right? What did I do wrong? How could I have been more effective? We should ask the Lord for His insight?
If we will seek to continually improve at ministry God will honor it. And when it is all said and done God will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Issues of Life #29
The Call Part 15