Summary: When pastors do what they must do, and people do what they are called to do, according to verses 12-16, our gifts lead to growth in at least six ways as we work as a team.
Every Member a Minister
There was a lady who was visiting a church one Sunday. The sermon seemed to go on forever, and many in the congregation fell asleep. She liked to meet new people so after the service she walked up to a very sleepy looking gentleman, extended her hand in greeting, and said, “Hello, I’m Gladys Dunn.” To which the man replied, “You’re not the only one ma’am, I’m glad he’s done too!"
[Play excerpt from Tim Hawkins, Sleeping in Church]
Last week we learned that when you and I are on mission, we will connect others to Christ. If you can only remember two things, remember these two words: connecting and equipping.
I came across a great phrase this past week: We may not have it all together, but together we have it all. That’s what we’re going to learn in Ephesians 4:11-16
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.
This is really one long sentence in the Greek but we’ll look at it piece by piece.
Let’s begin in verse 11: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers…” In this verse, we see that Paul is not so much speaking of spiritual gifts given to Christians but is specifically speaking of Christians who are given as gifts to the church. The other passages on spiritual gifts describe God-given abilities but here the emphasis is on God-given individuals.
We don’t have the time to fully explain each of these categories, but the work of apostles and prophets is still sometimes carried out by people whom God raises up. We rarely see these titles applied these days, and when we do sometimes that is a red flag. Nevertheless, we know that God continues to speak through the prophetic gifts. Apostles were generally those who had first-hand encounters with Jesus and saw him face-to-face. Paul may have been considered the last of them. But God uses some today to plant churches and spread the gospel in ways that are similar to what an apostle did back in the 1st century. Evangelists are “bearers of Good News” and continue their work today, presenting the gospel in a compelling way so that people get saved. I see pastors/teachers as one category because the article “some” is not used for teachers as it is with the other groups.
The word “pastor” literally means a shepherd and pictures the caring, feeding and leading of the flock of God. As “teacher,” pastors must teach the Word of God, knowing that a well-fed flock will grow to maturity. Pastors then are to tend and to teach, in large formal settings like this, and in smaller informal settings as well. Someone described the pastor/teacher’s role like this: to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.
Before we move to verse 12, I’d like to suggest that we lose the laity label. When the church was launched in the Book of Acts, everyone saw themselves as ministers. Sometime during the Dark Ages, the distinction between “clergy” and “laity” came about. Even the definition of these terms is telling. Clergy means “God’s lot or heritage” while laity is derived from a word that means “the people of God.” One of the rallying cries of the Reformation was that every member of the Body of Christ is a minister. In fact, 1 Peter 2:9 paints a beautiful picture of how God views every Christian: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
* Pastors Prepare. Let’s look at the first part of verse 12: “…he gave some…to be pastors and teachers to prepare God’s people.” This word “prepare” is the same word used to describe what James and John were doing when they were “preparing” their nets in Matthew 4:21. That means they had to clean all the seaweed off them, stitch up the sections that were torn, untangle them and get them ready to be used again at a moment’s notice. The nets were prepared for service, not to be put in storage. In classical Greek, the word was used of the setting of a bone in order to put it back into proper alignment in the body. Pastors are to repair what’s broken and supply what’s missing so that you can be strengthened to serve.