This post considers leadership in the Christian church. While the “professional” ministry is a blessing, it can also be counterproductive to the purposes the church espouses. It becomes counterproductive when church members begin to see the professional clergy as those responsible for “doing ministry” and everyone else is to give support in body and finances.
The New Testament makes it clear that this was not the way Christ intended church leadership to operate. We find the clearest statement of God’s intention in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. Paul writes,
He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, [i.e., the clergy] 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” (Eph 4:11-13, ESV, emphasis mine).
Christ gave us a straightforward mandate: We are to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph 4:12). The success of the church is not determined by how many bodies it can gather for a Sunday Morning service. The criterion for success is whether those individuals are becoming more able to fulfill the ministry that God has given them. This is true whether that ministry takes place in the church or in the workplace. God has called us to equip people—if that is not happening we have to accept some responsibility. We must discover why and then do something about it.
Early in my work as a missionary, I talked frequently about the lack of commitment in the church. When someone pointed this out, it was as if they had switched on a spotlight in my brain. I was pointing my finger at the people for their lack of commitment and accepting none of the responsibility for this response. Capacity-developing leaders don’t do this. They don’t blame the people they serve for their failures. It was then I rediscovered Ephesians 4:12 and the notion of equipping the saints for ministry.
If we want people to exercise their God-given ministry, we must equip them to be successful in that ministry. Equipping others does not mean you turn it over to them and then leave them on their own. It involves high involvement.
So, what does this entail? What is an equipping leader?
First, consider what it does not mean. Equipping leaders don’t delegate and then disappear. They don’t give someone responsibility for an outcome for which that person is not trained or equipped to achieve.
What it does mean is that we help them identify their ministry and then we help them acquire the knowledge, skills, and motivation to fulfill that ministry.
As Christian leaders, our duty and our privilege is to take part in the expansive action of God through His people. The joy of watching our brothers and sisters in the body being successful and growing in their capacities is rewarding to the entire family of God. Watching God’s people grow in body, soul, and mind as they discover the joys of ministry is one of the most fulfilling parts of being a church leader.
Are you an equipper? Do you invest in high-potential people?
Dr. Greg Waddell is passionate about helping church leaders equip their people for ministry. He believes there is wild potential in every believer that begs to be released. He can help you develop and implement practical strategies for increasing the ministry capacity of your congregation.