The appendix is supposed to sit quietly in place. If it gets noticed for any reason, then it should be cut out – removed.
Dan at “Cerulean Sanctum” thinks that many Christians today feel like an appendix… and I think he’s right. In his post, “The Church’s Appendix,” Dan says that (like the appendix) many followers of Jesus do not understand what role they play in the body of Christ.
At one point, he writes:
I suspect that many people in our churches today feel like the Body’s appendix. Or at least the appendix of old, when we thought it had no real purpose except to go bad and become life threatening.
I think of the person with the prophetic gift that goes unused in a church that ignores the prophetic. Or the person with a gift of words of wisdom but who is not a church leader, so he or she is given no opportunity to practice that gift in the larger church body.
Unfortunately, I think Dan has offered a great analogy.
And, I would take it further. Today, people rarely notice that they have an appendix. But, when the appendix becomes noticeable… we rip it out… surgery… get rid of it.
Is this what happens among the church when an “appendix” becomes noticeable? Is that “appendix” suddenly considered inflamed… irritated… infected? If it doesn’t go back to it’s rightful (quiet and unnoticeable) place, then it will have to go.
Yep. I think that happens far too often.
And, guess what? That “appendix” actually plays an important role in the body of Christ. The church is actually LESS healthy after the “appendix” is “removed.”
Three years ago, I wrote a post called “Spiritually Gifted Women.” The post was part of a series of posts that I wrote on women and service (ministry) from the perspective of Scripture. Unfortunately, there’s alot of organizational and hierarchical baggage attached to some terms in Scripture, terms such as “minister” or “ministry” or “pastor” or “preacher” etc. Much of that baggage surrounds gender roles and various forms of service. I think it’s time to look again at how those terms are used in Scripture.
In a previous post – “Spiritual Gifts and Women” – I started writing about “women in ministry,” or, perhaps a better way to phrase it, “women serving others.” I pointed out that the authors of Scripture do not make a gender distinction when listing spiritual gifts. Neither Peter nor Paul lists certain gifts for men and other gifts for women. Also, they do not specify that only men have certain gifts.
So, from this conclusion, it seems that women could be gifted by the Holy Spirit with any of the gifts listed, that is, apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, teaching, shepherding, leading, serving, helping, giving, etc. Based on these gifts, and the exercise of these gifts, it would be proper to call a woman an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a teacher, a shepherd, a leader, a servant, a helper, a giver, etc.
Again, according to Scripture, God gives gifts to his children through the Holy Spirit for the purpose of serving others. (see Romans 12:6, 1 Corinthians 12:7, 1 Peter 4:10) We see this specifically of gifts like prophecy, which is intended to be used to edify others, not just the one with the gift of prophecy:
On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. (1 Corinthians 14:3-4 ESV)
Thus, the woman who is a prophet should speak to others for the purpose of building them up.
Unfortunately, spiritual gifts are often associated with “offices” or “positions” in the church. Thus, because Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2 speak of elders as “shepherding,” we often associate the spiritual gift of “shepherding” with being an elder. In fact, in many contexts, elders are called “pastors” because of this associations.
Similarly, since some elders “lead” (1 Timothy 5:17), we often associate “leading” with being an elder (or other “office” or “position”, whatever we call it). However, it seems from Scripture that others lead, even if they don’t haven’t been appointed as an elder or even if they don’t have a specific “position.” (see 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, Romans 12:8, Hebrews 13:7, 17)
The same could be said for teaching. In 1 Timothy 3:2 and 1 Timothy 5:17, Paul says that elders should be able to teach, and that we should honor those who work hard at teaching. But, these passages do not indicate that only elders teach. In fact, there are several passages that place teaching in the context of the entire body of Christ. (see Matthew 28:18-20, Colossians 3:16)
Thus, the stigma against women having certain spiritual gifts (especially apostleship, prophecy, teaching, evangelism, shepherding, and leading) or being called by labels related to those spiritual gifts (apostle, prophet, teacher, evangelist, shepherd, and leader) comes more from the association of those spiritual gifts (and titles) to certain “offices” or “positions” in the church, not from the spiritual gifts themselves.
Now, once again, this does not mean that women (or men, for that matter) should exercise their spiritual gifts in any context. So, for the next few posts about “women in ministry (service)”, I’ll look at some of those contexts.
Four years ago, I wrote a post called “Equipping for what?” The point of the post was to examine and consider Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 4:11-13. “Equipping” is very important… but what are we to equip one another for? What’s the purpose of “equipping”? Why should we care? How do we do it? These are some of the questions that are raised and partially answered in this short post.
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.
As I mentioned in my post “To equip the saints for the work of ministry,” for the last several posts I’ve been considering the work of the gifted individuals listed by Paul in Ephesians 4:11 in equipping Jesus’ followers for doing the hard work of serving others. Remember, in Ephesians 4:12, Paul wrote that this is one of the reasons that Jesus gave these spiritual gifted people. I’ve already written about some ways that some of those spiritually gifted people can equip the saints for the work of ministry: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers.
So, since I’ve covered apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and teachers, what’s this post about? Well, this post is about everyone else. Now, some people think that all possible spiritual giftings are variations of the ones listed in Ephesians 4:11. And, that might be true. However, there are many, many followers of Jesus who – for various reasons – do not recognize themselves as apostles, prophets, evangelists, or shepherds and teachers.
What about these brothers and sisters in Christ? Can they also prepare their brothers and sisters in Christ to do the hard work of serving others?
Yes, I think so.
But, I don’t think it’s necessary to figure out what spiritual gift you have in order to begin preparing others. Don’t try to find your place. Simple live and serve where you are and in the circumstances you’re in.
What am I talking about?
Do you know of people who have physical needs? Then, as you give to help them, also prepare your brothers and sisters to be givers as well. Do you know people who need to be served? As you serve them, equip other followers of Jesus to serve as well. Do you know people who are discouraged? While you are encouraging them, prepare other saints to serve them as well.
The most obvious scriptural examples of this idea is found in the “one another” passages. It’s not only the teachers who are told to “teach others,” but it’s all believers who are told to “teach one another.” It’s not just the servants who are instructed to “serve others;” all followers of Jesus are exhorted to “serve one another.” The spiritually gifted exhorters are not the only ones who are told to encourage others. Instead, all believers are to “encourage one another.”
Has God given you opportunities to influence others for the kingdom of God? If so, use those opportunities to equip others also. This is possible if the opportunities include giving or prophesying or serving or evangelizing or encouraging or shepherding or helping or teaching… in fact, it’s possible to equip others in many, many different ways.
And, not only is it possible… it’s necessary and important. We need to provide opportunities for God to work through us by his Holy Spirit to equip our brothers and sisters in Christ (and to BE equipped by them) so that we can all build up one another toward unity and maturity and faith in Jesus Christ.
Series: To Equip the Saints for the Work of Ministry
As I mentioned in my post “To equip the saints for the work of ministry,” for the next several posts I’m going to consider the work of the gifted individuals listed by Paul in Ephesians 4:11 in equipping Jesus’ followers for doing the hard work of serving others. Remember, in Ephesians 4:12, Paul wrote that this is one of the reasons that Jesus gave these spiritual gifted people. I’ve already written about some ways that some of those spiritually gifted people can equip the saints for the work of ministry: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds.
So, in this post, I’m going to consider the fifth and final gifted group in the list: How do teachers equip believers for the work of serving others?
Of course, as I said for apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds, teachers (and any other follower of Jesus Christ) can build up and encourage their brothers and sisters in Christ in many different ways. But, in this passage, Paul is focusing on the spiritual gifts that God gives to his children through Jesus Christ. So, how does someone gifted as a teacher prepare the church for works of service because of that gifting?
Now, as we consider the role of teachers in equipping the saints, we need to remember something important: While Paul connected teaching and shepherding closely (they are actually one “item” in the list – i.e., shepherds-teachers), the fact that he used separate terms shows that there is some difference in the two. So, I’ve decided to deal with them separately.
Interestingly, as with the other spiritual gifts and spiritually gifted people, the terms teach and teacher are not defined in Scripture, even though those terms are probably used more than any other term related to spiritual gifts. Many people are described as teachers in Scripture, and even more are said to teach. (In fact, in several places, all believers are called to teach, but that’s for a different post.)
It would seem that a teacher’s primary role is to explain in ways that many can understand. This is important to me, because teaching is often only associated with knowledge or facts. But, knowledge – even true knowledge – is not beneficial to others if it is not explained in a way they can understanding. Often, this type of explanation occurs with words. But, just as often – perhaps even more so – explanation occurs in action.
Thus, teachers would equip the saints by helping them learn to explain as well. This means that teachers how to help their brothers and sisters to know how to ask questions, how to listen to other people, and how to determine whether or not people are understanding.
I think there are many examples of this in Scripture. For example, we see Jesus explaining the parables to his disciples. This passage also gives a good example of this type of equipping:
Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. (Acts 18:24-28 ESV)
As a teacher, have you ever helped others learn to explain the things of God to others? Has a teacher ever equipped you to teach?
Series: To Equip the Saints for the Work of Ministry
Three years ago I wrote a modern parable as a blog post called “Modern Day Parable of the Subcontractors.” In many ways, it goes along with the blog series that I’ve been publishing the last few days, dealing with spiritual gifts and serving others and the need of all believers working together. Also, if you’re interested, I explained what the parable means in my post “Parable of the Subcontractors Explained.” But, read the parable (below) first…
A man decided to build a house. The builder drew up plans to his exact specifications, then he subcontracted various parts of the project to different craftsmen: a mason for the brickwork, a carpenter for the woodwork, a plumber, an electrician, a roofer, etc. He gave each of the subcontractors a set of plans and asked them to carry out their tasks according to his plans.
When the builder checked on the progress, he found that his house was behind schedule and was not being built to his specifications. In fact, part of the flooring, which should be wood, was made of brick. Some of the plumbing had been replaced with bricks. Even the electrical system and roof including brick, which was not part of his design.
The builder called the mason and asked the mason what happened. The mason explained that he was a master craftsman, much more skilled at his craft than the other subcontractors. When he saw that the carpenter was not as good at woodworking, the mason jumped in and did part of his job. When he saw that the plumber was not as good at plumbing, the mason jumped in and did part of his job. In fact, the mason said, he had to be involved in each part of the project of it would not have been done properly.
The builder promptly fired the mason, explaining: “I gave you the task of laying bricks. I did not ask you to do the carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, or roofing. Instead of following my plans, you decided to run things yourself. You are fired for breech of contract.”
Next, the builder called the other subcontractors and asked them what happened. Each subcontractor in turn explained that the mason was much better at laying bricks that they were at their tasks. When the mason decided to do their tasks as well, they stood back and allowed him to do all the work.
The builder promptly fired all the other subcontractors, explaining: “I gave each of you a specific task. I asked you to do the carpentry, or the plumbing, or the electrical work, or the roofing. Instead of following my plans, you decided to follow the mason’s plans. You are all fired for breech of contract.”
As I mentioned in my post “To equip the saints for the work of ministry,” for the next several posts I’m going to consider the work of the gifted individuals listed by Paul in Ephesians 4:11 in equipping Jesus’ followers for doing the hard work of serving others. Remember, in Ephesians 4:12, Paul wrote that this is one of the reasons that Jesus gave these spiritual gifted people. I’ve already written about some ways that some of those spiritually gifted people can equip the saints for the work of ministry: apostles, prophets, and evangelists.
So, in this post, I’m going to consider the fourth gifted group in the list: How do shepherds equip believers for the work of serving others?
Of course, as I said for apostles, prophets, and evangelists, shepherds (and any other follower of Jesus Christ) and build up and encourage their brothers and sisters in Christ in many different ways. But, in this passage, Paul is focusing on the spiritual gifts that God gives to his children through Jesus Christ. So, how does someone gifted as a shepherd prepare the church for works of service because of that gifting?
Now, as we consider the role of shepherds in equipping the saints, we need to remember a couple of things. 1) While Paul connected shepherding and teaching closely (they are actually one “item” in the list – i.e., shepherds-teachers), the fact that he used separate terms shows that there is some difference in the two. So, I’m going to deal with them separately. 2) The term shepherd is the same as the term pastor, but that doesn’t mean that the way the term “pastor” is normally used today is related to the work of “shepherds” in the New Testament. I’m dealing with how shepherds are described in the NT; I’m not dealing with the position / career normally called “pastor” today.
In the New Testament, the metaphorical use of the term “shepherd” is usually in the verbal form (except this one use in Ephesians 4:11), so no one is actually referred to as a “shepherd” by the authors. However, we do know that both Paul and Peter exhorted elders among the church to shepherd others.
Shepherding is related to caring for others, and since it’s almost impossible to separate the different aspects in the New Testament, it would include both physical and spiritual care.
So, when shepherds equip the saints, they do so by helping them notice the needs of others, and by helping them actually care for others. Perhaps the most important aspect here is empathy… actually being interested in other people, especially those who are in need. Of course, this is often dirty work, so much encouragement may be needed to help others understand how important this kind of care and concern is to God and for the benefit of others.
Here’s a great example of encouraging others to be “shepherds”:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4 ESV)
Have you ever helped your brothers and sisters in Christ to shepherd others? Have you ever been equipped by shepherds to care for others?
Series: To Equip the Saints for the Work of Ministry
As I mentioned in my post “To equip the saints for the work of ministry,” for the next several posts I’m going to consider the work of the gifted individuals listed by Paul in Ephesians 4:11 in equipping Jesus’ followers for doing the hard work of serving others. Remember, in Ephesians 4:12, Paul wrote that this is one of the reasons that Jesus gave these spiritual gifted people. I’ve already written about some ways that some of those spiritually gifted people can equip the saints for the work of ministry: apostles and prophets.
So, in this post, I’m going to consider the third gifted group in the list: How do evangelists equip believers for the work of serving others?
As I said when discussing apostles and prophets, those who are spiritually gifted as evangelists can equip and edify the church in many, many different ways (as can all followers of Jesus Christ). But, the question is, since Paul is talking about spiritual gifts in that passage in Ephesians, what is it about the spiritual gift of evangelism that helps evangelists equip their brothers and sisters in Christ to do the hard work of serving others?
A few people are identified as evangelists in the New Testament, but (as with the other terms for spiritual gifts and spiritually gifted people), the term itself is not defined, nor do the authors of Scripture explain what they mean by an “evangelist.” However, this may be one of the easiest terms to understand.
The term “evangelist” refers to one who proclaim “good news,” and in the context of the New Testament, that “good news” refers to our new relationship with God in Jesus Christ (and everything that includes). Interestingly, as I’ve studied the proclamation of the gospel in the New Testament (either from Jesus, or Peter, or Paul, or others), the proclamation is usually very short (sometimes just a sentence), the proclamation often raises more questions that it answers (in other words, they don’t try to explain everything at once), and the proclamation are usually different from one another (perhaps based on audience).
So, since the evangelists are gifted to proclaim the good news to those who are not yet believers, how do they equip the saints (who are already believers)?
Certainly, evangelists are not the only followers of Jesus who are to proclaim the good news. Thus, those spiritually gifted in evangelism can prepare the saints by helping them learn how to proclaim the gospel as well. They can help people learn how to present the gospel simply as well as help them answer questions. Also, and this may be the most important, evangelists can help people understand when to speak and when to listen.
Are you gifted in evangelism? How do you prepare your brothers and sisters in Christ to serve others? Have you ever been equipped by an evangelist?
Series: To Equip the Saints for the Work of Ministry
As I mentioned in my post “To equip the saints for the work of ministry,” for the next several posts I’m going to consider the work of the gifted individuals listed by Paul in Ephesians 4:11 in equipping Jesus’ followers for doing the hard work of serving others. Remember, in Ephesians 4:12, Paul wrote that this is one of the reasons that Jesus gave these spiritual gifted people. I’ve already written about some ways that apostles can equip the saints for the work of ministry.
So, in this post, I’m going to consider the second gifted group in the list: How do prophets equip believers for the work of serving others?
As with apostles (and any other follower of Jesus Christ), prophets can equip and build up the church in many different ways. But, what characteristic about prophets being prophets (i.e., their spiritual gifting) helps them equip believers for serving others?
While several people are identified as prophets in the New Testament, the authors do not define exactly what the term “prophet” means or specifically what “prophets” do. Paul probably tells us the most about prophets in 1 Corinthians 14, especially 1 Corinthians 14:26-32. In those passages we learn that 1) prophets can prepare something ahead of time to share with the church (i.e., “each one has…”), 2) prophecy has something to do with revelation, 3) revelation from God can be impromptu, 4) the Spirit does not force the prophets to speak and at times it’s even good for the prophets NOT to speak (even if the Spirit has revealed something to the prophet), 5) prophets should expect what they say to be judged and considered by others (i.e., they should not think of themselves as always hearing God correctly).
The main aspect of being a prophet that I take from this is that the prophet hears what God is revealing – either directly or through others and either over a period of time or instantaneously.
The prophet, then, can equip the saints to serve others by helping them learn to hear from God and then to trust and to respond to what he’s telling them. Certainly, this would help other prophets, especially less mature prophets or new believers. However, at the same time, it would be beneficial to those who do not have the spiritual gift of prophecy as well, since all can hear from God and all can prophesy.
In that passage above in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul specifically points out that all have the ability to hear revelations from God and to prophesy, even those who do not have the spiritual gift of prophecy:
For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. (1 Corinthians 14:31 ESV)
In the same way, prophets especially should recognize that everything is not necessarily a revelation from God. Thus, they should welcome the discernment of others toward their own prophecies, and can teach others how to be discerning and how to respond graciously to the discernment of others.
As a prophet, have you ever equipped the saints to hear from God and to respond correctly to discernment? Has a prophet ever equipped you in these ways?
Series: To Equip the Saints for the Work of Ministry
As I mentioned in my post “To equip the saints for the work of ministry,” for the next several posts I’m going to consider the work of the gifted individuals listed by Paul in Ephesians 4:11 in equipping Jesus’ followers for doing the hard work of serving others. Remember, in Ephesians 4:12, Paul wrote that this is one of the reasons that Jesus gave these spiritual gifted people.
So, to begin with the first gifted group in the list: How do apostles equip believers for the work of serving others?
Obviously, apostles can equip believers in many areas of unity, faith, and maturity. An apostle can help someone learn to love the unlovable or to care for someone who is in need. But, none of this is specifically related to the apostle being an apostle. However, Paul wrote Ephesians 4:11-12 in the context of those spiritual giftings.
What is special about the service of apostles – that is, what makes apostles be apostles? Believe it or not, this term is never defined in the New Testament (much like many of the other terms related to spiritual gifts and spiritual gifted persons). We can only go by the term itself along with what is written concerning various people identified as “apostles” in Scripture.
The term “apostle” literally means “one who is sent” from the verb that means “to send.” In contemporary (to the New Testament) literature, the term was used to refer to an ambassador or diplomat who was sent by someone else (usually a king or government) as a representative. In the New Testament, the common trait among all those who are named “apostles” is that they travel away from their homes. (For this reason, I like the more modern term “itinerant” as a parallel to “apostle.”)
Thus, one of the main traits of an apostle is that he or she travels from place to place with the intentions of continuing to travel to another place. (Note, this is slightly different than someone who travels from one place to a new place, but intends to stay in that new place indefinitely.)
Those gifted as apostles, then, can help others learn to live as those sent by God. Even those of us who do not travel from place to place can still live as sent by God – which we are – to our neighbors, friends, family, coworkers, etc. Apostles certainly can equip other apostles to travel more extensively, but they can also encourage and provide opportunities for “non-apostles” to travel occasionally. (Remember, teachers are not the only ones who teach… The same is true of apostles.)
There is a great example in Scripture of apostles equipping non-apostles:
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. (1 Thessalonians 1:6-8 ESV)
While the believers in Thessaloniki did not continually travel around like Paul and others did, they did learn from the apostles and followed their example by living “sent” to the people of Macedonia and Achaia.
Are you gifted as an apostle? How are you equipping your brothers and sisters to serve others?