Does Equipping The Saints Call Us Inward?

One of the reasons that churches tend to move inward is the call of Ephesians 4 to equip the saints for the work of ministry. We can find ourselves thinking that the role of the church leader is to equip church people to be involved in church ministry. And as long as church people are doing church ministry (which often happens within the walls of church) we assume that we are accomplishing the mission of the church.

But the instructions to equip the saints may begin as an inward work but should always be moving the saints outward.

This word “equip” in Ephesians 4:12 literally means to furnish. If you rented or bought a furnished home, that means that home is ready to be lived in. You don’t need to buy a bed or a couch or a fridge or stove, the house is move-in ready. But If the house is unfurnished, it is not ready for someone to move in.

The same greek used for “equip” is a word that also been used to described the preparedness of a solider heading into battle. A commander officer might asked, “Are the men equipped? Do they have the right clothing, gear, weapons, food? Are they prepared to go into battle.

And so the word equip” means to get ready.

If you were ever in our home on 7:20 AM on a school day, the mood would be very different then if you were at our home at 4:20 PM on a school day.

Because at 7:20 AM, Our kids are scrambling around getting ready to go to school.  One of the things you might hear in our house around 7:20 is do you have your homework, do you have that field trip permission trip, do you have a jacket, do you have every thing you need before the bus comes?

At 7:20 AM our household is in a time of getting ready, of getting prepared.

But if you came around 4:20 PM, you would see kids lounging around reading, drawing, playing outside. There  is no urgency. There is no sense they are getting ready for anything.

When Paul talks about equipping the saints, he is wanting church leadership to get the sainst prepared and said. He wants us to live with a 7:20 AM mindset. He wants us to be preparing like soldiers going out to battle.

And what are we getting equipped or ready for?

The Church has been called to do the work of ministry —  The body of Christ has been called to the mission and work of Christ.

Now within our modern day church language, the word “ministry” as gotten skewed a little bit. In some ways today, the word ministry can be referred to as any organized activity or area within the church. We have children’s ministry, men’s ministry, youth ministry, worship ministry, we can have divorce care ministry, senior adult ministry, sports ministry. We can use that word to describe all of the activities or groups within a church.

Or sometimes when we talk about ministry we use it to talk about one’s vocation. A person can be in full-time ministry or a in part-time ministry.

But when Paul uses the word ministry here, it is not in the sense of an activity or a group within the church or one’s employment. Paul is not necessarily saying these spiritual gifts (the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers) are equipping people to serve as a greeter or serve in the nursery or serve in men’s ministry.

When Paul uses the word ministry here, it is equipping the body to live out the mission of Christ.

Now the mission of Christ can be lived out though the help of an organized activity like a youth group, there can be discipleship that happens within a youth ministry but when Paul uses the term of “work of ministry” he is referring to the call that has been given to every single person who is a believer in Jesus Christ – the call to go and make disciples and to see those disciples walk in obedience to Christ.

No Christian should every say, ‘well, I am not really involved in a ministry right now.” You may not be formally engaged in an activity of the church but ever single one of us as been called into the work of Christ.

When we think about equipping the saints it is not a call that should cause us to stay inward but rather it creates a sense or urgency in us to go out and to live out the mission of Christ. When we equip the saints for the sake of building up the body we do it so the body of Christ is fulfilling the task of the Great Commission–seeing people come to know Christ and walk in obedience to Christ.