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.