The Big “E”: “Equipping” or “Enabling”?
In my May 13th blog I wrote, “After writing almost 300 blogs over the last few years about the Church from the perspective of the five fold not being “offices” by “church officials” but “passions” and “points of view” that drive believers in Jesus Christ, why wouldn’t the Church want to examine the relevancy of..... actually “equipping”, preparing the “saints”, not church staff’s, for the work of “service” as outlined in Ephesians 4?” Let’s look at that question.
There is an addiction in the American church today, dependency on their clergy or professional staff which often enables them. The American church has done a poor job at “equipping” the “saints” for the work of service here in America by just “serving” them. This may sound like a paradox, but by constantly “serving” their congregations, they constantly give out, give out, give out, then burn out! That is not the fruit of serving.
We feed, diaper, and burp our children as newborns. From their birth, parents just give out, give out, give out, but there is the hope, the prayer, the belief that someday the child will be potty trained, feed himself at the table, and say “excuse me” when he/she burps alone! Part of “growing up” is taking on responsibility, learning to stand alone, and eventually taking care of others. It thrilled me to see a friend of ours helplessly going through childhood, only to one day stand on his own, in fact, getting married, and today is a “foster” parent, reaching out to others. That is growing up.
There are members of many of our churches who have not, and often refuse to “grow up” spiritually. They want the pastor to feed them through sermons and teachings rather than self-Bible reading and study. They would rather call the pastor for the prayer list so that the pastor or staff can pray for their loved ones rather than nurture a private, vibrant prayer life of their own. They would rather give financially when they can or what they want rather than practice a disciplined financial life of tithing. These people frustrate their church leadership, but today’s church leadership style is to take some of the blame, because we are doing a poor job of “equipping”, preparing, developing, and nurturing the “saints”, the ordinary grass root believers in Jesus, to “do” the work of the service. We have “enabled” them into their present condition. Most “discipleship courses” in churches have failed. Often it becomes easier to equip the “staff” than it is to equip the “saints” to “do” it. I have seen this principle as a public educator where administrators are more into equipping their staff through staff development than releasing their staff to do what they are best at doing, teaching, equipping their students for real world lessons. In education, students now “expect” the teaching staff to do alot for them, which is sad, but we have “enabled” that attitude. This is also true with the American church.
So the challenge is, “How do we “equip the saints for the work of the service” as a church? How can we introduce, then develop, care, and nurture believers in their God given talents, then have the “trust” and “faith” in them to release them, allow them to grow up and be “mature” in Christ and eventually become leaders in the Church?
I contend through the five fold! We need apostles to oversee or “see over” what the Holy Spirit is doing in individual lives as well corporately with in the local body of Christ. Apostles love to “see over” one’s development then “release” them. They are never to control nor manipulate, but allow the Holy Spirit to develop each believer. Apostles naturally want to “release” one into ministry. We need shepherds, teachers, and prophets to help in the day-to-day development of a believer to be grounded in the Word, the Bible, yet activate it into a “living”, Rhema Word, with proper nurture and care through daily living experiences. This is what Jesus did to the twelve. He never sent them off to rabbinical school, or seminary, nor gave a “discipleship course” to his disciples; he walked, talked, and taught them through parables of common life experiences to teach kingdom principles. We need evangelists to ignite, revive, and bring renewal and rebirth to that which the Holy Spirit is leading. All five of these passions and points of view would develop believers toward a greater maturity in Jesus Christ.
As a church, we have got to quit enabling, and begin developing. This takes an investment of our time, our talents, and our resources through establishing personal relationships, not programs as today’s institutional church looks for. “Equipping” or preparing someone takes time, care, nurture, respect, trust, development, and faith. Are we, the Church, willing to give such a great price for the “equipping of the saints?” That is the question for the 21st Century Church.
(This is the 4th part of a 7 part series. I invite you to look back at the previous blogs, particularly on equipping, and join me in future blogs about the relevancy of the five fold to the 21st Century Church.)