Some of my readers may know that I attended the University of Georgia for my undergraduate studies. When I entered the University, I hadn’t declared a major. Eventually, I landed on Biology. Why I landed on Biology as my major I don’t know. I’ve never worked in my degree field and the classes I had to take were much more difficult than those in other majors. But that is where I landed.
Even though I was a Biology major, I had to take a number of classes in other disciplines. English Literature, Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, and Spanish to name a few. While I wished I didn’t have to take those classes when I was in college, thinking back I now see that there was a method to the University’s madness. There was a sort of unity in the diversity. The subjects they selected were designed to work together to make me a well-rounded student. Teaching me skills I didn’t have and helping me hone the ones I did possess.
The church works in a similar way. While there’s not a diversified list of classes we have to take, there is a diversity of gifts that exist within the church. Within that diversity, there should be a unity. Last time I argued for a unity in diversity based off the idea that Jesus has given these gifts to the church and we should be unified in Jesus. You can read that post here.
Today, I’m going to focus on some of the gifts Jesus gives in order to equip His saints for the work of ministry.
Jesus gives certain men to the church as gifts to equip the church for the work of ministry (vs. 11-12)
We are still in the book of Ephesians chapter 4. Look at verse 11 and I will show you what I mean,
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:11-12)
So you have an idea of what these people do, let’s run quickly run through this list. First we are told that He gives:
When Paul uses this term, he is not referring to The Apostles, the disciples that walked with and were commissioned by Jesus, instead he’s referring to little “a” apostles. You can think of them almost like church planters or church strengtheners.They are the sent out ones. While the title is not used often, if you see that on someone’s business card or website, that’s typically how they are thinking of themselves.
Next, we are told that He gives:
The prophets Paul is referring to don’t operate in the same way that the Old Testament prophets did. These aren’t people who foretell the future like Daniel, Isaiah, or Jeremiah. Instead prophets are those who speak Spirit prompted truths to the church in order to strengthen, encourage, comfort and build it up. These truths are not their own. They are based off of and derived from God’s Word.
Next, we are told He gives:
Evangelists are those who are especially gifted to speak the gospel to others. Now, that doesn’t absolve us from our responsibility to present the gospel to others. I don’t want you to get that impression. It is just that these men have been especially gifted in evangelism.
Lastly, we see that He gives:
Shepherds and Teachers
I don’t believe shepherds and teachers represent two distinct categories. Instead, I believe they tell us the dual role of a pastor. As we consider both of those terms together, we see that a pastor is supposed to: (1) Shepherd the flock, protecting and correcting them. (2) As well as they are to teach others God’s Word.
Paul tells us that all of these men have been given, they have been gifted to the church:
To equip the saints for the work of ministry
Now, you more often than not interact with the last category on this list — a pastor, so let’s talk about that for a minute to try to bring a proper perspective to how we should think about pastoral ministry. As we do, the main thing we see is that it is the pastor’s job to equip the saints for ministry.
Who are the saints?
You, Christians, Church Members. You are the saints. It is my job, then, as the shepherd/teacher to equip you to do the work of ministry. Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t minister, I do. But it means that I am not the only minister in the church. You, the saints, are also to think of yourselves as ministers. This is where the idea of The Priesthood of all believers in the Reformation era came from. There isn’t a special class of people — pastors, priest, bishops, etc — that do the work of ministry. Everyone is a priest. Everyone ministers.
So when a church calls a pastor, they aren’t to call them with the mindset of outsourcing their ministry to a hired hand.
No, they are to call them with the mindset that this man is going to equip them to do the work of ministry.
Not only does Scripture tell us that is how we are to think, but practice does as well. It is physically impossible for one person to do all the ministry in a church. Considering the job of a pastor, we have learned that he is to be a shepherd and a teacher. With that in mind, let’s zero in on one aspect of a pastor’s job, the teaching aspect, and specifically as it relates to the Sunday morning service. Now, you have to know that God doesn’t tell me what to say, He doesn’t provide me with an entire message, as I’m walking up to the podium. No, I spend hours thinking, reading, writing, praying, and preaching this message before I ever deliver it to you. Just to give you an idea, I spent 15+ hours on my last message I preached. That’s just for the Sunday Sermon. There is also Wednesday night and Sunday School to prepare for along with other things I am tasked to do.
Now, I don’t tell you that to complain. I love doing what I do. It doesn’t even feel like work to me. Instead, I tell you that so that you can see from a practical standpoint, that’s it’s physically impossible for one person to do all the ministry that takes place in the church, even a small church. That’s why God gives men to the church to equip the saints for the work of ministry.
This is also why I also said last time that everyone must do their part; everyone must be in the game. We can’t afford to have anyone sitting on the sidelines. We all must be ministering and working toward the same goal.
Next time we will look at the purpose and goal of ministry in the church.
Question for Reflection
- Do you see why it is necessary that a pastor work to equip the saints for the work of ministry?
- Are you allowing your pastor to equip you to do ministry in your church or do you expect them to do the work of ministry alone?
Post developed from my sermon: What’s the Pastor and Church’s Goal and Purpose in the Work of Ministry?