Ephesians 4:11-13 – Equipping The Saints For the Works of Service
Ephesians 4:11-13 – And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Today I want to look at two questions from this verse.
- What is the role of Christian leaders in the church?
- And, what is the role of each of us in the church?
What is the role of Christian leaders in the church?
God has graciously equipped believers in the church to lead the church. He chooses and saves certain individuals. Then He sanctifies those individuals, filling them with the Holy Spirit. And He gives them spiritual gifts, which work in harmony with their natural God-given talents. God prepares saints to become leaders.
One of the best examples of this is Jesus and Peter. When Jesus called Peter, his name was Simon. But Jesus changed his name to Peter. The Greek is Petros, which means “stone.” His Aramaic name “Cephas” also means “rock.” But why did Jesus call him that? Was Peter like a stone?
Far from it. Peter was emotional and unstable. He often talked without thinking. Many times he made declarations or asked questions which he would later regret. The proudest statement he made was that he would never deny Jesus. And yet, right after that he denied Jesus three times.
But Jesus did not call Peter “Rock” because he was one. He called Peter “Rock” because that is what he was going to be become. Jesus looked into the future at what Peter would become, knowing that he would be a rock. And yet Peter did not become a stable pillar of the church overnight or by magic. Jesus transformed Peter.
When a sculpture looks at a stone, he does not see the ugly and dirty unshaped rock before his eyes. Instead he can already picture the finished statue. It is up to him to chisel away the excess stone and cause that image to become a reality.
This is what happened with Peter. Jesus called Him. Jesus equipped him. Jesus sanctified Him. Jesus changed Him. And Peter became a leader in the church.
Ephesians 4:11 tells us that God chooses the leaders. Those whom He chooses, He equips. A leader is not self-made or self-appointed. Instead a leader should be humble and always aware that he is where he is because of God’s mercy and for the sake of God’s people.
Five different categories of leaders are mentioned including: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. Each category of leader is unique and has a unique role. The focus of their ministry is a bit different.
Today I am not going to talk about the differences, but what one single role each of them has. And it is mentioned clearly in this verse.
So what is the role of leaders in the church? Their role is to equip the saints for the work of ministry (some translations say the works of service).
Note very clearly from this verse what is not mentioned as their role. The leaders are not called to do all the work of ministry in the body of Christ, just as your feet or eyes or hands don’t do all the work. It is often said that 10% of the people in the church do 90% of work. No one knows the exact stat, but it is true that the leaders often do much of the work.
That is not the model that God designed. It is unhealthy and will make the entire church unhealthy. Here are a few possible negative reasons why a leader may try to do too much himself:
- He wants to be the center of attention.
- He believes he can do the work better than others.
- He doesn’t trust others to do the the work.
- He is worried about losing control.
- He needs to prove that he deserves his paycheck.
Understand that I am not saying every church leader is guilty of the above. Some try to do most or all of the work themselves out of good motivations and a desire to serve. Many simply do not know that they should equip others to do the work or if they do know this do not know how.
Like in everything Jesus is the perfect model. Jesus should be the center of attention and yet he empowered His disciples and gave them important responsibilities. Jesus could do the work better than others, but He equipped the disciples to do the work, sending them out two by two.
One example of the way that Jesus equipped and trained the disciples, is baptism.
John 4:2 – Although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.
Jesus is the Son of God. All authority and power belong to Him. And yet He gave this job to the disciples. Why? To equip them. To be a model that a leader does not need to do everything Himself. Jesus was going to leave. He had to train up the disciples to do the work.
Every Christian leader should be in the process of continually working themselves out of a job. The goal of a leader should be training up others to take our place for when God brings us to the next step in His plan for us. The goal should be for our ministry to continue even better when we are gone.
Jesus equipped the disciples for the work of ministry. And it is a good thing He did! Otherwise they would have had no idea what to do after He left.
Here are some of the reasons why every church leader should intentionally be training others to do the work of service.
- Jesus modeled it.
- Paul modeled it.
- It is far more effective in fulfilling the Great Commission. It allows for multiplication rather than addition. Ten or a hundred people can reach far more than one can. Even Jesus did not preach to all the people in the world by Himself.
- The leader who tries to do all the work himself will burn out.
- The leader who tries to do all the work himself may grow to resent those whom he serves.
- The leader who tries to all the work himself may become prideful and self-important.
- A person should not be the center of a church. Jesus is the center. And Jesus is the head.
When one person is always up front and visible, like is the case with many mega church pastors, it is dangerous. You may often hear a church called by the pastor’s name when people call the church “Pastor X’s” church. This is dangerous and unhealthy for the church. People become a person follower rather than a Christ follower.
Churches are far more healthy and reproduce far more effectively when their is a team of leaders working together equipping the saints and then these saints in turn get involved.
If you are a Christian leader, then there is an application for you. You need to intentionally equip others. No excuses.
I also learned this lesson. I have used a specific gospel tool called the Gospel bridge for sharing the good news for almost two decades. Because I have shared it so many times, I could almost do it asleep. The tool is very good so I have trained many people how to use it. Sometimes we go together to share the gospel with the lost. And I ask them to share while I observe.
To be honest, it can be quite difficult for me to be quiet and empower them to share. When I hear them struggling a bit, my natural tendency is to jump in. When their listener asks a tough question, there is a strong desire for me to cut in and say, “Let me take that question,” and take it away. But I have trained myself to be quiet and let them share. There is no other way for them to learn.
If I jump in and take over what will that teach them? It will teach them to give up. It will teach them to think that they can’t do it. It will teach them to stop sharing the gospel and instead rely on me to share it. Those are terrible things!
As I equip others there will be moments of failure (just as I have failed many times in many ways). But these will be learning opportunities. Instead of taking over I should prayerfully support and encourage those I am training. Then I can offer kind and productive feedback. Over time, they will gain confidence, skill, and knowledge. And they will hopefully learn to rely on Jesus instead of a person.
Christian leaders must intentionally focus on equipping the saints. That is what their ministry is all about!
That brings us to the second question.
What is the role of the saints (each of us) in the church?
The verse is clear. The saints are the ones doing the works of service. Every single believer is to be involved in using his or her own gifts for building God’s kingdom. There is more than enough work to go around. God has a job for you (Ephesians 2:10).
- It is not the responsibility of the pastor or leader to do all the work.
- It is not the responsibility of the pastor or leader to share the gospel with your friends and family.
- The saint’s role is not simply passively attending a church service and listening to a sermon.
- The work of the kingdom is “bottom-up” and not “top-down.”
- A healthy church consists of volunteers who are prepared by their leaders to do the job God has called them to do. That means sharing responsibility, sharing vision, and sharing the load.
Too many Christians show up late, sit in the back, listen to the sermon, and then leave right afterward. Some put money in the plate or say, “good sermon.” Some are good listeners. But being a good listener is not enough.
Ephesians 4:12 is clear. A growing church consists of saints who are serving. When you serve, you grow. Try leading a Bible study. You will find you learn far more by sharing with others than you do when you show up and listen to someone else teach.
I have been privileged to be part of a church where everyone is actively encouraged to serve. There are no paid staff. At one point over 200 out of about 450 total attendees volunteered to serve in some capacity on a regular basis. It was a beautiful thing. And yet it still fell short of the goal. The goal should be for 100% of believers to be participating in the works of service!
Is your church there? Are you there?
Application: How about you? Are you doing the works of service? Are you using your gifts in your local church? If not, you need to fix the situation. This Sunday, go up and ask what you can do to help or volunteer for a specific ministry.
If they say there is no need, tell them what you learned in Ephesians and ask them to really think about what you can do. Leaders of a church may say “no” the first time out of politeness so don’t stop there.
Whatever they give you to do, do with all your heart. Do not consider it is below you. Eventually as you serve, your special gifting will become apparent.
And once you start service, begin intentionally equipping others to train yourself out of a job! If you do this, then your ministry can continue long after you are gone.
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