By Whaid Rose
God designed the Church to remain alive and vibrant despite the passing of time and amidst our rapidly changing culture. Here’s how:
The British Monarch and the Christian Church have more in common than we often recognize. Both are age-old institutions struggling to survive in a rapidly changing culture; both struggle to retain and empower its next generation.
This welcome perspective comes from Krish Kandiah, a UK-based author; he writes in response to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s unprecedented move away from the Royal family. (See Megxit and the Church: Harry and Meghan Reflect Our Lost Youth; Christianity Today Direct, January 2020.)
SEARCH FOR IDENTITY
In this article, Kandiah connects the dots between the young Royals and today’s young people. They share the search for identity, the desire to forge a path of their own, and championing causes they care about.
Kandiah is hopeful that Harry and Meghan’s actions will turn out to be a catalyst for change within the Monarchy. At the same time, segments of the Christian Church wrestle with the need for change to remain fresh and engage its next generation.
Thankfully, God created the marvelous invention called the church with this very need in mind. He designed the church to reinvent itself, to stay alive and vibrant despite the passing of time and cultural changes.
But this doesn’t happen automatically. It requires an intentional engagement of the biblical model for ministry. The church must regularly revisit the original New Testament blueprint and dare to shift from what it has become to what it should be.
AND THE CHURCH SHOULD BE ALL ABOUT EQUIPPING
And the church should be all about equipping. Each of us has been called by God to serve in some way, so the church’s chief mission is to equip believers for works of service. This is Paul’s burden in Ephesians 4:7-16, the reference for what is commonly called the Equipping Ministry Model.
That model is in contrast to the clergy-driven institutional model which produces a superstar pastor performing for an audience, instead of the whole body engaged in ministry.
So let’s look briefly at the equipping model outlined in Ephesians 4:7-16.
THE EQUIPPING MODEL
Paul has just spent the first six verses of Ephesians 4 underscoring our oneness in Christ. But in verse 7 he transitions to our diversity, which results from the way we’ve been gifted: “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
We gather from this that these are gifts of grace (charisma), apportioned according to Christ’s pleasure and generosity.
Yet while these gifts are free to believers, they come at a high cost to the Giver. Paul belabors this point (in verses 8-10) by referencing Psalm 68 which celebrates David’s conquest over the occupants of ancient Jerusalem. The point is that just as a military general distributes booty after a great victory, so Christ distributes gifts after His victory over death!
What gifts did He distribute? Verse 11 reads, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
FOR THE EQUIPPING OF THE SAINTS
Notice that these gifts are all given for the same purpose, the equipping of the saints. The English word equip conveys the idea of supplying what is needed in preparing for service.
In the Greek, the word used for equipping is katartismos from the root artios. It underscores three important facets of the equipping model: (1) mending a torn fishing net or restoring a broken bone, (2) training and preparation, and (3) establishing or laying foundations.
It is easy for these concepts to be lost amid speculations about the apostolic and prophetic gifts. Let me encourage you to focus on the big picture of verses 11–12: local churches led by a plurality of gifted leaders who do one thing – equip the saints. They equip the saints for the work of ministry, which in turn builds up (edifies) the Body.
In the process, broken people find healing and wholeness; the lonely and vulnerable find authentic community; young disciples are trained; new ministries are established, and foundations of faith and vibrant ministries are laid.
THE END GOAL IS THE MATURITY OF ALL BELIEVERS
The end goal is the maturity of all believers (verses 13-15), whereby the Body automatically builds itself up as each part does what it was gifted by the Spirit to do (verse 16).
Two operative principles drive this model: (1) the priesthood of all believers, which fosters one ministry – not lay versus clergy – carried out by one people of God, and (2) a missional approach to ministry which seeks to realign the church’s mission with God’s eternal purpose in the world. It isn’t so much that the church has a mission, but that the mission has a church, one which equips all its members to join God on that mission.
So it’s really all about equipping. It’s the key to engaging and empowering the Harrys and Meghans of our world. And it’s how the church remains a living, breathing “organism,” reinventing itself to meet the demands of ministry in every age.