First, a disclaimer. I’ve been reading a GREAT book called Church Zero written by Payton Jones. A lot of this post is pulling from that book and simply talking about/expounding upon ideas and points that he has. I recommend reading the book for anyone out there interested in the topic of Church, or leaders who are currently leading in their local church.
So far, I’ve essentially highlighted the entire book. Really, it’s that good. I often find myself saying “YES, YES! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SAYING THAT!” and the way he writes really drives important points home. In this post I want to pick up something he talks about and expound upon it.
There is a big difference between leading the saints, and equipping the saints. Think about it for a minute. We in our American church culture do a great job of leading people. In fact if you go in to a pastor’s study, you’ll be sure to find many books that deal with the subject of leading, and leading well. However, you’ll be hard pressed to find books on equipping people to do the work of the ministry. Somehow, we’ve missed this point in a huge way. Leaders lead people, they make decisions that affects the entire group, and often they are at a distance from the rest of the congregation. Just think about the last time you hung out with your lead pastor outside of a planned church function. Pastors, leaders in the church are hard to get a hold of. Rightfully so, often times the leaders are trying to lead hundreds of people. When it comes to leading we got it down pretty good. We know how to structure groups with leaders in them, we have our hierarchies all nailed down and spelled out. The “leadership” team will often spend time in prayer for the direction of their local church. We are a leadership obsessed church culture. But what if this isn’t the focus we see in the New Testament? What if in the Kingdom, your job is to work yourself out of a job? To raise people up who have the gift of teaching, pastoring, evangelizing, the prophetic, and the apostolic to either be sent out to plant new churches or to help equip the local body they are a part of.
It’s Paul who writes in Ephesians “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until 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.”
Notice Paul does not say “So Christ himself gave pastors to be the ceo’s of church bodies that make all the decisions” or “So christ himself gave a leadership team to lead people”. No, this goes another step further, Christ gave various gifts to people, to equip other people to do that same work. The Church leaders should be extremely concerned with equipping the saints not just leading them. What does that mean? It means recognizing that people in your congregation have gifts too, and that they should be cultivated then used. But we don’t use them. They sit in the pews as spectators like a caged animal. They have unbelievable God given gifts, and we keep the docile in the pews and tell them to “serve more”. That’s not equipping, that’s leading. People get lead by their bosses at work, people need to be equipped by the Church to expand the kingdom. It’s not about keeping people in the pews, it’s about getting them out of the pews and working in their giftings.
This is a game changer because it changes the way leadership is seen in a church body. The typical church model is lead pastor and then perhaps a few other pastors underneath, and then different leaders under that, and then the congregation (today’s term for laity). In the New testament however, we see no such order. Pastor’s were never the CEO’s of their local church, they were part of a team of people that had specific gifts who used their gifts to equip the body (which means, train them in their gifts). Let me mention here that equipping does not mean attending the sunday morning event, hearing a message, and then participating in the occasional outreach or small group. No, this is much bigger than that. This is training people in practical life ministry. This is letting that guy in your congregation who has a teaching gift, teach on Sunday morning (I know how crazy is that?), this is letting the people with the gift of evangelism loose on the streets in your town taking people with them. This is people with apostolic gifts (think church planting) be sent out and supported from the main hub. You might lose numbers in your church body. Why? Because they are being sent out to plant churches elsewhere. Note: The kingdom of God expands out, not up. Paul was a church planting MACHINE and the numbers of people he took with him grew. At one point he had eight people traveling with him planting churches all over the place. Some people would stay behind to help equip (train) people, others would continue on with Paul. Sometimes new people would join with Paul traveling planting.
What’s my bottom line? We need to start equipping people, not leading them. Why? Because it’s what Paul did, it’s what Jesus did, it’s what the disciples did. Jesus did not start a church. Jesus took 12 guys, and equipped them by physically bringing them along in His ministry. Paul was sent out by the mega church in Jerusalem and he took people WITH him and trained them on the job. This isn’t my opinion, this is what happened in Scripture! This is the theme all throughout the New Testament Church movement. Equipping people to get out of their four walls to spread the kingdom. Not to sit in a pew, listen to the same guy preach another 3 point sermon, sing a few songs, give some money, and occasionally participate in an “outreach”.
Here’s the catch. To really start equipping the saints, means a complete rework of the format we are currently stuck in. To really start training people both through teaching and practical ministry, means changing the focus from the event on Sunday morning, to the lifestyles that we live. It means changing the emphasis from spectator to participant and trainee. It means being willing to send your best guys out to start planting other churches wherever they may be. It’s a big change, but guess what? It’s what we see in the New Testament model, and it works. How do we know? Because we are still talking about and following this guy named Jesus, who changed everything, established His church, and sent out the twelve in to the world.
I’ve only scratched the surface. I haven’t even discussed how in the New Testament we see five different roles at work withing a church equally, as opposed to our pastor/teacher (label this pastor in today’s terms) model that we have been doing for quite some time now. I’m saving this discussion for a completely different post because it’s so massive.
Note: I’m not against pastors. In fact pastors are ESSENTIAL to the Church body. In my next post, I’ll be going over their importance as well as the importance of the other four roles we see in Scripture.