In Ephesians 4:11, Paul lists some of the gifted individuals that Jesus Christ gives to the church:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers… (Ephesians 4:11 ESV)
I have argued before that these are a sample of the gifted individuals, and that these are not intended by Paul to be set above any other gifted individual (for example, see “And he gave… (Ephesians 4:11)“). Instead, I see this as a non-exhaustive list of gifted individuals, just as Paul gives other non-exhaustive lists (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12). However, in this post I do not intend to discuss these spiritually gifted individuals. Instead, I want to talk about their purpose.
Why does Jesus give spiritually gifted individuals to the church? Well, the purpose is found in the next part of the sentence that started in Ephesians 4:11:
… to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 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… (Ephesians 4:12-13)
Jesus gives gifted individuals (all of us, actually) to the church in order to equip the church… that is, to prepare the church.
But, a question remains: Prepare the church for what? If my son wanted to play football, he would need to be prepared. If he wanted to take a driving course, he would need to be prepared. But, in either case, the preparation would take on different form.
Paul says that gifted individuals prepare the church for “the work of ministry”. What does this mean? It means that we are to prepare one another to work hard at serving other people. That’s what the phrase “the work of ministry” means. The goal of “equipping” or “preparation” is that followers of Jesus are ready and able to serve other people.
I realize that this doesn’t sound very glamorous or particularly religious, but this is exactly what Scripture is telling us. We can teach creeds and confessions and apologetics and belief statements and biblical languages and theology and church history all day long, but if the people are not prepared and ready and willing to serve others, then we are not equipping one another.
Notice what happens (according to Eph 4:12 above) when people are prepared for the hard work of serving others: the body of Christ is continually built up (edified) until we finally reach maturity, which is defined as “the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the son of God”.
Do we want people to be united in their faith and trust in God? Then let’s teach them to and show them how to and prepare them for serving other people. Do we want people to know Jesus Christ? Then let’s teach them to and show them how to and prepare them for serving other people.
Serving is hard work. It’s dirty work. It can’t be done from a platform. The church needs to be prepared to serve others. It is time for God’s people to begin preparing one another for this type of service. Remember that Jesus called leaders to be the greatest servants. If you want to lead, then serve and show others how to serve. Let’s start equipping God’s people for works of service.