Friday, June 29, 2012

Called to Equip (Part 2 of 3): Called to Work

He personally gave some to be . . .

. . . for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12, HCSB)

I love visiting the Florida Gulf Coast. I spent several years of my ministry serving in Panama City, Florida. On one of my visits back to that area, I was shown a church that started construction on a new complex in a new location. As we approached the church it was exciting to see this magnificent new structure standing proudly on the new property. Upon driving closer the excitement faded to disappointment. The building was surrounded by an unfinished parking lot. Upon further investigation, you could see that the building that was so beautiful on the outside had not been completed on the inside—it was just a shell.

This image broke my heart. Here was a church that made a commitment to build but was never able to finish the project. Now, their testimony to the community was an empty building with a beautiful façade and an unfinished parking lot.

Equally heartbreaking are the leaders I have observed over the years who have forgotten what it is they are called to do.  As one who is called, we are not just to “be” but to “do” as well. Our job is training and building.

Our job as “one who is called” is TRAINING.

What exactly is training? It is a picture of equipping, completely furnishing, or perfecting. In some cases it is used to refer to mending or restoring. [HCSB STUDY BIBLE]. As leaders, we are called to train—equip, mend, restore, perfect, furnish. Training is a 24-7 process that requires sound Bible teaching and sincere relationship building. The church body will not receive this solely from the pulpit or by simply attending small groups or Sunday School. This is a valuable part of the process of training but not the only element. Be careful not to place training within the boundaries of an event that has an ending and beginning; this might include someone presenting, others taking notes, or discussing theological concepts. There is much more behind the meaning of the word “training”. Training is an investment of time and energy. It is work!

Speaking of work, that is the learning outcome—work.  I’m speaking not just of busy work but “the work of ministry!” So, does your training produce the work of ministry in your church? If not, one would have to beg the question, are you really training? Why not consider what you might need to do to refocus your ministry so that all you do, whether you are, as Ephesians 4:11 describes, an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher, is actually leading to works of ministry.

Are you tired yet? Hopefully you are energized to roll up your sleeves and continue to work. This verse is part of a very long sentence that encompasses verses 11-16. We see another part of our job in the last half of verse 12. 

Our job as “one who is called” is BUILDING. 

Verse 12 concludes with the words, “to build up the body of Christ.” We are not only to train so the church can expand outwardly, but we are to build so the church can grow upwardly. This is a picture of building a structure. You start with a foundation and continue until the entire structure is complete. This is a process as well that takes place over time. Consider these thoughts about building:
  • You can’t build if you don’t know what something is supposed to look like when it is finished. Do you have a clear picture of what a built up believer should look like?
  • You need blueprints in order to build. What are the blueprints you are using to build up believers?
  • You need additional help in order to build. Very few contractors can build a building from start to finish without the help of sub-contractors. Are you trying to build up believers without help? Look for others with the expertise you might not have.
  • You have to work and stay focused in order to make sure the building is built correctly. How focused are you on the building and the building process? Are you adjusting in order to complete the building to specs?

At the end of your ministry, I hope someone will round the corner and see your training and building testimony in the body of believers and say, “He knew how to train the saints in the work of ministry. He helped build up the body of Christ.”