Preparation/Equipping

Purpose & Mission of Five Fold: For Individual Christian Growth

 

Why Should/Shouldn’t My Church Embrace Change? Part XXI

To understand the five fold relationally, one must understand its purpose and mission. Is the five fold to be offices to govern the church or are they passions desires and points of view of believers in Jesus? Let’s continue to look at their purpose and mission.

For Individual Christian Growth

…..until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.  ….. we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,” (Ephesians 4:13, 15)

The second purpose of the five fold is for individual maturity, the growing up “in all aspects” into “fullness of Christ.” Paul wrote in verse 14, “We are no longer to be children, tossed ….. and carried,” but we are “to grow up,” to learn to stand and walk as “a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

Evangelical churches that emphasize “birth” are usually weak in Christian growth. They see large numbers get saved, but later move on to more nurturing congregations. Pediatricians help with your birth and early childhood development, but if you go to one as an adult, you got a problem. Pediatricians are for children, not adults! Christians who often chose to stay with their spiritual pediatrician, the evangelist, remain childlike in their faith, never quite maturing. They will always prefer milk over meat. Physically we are destined to grow as humans, but that is not true spiritually. We grow only as much as we allow the Holy Spirit to penetrate our lives. Spiritually we can choose to be babied by our professional church staffs, or we can stand and learn to walk in the Spirit. It is our choice!

How do we learn to grow? Churches offer Bible studies on discipleship telling you “how” to grow. The five fold has brothers and sisters, relationally, walking out your growth with you, standing with you, teaching you to take a stand in your faith walk by experiencing it with you. As younger siblings look up to older siblings, Paul exhorts younger men and women to “hang out” with older men and women for just this purpose: to grow by example! Youth offers zeal, but if tempered with wisdom and experience from an older brother or sister will see mature growth.

The purpose of the five fold is “to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” We measure our growth by how much we portray the image of the Father, the Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. In Genesis 1:26, “God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” We are to be God-ly, Christ-like, and obedient to the Holy Spirit. It is an awesome task which can be attained because Jesus modeled it! He hung out with twelve ordinary men, stood by them, led them, covered their backs, accepted them, nurtured and cared for them, and eventually died for them, all for the purpose of drawing them closer to his Father to make them “godly”. “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) When you read about these same twelve in the book of Acts, your see totally transformed men who are “godly” and “Christ-like” in so many ways! The four gospels are about their five fold relational walk with Jesus, and the book of Acts is about their “growth” in becoming a “mature man” in the “image of Jesus Christ”.

That is the goal of the five fold: to mature the saints, to help them “grow up” into the image of the Godhead!

 

Purpose & Mission of Five Fold: To Equip The Saints…

 

Why Should/Shouldn’t My Church Embrace Change? Part XX

To understand the five fold relationally, one must understand its purpose and mission. Is the five fold to be offices to govern the church or are they passions desires and points of view of believers in Jesus? Let’s look at their purpose and mission.

                  To Equip The Saints…..

“….. for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” (Ephesians 4:12)

One purpose for the five fold is “for the equipping of the saints”. If it were for the structuring of the church, it would read “for the equipping of the staff,” but it doesn’t say that. It is not a “professional development” tool.

One definition for “equip” is “to prepare mentally for a particular situation or task.” For what situation are we preparing our believers in Christ? For evangelism? It takes a special mentality to infiltrate a hostile world that rejects Jesus and share the gospel. What “necessary supplies for a particular purpose” do we, as a Church, “equip” them with? One of the greatest tools we can give them is to “release” and “send” them with our blessing.

The organizational church tried to keep William Booth in his pulpit, not in the streets, and would not release him to evangelize. He resigned, went for it alone, and founded the Salvation Army. Unfortunately, many believers with an evangelistic passion find themselves alone because the church won’t bless their “independent” endeavors.

Evangelists do not have to be alone when embracing the five fold because they have others supporting and encouraging them. A believer with a shepherd’s heart, standing with him, he can nurture and care for any new convert. Another believer with a passion to teach could share the Logos Word and help make it a Rhema Word in a new convert’s life. A prophetic believer would seek the voice of the Holy Spirit for guidance. A believer with apostolic vision would network this new convert with others to strengthen his walk. What greater gift can we give an evangelist than release him to, “Go do your thing; we got your back covered”?

A believer with an evangelistic passion often gets burned out and discouraged if they don’t have the support of their local church. But in the five fold an evangelist has a shepherd to nurture, a teacher to instruct, a prophet to draw near to God, and an apostle to “see over” what the Holy Spirit is doing in his life. That is equipping!

If we would approach equipping through the Lamad method of experiencing a faith journey with a brother or sister rather then academically instructing them, we would be more effective in discipleship. Am I willing to “lay down my life for my brethren” by literally being beside him in a 24/7 relationship? Jesus did it! If so, this five fold will work. If not, I will be inclined to outsource it to a professional, which is our current structure. It is all about intimate, sacrificial relationships!

The same is true with the other four passions. Equipping means standing by each other while “laying down” your agendas, passions, and opinions “to serve” one another!

As a church we have no idea what equipping means until we “experience” it! When we “invest” in one another, believers to believers, “equipping” will flow naturally as it did in the first century.

 

What The Church Can Not Afford

 

Embracing the Five Fold– Part XVI

 

….. because we can not afford NOT to embrace the five fold and its benefits.

If the five fold is the passions, desires, and diverse points of view in the Body of Christ among its Priesthood of Believers that already exists in the Church, the Church can not afford to continue to be passive about ignoring these five giftings among its laity that is called to birth, care, nurture, and equip the saints for the works of service, then release them to serve!

Now is the time for the Church to again listen to the voice and leading of the Holy Spirit sent from the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ to teach the Church, his saints, all things.

Now is the time for transitioning from religious traditions to building functional peer relationships for support and accountability.

Now is a time of building up the Body of Christ as a Priesthood of Believers, peers in Jesus Christ, to have believers grow individually into the image of Jesus and corporately unifying the Body of Christ.

Now is a time for equipping through care, nurturing, teaching, and drawing near to the Father; then recognize the time for releasing.

Now is the time to realize the need for some serious structural changes in the way we do and govern the Church by continually building relationships.

The present church cannot afford to continue to enable its laity and still expect them to be active. It cannot afford to keep the laity passive when they are to be salt and light to the world. It must not only recognize the clergy/laity divide, which is not Biblical, but begin to embrace one another as peers in the Priesthood of Believers.

The present church must also realize that it cannot be faithful to its traditions if it wants to embrace change, revival, and unity. Radical Christianity demands new mindsets!

The 21st Century Church needs to invest in its people, the saints, not in its staff, the paid professionals. God invested in His people through the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the Cross. If believers in Jesus Christ have been called to lay down their lives for their brethren, then the 21st Century Church has got to start having its leadership be tolerant of other Christian camps and begin accepting and embracing one another, supporting one another, equipping one another, and releasing one another in their spiritual journeys with Jesus.

It is time for the Church to again embrace the Holy Spirit for its guidance, wisdom, and teachings., a time to again trust the Holy Spirit, and a time to learn how to trust one another.

If the 21st Century Church is in a time of transition, it’s people cannot afford to remain passive, stagnant, and inactive, for now is the time for “Acts”-tion, the returning to when the Church was alive, active, challenging through change, and influencing the world for Jesus.

Church, let’s embrace change, transition, redevelopment, a retooling, a revamping, a regenerating, responding to the call and voice of the Holy Spirit in individual Christian development as each believers strives to be more Christ-like, and the church becomes unified.

Church, let’s admit the five fold is already among us, part of our spiritual DNA make up. We can afford to embrace the five fold because! Jesus paid the price, now are we willing to pay the price of "laying down our lives for the brethren"? 

Let’s do it!

 

Home Grown Always Tastes Better Than Canned…

 

Developing Local Leadership For the Local Community– Part XV

 

….. because home grown leaders are birthed, nurtured, taught, equipped, and released by the local church, the priesthood of believers, to serve their local community. 

Today’s church leaders emphasize developing disciples out of the laity, but they do not promote developing lay leadership that would replace them. Why? They quote the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 which commands to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” They equate disciples with everyday believers who are the laity, but they believe that leadership does not lay with the laity but with the clergy, thus laity does not “qualify” for leadership.

The five fold is drastically different. The purpose of the five fold is to equip the “saints”, the disciples, the laity, for works of service. Jesus had twelve disciples, who were not Pharisees, Sadducees, or Jewish leaders, but common ordinary laity, fishermen, tax collectors, etc. Jesus “equipped” them for “works of service” and empowered them with the Holy Spirits. Their “Acts”-tions proved them to be evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, and apostles as they began to lead this new movement, first from their hometowns and Jerusalem eventually to all parts of the known world. They were homegrown boys raised and equipped by Jesus in their home country of Israel.

Later Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee of Pharisees, gets literally knocked off his horse when confronted by Jesus, converts to becoming a believer, and spends time “deprogramming” his Pharisaical beliefs while “redirecting” his zeal, his passions, his drive into the five fold giftings of serving others through Jesus. He becomes an evangelist, a teacher, a shepherd, a prophet, and an apostle by the actions of service he does.

Paul goes into a city, visits the synagogue first trying to convert his fellow Jews, gets rejected and “redirects” his zeal toward the gentiles who receive him. He spends two years or less “equipping the ‘local’ saints for works of service”, then leaves them to begin a new work in another city. He develops homegrown people, new disciples in Jesus, into leadership to fully replace him when he moves on to a new location. He does not call in the “Big Boys” from the Church at Antioch” to come lead his new church as their “pastor”, their clergy, but raises local leadership from the local laity.

Jesus loved sowing and seed parables because he knew that once a seed was sewn, takes root, it grows if properly cared for, becomes mature and ripe, and is harvested.  Why hasn’t the church learned that once a seed is sown and takes root (a person accepts Jesus as his/her Savior), they too will grow if nurtured and cared for properly (through the five fold). A purpose of the five fold is to “mature” a saint into the image of Jesus and have him/her ‘grow up’ in the faith. When mature, ripe, ready for harvest, the local church needs to release them to do the works of service for which they have been trained.

It is the job of local church leadership to “care & nurture”,  “equip”, and “release” fellow peers, believers in the faith, the Priesthood of Believers to do their calling of “service” to others. It’s local leadership training and equipping hometown believers in Jesus how to “serve”; then allowing them to “serve”! Like the woman at the well, when she met Jesus and realized he was not only a prophet, but the Jewish messiah, she ran and told her hometown friends.  Even the demoniac, once released of his demons, wanted to also go with Jesus, but was commanded by Jesus to stay in his hometown.

Through the five fold, we can “equip”, train, care for, nurture, develop and release hometown people to more effectively reach their hometown friends for Jesus! 

 

Trust And Obey; Who Me?

 

 

Trust And Obey For There Is No Other Way To Be Happy – Part XII

 

….. because it forces every believer, me, and the entire priesthood of believers, us, the church, to ask the question, “Do I totally trust the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and can I trust my fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord?”

In my youth, I remember singing the old Hymn Trust And Obey. The chorus rang out, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust in obey.” Wow, what truth! But…..

Who do you trust?

 I remember singing the old Hymn Trust And Obey. The chorus rang out, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust in obey.” Wow, what truth! But…..

Who do you trust?

Who are we to trust?

Can you trust your priest, pastor, or church leader to treat you as a peer, or will he be demanding and lead an abusive hierarchal structure?

Is the Bible, the Logos Word, to be trusted, or do you question its authenticity?

                 Can the Holy Spirit be trusted, or will following Him just make everything weird?

                  Do your trust your brothers and sisters who follow Jesus Christ, or do you mistrust them as being hypocrites and fear being hurt by them?

                  If one can’t trust the Bible, the Holy Spirit, his brothers and sisters in Jesus, and his church leadership, how can he obey them? In battle, you must trust your commanding officers who lead you into a conflict and obey their orders. You are not to shoot them in the back and disobey all orders, yet Christians are known for doing just that.

“Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust in obey.”

                The church isn’t happy because many have lost trust in their Bible, the Holy Spirit, their leadership, and each other!

                  The ffive fold is all about trusting four other very diversely different people in Jesus whose passions, drives, and points of view are vastly different from yours. Your natural desire is to not trust someone who is different from you, but by not trusting them, you produce division and skepticism. Trusting one another through the five fold will bring individual maturity in Christ and unity in the Body. Only the supernatural can do that, so the question remains, “Can you trust the supernatural”? Can you trust that which you can not see, touch, taste, hear, or smell because your trust has to be built on “faith”, that which is not seen, touched, tasted, heard, or smelled? To your natural sense of reasoning, faith makes no sense, so can it be  trusted?

                  So I sing the chorus again, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust in obey.” Really, can’t there be another way in spite what the chorus proclaims? But I want to be happy especially in Jesus? I guess my only option is to “trust and obey”, so I guess I better get start right now!

 

From Enabling Apathy To Promoting Equipping

 

Why I Would Want The Five Fold In My Church – Part VIII

 

….. because instead of enablement and inactivity, it promotes equipping and releasing of believers in Jesus to actively pursue service.

As a 21st Century Church we are not doing a very good job at what we call discipleship and promoting the Great Commission. American Christians have gotten lazy. Keith Green sang his “Asleep In The Light” song in the 1980’s; its prophetic message still rings in my ears. The average American Christian has chosen not to make Christianity its daily way of life, opting to be passive, and allowing themselves to be enabled by its leadership to the point of inactivity even while you are attending a church service or gathering. Like Keith called us out on over3 ½ decades ago, it is like we are a sleep in the light! What will be our wake up call?

The leadership team at the church I had attended is made up primarily of men who had Bible Degrees, not “uneducated” people, like Jesus’ 12 disciples. The Sanhedrin was amazed that these “uneducated” men of Galilee could speak with such authority. We, the church today, have made “education” a prerequisite to leadership, which is not what Jesus did. He had no Pharisees, Sadducees, or church officials on his leadership team of 12. He had men who may have come across as dumb, stupid, and always inserting foot into mouth, but men who were willing to follow Jesus, and later be taught by, and obedient to the Holy Spirit in all matters.

Jesus had poured three years of his life into building relationships with these 12 men. He walked, talked, and debated with them, took them of field trips of faith and a journey that would mold them into becoming leaders that would change the world. He never started a Bible College or seminary, not even built a church building; he invested in people by investing in relationships. Being Jewish, the 12 grew up being taught the Law, the Torah. They already had a Jewish Biblical perspective, but Jesus had to teach them how to make this written Logos Word, alive, relevant, a Rhema Word. He equipped them for their up coming faith journey, teaching them not only through parables but also personal dialogue, feeding the needy, healing the sick, taking care of widows and orphans, etc.  When they fought over position, he brought them back to relationships, emphasizing service, even washing their feet as an object lesson. He equipped them, and prepared them by giving them the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and then released them for ministry. He promised them that they would not do this alone, but sent the Holy Spirit to be their “suitable helper”.

The book of Acts is not boring, but filled with action; there is no apathy or enabling but is filled with constant activity. Jesus gives gifts to men, and they use them, effectively. Jesus’ preparations and the equipping of the saints for the works of service propels a spiritual movement that changes the then known world.

The five fold calling is to “equip the saints for the works of service.” The 21st Century church needs to refocus it direction of equipping the staff for professional development to equipping its saints for works of service. Building relationships should take precedent over building programs and staff. People serving people; peers serving peers through sacrificial service, acceptance, grace, and mercy are the keys. Equipping the saints is more than taking a discipleship course or doing a Bible study on discipleship, it is about involvement, practical everyday experience, and community life. There is no room for apathy or enablement. It is a call to act-ion. The Church needs the five fold!

 

What Does Equipping The Saints Mean?

 

Why I Wouldn’t Want The Five Fold In My Church – Part VIII

 

….. because the purpose of the five fold is to “equip the saints” for what? Oh, “works of service”! Oh, janitorial and secretarial work or lawn care or building maintenance! But wait! To develop them into evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, and apostles? Inconceivable! That would require laity to become active, not passive or lethargic. That would require them to become active, not in church programs, but in service to one another.

The opposite of apathy is activity, so what should the church be doing to keep their parishioners, congregation, or laity active? You keep them busy. Is that the calling of the church? I have caught myself being “church busy” often in my life, but that came to a halt when I saw that the church is suppose to “equipping the saints for the works of service.”

What does “equipping the saints for the works of service” mean to the church today? Does it mean giving them opportunities to volunteer for janitorial, secretarial, or building maintenance work, or being involved in committees? Does it mean staffing the nursery, aiding in children’s ministry, ushering, parking cars, greeting, being “auxiliary personnel”, etc. to keep the Sunday morning program efficient and friendly?

How many people in your congregation actually go out and evangelize, or nurture the younger saints in their walk with Jesus, or passionately dig into studying the Word or listening to the voice of God for themselves, or work towards networking others in their diverse giftings to bring unity to the body but releasing the creativity that is already there?

What would happen if the attitude was changed from “call the pastor” to directly  ministering to one another within the local body, a thing called body ministry, by the saints to the saints? What would happen if God’s people began doing what they had required of their pastor because they want to serve one another, and he would have nothing to do but “see over” what the Holy Spirit is already doing amongst the congregation? Would he still be worth his wages, or must he be busy “doing” too?

Ephesians 4 doesn’t say to “equip the saints” to keep them busy. Being too busy can also be destructive. Americans are always busy; having time to do something is a precious commodity! We, as a Church, have been exhorted to “equip the saints for works of service.” We are called to serve; church leadership is called to equip us, not do it for us!

If my church keeps me busy by having me volunteer to keep a building looking nice and to keep programs running smoothly, then I think we missed the mark, and they will NOT be receptive to the five fold as passions to be released among the saints. The Church is about birthing, nurturing, training, equipping, and releasing through relationships between believers, not about programs, rituals, and traditions.

To truly equip the saints for works of service would require a radical mind set change in the way Christian leadership thinks, acts, and reacts. So until that mindset becomes a reality (through revival, a cocoon stage), my church will not be open to, nor want, the five fold.

 

Why I Would Want The Five Fold In My Church

 

Reasons To Embrace This Incredible Journey

 

I believe part of this metamorphosis, the change of physical institutional structures of the church, will come through the truth and understanding of the purpose of the five different passions, drives, and points of view found in Ephesians 4 (the evangelist, shepherd, teacher, prophet, & apostle). It’s purpose is to “equip” the “saints”, not staff, for the works of “service”. The “priesthood of believers”, the Church, is about to learn how to not only serve their God but serve each other. They will be willing to lay down their lives for their God and for each other. “Service” will be their motive, their passion, their desire, and they will use their personal passion to serve the body of Christ and edify their Lord and Savior, Jesus, whose fruits will be unity.

There will be a new accountability to each other in this new paradigm, not based on a hierarchal structure of dominant leadership, but based on horizontal leadership of walking beside the brethren in service; leading them by being in front of them, covering their back when behind them, and serving when walking beside them. This paradigm will demand intimate relationships of trust through service to be established among the brethren. Instead of being accountable to a hierarchal structure or titles and positions, the accountability will come through relationships and the willingness to “lay down your life for your brethren” and serving them.

So “Why Would I Want The Five Fold In My Church?”

….. because it makes the priesthood of believers, the laity, us, accountable.

….. because it releases believers in Jesus to serve others through their passions, giftings, drives, and points of view.

….. because it replaces enabled apathy with Holy Spirit led activity for believers in Jesus.

….. because it prepares the body, a priesthood of believers, the Church, to serve.

….. because it makes believers in Jesus accountable to one another through service.

….. because instead of enablement and inactivity, it promotes equipping and releasing of believers in Jesus to actively pursue service.

….. because it requires sacrificial service, the laying down of your life, for others.

….. because it equips the local body to serve the local community through Jesus.

….. because every believer is special, gifted, and equipped through Jesus to do the Great Commission, the Golden Rule, and to love one another.

….. because it forces every believer, me, and the entire priesthood of believers, us, the church, to ask the question, “Do I totally trust the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and can I trust my fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord?”

….. because it requires us to be our brother’s keeper through service and love.

….. because home grown leaders are birthed, nurtured, taught, equipped, and released by the local church, the priesthood of believers, to serve their local community.

….. because we can not afford NOT to embrace the five fold and its benefits.

 

Why I Wouldn’t Want The Five Fold In My Church

 

Reasons To Reject This Incredible Journey

 

I believe part of this metamorphosis, the change of physical institutional structures of the church, will come through the truth and understanding of the purpose of the five different passions, drives, and points of view found in Ephesians 4 (the evangelist, shepherd, teacher, prophet, & apostle). It’s purpose is to “equip” the “saints”, not staff, for the works of “service”. The “priesthood of believers”, the Church, is about to learn how to not only serve their God but serve each other. They will be willing to lay down their lives for their God and for each other. “Service” will be their motive, their passion, their desire, and they will use their personal passion to serve the body of Christ and edify their Lord and Savior, Jesus, whose fruits will be unity.

There will be a new accountability to each other in this new paradigm, not based on a hierarchal structure of dominant leadership, but based on horizontal leadership of walking beside the brethren in service; leading them by being in front of them, covering their back when behind them, and serving when walking beside them. This paradigm will demand intimate relationships of trust through service to be established among the brethren. Instead of being accountable to a hierarchal structure or titles and positions, the accountability will come through relationships and the willingness to “lay down your life for your brethren” and serving them.

So “Why Shouldn’t I Wouldn’t Want The Five Fold In My Church?”

….. because my institutional church values their traditions, their view of Biblically correct doctrine, and their desire for a professional hierarchal view of leadership over change, challenges to one’s theology, and having to give up control.

….. because the senior pastor heads our ship and his staff is onboard; the priesthood of believers, the laity, the saints are not “trained” professionally to lead.

….. because the five fold are positions and titles within the church, thus “leaders” exhibit these gifts, not the everyday priesthood of believers, the laity.

….. because our pastor reads scripture to us, prays for us, and instructs us through his sermon when in his pulpit on Sundays; the laity, or priesthood of believers, is intellectually incapable of properly doing that themselves, I guess.

….. because our senior pastor gives evangelistic messages in his sermon, he is an evangelist. Our Pastor is a pastor, duh, of course, thus the title! His sermons prove he is a teacher. His spiritual discernment and desire to draw near to God for us demonstrates that he is a prophetic priest, and his oversight of our church as a whole makes him apostolic.  If he is doing it all, no wonder the priesthood of believers is apathetic when enabled, and has the attitude, “that is what we pay him to do, and he does it well.”

….. because you will have a free-for-all if everyone runs the church. The church is not a democracy but a theocracy, a hierarchal structure, so a senior pastor is needed (hired) to run all meetings, head all programs, and lead in an orderly fashion. Order through control prevents chaos.

….. because the purpose of the five fold is to “equip the saints” for what? Oh, “works of service”! Oh, janitorial and secretarial work or lawn care or building maintenance! But wait! To develop them into evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, and apostles? Inconceivable! That would require laity to become active, not passive or lethargic. That would require them to become active, not in church programs, but in service to one another.

 

What If You Tithed Your Time?


A Different Mind Bending Concept About Tithing

Being a church member, unfortunately, usually breeds passivity. Sadly, we need only “attend” church services to be looked upon as a Christian in most cultures. Attending Sunday morning worship and one activity listed in the bulletin per week satisfies our stature.  We are so dependent on the professional staff to do everything, that they “enable” us by doing their job effectively. No wonder we do not feel part of the life of the local church.  Usually churches that are professionally programmed driven usually ask only one major form of activity from their casual members; their financial giving.  The offering is a central piece of every Christian program. Sometimes pre-offering speeches can be longer than the sermon, and “tithing” is a quarterly sermon theme.

What would happen if we Americans would tithe from what is most precious to them; their time?

What would the church staff do if each and every member in your church was willing to volunteer 4 hours, 1/10th of their 40 hour work week to the church? The staff would probably generate more programs for them to attend! Really, if you have 100 members in your church each giving four hours, what would they do with 400 hours of volunteered time each week? A 500 member church with 1,000 free hours? Sounds like a cell phone plan!

If I would ask that question during a staff meeting I may get suggestions like: janitorial work, building maintenance, shrubbery trimming and clean up, painting, secretarial work, running off bulletins, up dating data base of members for email, newsletters, and mailings, etc., all institutional chores, but what happened to feeding and clothing the poor, caring for the widows in the congregation, hospital and jail visits, etc.  Most staff hired by churches are program related where they are highly visible, but who does the invisible tangibles that empower a church?  What they would list on a whiteboard as suggestions would show the priorities of that church.  With 400 hours a week of volunteering would force a change in priorities.

What would happen if the members spent their volunteer time forming nonprofit businesses in a service sector like a lunch time deli where they would feed and serve their community in a nonchurch financially profitable atmosphere?  How about a “Foot Wash”, fancy name for a car wash reflecting the foot washing passion of Jesus to the community, not as a fundraiser for more church activities, but for community benevolence. How about a moving company to help low income families and church families in moving to a new residence? These business would not only produce financial profits, but “help equip the saints for the works of service,” the Ephesians 4 principle as well as produce entry level jobs for young people, the homeless, and those wanting to start a life of financial independence while serving. Actually these acts of service are great evangelistic efforts, touching the secular community, and grafting them and the local church into stronger community bonds.

What impact would volunteered tithing hours have on the elderly if church members did not just visit them for ten minutes on a Sunday afternoon during visiting hours, but instead took them to their doctor and dentist appointments, or helped maintain residential housing that is beyond the physical capabilities of an aging widow, so she can still have the freedom of living in her home instead of being forced into an assisted living situation?

What freedom would it give a parent of a physical or mental handicap child if volunteers would spend time with that child, freeing them to go shopping alone, going to the athletic club for their own health, or just have a badly needed date without the pressures of caregiving 24/7?

These possibilities only scratch the surface; allow your imagination to soar at the possibilities of how “active” how “alive” a local church would be if we tithed from our most sacred resource, our time. I cannot find in the scriptures where Jesus asks for our money, but he does request our time when he says, “Follow me.”  “Following Jesus” will always change the way we think of doing church, the way the community sees church, the way the “staff” would have to operate, and the way we would chose church leadership.

What do you think? What impact would “tithing of our time” change the way your church would do “church”? What would “church” then look like? How would the church manage all those volunteers and hours without hiring a “case manager”, another full time professional position? Let’s hear from you! 

I Have Been Replaced, So I Am Now Free To Move On!

 


What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part XIII

It is easy to find the Senior Pastor during the majority of Christian church services: they are up front, on a platform elevated in front of all, or by the exit door shaking hands receiving compliments, “Nice Sermon”, or in a formal procession at the beginning of the service but is the central figure of everything that happens during the service.  He/she, and only he/she, is entitled to give the sermon, the official interpretation of the Word of God.  He/she is considered “a man/woman of God” unlike any other in the congregation, so he is revered, honored, held in high esteem. When he/she dies or decides to leave “the ministry”, there becomes a huge void, causing a search for another professional out side the confines of the local congregation to be brought in to “fill” the vacuum left by his leaving, but this is not the model of leadership during the first century of the Church. 

I do not know historically when the Church strayed from its Ephesians 4 calling to “equip the saints for works of service”, but it must have happened early in Church history.  By the end of the first century the Church was entrenched in the Bishop clergy/laity hierarchy model, diminishing and eroding the power of the saints ever since.  Although the Church claims “to make disciples of all men”, it has failed in “equipping” them for “service”. A Sunday Church “service” is still basically a “clergy” led “service” with the laity, the saints, being reduced to enabled followers. That is not the Biblical model set out by the 12 apostles in the first half of the first century.

I have yet to belong to, or even visit a church, where the “senior pastor” just sat in the midst of the congregation with “apostolic oversight”, just seeing what the Holy Spirit is doing with His people because the Senior Pastor had trained and equipped his congregation to do everything that they once expected him to do!  What! A laity giving the sermon or homily that had just been revealed to him through the Holy Spirit! A laity singing a prophetically motivated new song that ministered immediately to congregation in the unity of the theme being laid out by the Holy Spirit instead of “special music”, or a choir anthem, or being led by a worship team!  A member of the congregation taking the microphone, telling of a testimony of what Jesus was doing currently in their life that just so happened to go along with the Holy Spirit’s theme!  Someone sharing an originally written poem!  Someone painting, drawing, etching, or molding an original piece of art during the service!  Members of the congregation not having to be ushers to “collect” offerings, but every member of the congregation giving into containers during the time of worship as their “acts of worship”, their “acts of giving”!  The gifts of the spirit flowing among the congregation to minister to the hurting, to meet needs, to give directions, to give encouragement and edification, to make the Logos Word, the written Word, now become the Rhema Word, or the living Word, among them!  Members of the congregation “breaking bread” together and “sharing the cup” as a communal body of faith rather than a religious rite or practice!  All this happening while the Senior Pastor and his laity leadership team just blend into the congregation, “seeing over” in amazement what the Holy Spirit is doing in their midst, bringing unity through worship and purpose among themselves!

If leadership has “equipped the saints for works of service”, then leadership needs to “release” their congregation “to serve”.  Where is the safest place to release them to serve? Amongst the body of believers when they are gathered, for if they fall and stumble, which often is the best way to learn and practice, then “grace” and “mercy” can be extended so that they do not look at their stumbling as a “set back”, or “back sliding” as carnal Christians call it, but as a positive teaching method, to show them correction, to “equip” them to get up and stand strong so they do not stumble again!  We claim “Christians aren’t perfect; just forgiven”, but in our church services we propagate a climate of perfection: everyone smiles, everyone hides their hurts, everyone shakes hands and pats each other on the back as if they are old buddies. If the service is planned to the “T”, basically controlled, there will be no evident problems. If anything “unpredictable” happens, we will subdue it, for if someone is “out of line” we bring immediate judgment and condemnation to bring correction instead of allowing mercy and grace to weave their healing balms.  We claim that Jesus’ precious Holy Spirit is the pilot of our program and we the co-pilot, but we fly the plane, not allowing the Holy Spirit to break free or through our scheduled, protected, well-organized programs.

Why do God’s people, Christians, fear, as in fright, not reverence, the Holy Spirit? They are afraid if they release the Holy Spirit amongst themselves things will get “out of line”, “out of order”, people will “swing from the chandeliers” even though the church has only fluorescent lighting!  We fear chaos and confusion instead of expecting peace and unity, and we forget that the Holy Spirit’s goal is to bring “all men” to Jesus Christ, producing unity, not division!  We belittle the person of the Holy Spirit because of our lack of trust in Him, thus we belittle the person of Jesus Christ, because the Holy Spirit IS the SPIRIT OF JESUS CHRIST!

Leadership complains about how much is expected of them, and no one is going to do it if they don’t! That’s a lie: equip your saints, then release those saints which will also release leadership to move on to the next things Jesus through His Holy Spirit has for them to do!  Paul operated this way when starting churches: equipping the new saints over approximately a two year period, then released them to stand on their own so that he could move on to the next place the Holy Spirit was leading him toward to birth, equip, and release even more!  Church, maybe we should step back and examine Paul’s example as an apostle to understand the power of the laity, the saints, if they are properly equipped, trained, encouraged, nurtured, guided, then released to do ministry.  If you do that, you are blessed when you just sit amongst them and watch them “do it”! Wow! What a blessing that would be!

 

Surrounded By Care; The Five Fold Phenomenon

 

What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part XII

We have been looking at what it means to “equip the saints for works of service” as out lined in Ephesians 4.  Part of equipping is surrounding a person with those things that will make them successful.  That is the power and beauty of the five fold; the strengths of many support the weaknesses of one.  Because the five fold is a team effort, a family effort, a community effort, no man is an island.    Personally, I have learned to realize that several attempts at ministry in the past to which I have been involved were not as successful as they could have been because I did not have that support of diverse passions, desires, and ministries around me. My weaknesses help hinder the success of ministry, but I had no one around me to support and lift me up through their diverse passion in the time of my weakness.

Let’s say that you have the pastoral passion of shepherding; you love to care for others and nurture them physically, emotionally, and spiritually toward maturity in Jesus Christ.  To get the full potential results of your ministry, you need the other four (evangelist, teacher, prophet, & apostle) components of the five fold to aid, abate, support, and equip your ministry.  You need an evangelist to birth “babes in Christ” so that you have someone to nurture.  You need the aide of the teacher to “ground” these new believers in the Word of God, the Bible, the aide of the prophet to teach them to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit for themselves and how to make the Logos Word a Rhema, or Living, Word, and the aide of apostolic oversight to monitor their spiritual growth from birth through maturity.  Shepherding is only one part of the entire picture in equipping a saint in his spiritual journey!

Without added support, one can feel swamped, over extended, and eventually burnt out trying to be all things to all men. Often in the current pastor/laity model of most small churches, the burn out rate among clergy is staggering because the congregation expects their pastor to be strong in all five areas when he/she may be gifted in just one or two of them, and we expect him/her to do it alone because he is a professional.  We need to change our perspective of ministry from a solo effort to a team approach of five.  Ministry should be a “team effort”: the strengths of those around you should shore up your weaknesses and free you to minister in and through your strength.  Ministry should be a “family approach” where all are members of the family of God; as in most families, members count on one another in order to succeed. Ministry should be a “community”: a community is made up of many different, diverse components that aide each other for the good of the group.

The key word of “equipping the saints for the work of service” is the word “service”.  We have to learn not only how to serve, but also be served.  If we become too arrogant, to independent, rejecting help from our brethren, we will rob them of the joy of servicing us. The reciprocal serving back and forth is the key to the success of the five fold ministry as a team ministry. It is a give and take situation. One’s strength and passion, mixed with compassion, can be a very effective tool at aiding, abetting, and supporting another brother or sister in the lord with a different passion than our own.

In conclusion, we need to accept the fact that we cannot do it alone; the kingdom of God is too big for just me or you to do it all. We are a body in Christ, the Church, so there are many other parts, people, whose gifting, though drastically different from our own, are needed to maximize the ministry of the gospel. Divisions will diminish if divergent passions serve one another, draw from one another, aide one another, and equip one another. Truly, then will we see a powerful Church with effective ministry.

 

Rethinking Our Theology

 

What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part XI

In Greek Theo = God; ology = Study of; thus theology = study of God, yet if we take a higher level graduate theology course at a seminary we discover it is a collection of a lot of theologian’s, men who claim to be studying God, views on various religious topics.  It is all about how we, man, have interpreted scriptures.  It is basically what we as an individual believes about God.  Every man has his own theology: how he perceives God at that moment.  I have discovered that my theology has changed over the years, for I have often boxed in God, trivialized my faith, sought to systematically place things in order so they made intellectual sense, organize, characterize, even politicize my religious experience. 

Like Saul, who later became Paul, I have sat under and read the works of some remarkable religious theologians who have molded what I believe God to be, sat under thousands of hours of religious training during my 50 years as a Christian believer, often being doctrinated by the religious camp who was doing the teaching. The Westernized Church honors the theologian for his highly intellectual interpretation of the Scriptures. Introduction to the Bible 101 is an entry level course, but Theology 502 is a high level graduate course.  Saul and I both have sat under some incredible theological teachers, but where did it get us?

We, the Church, honor our scribes and Pharisees, the intellectual religious leaders of our day, just as the Jewish people honored theirs in Jesus’ day, yet they are the very people Jesus criticizes heavily, “Woe, you scribes and Pharisees…..”  It was the theologians of his day that received his verbal wrath.  Saul, “the Pharisee of Pharisees”, has to literally get knocked off his horse and blinded before he is willing to see the deception of his religious zeal of persecuting the very thing he should be advocating.  He was forced to rethink his thinking!  This experience led him to he wilderness to rethink and cleans himself of his old beliefs and reestablish and build upon the new before being released to become one of the greatest apostles and theologians of his time.

A friend once had a vision of me in a bird cage with the door to the cage open, but I remained inside perched in peace, unwilling to fly to my freedom. Why? After struggling for an answer, the Holy Spirit spoke to my friend who said I was the bird inside, the cage was the religious structure I had build around myself.  In it I found safety, comfort, and peace, so I chose to remain content, perched inside.  Who knows what would happen if I left the cage and became free?  Where would I perch? Is there a haven of safety somewhere else? What would being free really mean to me?  I realized that I had become a Pharisee like Saul, and a transformation from the safe confines of my religious experience would be needed in order to “fly in the spirit” on “wings as eagles”. That flying in the unknown would change my theology, the way I perceived God in my life’s experience.  God was still God, faith, unchanging; it was my perception of him that changed!

It is that perception of who God is in our individual lives that is so important.  That is why it is so important to “trust” the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ to “teach us all things”, for He, and only He can be the revealer of Truth to us through the Word of God.  Equipping the saints is all about guiding a person, directing someone, releasing them to discover for themselves the Truth, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, in their personal lives so their life becomes a “Living Gospel”, not a legalistic, written, intellectually driven gospel.  It is different “to know God”, to experience God, than it is “to know about God” or study, or theologize God!

But “What are we to believe?” you may ask. “What do we know is truth?” Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal that to you through the Logos Word, the Bible, and make it the Rhema Word, the living word in your life.  I believe, in the five fold, the Holy Spirit gives the apostolic passion of the Church the wisdom to “know the mysteries of God”, the truths, the nuggets of the gospel that brings unity. That is what I call the Apostolic Teaching!  It is not doctrinal teaching that has divided the church into its many sects, divisions, and denominations.  I have learned over the year that doctrine divides, the Holy Spirit unites, so we must “trust” and “rely” on the Holy Spirit to reveal “apostolic” truth for the “entire Church” in order to see sectarianism diminish and eventually disappear.

In order “to equip the church for the work of service” we must equip our future evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, and apostles with the knowledge on how to “trust the Holy Spirit” of Jesus Christ, the Revealor, to reveal universal truths to His entire Church, truths that will be shared and honored by every member of the Body of Christ, truths that will draw all men toward Jesus Christ, truths that will unite not divide.

Going through such a drastic change from intellectualism to practical experience, the living out of the gospel will bring radical change. When Saul met the “living God”, he was literally knocked off his horse.  The transformation from what he “knew about God” to “knowing God” caused such a radical change in his life, like his Father Abram who changed his name to Abraham, Saul changed his name to Paul and started “life anew”, a life transformed, a life free of studying about God, to a life of intimately knowing God.  That is one of the goals for preparation and equipping the saints.

 

What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part X

 

Equipping Through Community

Can you imaging your local church going from approximately 120 to 3,120 in one weekend. That is what happened to the church at Jerusalem because of Pentecost.  Churches today pray for “revival”, but if 3,000 were saved in one weekend, what would your church do with these new converts?  How would they nurture them, disciple them, effectively teach them the Word particularly if they did not have a religious background, and live out what they learn?  Initially everyone would gather because of the excitement of the newness of the movement, but eventually numbers would begin to dwindle. With the new income from 3,000 people coming into their coffers, today’s churches would react by hiring more staff and starting a new building program to house all the people. All looks glorious at the beginning, but as numbers dwindle, so does the financial support, and soon layoffs occur and the huge building becomes a fiscal albatross.

In the Old Testament, priests were created to commune with God. They were a select group, one-tenth of the population, exclusively from the tribe of Levi.  In the New Testament the priesthood was no longer a selective group but a collective group of anyone who had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  The Old Testament elevates the priest, but nowhere in the New Testament does it talk about being a priest, only establishing a “royal priesthood”.  It is the collective group that is elevated.  It is the community of faith, the believers corporately in Jesus Christ, the Church. I contend that it is the Church’s job to prepare and equip these new believers corporately to do the corporate work of service. How did this community get established?

The book of Acts vividly points out in its early chapters that this new movement of believers in Jesus Christ met in homes.  They “continued to break bread together”, in other words, fellowshipped with each other. They just did not “hang out” with one another on Sundays, but daily ate meals together, fellowshipped with one another, talked with one another, shared their day, their lives, intricately becoming a part of each other.  They accepted their differences, but began to blend into a group, a community, a family, a body, the Body of Christ, the Church. 

They began to sacrificially give, not to build a “church” building to hold the growing numbers in their congregation, not to add new staff, for there was no staff with academic degrees to hire, not to build a Bible School or Theological Seminary to advance the academia of this new movement, but they laid their finances at the feet of Jesus, literally at the feet of the Apostles, who used it to feed the poor, take care of the needy, the widows, the homeless, and the hurting. Deacons arose “to serve tables”, or do the work of service to those in need.

By fellowshipping together, living together, participating in each other’s lives on a daily basis, “relationships” were born and established.  Christianity is all about “relationships”.  John 3:16 points us to our relationships with God the Father through his son, Jesus Christ, re-establishing a broken relationship caused by sin, yet sanctified through the Cross.  The vertical relationship with God and man has been restored. I John 3:16 points us to our relationship with each other through the principle of “laying down one’s life” for each other.  People who are willing to sacrificially do that, as Jesus had done during his life, will discover that it develops a very close community, a community that even persecution can not dissolve, a community built on intimate, committed relationships.

Soon passions of “service” arose from this new group: some wanting to go out and evangelize, telling those who have not heard about this gospel, this “good news”; some wanting to nurture those who were already in their midst, to help them grow toward maturity in their new faith in Jesus Christ; some who discovered that all this had been foreshadowed and written about in the Torah, the Old Testament, among the prophets and the writings of David and Solomon, and diligently began to search the scriptures to reveal the truth; some to make sure this new revealed scriptural truth did not become just academic nor legalistic, but continue to be pliable, active, living.  In spite of this diversity, they continued to fellowship in unity of faith and purpose. They learned to give to one another and take from one another, thus causing their relationships to deepen even further.

When persecution finally did hit Jerusalem, the Church had already prepared and equipped their believers to move on in their flight for safety to all different regions throughout the world, and the Church continued to grow, develop, mature, preparing and equipping another generation to “serve” their God and “serve” one another.  Soon the Church was no longer looked upon as a new Jewish sect, but a vibrant, living, organism to be reckoned with, challenging all the already existing religions and leaders of its day.

 As we have institutionalized the Church over the centuries we have lost the sense of community among believers, instead establishing divisions among us through clergy and laity and through denominational distinctions, labels and beliefs.  We claim to be one body, but are so fragmented, divided, and even hostile towards one another because of our divisions.  Large portions of our church budgets finance large institutions and magnificent edifices while minimal amounts go toward the poor, the widows, the homeless, and the hurting.  To reestablish the power of the first century Church back into our institutions, we will have to first again establish community and the willingness to “lay down our lives” for one another, breaking bread with one another, fellowshipping daily among one another.  We will have to establish community back into the Church.

 

Preparing And Equipping Toward Maturity

 

What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part IX

It is basic to human nature to want to feel needed, to fulfill a purpose, to feel appreciated, to hear someone say, “What would we do without you?”  Unfortunately we often enable people in order to get the gratitude we think we deserve. What kind of parent would we be if our twenty-eight year old son still thanked us for doing their wash, feeding him, financially supporting him while he plays computer games all day, drive him everywhere, and are a part of every decisions he makes, but he shows his gratitude by saying, “What would I do without you?”  We would be considered a failure as a parent. The adult child is nowhere close to becoming independent because he has learned that you will enable him every step of the way.

Most church’s attempt at spiritually parenting is usually a disaster, for we enable those who come into our door. We greet them, pamper them, preach to them, pray for them, tell them what to do, when to financially give, when to stand, when to sit, when to be social, and when quietness is reverence.  We teach submission to authority to the point that authority tells one everything they should or should not do, never allowing them to figure it out themselves or let their conscious be their compass. When that authority or leadership leaves, everyone gasps, “What are we going to do without you?” while beginning to look for a replacement.

Enabling and equipping are opposites. When we equip people, we are preparing them to stand alone, no longer needing our assistance and care, and actually propelling them to accomplish feats beyond our capabilities. Enabling enslaves the person, keeping them in a position of control, continuing to draw them toward dependency. Jesus never enabled. He prepared and equipped his disciples to be able to stand alone once he left earth to return to his rightful place beside his Father in heaven. He built their faith on the Word of God while releasing the Holy Spirit to “teach them all things”.  In fact, he said that they would do “greater things” than he did during his earthly stay.

Apostle Paul would kick into the evangelistic mode when entering a new town or city. When new followers accepted Christ he kicked into the shepherding/pastoral mode and began to nurture them in the faith, using his teaching skills to make the written Word relevant while prophetically living it. He would see over what the Holy Spirit was doing amongst the whole group before leaving.  When he left, he left a fully sufficient, independent church of believers standing on their own faith. They did not have to have Paul around any more. They freed him to move on to his next evangelistic project. He had prepared them and equipped them.

Paul, and older brother in the faith, also prepared and equipped others younger in the faith in becoming apostles, future leaders. He and Barnabas journeyed together, but eventually Paul took young Mark under his care. Even though their relationship was rocky on his first missionary journey because of Mark’s immaturity, Paul eventually praises Mark, supports Mark, encourages Mark to continue in leadership, and the rest is history.  Preparing and equipping means walking beside a brother or sister in the Lord in their journey, not preaching at them or having them read numerous books on the topic.  As we have scene Paul used this principle and so did Jesus who walked with the 12 disciples.  It is not an academic exercise but a physical and spiritual one. It is the walking out, and working out, of one’s faith walk together. It is a daily walk, an intimate walk, a relational walk that prepares, builds, and equips others.

A key component after preparation and equipping is releasing.  Paul had to release each new church to stand on its own. He equipped them with the Word, the Holy Spirit, with spiritual gifts, with community, and the tools needed for leadership; now they had to stand alone.  All that preparation and equipping would be useless if he had not released them.

We as a Church need to rethink what preparing, equipping, and releasing means in our relationships of discipling and nurturing our brothers and sisters in their spiritual growth. As parents we celebrate when our sibling graduates from high school or college, gets married, and becomes a parent, all steps in growing up and becoming independent from our parental care.  The empty nest syndrome is the realization that our sibling has left the nest, our home, and established their own, gotten married or become independent, and may become parents themselves now supporting their own siblings. Most churches I know do not experience an empty nest syndrome as they have prepared and equipped their own laity, their own believers in Jesus, to become independent enough to go out and start their own church, their own ministry, their own acts of service producing growth. They do not reproduce others to replay themselves!

As we learn about the passions of our fellow believers in Jesus, we need to encourage them to grow in their passion, to develop relationships of equality with others who have different passions than their own, to learn to support one another by laying down their lives for one another, to prepare them by encouraging self reflection, developing a private discipline devotional time of Bible study and prayer, giving them an outlet to share what they have seen and heard during these times. We need to equip them with the Word, the Bible, teach them the literal Word of God, the Logos Word, and how to live it, the Rhema Word, and surround them with community, the Church. Then we may see a change, a transformation, from dead-beat Christians, enabled Christians to active, living, growing, nurturing, and supporting Christians. If we see those changes, we have prepared and equipped successfully.

 

Equipping The Saints Soccer Analogy

 

What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part VIII

In Elizabethtown College Soccer History it has been eulogized as “The Game”!  The year before Elizabethtown College battled Hartwick College for the Division III NCAA National Soccer Championship to a nil-nil tie after six overtime periods. To prevent another tie when they met for a rematch for the National Division III title again, they started the game an hour early, just incase history would repeat itself.  It did! When regulation play ended, neither team had put the ball into the goal for the second straight year. In the fifth overtime period, during an offensive attack by Hartwick the Etown goalie was drawn out from his net and a Hartwick attacker fired a thunderous shot taking the breath out of every Etown fan. A sigh of relief was replaced by thunderous exaltation when big Dale Beiber, the son of an African missionary, placed his enormous thigh in front of the ball, knocking it down, and then kicking it down the field to safety.

After playing 90 minutes of regulation play, and 5 ten-minute overtime periods, every player, exhausted, was running on pure adrenaline. Each team was looking for the “break” that would tip the scale. That came when Sandy Kilo, the shortest player on the field, drew the Hartwick goalie out of his goal on a break away, and lobbed the ball gently over his head into the goal! Elizabethtown won 1-0! A front page pictorial of their victory lap on the Etownian, the official weekly Elizabethtown College paper, recorded history.

Why did Etown win? They were in phenomenal physical shape which provided the stamina needed and one-third of the student body weathered the 7 hour trip to create a “home game” atmosphere . Months earlier, before the student body arrived for the fall semester, the team had extensive two-time a day practices and drills. I recall one soccer player’s return from the late afternoon practice, where he took off his soccer spikes and collapsed on the hard stone porch, falling a sleep there in spite of the student traffic throughout the evening. Those exhaustive practices prepared the team for the stamina needed later.  I also was part of the masses who crammed into any vehicle heading towards New England for the game and the long, joyous, return home before the team bus arrived for a victory celebration like the College had never experienced before.

Elizabethtown had been better “equipped” for the game.  They had invested their time in physical conditioning, had worked hours upon hours on their soccer skills, had worked hard on developing a “team” concept, and had built a radical fan base that would travel anywhere to support them. They were prepared; they were equipped.

We, the Church, can learn from their experience.  We should be “equipping the saints for works of service.”  “Prepare ye the way!” is the cry heard throughout the Bible.  Preparation always precedes ministry. Jesus prepared his disciples for when he would leave the earth: he prepared them for apostleship; he prepared them to be the foundation of this new movement, the Church.  He not only prepared them, he equipped them with the Holy Spirit to “teach them all things”; he equipped them through the Word; he equipped them by teaching them the principle of laying down your life for your brethren (IJohn 3:16) so that they would establish community, a community that would survive even the most brutal persecution possible.  Preparing and equipping were essential principles needed in birthing and establishing the Church.  They are still needed today in the maintaining of the Body of Christ, the Church.

Any good building needs a foundation and needs the proper equipment to build that foundation. God knows what foundation the Church needed and equipped the Church with evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, and apostles.  I personally believe that evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, and apostles are still currently in most churches, but we need to equip them for service, then release them to do the calling they have been prepared and equipped for.  The more we prepare them, the higher we raise the bar for success, the more effective the Church will become.  Instead of dead-beat Christians who are enabled by a professional staff, we need to develop a new mindset of how to prepare them, equip them, and release them for works of service.

Life sometimes seems as exhaustive as a six overtime period soccer match, a tug of war, back and forth free-for-all that we can only win if we have been properly prepared and equipped. Like the terrific fan support, the Church needs to rally around each other as a community of faith, of believers, as priests unto the Holy Spirit, who are willing to “lay down our lives” for one another.  When that occurs, the Church will be ready to obtain that definitive score that will win the match, or “The Game” of “life”.

 

What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part VI

The Church’s Role In Releasing The Saints For The Work Of Service

What is the Church’s role corporately in “preparing”, “equipping”, and “releasing” the saints for the work of service?

Preparing:  The Church needs to get away from its program and organizational way of thinking, developing programs and structures that then need to be filled by positions and bodies.  Instead they need to begin to look at each individual member’s spiritual DNA, that which makes them up spiritually.  What is their passion, their desire, their dream, their calling, their goal, their point of view?  What spiritually makes them tick? How do they best function?

If they have a strong evangelistic strain in their spiritual DNA, what can the Church corporately do to prepare them to “live” and “give” the message of spiritual “birth” and “rebirth” that will be the core of their being?  The Church will have to guide them in learning what it means to “lay down your life for your brethren” (IJohn 3:16) so that believer can “live out” as an example the principle of what Jesus did for those who do not know him: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) What safer place to learn this kingdom of God place, than in the midst of the Church?  That’s preparing an evangelist to be an evangelist. The pastor/shepherd can nurture the practical life experiences of this dying and resurrecting principle, the teacher grounding it in the Word, the Bible, while the prophet can bring spiritual life to the principle, and the apostle coordinate is activity in the Christian believer’s life through the working of the Holy Spirit.

The same can be true for those strong with the pastoral/shepherding spiritual DNA strain, or teaching, prophetic, and apostolic DNA strains. The other four spiritual strains can exemplify, support, and strengthen the spiritual genetic make up of a believers growth in Jesus Christ toward maturity.

Equipping: While being prepared, the Church also needs to “equip” the believer toward his diverse unique calling in Jesus Christ. Corporately, the church can offer facilities, finances, mutual support from other believers and their giftings, callings, and DNA make up, as well as materials needed to support the effort of the individual calling of a believer.  In the Church “no man is an island; no man can stand alone.”  God has developed a body with different parts, different functions, different purposes that all work toward the health, stability, and function of the entire body. He has developed a priesthood of believers, a corporate function of all involved for one general purpose. When a person is about to be release into maturity, he knows he will not be sent alone, but with the blessing, the support, and the full backing of other believers which will serve him and whom he will serve.  When this occurs, he is now equipped.

Releasing: Now that the Holy Spirit has prepared the believer, the body of Christ, the Church has surrounded the believer in equipping him, the mature Christian is now ready to be released.  Even though released on his own, he still is, and always will be part of a corporate body of believers, the Church, who will surround him/her when needed to help fulfill their destiny and calling in Jesus Christ.  If when in the heat of spiritual battle, if one falls, they will fall into the arms of another Christian believer, another priest in the priesthood, who can administrate immediately what is needed to bring back their healing, their preparation, their equipping, to stand again in the faith.

In Conclusion: That in summary is the calling, the purpose, the direction of the five fold ministry, to prepare the individual believer for his calling in the corporate Church, to equip the individual believer by and through the corporate Church, to be released to do “works of service” glorifying the corporate Church, the Bride of Christ, the Body of Jesus Christ today!

 

 

What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part V

 Releasing Different Personalities

In a previous blog, I have written about the song “Little Boxes”, where they all came out the same.  The Church as an institution is great at producing little boxes.  Baptist create little Baptist boxes. Lutheran boxes are different from Baptist boxes but all look the same. There are Pentecostal boxes, Roman Catholic boxes, even nondenominational boxes.  I don’t think those labels will be on the boxes when God’s UPS truck takes us to heaven!

If you are a parent having “several siblings”, you quickly learn that none of them are the same even though they possess the same DNA from the same parents!  The “perfect” child who slept throughout the night since birth is followed by the “child from hell” who screams, cries, and demands a feeding, diaper job, and cradling every two hours, twenty-four hours a day!  That is enough to quit having children, but then you stretch your limits and end up having a third child because you don’t remember making love while you both were sleep deprived!  The third child is even different from his/her other siblings!  How can this be?

There are spiritual parallels. Even though we have the same spiritual DNA of our Father God, it is amazing that almost every Christian I have ever met is different!  We have different drives, different passions, different looks, different cultures, different styles of dress, accents, and personalities.  Even though we carry the same label, Christian, we act differently, think differently, are motivated differently, etc.  We have come to learn that even though we are a Church, a body of Christ, maintaining the same image, that of Jesus Christ, we are still all uniquely made, uniquely designed, uniquely wired, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  It is amazing how God loves us individually, accepts us unconditionally, yet sees us corporately!

If we are “to equip the saints for service”, then what is that to look like? What are we shaping, molding, developing, transforming? When we are finished, what does a mature Christian look like?  The answer is as nebulous as a painted portrait of Jesus Christ.  We do not know what he actually “physically” looked like, but we do know “spiritually” and even “emotionally” what that looks like? Then why do we as a church so often look at the “physical” appearance of what a mature Christian looks like rather than developing the “spiritual” or “emotional” Christian which we are supposedly preparing and equipping?  I suppose, because of the diversity of the human experience we all come out differently.

So maybe we need to learn to accept our diversity.  Maybe we should first see what the DNA make up of a person is before we try to transform them into “little boxes”, cloned images of what we think a Christian should appear or be. One person’s DNA may hold the passion and drive for the lost as a predominate gene, while another may possess the drive to care for others, to shepherd as their predominate gene.  Another may find the combination of spiritual molecules to make them strong in teaching, or the prophetic, or even the apostolic.  Each Christian has a different drive, a different bent, a different spiritual personality that still exemplifies Jesus, but in diverse ways with diverse degrees of emphasis.  The key to “equipping the saints” is giving them, “equipping them”, with what they need to be successful on their spiritual journey.

As the Body of Christ, the evangelist needs the equipping of a pastor/shepherd to nurture their spiritual growth and the growth of those they “birth” into the kingdom as well as a teacher to anchor their work and drive in the Logos Word, the written Word, making it a prophetic Rhema Word, a living Word, while being guided by the apostolic over sight of what and how the Holy Spirit is doing in one’s life in edifying the Body of Christ.  The laying down of the lives of the pastor/shepherd, teacher, prophet, and apostle around the evangelist is the “equipping” of that person, giving them what they need to have a mature, balanced ministry in the kingdom of God, the body of Christ, the Church.

The “equipping of the saint for the work of service” can be diversely different for every believer in Christ that could be a logistical nightmare for the way we do church today, but is not difficult for the Holy Spirit who sees over the entire body of Christ, individually and corporately.

With the proper preparation needed, and the equipping of the five fold around them, believers in Christ can be “released” to allow their passion, their drive, their point of view, their motivation to arise, develop, and to flourish. This step is crucial in the development of every believer!

What does a “prepared” “equipped” believer in Jesus Christ, a mature Christian look like?  Because of the diversity of God’s DNA, it may look as varied as each grain of sand in the ocean!  That is why we need the Holy Spirit who is in each individual who professes Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord to arise and bring out the uniqueness of each individual to be combined with his corporate ability of unify and develop his Church into the image of Jesus Christ to be the agent, the teacher, the drive behind the development of believer in Jesus Christ individually and the Church as a whole corporately.  Only then will the diversity of the body of Christ be accepted, respected, and released!

 

What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part IV

 The Only Way To Be Released Is To Release

One of the hardest things about parenting is releasing!  What! They’re 16 already, and its natural to want to be released from the “bondage” of going everywhere with your parents and counting on them for everything! They want the car keys, a driver’s license, to drive on their own? If we want them to be successful adults, we have to release them!  What! An 18 year old going off to college where there is drinking, partying, peer socializing in ways that were taboo when they lived at home! Can they morally stand on their own?  Be responsible enough to make 8 o’clock classes, develop their own proper study habits, hygiene habits? Release them!  I think it is harder for the parent experiencing an empty nest, than it is for the yearling to establish his/her own nest.  Both need to release each other: the caregiver from constantly giving, and the recipient from always receiving. It is a process called “growing up”!

Paul even is fascinated by what it takes for an immature Christian to “Grow Up” in the faith. When they are young in the faith, new in the experience of faith walking, they often stumble as new walkers do when first learning to stand on their own.  Paul calls them “carnal Christians”, those who would rather remain spoon-fed, diaper changed, cuddled and pampered rather than “growing up” and standing on their own.

The key to a Christian believer “growing up” from the perspective of the five fold who has birth them (evangelist), help them develop and grow in the faith (pastor/shepherd), taught them the Word, the Bible (teacher), guided them into how to hear from the Lord on their own (prophet), and help them to see the big picture of the Church, the family of God, as a corporate group (apostle) needing one another, is to “RELEASE”.  If we have done a proper job of “preparing” and “equipping”, no one can stand on their own unless “released”!

If we have become “enablers”, it is difficult to release, because who will do it for them if they cannot do it themselves?  Most church leadership looks at their members as never being “mature” enough to be released, thus constantly enabling them, then wonder why they haven’t grown or become independent from them! In spite of having a “heavy foot” on the gas pedal, a parent has to “release” their son/daughter to drive, even if it takes an accident to teach them why they need safe driving habits. Who hasn’t done “really stupid things” in their 20’s that they never want to admit about in their 40’s or 50’s as part of their learning process of “standing alone”, “growing up”!

When Jesus “discipled” his 12 disciples, they acted like 20 year olds, fighting for positions, trying to figure things out practically on their own, inserting foot in mouth, and often lacking the “faith” needed for the coming call.  Jesus, the Teacher, the Shepherd, had not only called them, birthed them, their Evangelist, he now was in the process of nurturing and developing them.  He was preparing them, equipping them, for what lay ahead. He didn’t freak out over their falls, their failures, their short comings, he kept pouring himself into them, willing to lay down his life for them.  He was “preparing” them!  Once he ascended into heaven, he then “equipped” them, sending His Holy Spirit. Now they were ready!

On Pentecost he RELEASED them! They were on their own, now grown up!  They were no longer called disciples nor thought of as disciples; they were apostles and began to walk, think, and act like apostles, standing tall, standing on their own.  They had been released, and were now called to “see over” what the Holy Spirit was doing to the Body of Christ, His Church, His Bride, for the purpose of “preparing” and “equipping” others to be “released” for the “kingdom of God” was no longer at hand; it was in full “Acts-tion”! They were released, a live moving forward. 

The book of Acts does not record the stupid 20-year old actions of their Pre-Pentecost experience, but records the “Acts-ions” of what they are doing as “grown up” Christians!

That is the goal of the five fold: To help the believers “Grow Up”!

And the only way to allow a child, a teen, an adolescent, to “grow up” is to eventually “release” them!  The final step to the “equipping the saints for the work of service” is the “releasing” of them.  It’s a “hands-off” policy, so the hand of God can be on them for the rest of their Christian lives of “service”.

 

What Does “Equipping The Saints” Mean? – Part III

 

Then How Is A Teacher To Be An Equipper?

After reading my last blog, you might have asked, “What is the role of the teacher in the five fold if they are ‘NOT THE TEACHER’”?  It is a different mindset than what the Westernized intellect has established.  The key may be found in how we define “equipping”?

Hypothetically, let’s say you want to “explore the North Pole”, the top of the world.  How do we prepare you for the trip; how do we equip you?  Well, Westernized intellectual thought would say to study, research, dig out all the information we can find about the North Pole, sub-zero weather conditions, climate, etc.  We want to “know”, intellectually, everything we can!  We go to school, earn a Bachelor’s, Master’s, even a Doctorate Degree in a specified area so that we become experts in the field. We rent a dog sled, because that is how early explorers got there, and go on our journey only to die by hardships; we freeze to death!  We knew everything about the journey, but did not “equip” ourselves for survival!  It takes more than intellectually “knowing” about a topic, but actually “experiencing” a topic.  If we survived enough to recuperate to go on a second expedition, we would invest in proper parkas, insulated boots and specialized gloves, proper heated, motorized equipment instead of dog sleds, etc. We will have learned from “experience” what is needed to succeed. It is a harsh climate out there! Those who follow us can read our written works, our journals, study our efforts, but it would not hurt them to call, visit, interview, and ask in depth questions from us about our “experience”.  Even with that, until they “experience” the frigid North for themselves will they truly be able to relate, to “know” what it is all about.

So it is in “learning” about faith in our spiritual journey.  Even though we have written accounts from the patriarch, Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob, and accounts of Moses’ journey, Samson’s story, Daniel’s faith adventures, the many prophet’s journey, the disciples walk, and even the church’s history in the book of Acts, we still do not fully understand the truths these men have learned until we “experience it ourselves”!  That is where the rubber meets the road; where it all is transformed from theory to actuality.

The drive of a five fold teacher is to “prepare” a person for their personal journey that he is about to “experience”.  To “equip” the person with all he needs for when he is ready to do the journey alone.   Walking with a brother/sister in the Lord, beside him, next to him through life’s experiences, teaching Kingdom of God principles to practical life applications is Jesus method of teaching his disciples. When the teacher is gone, hopefully you can stand on your own for he has “prepared” you to do so.  It is more than mentoring, for IJohn 3:16 says we ought to “lay down our lives for our brethren”.  I have had several Christian mentors in my life, but they were not willing to sacrificially lay down their lives for me when needed. Jesus, the ultimate teacher, was ready to “lay down his life” so his pupils, students, disciples, apostles, so they could stand on their own after his resurrection and ascension. He had prepared them.

He also “equipped” them.  He gave them everything that they needed upon his departure to stand on their own.  The same Spirit that descended upon Him at his baptism was given to them when the Holy Spirit fell upon them!  He had been led by the Spirit to the dessert, to places of quietness, to crowded areas, places of mass ministry, to the sick to heal them, and even to Jerusalem to the Cross to fulfill his life’s calling!  He has given each Christian believer that same Holy Spirit to “teach him all things”, to “say the right things for them when needed”, to “lead them, guide them”.  He has “equipped” them with “spiritual gifts” for effective communications with Him and through Him.  He has given them “faith”, “hope”, “love”, “peace”, “spiritual armor”, purpose, etc. Like the parka’s, transportation, etc. of the North Pole explorers, Jesus has given those things not only to “survive”, but those things needed to “strive”, to succeed to the goal!

The ultimate dream of a five fold teacher is to have his students “experience” God, faith, agape love, forgiveness, repentance, righteousness, holiness, obedience, etc. on his own, using the principles of the kingdom of God that they were taught when walking next to them in life’s experiences.  When they “experience” God on their own, standing firm in the faith, moving forward in the Spirit, toward the goal, the prize of the Kingdom, Jesus, as a five fold teacher you can have the satisfaction that you have succeeded!  That is the goal of a five fold teacher.