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Equipping the saints for maximum productivity in the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-16)

By Princewill Ireoba
03 October 2021   |   4:00 am
It is clear from the text that God chooses and equips the church leaders for a single role - The equipping of the saints for the work of ministry.

The Ven. Dr. Princewill Ireoba delivering a talk at the event<br />

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 edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting , but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ –from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share , causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

The Role Of Church Leaders
It is clear from the text that God chooses and equips the church leaders for a single role – The equipping of the saints for the work of ministry. Leaders are to prepare and mobilise the people to do what God wants them to do.

It is obvious from the text that the leaders’ role is not to do all the work of ministry, as the church is here pictured as the body of Christ, and no part of the body is meant to do all the work.

Jesus Himself modelled this by Grooming/Commissioning of the Apostles and others (Mk 3:14-15, 6:7, Luke 10:1-2, Matt. 28:18-20).

Besides, It is much better and more advantageous, as it not only makes for multiplication rather than addition, but also ensure perpetuation and, prevents the pastor from wearing himself out (Exod. 18:13-22), resent those he serves and places himself properly as a representative, not a replacement of Jesus.

Of course, pastors are ordained and licensed for the work of the ministry, and indeed, are fully engaged in doing it. But they do not and cannot do all of it. They must equip the flock, so that the whole church is engaged in God’s mission.

Besides, it is also not efficient or feasible for them to do all the work in the church. No pastor is all-proficient and all gifted, or has all the time and energy to meet all the needs in the church. The pastors, therefore, can only fulfil their ministry by equipping the people of God for the work of the ministry.

Despite being the obvious model designed by God, which makes for “the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” as well as the other advantages of equipping and using others, most church leaders do most of the church works today. The reasons for these include:

• The strong priest-laity dichotomy derived from the mediaeval church.
• Poor sensitisation and mobilisation of the laity. Many Christians have the notion that it is the pastor alone who has the duty to do the work of the ministry, as he is the one called, trained, commissioned and paid for it; while theirs is simply to attend services, receive blessings and support the ministry.
• Some pastors’ mentality and attitudes:
• They want to be the centre of attention.
• They have the notion that they are better, higher and more spiritually endowed than others.
• They don’t trust others.
• They feel insecure
None of these reasons is valid. Church leaders need to intentionally equip others. No excuses.

How To Equip The Saints

A study of the word “equip” (Greek – kataritizo), as used in the New Testament, indicates some ways it can be done. The saints can be equipped as follows:

• Prayer
The author of Hebrews concluded his letter with a prayer that God would equip/prepare/perfect (kataritizo) his readers in every good work to do His Will (Heb. 13:20-21). Pastors should, likewise, pray for the equipment of the people entrusted to them because God Himself is needed for the equipment to work out. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it”. (Psa. 127:1).

The pastor’s prayer for his people should not just be for their material blessing, but more so, for every spiritual blessing, to be “complete/equipped in every good work to do His Will, working in (them) what is well pleasing in His sight” (Heb. 13:21).

• The Word of God
The Bible prescribes itself as the instrument for equipping the saints. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped (exartizo) for every good work (2 Tim 3:16–17). The pastor has the duty to use the Word of God to teach, challenge, correct and instruct the people, thereby equipping them for the ministry. The Anglican Ordinal requires the pastor to “be diligent in prayer, in reading Holy Scripture, and in all studies that will deepen” his faith, and as well, expound and teach the faith of the Church in his ministry. This also entails systematically transmitting and imparting the vision and values of the church, thereby, getting everyone to be united and on the same page.

The teaching ministry of the church is a veritable instrument for equipment of the saints for maximum productivity. Hence, Paul charged Timothy to preach the Word (2 Tim 4:2), Jesus prayed for His disciples that the Father would sanctify them through the truth of the Word of God (John 17:17), and Moses’ father-in-law counselled him to focus part of his energy on instructing the people about the statutes and laws, and teaching them the way to live and what they must do (Exod. 18:20). 

• Intentional Training
Luke records Jesus as using the word kataritizo as the result of intentional discipleship training. “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained/equipped (kataritizo) will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).

“Training is teaching or developing in oneself or others, any skills and knowledge or fitness that relate to specific useful competencies” (Wikipedia).

A leader should identify the people’s potentials and gifts and assist them in developing them. Training can be formal or informal, and very necessary for the equipment of the people of God.

• Delegating, Assigning and Working Oneself Out
The prayer in Hebrews 13:20-21 that the God of peace “make you perfect/equip (kataritizo) you in every good work” shows that equipment is not only for work, but also in (the course of) work. Saints are equipped as they are exposed to work.

All teaching and training must lead to putting it into practice. Doing is a very important aspect and way of learning.

Improvement can only be in the act, for “practice”, it is said, “makes perfect” (equips). Opportunities should be created for the practice and work of ministry, both as the actual doing and the process of learning, so that the people will be able to gradually perfect and perpetuate.

Jesus demonstrated this in his ministry by having His disciples baptise (Jn 4:2), go for mission (Mk 6:7, Luke 10:1-2) and ultimately carry on with the work when He left (Matt. 28:18-20). Success without successor is failure. Every Church leader should be in the process of continually working himself out of job. His goal should be training others to take his place and even perform better as he moves to his next Divine placement.

Co-ministers and subordinates are not, and should not be conceived as rivals, but team ministers, working towards the same goal.

God has a mission for His church: to spread the gospel to all nations. This mission cannot be well accomplished by anyone person or group of people. The whole church is needed to fulfil it.

Pastors, don’t do all the work. Equip your flock for maximum productivity.

(A Talk to Otukpo Diocesan Clergy Retreat at Ibru Centre Agbarha-otor, September 30, 2021 by The Ven. Dr Princewill O. Ireoba, Rector, Ibru Centre)