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!