Why did God give leaders? “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). We must take the step from realizing God has given leaders, to the next step of realizing why these leaders were given—to equip. It goes back to the acronym we’ve given for equipping: engaged in a quest to invest in people. God sent leaders on a quest to invest in the people His Son bloodily redeemed.
Now, let’s take another step: God has not only given us the opportunity to be equipped, but He saved us and called us to His work. The leaders of our churches must engage in a quest to invest. Saints who have come to Christ and have connected with His church must be on a quest to be equipped so they can contribute to their King and His kingdom! Why?
First, for the sake of unity in the church. The reason we are equipped is to keep the church unified. How? Leaders were called to focus on “prayer and ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4). This shows the primacy and sufficiency of these two items—our unity must be based on the truth of God’s Word. If we pull from resources other than Scripture, the ‘church’ will wrongly be centered around something that we deem more sufficient or as sufficient as Scripture.
Secondly, for the sake of maturity in the faith. We are called to be like Christ. This is why God saved us and why He connects us to His church. And how did Christ walk? Again, we beat the drum of prayer and ministry/obedience to the Word. Why? Because, even though Jesus told us to become as little children (Matthew 18:3), we are not intended to remain as children. Is Paul contradicting Jesus in saying being a child is bad?
When Jesus spoke, he was talking about that stage of childhood where we are in complete dependence on our parents. Paul, on the other hand, is talking about children who struggle with focus. For example, during the Christmas season, you take children to a toy store or they see commercials on TV, and their response is: “I need that! I gotta have that!” Paul is talking about that kind of unfocused, unlearned child who runs to everything that’s shiny. What is needed is the childlikeness that Jesus speaks of—dependence on Christ through prayer and ministry of the Word, but a growing independence where we seek Him on our own. John MacArthur gets it right:
“Even the most biblical and efficient of church organizations will not produce spiritual maturity without the leadership of God’s gifted ministers who are continually in prayer and in His Word. Administration and structure has its place, but it is far from the heart of spiritual church growth. The great need of the church has always been spiritual maturity rather than organizational restructuring. All the books on leadership, organization, and management offer little help to the dynamics of the church of Jesus Christ” (John MacArthur, Ephesians, p. 154).
Lastly, for the sake of purity in knowing Christ. Again from Ephesians 4, “we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God…” Paul speaks of children being tossed around. By what? The picture is that of someone on a stormy sea being knocked about by the high and destructive waves that threaten to bring them under. These waves are kicked up by the wind, and what does the wind represent? False teachers preaching a false doctrine.
With our vision, this knowledge is not simply a “come to Christ” knowledge, but a “connected to Christ” knowledge. This serves as a deep desire to dig into all that Christ is. After all, he is “the treasure of all wisdom and knowledge.” When does this learning stop? Never!
So pray for your leaders that they would seek Christ with all they have, that they would see a need for themselves to be equipped, and that we all would take advantage of the opportunities for equipping and growing, a blessed privilege that Christ has given us.
Blessings, Pastor Matt