41. Gifts of Ministries – to Build Up

The Wonder of the Church:  Part 6 – Thinking about Leaders

41. Gifts of Ministries – to Build Up

Eph 4:11,12  Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

1 Cor 12:27,28  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.

The Need: Where there are apostles and evangelists you have men who are constantly wanting to extend the boundaries of the kingdom and whose focus is not therefore, so much on the local church as going out to push the boundaries. That is understandable and right and where that heart starts rising in members of the local body, we should encourage that and not feel threatened by it, fearing we are going to lose ‘our best people’. Although I think there is value in the larger congregation meeting together from time to time, I confess I like Francis Chan’s recent emphasis on small groups that look to build and send out leaders to create new groups (churches). The kingdom is extended by the present church being equipped and envisioned and empowered and then being sent out. Apostles and prophets, in particular encourage that. Pastors don’t tend to have the same drive and therefore possibly fear that happening and fear constant change.

The Pastor: Pastor, in many parts of the world is synonymous with ‘main leader’. It is better to say it is synonymous with ‘shepherd’ (and ‘elder’ as we saw in an earlier study). Because we have covered this in some measure previously we only need to re-emphasise what we have said before. The role of the shepherd (pastor)-overseer-elder is to guard the flock and provide for the flock.

Guarding & Providing for the Flock: The role of guarding the flock comes first, I suggest, by teaching. Building knowledge and understanding in the new believer, is the starting place for creating strong believers. So guarding and providing become one and the same thing, teaching the Bible, emphasizing the New Testament, and providing a framework of basic teaching that I suggested at the end of Study No.35. To save you going back there, that included:

  • how to feed on the word,
  • how to sense the presence of God,
  • how to come into a place of peace ‘in Christ’ and ‘in the Spirit’,
  • how to receive guidance,
  • the nature and character of the path we are called to walk,
  • how to empathize which those who mourn and weep (Rom 12:15),
  • how to stand and triumph in spiritual warfare,
  • what it means to be more than conquerors, seated with Christ.

I say, ‘that included’ because should not be considered a comprehensive list of things to be taught, but certainly should be considered to be the basic foundation which inherently includes, who God is, who Jesus is, who the Spirit is, their characteristics and activities, who we are, our need for salvation, how it is received etc. etc.

Speaking about providing a framework of teaching is the positive aspect of building strong believers but there is also a negative side, that might be considered under the section on ‘spiritual warfare’ (which we may get to cover later in this series) – teaching about false teaching and raising awareness of the variety of forms of deception that the enemy seeks to bring. This should also include becoming aware that over-emphasis sometimes seems to come as some believers suddenly start making unhealthy emphases which very soon starts to have a divisive nature to it. It is healthy that people show interest in various facets of the Churches broader ministry – concern for various ministries reaching out into the world – but unless such things fit the vision and heart of our local church community, they can be distractions that can cause division. Paul specifically warned the Ephesian elders about this in Acts 20:29-31.

The Pastor’s Heart: If there is true heart of the shepherd, I believe the heart of the Pastor will constantly be yearning for the good of each and every member of the flock. Now we perhaps need to backtrack momentarily here and remind ourselves that shepherds-overseers-elders are one and the same in Paul’s teaching, and that the norm is a plurality. Now this is not to say that every ‘elder’ will have the same intensity of concern for the flock but I would suggest that all elders should have some concern. Some may have such a concern that it takes them into the realm of true counselling, but that is not necessarily true of all. That concern for the flock, should include in all elders, I suggest, a desire for each and every member of the body to grow and mature and enter into the fullness of the gifting that God has for them.  This takes us to the other side of the coin, teachers.

Teachers: Now we have already seen that some elders, but not all, will have a teaching/preaching gift. Now that is what tends to take place in the presence of the entire congregation and by its very nature is Bible exposition and more general teaching. However, and we will take this as a separate subject in later studies, when Jesus taught he declared, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” (Mt 28:19,20) and whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing.” (Jn 14:12) The first level of teaching, I suggest, is imparting knowledge, conveying the expectations of the New Testament for the believer. The second level of teaching, I suggest, is imparting faith TO DO. This is done by explaining the possibilities (vision) and then encouraging people into it.

A very fundamental level of this teaching should include, for example, an understanding of prayer, including learning to listen to God and then minister in prayer, praying over others. Where faith is flowing this will include revelation in its various forms, but this is not something that happens naturally but needs teaching and teaching includes exampling, i.e. the leader is saying, “This is what you do, this is how you do it,” and then demonstrates it and leads others into doing it as well. This very practical outworking of teaching can be seen and applied in a variety of areas – in giving, in providing hospitality, in being an encourager, in being a Bible student, in being a faithful praying person, in healing and deliverance, in demonstrating spiritual gifts, and so on. The point that is being made, is that we are NOT called to create a body that is just full of information, but a people who know it and DO it. So great is this subject that we will devote a complete Part to it later on.

Boring Church: I quite often hear the complaint from those who are dropping out of church (meaning they are stopping being with the body regularly) that church is ‘boring’. If it is a constant week by week repetition of the same package that lacks the Spirit, that lacks life, then it is not surprising for that was not what the experience of a disciple with Jesus (in the Gospels), or subsequently a disciple led and empowered by the Spirit (in Acts) was. The completion of the canon of Scripture is not an excuse to say we no longer need the power of the Holy Spirit, but it is a challenge to respond to all that God has laid out for us there, entering into the wonder of this life. If we are not being led into this empowered, equipped and envisioned life, then it will be boring – and wrong! The apostles and prophets will be there in the background bring added impetus and helping overcoming blockages, but the main ongoing building work will come through the pastor-teacher.

Because such a vision (and remember all we are quoting is the New Testament teaching) can be daunting for one man, let’s conclude by reminding ourselves that where there is a plurality of elders they will have different aspects of the same gifting, bringing out different strengths and compensating for different weaknesses. May we also add the vital ingredient of an elder-pastor-teacher-overseer that we noted in the earlier study on elders: Maturity is measured by obedience and availability and that is seen in the believer who is well-rounded in both character and service, one who does not merely ‘know’ but ‘does’.  The result? An alive church, and one that is certainly not boring!

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