Ephesians 4:11-13:  Equipping the Saints
Ephesians 4:11-13: Equipping the Saints

Ephesians 4:11-13: Equipping the Saints

What is the church? And what is the purpose of the church?

These are questions that we ask time and again, when speaking to pastors and church leaders.  While we often receive a variety of answers, there is general consensus that the church is the people of God, the “called out ones” (ecclesia), and that the purpose of the church is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.”

This “purpose” comes from Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT):  11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.  13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Understanding of purpose of the church is critical for how we do church.  If we get the purpose wrong, we are not able to fulfill the purpose.

If we believe the purpose of the church is to worship together (a commonly given answer), then we run the risk of reducing worship to only one morning per week and no transformational power of the people of God outside the building.  

If we believe the purpose of the church is to fellowship together and learn about God, we run the risk of being a social club that knows the Bible very well, but without transformational power.  There is this saying: “Satan doesn’t care if you read your Bible and go to church, as long as you don’t apply it to your life.”

Ephesians 4:12 and 13 tells us that the people of God are to be equipped to do his work and build up the church (the people).  Where do we do His work?  Not in the building (although a few are called to do it there) but outside the building.  As we are built up, we come to unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son SO THAT WE WILL BE MATURE, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 

Each Christ-follower is to be mature, measuring up to the standard of Christ, able to stand confident in all places of darkness to be salt, light and leaven. Each Christ-follower is to be a saint, ambassador, and priest in the parish God has granted them.

That’s the goal.  That’s the purpose of why we gather on Sundays.  The purpose of Sunday is Monday.  That transformation must be seen, especially in nations that are majority Christian. Sunday is the only day that the church is closed as we gather for our team meeting – a team huddle – where we lament what happened during the week – where we celebrate the good that we’ve seen – where we are reminded of our purpose, and we are taught how to fulfill it when we leave the building.

In “team” terms, pastors are coaches and every member is a player.

But I have been thinking about verse 11 for the past number of months, which is often referred to as the “five-fold ministry.”  In this text, we read that God gave gifts to the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.  

For much of my life, I read those words as offices.  In fact, I know many people who are affectionately called “Pastor ___” and that title shows up in their email and other places.  It is who they are.  In Kenya, teachers are called Mwalimu and I was often called “Mwalimu Renita.”  I know people who are called Apostle ____ and Prophet ____.

But that has been changing for me, and I’m beginning to read these gifts not as titles or offices, but rather as skill-sets designed for ALL Christians.  

I used to hang my hat on being a teacher, which then allowed me to disqualify myself from the others.  I could say, “I’m not an evangelist.  I’m not a prophet.  I’m not a pastor.”  But I realized that that is a bit too easy.

This rethinking of these terms started for me with my dear Aunt Jannie.  She is incredibly hospitable and one day at her house, I made a comment (which I have made many, many times in my life, especially as a strong introvert) and she immediately challenged me on it.  I said, “I don’t have the gift of hospitality.”  In her wise and gentle way, she said, “Well, it’s not really something we can opt out of though, is it?”  Ouch.  Right to the heart.  Since then, whenever I’ve thought that, I had to tell myself that it isn’t an option to not be hospitable.  I must learn to grow in hospitality.  And my aunt has taught me, as have many others.  

And so I’m going to spend a few blogs looking at each of these recommended skill sets and try to unpack what it means for each Christ-follower to learn to grow in the capacity of each of these gifts.  

I hope you will journey with me.

And thanks for reading.  It may make you uncomfortable, and for that, I share the following (sent to me by DML Board member, Lou Haveman):

St. Francis Prayer… Reversed

Lord, make me a channel of disturbance.  Where there is apathy, let me provoke, where there is compliance, let me bring questioning, where there is silence, may I be a voice.

Where there is too much comfort and too little action, grant disruption.  Where there are doors closed and hearts locked, grant the willingness to listen.

When laws dictate and pain is overlooked, when tradition speaks louder than need; grant that I may seek and do justice rather than to talk about it.

Disturb me, O Lord. To be with, as well as for, the alienated, to love the unlovable as well as the lovely.  Lord, make me a channel of disturbance.  

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