Do you change the oil in your car, mini-van, Porsche… or Maserati? I still change the oil in my 1999 Plymouth Grand Voyager and my 2003 Dodge Ram Van. I guess that there’s so little that I feel capable of doing on my vans that changing the oil is something I can do to save a little money.
I rarely change the oil by myself. Most of the time, Jared (my second of four sons) can be counted on to lend a helping hand. He has a natural bend toward grease, dirt, and anything that allows him to have his hands around a car engine—and the dirtier, the better.
Jared (pictured above) brings me the oil pan. He hands me a wrench. He brings me paper towels when the oil gets all over my hands and arms. He hands me the new filter. But he does not actually crawl under the van on his back, put the wrench on the oil pan drain plug and turn it. He does not remove the oil filter. Certainly, the things he does help and I am grateful for his enthusiastic assistance. But he’s not really doing the most important work.
This serves as an interesting metaphor for church ministry. People help! They set up the chairs. They bring a snack for the kids. They collect the offering. They may actually pray during Sunday School or the worship service, or teach a class. Make no mistake, all of these are important; they can even represent small steps toward more significant involvement, but that’s often where it stops. These and similar contributions are not the main work.
The main work involves transformation: conformity to the image of Jesus Christ which enables one to live more and more to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). While it is the Holy Spirit Who does the actual transformation, God’s plan is to use us in each other’s lives as a vital part of the process. For example, we are all to speak the truth to one another in love (Eph. 4:15). We are all to teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16). We are all to restore brothers and sisters who are out of fellowship with God (Gal. 6:1-2).
God’s covenantal blueprint calls for transformation to be a community project. Church and home are united in purpose and they are more effective at outreach and evangelism when this is understood and pursued.
The problem, however, is that many people don’t really see themselves as ministers with this responsibility. If they do have a sense of it, many don’t know how to do it. Nor do they necessarily look at the role of church leaders as being primarily their “equippers” for this specific responsibility.
Church leaders have a specific job: equip the saints for the work of ministry. To equip simply means to “supply with the necessary items for a particular purpose.” Speaking the truth to one another in love (v.15) is the fundamental work of each Christian and they need to be equipped to do it. If we are equipping people to do this work, then we will have people who are able to minister to others. This is God’s design and it provides the reciprocal benefit of relieving us of what we were never called to do to begin with; namely, doing all of the main work ourselves.
But equipping—for this level of ministry—will provide the relief that church leaders need.
So, what does equipping like this look like? What are the implications for current ministry activities? We’ll take a look at this next…