It’s Not Enough

Have you ever noticed the word “all” in Ephesians 4:13?

…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…

Altogether too often I am tempted to read Paul’s letters as though they were written to one individual (namely me) rather than to a church full of people. I know I am not alone in this approach to reading the Epistles, which can be an obstacle to the kind of selfless service to others to which Christ calls us. It is so easy to be deceived into thinking that being a disciple of Christ is all about me and my spiritual maturity. That attitude, however, is a testament to immaturity, the very state I am struggling to rise above!

The whole point of this passage is that the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors/teachers are to equip all the people for the work of ministry–that is, serving others–for the building up of the whole body, not just one or two or a dozen individuals. What’s more, Paul makes it abundantly clear in 1 Corinthians 12 that every believer has a role to play, that service to others is the name of the game when it comes to following Christ and being part of His body. I really don’t see Paul making any provision for the “it’s all about me” mentality prevalent in today’s culture!

If I were to stand before Christ today and point to my spiritual maturity, there is no doubt in my mind that He would say something along the lines of, “Well, I’m pleased that you are maturing, Andee. But it’s not enough. There are so many who don’t yet have knowledge of Me, so many who are stuck in their maturation. It is good that you have matured, but it won’t be enough until all have matured! How are you helping others to grow?”

I love how Eugene Peterson renders this passage in The Message:people_are_the_church.20682523

He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

It’s time the church awakens to the fact that we are together one body–not a collection of individual units, each responsible only for himself or herself. It’s not enough that I concern myself only with my spiritual maturity. My maturity benefits the person next to me. His maturity benefits me. Only when we are growing together is the body functioning as it is meant to. Only then can we be fully alive like Christ. Only then will Christ say, “Yes! This is enough!”

I know I need to worry a little less about my spiritual maturity and focus on how I can come alongside others to encourage their growth. How about you?

Back to the Basics: The Word

acts_pageWhat does scripture have to say about who does ministry? Here are five passages that I think are critical to a proper understanding of equipping:

  1. Ephesians 2:10–we are created in Christ Jesus to do what?
  2. Ephesians 4:11-16–who are the trainers? who are they training? what are they training them for?
  3. 1 Peter 2–who belongs to the priesthood?
  4. 1 Corinthians 12–how does this body work?
  5. John 13:15-17–Jesus did what? commanded what? promised what?

If we are to follow Christ’s example, I think there’s no room for doubt that each and every believer is called and commanded to serve, whether it’s washing feet or preaching the gospel, or something in between. Moreover, between the gifts of the Spirit and the efforts of apostles, evangelists, prophets, and pastor/teachers, each and every believer is equipped to fulfill the ministry God has prepared for him or her.

Together these passages beg the question, What part don’t you get?

A word of encouragement…

I am blessed to be traveling around Indiana this week, presenting workshops to help ministry leaders develop equipping values and practices within their congregations. I’ve spoken with pastors, paid staff, and volunteer staff who are working together to encourage their congregations to discover how fulfilling ministry can be, to live into their God-given call to serve. I am truly humbled by their commitment to learn and grow, to try different methods and practices in hopes that they can better encourage growth and maturation of the body of Christ.

One young man today said that he would like to just push the pause button on current ministry, put in place some of the practices he learned today, then turn the ministry back on again to run in alignment with those new practices. Of course, that can’t happen. And so I encouraged him to remember that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time! Do what he can today…take that first step…make one little change…then watch for the next opportunity to take another step into an equipping culture.

Another woman shared that she had to cap one of her children’s ministry programs due to a lack of volunteers. She said that it was unsafe  to allow more children to participate than the volunteers could handle. She also said that it was really unfair to the people who had volunteered in good faith to serve to overwhelm them with more children than they could care for. So, she faced the frustration of members whose kids had to be placed on a waiting list–not to mention the pastor’s skepticism about the wisdom of such a move. This leader did the right thing: she courageously protected the children as well as her volunteers. The result? More volunteers than she needed, which birthed a new ministry initiative!

Another older couple came with their much younger ministry leader. After the workshop, the leader told me that they were helping her re-structure all her ministry teams and had come to the workshop to learn all they could about helping equip people for ministry. She was blessed by their willingness to learn a new way of doing ministry and their excitement about helping church members grow.

Changes are occurring in churches as ministry leaders are working faithfully to equip their people to live into their life vocation. How exciting! As we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,” it’s actually happening! The body of Christ is maturing. For all of you ministry leaders, I echo Paul’s prayer from Ephesians:

That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! (Eph. 1:15-19, The Message)