Imagine driving home, after an exhausting and stressful day, only to get an SOS voicemail from a not-so-close friend, and immediately experiencing a shift of focus off yourself – your stress, and what you’ve got to do – and you find yourself filled with compassion and energy to meet this person, and help them. You fix a quick supper. You get back in the car. You meet him at a coffee shop – two and a half hours of counseling. You pull in your driveway at 11:35, physically, completely beat, but with an energy, and a peace, and a sense that you were a part of the Living God changing a person’s life forever as you put your head on the pillow.
Scene number two: Can you imagine hearing of the promotion or a financial windfall in the life of your ex-husband, your ex-wife, the child who betrayed you, your ex-boss who fired you unfairly, the business partner who ripped you off, financially? And as you hear of this good thing that happened to that person who betrayed or hurt you, before you have time to think, the first thought that comes to your mind is joy and gratitude to God for blessing their life, because over a season of time, you have so thoroughly forgiven them, but like Jesus said, you actually love your enemies.
Scene number three: Imagine hearing the honest conversation of your children and your closest friends, as they have gathered at your house after your funeral. They can’t see you, but you can see them, and you can hear them.
And your own kids, and the people that really know you, talk about your loyalty, your integrity, your love, that you were, in fact, one of the greatest Christians that they ever met, that someday they want to be like you.
And little stories – not those exaggerated kinds that people say at funerals, but the kind when it’s unedited, and no one’s around, the little stories of moments with you, many of which you totally forgot, or are unaware of, where your life, your love, your integrity marked their life forever. You were actually the kind of person that we all long to become. Can you imagine that?
What each of these three scenarios have in common is, they are a picture of the miracle of life change. And what they also have in common is, you can’t fake them. Those aren’t stories of behavior modification, cleaning up a few external behaviors through a lot of hard work and discipline. These are supernatural works of the Spirit of God, through the Word of God, the community of God’s people, where the actual life of Christ, over time, with many ups and many downs, created in you a life that we all long for.
If you have your Bible, open to Ephesians chapter 4. We pick it up in verse 11: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” And so, He gives gifted people to the Church. And then, the very next word is important; you might underline it: for. That’s the reason; that’s the purpose. Why does He give gifted people to the Church? “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”
And put a little line through the word saints, because that doesn’t mean someone’s in stained glass. That’s just a biblical word for a Christian, a believer, someone who the Spirit of God lives in.
And then, put a little box around, if you would, work of service, and write, next to it, “minister.” We get our word for a minister. So, God gives gifted leaders to the Church. They equip – and put a circle around the word equip; it’s very important. It was a picture of, if there was a compound fracture, a doctor resets it, so it works again. It’s the picture of fishermen whose nets are broken, and they repair them, so the nets do what they were supposed to do.
Leaders are given to restore and equip all of us people for the ministry, or work of service, and when we operate together, doing what Christ wants us to, then notice what occurs, and what the ultimate goal is: “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
If you would, put a line under knowledge. This isn’t an intellectual knowledge. This has to do with knowing someone, not knowing about them.
This is a super-powered, intimate knowledge of God. Leaders are given to equip God’s people to do the actual ministry, until all of us, corporately, come together, and have an intimate knowledge of God, until we’re – what? Mature.
It’s when you fulfill the design that God longs for you. In essence, the goal is to become like Jesus – the measure, the stature, the fullness of Christ.
And then, he gives a little test. Well, how do you know if you’re making progress? What would be the evidence of a person that this really occurs, as the supernatural community of the Church works together? Verse 14, “As a result” – in other words, the impact is – “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by every wind of doctrine, by trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.”
In other words, you’re no longer manipulated by false teachers. You’re no longer wandering, or led astray by people who tell you one thing, but it doesn’t line up with Scripture. And so, there’s a doctrinal stability; there are people that are mature that know the Word of God.
But it moves from that, to a relational dynamic. “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up into all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” And so, there’s a level of relationship in the body of Christ, where you just don’t speak truth, and you’re just not nice and loving, but there’s this authenticity of caring, where you even share the hard things. You help people grow.
Then, it talks about participation, “…from whom the whole body” – speaking of the Church – “being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part that causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
Did you notice those key little words? Fitted and joint.
He’s saying that something happens when every single member of the body of Christ is walking in obedience to Him, by faith, and understands their role. There’s a coming together – a loving, and a support, and a connection. And notice those phrases where each and every – every, single person matters.
And as we function in that way, this thing happens. This amazing thing happens. You experience God’s love through other people, and you get loved by other people, and God uses you to love other people.
And then, what did Jesus say? Jesus said, “The whole world will know that the Father sent the Son,” not by the sizes of your church, not by how intellectual you are, not by the success of your people, not by how cool, or hot, or wonderful your music is. He says the world is going to know the reality of a God who created the world, and sent the second Person of the Triune God, His Son, to die in people’s places, and give them new life, and want to be with Him forever, will be how we love one another.
What you have in verses 11 through 16 is, if you will, God’s design, God’s actual design for how those who call themselves “followers of Christ” relate to one another in such a way that the life that we long for, and the life He destines us for, actually becomes a reality. There are three principles and a proof that flow out of this passage.
Principle number one tells us what leaders are to do. Leaders are gifted to equip God’s people for service.
When there are hurts, compound fractures – whether they’re physical, or emotional, or spiritual – leaders help restore those things. Where people’s lives are broken, leaders help mend those things.
And then, he gives four examples of leaders in the Early Church. And you’ll notice, he literally gives the foundation. He says, first, there are apostles.
Jesus had many disciples, but He chose twelve apostles. The qualifications for being an apostle were, you had to be actually with the risen Christ, from His baptism on through the rest of His ministry.
Now, there is the office of apostle – you have these twelve. And then, you have the function of apostle. These are people that aren’t original apostles, but this function of starting new things, the idea of missionaries, people who start ministries. There’s a function of apostleship.
And then, after He had the apostles, well, there are the prophets. And the Early Church, they didn’t have a New Testament. And so, they got revelation from God. Prophecy, primarily, is the forthtelling of God’s truth.
We tend to think of it as foretelling, or telling the future. But the foundation, when there wasn’t a New Testament, was, they got revelation from God, they gave it from the Church. And then, those with prophetic gifts today, we teach God’s Word in a culturally relevant way, to say, this is the truth of God for today, from His Word.
There is no chapter 23 of Revelation. So, there’s not new truth coming from God. He reveals the truth He’s given us.
And then, after the apostles are sent, and the truth is laid out, then you have evangelists. These are people gifted with an extraordinary gift, and a winsomeness, that lead lost people into an understanding of a saving knowledge of Christ. And when you’re around them, they motivate the rest of us to do the work of an evangelist, to really care about people outside of Christ.
And then, once they’re sent, and once there’s truth, and once people come to Christ, then pastor/teachers. The word pastor literally just means “a shepherd.” It’s someone who comes alongside someone and says, “I want to help you through the valleys, and the ups and the downs, and the struggles, and I want to teach you the truth, so that you’ll understand: this is how God wants your marriage to work. This is what God says, in terms of living a single life. This is how His instruction about your finances, or your dreams, or ambition. Here’s how you deal with these kinds of temptations.”
And the goal of apostles, and prophets, and evangelists, and pastors and teachers is to equip God’s people for the work of service, so that, literally, we become the body of Christ.
Today, Jesus’ body is us. But what you’ve got to understand is, the role of leaders is to equip.
By and large, the design of God has been shanghaied by the enemy, and by our own dysfunctional way that we look at relationships.
And so, many of us have grown up in a world where the idea is, the pastor is the spiritual person, and we’re the regular people. And our job is to come and listen to him, and then, if we have someone in the hospital, we say, “Pastor, go visit them in the hospital, because they’re in need.” Or maybe we have someone who needs to hear about Christ. We say, “Well, Pastor, why don’t you come over and share the Gospel with one of my friends.” And so, they do everything.
And can you imagine if someone came from the Amazon, and they never had seen the design of a car? And maybe their parents were doing Bible translation, and they came to a city, and the name of this city would be called “Backwards City.” And they wanted to learn how to drive a car.
And if they got in the car, and everyone who drove a car did it like this: They put it in, and it went like, “Eeee, uuhhhh, rrrrrr.” And they would actually either turn their head like this, but they always drove the car backwards. And the car has always made this funny sound when it got going really fast: “Nrrrrrr, nrrrrrrr.” And people couldn’t go very fast, about twenty miles an hour. But if that’s all you ever saw – and you would always wonder, Why do the people who drive cars – why do their necks hurt so much? And why do the cars make such funny sounds?
Now, engineers will tell you, the car was designed with a big windshield, an engine, and gears – one, two, three, and four – to go forward. But if that’s all you ever saw, you would learn to drive a car a like that, and think it’s normal.
That’s how most pastors have grown up: I’m supposed to do it all. And most churches believe, “You’re supposed to do it all, and we will come and watch you do this. And when you get really, really tired, we’ll give you a little pat on the back and say, ‘Good boy, keep going. And we know that there are too many things going on, but if we’re in the hospital, Pastor, you have to be there. Or if there’s a need, you have to be there.’”
And what happens is that the leader isn’t equipping. It destroys the pastor, and all those gifts in the church don’t get used, and people don’t grow, and their lives don’t change. I will tell you – this is a known fact: the people who go to football games, and simply watch people on the field, do not get tired, and they don’t get in shape, and they never score. No matter how loud they cheer, they never score. And that’s a picture of the Church.