Is Equipping Members for Ministry Missing in Churches Today?

Is Equipping Members for Ministry Missing in Churches Today? May 29, 2024

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When we look at many churches in America, are we able to observe leaders who are equipping members for ministry outside of the church? Can we say, with conviction, that they are teaching members how to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit? Are they readying them with the ability to recognize how they should operate outside of the four walls of their local church? Is this missing? Is it there but just not visible enough? Could it be too apparent and disorderly? Are our leaders truly equipping saints to be effective in the Kingdom of God or are they raising up local church servants only?

No Power?

It could be said that, due to the lack of power we are seeing demonstrated amongst those gathering in various congregations, the local church is failing. But not only would it be failing according to the blueprint that outlines what should be emanating from the church; it’s also failing its members. Before Jesus died and was resurrected to be with the Father, He gave the apostles an anointing and an assignment.

Luke 9 tells us that He called them together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. After this, He sent them out. So, He prepared them then He sent them. The Book of Acts is a beautiful illustration of this preparation and assignment at work through the power of the Holy Spirit. Because the power of the Holy Spirit was so active in Scripture, it’s hard to imagine that the church, that so thoughtfully took form in Acts, is the church we witness now.

Power Misused?

Antithetically, we also witness churches who seem to display “power,” but it takes on the character of Montanism. Montanus was a self-proclaimed prophet in Asia Minor who taught that the Holy Spirit had taken form, through his person, to purify the church in preparation for the return of Christ. In contrast to New Testament prophecy and teaching, Montanus and his co-laborers were irrational when prophesying—in trance-like or ecstatic states—and his teaching unbiblical.

Like the ecstatic and strange utterances of Montanus, some churches have conformed to these sorts of spiritual states that are not biblical in their application. The Bible warns us to test any prophecy or spirit against the Word itself. And if what we find is contrary to the Word of God, we are to reject it. In the case of some manifestations of power or giftedness, what we will find is that leaders are promoting a radical behavior that is not defined by Scripture but by emotion. And although it may appear to be of God, what is observed is something completely contrary to what God has established.

Identifying an Obstacle to Church Growth

A mindset that is commonly shared amongst a number of people, as it deals with healthy church growth and the perception of spiritual gifts, has a lot to do with church leadership. If you ever converse with those who may or may not intermittently attend church or peruse social media or YouTube at all, there’s a shared belief that some leaders are only looking out for themselves and not the people they are to shepherd. Many feel that pastors and church leaders have embraced a narcissistic attitude towards church and its members. And this narcissism is what causes leaders to feel they have a monopoly on church members. A lot of these churches not only suffer numerically but also spiritually.

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Large Congregation but No Inspiration

However, churches that can amass a large congregation are not always the prototype. Their church population should not be the sole indicator that they are being led by God’s Word. Sometimes, it’s quite the opposite. We may observe that some of these churches adopt an “anything goes” philosophy and those who will “accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Tim. 4:3) tend to flock to these ministries.

They may also be persuaded to give in to a quid pro quo type of model—we offer you something appealing and in return you come to our church. Thankfully, this is not a mass depiction of all local churches who have been able to grow numerically. Some of these local congregations are made up of congregants who have been led and taught according to Scripture and thus, God has blessed the fruit of the shepherd’s labor and obedience to the Spirit of God and His Word.

Unhealthy Leadership

For the sake of today’s discussion, I want to address those churches that struggle to grow spiritually and healthily because of a certain type of unhealthy leadership. As stated in the title, this may be because they aren’t equipping their people to be Kingdom assets but local church assets only. And as merciful as God is, He isn’t going to send laborers from His harvest to a ministry that isn’t going to prepare those laborers for ministry outside of the local ministry. We may gather them, but God may not be the one sending them.

The Heart of a True Leader

It should be a perpetual desire of church leaders to want their members, especially associate ministers, pastors, teachers, and others operating in ministry roles, to be able to further the Gospel beyond their local church. They should long to see their members plant churches, teach others, operate in various areas of spiritual giftedness, serve on the mission field, and involve themselves in capacities that will bring others into the Kingdom. Because the hope is that, from there, they continue the sound, accurate, and undistorted message of the Gospel that their leader has shared with them.

But sadly, that’s not how it always works. Many church leaders are not always open to those under them branching out to do Kingdom work outside of their local ministry. They are not acquiescent to others carrying out the evangelical work that God has called them to. The problem with this is that the church leader has now become somewhat of a “pharaoh,” using the membership to further their own calling, not the mission of Christ. They are seeking to propel their own mission without regard to the work God has called them to as an overseer.

Not Everyone is Ready

It is understood that some don’t need to or have not done the work to be equipped to carry the Gospel beyond four walls and are just desiring to do their own thing. These are people who have not listened to follow, learn, or teach others but only have a desire to be noticed. They want a following for themselves and not to convince others that they should follow Christ. These people only want to be heard and seen, and they are not meant to lead. They are not ready to move beyond what is offered within their local church because they haven’t learned the ways of Christ, which first starts with humility. And this is not always on the part of the leader.

At times, we as recipients, are just hard-headed and not receptive to godly instruction. But with some, what if it’s that their pastor, leader, or mentor just isn’t preparing them? Or maybe it’s blind loyalty and they’re staying loyal to the very person or ministry that’s hindering them? Maybe they believe that their leader or leaders are looking out for their best interest when, in fact, they aren’t.

The Ultimate Example

Looking at Jesus as an example, when He was with His disciples, He was preparing them for the spread and dispersion of the Gospel; not for them to be strictly attached to one location. He wanted them to go out and do ministry wherever He sent them. Chiefly because, Jesus knew people everywhere need the Gospel.

Of course, we know that some are assigned to one place, where they operate in ministry there and when they leave that place, they witness in other areas. But there are some who are called to a different form of evangelism. When this happens in the life of a congregant, the leader cannot get upset about that. They can’t attempt to hinder or stifle that. What they must do is make sure they are equipping that person(s) for the work God is calling them to. And as a leader, they are partly responsible for nurturing that calling. Even if it means that calling is moving someone beyond the local church.

Greater Works

If we look into the ministry of the disciples and the apostles, we will see that they traveled quite a bit. And although churches are already established, that doesn’t negate the need for travel in order to spread the Gospel. It doesn’t mean that congregants can’t leave their local church to minister to those in other locations. Again, if someone isn’t gifted in areas that require them to teach, preach to, or evangelize to others, then moving outside of the local church to do these things would be them operating outside of their authorized task. But if God is calling them to this, no matter who doesn’t assent to it, they must do it. Because obedience to God overrules any type of loyalty to man.

It is dishonorable for shepherds or church leaders to be disturbed when those who have served them move on to establish ministries. Or when they have gifted members in their congregation who accept further callings into ministry. These people are doing the Lord’s work. And that is the goal of the mission—to carry out the Great Commission to see souls added to the Kingdom.

People Don’t Belong to Us

Something that church leaders need to accept is that people do not belong to them. They are not a property possession that solely belongs to a local church. People belong to God. They must answer God’s call—not each other’s. And if God is calling them higher, then leaders have to be in agreement with that in order to be in agreement with God. They can’t argue or fight against this calling, because they will ultimately have to answer to God for their disobedience and pride.

But as a church leader, who is presumed to be called by God as a part of the promotion of a Kingdom mission, why would they be a hindrance to Kingdom work? Wouldn’t a good, godly leader want to see those who are gifted fulfill the work God has called them to? Wouldn’t they encourage it? Are they not required to confirm it? Is it not what the apostles did? What James, Peter, and John did with Paul and Barnabas?

Then and Now

The stark difference that can be noted between apostles of then and leaders of now is that they were committed to the Lord’s work and knew it was what was most important. Some of today’s leader have deemed themselves important and God secondary to anything they have embarked upon as their primary mission.

What church leaders should acknowledge is that Kingdom growth, evangelism, and the carrying out of apostolic anointing are birthed from the call on someone’s life and desire to advance the Gospel. Leaders quench the Spirit and a person’s gift when they try to keep them accountable to them and them alone. When they attempt to keep their members from their assignment in ministry, they keep them from accomplishing the work of the Lord. The role of a spiritual leader should be to make disciples, not prisoners to their calling or people who are bound to their church obligation only.

Making disciples is the by-product of those who are teaching and preaching the entire Word. And not only preaching and teaching the Word but obeying it as well. This teaching includes spiritual gifts, which would then be useful in shaping the knowledge that members have of the Word of God. This would lead them to go to God to help them to further understand and tap into what their gifts are. If you, as a leader, aren’t doing this, then do you really want your members to operate in any area of giftedness? Are you really equipping them for ministry outside of the church or are you just continuing to raise up local church servants only?

A Mission Bigger Than Us

A while ago, I was listening to a message by the late, Dr. Charles Stanley. He was outlining 11 characteristics of a strong church. One of them that really stood out was that “people serve in the strengths of their spiritual gifts.” They operate in their spiritual gifts and by doing this, they are most efficient and most satisfied. Because of their ability to operate in the place that God created them for, they can serve and help to grow their local ministry and the Kingdom of God.

If you’re a part of a ministry that encourages you to operate in your spiritual gifts and do things for the edification of the body of Christ, you should have a heart of gratitude towards leadership. Because that’s what it’s all about—growing the Kingdom of God. What good are we in our Christian life if that’s not the goal? What are we really doing if we don’t want to advance the Gospel and bring others to Christ through what God has gifted us to do? We should desire to be fruitful. We should desire to do what God has called us to do. And that’s what our leaders should desire for us, too.

About Brittany Dodson
Brittany Dodson is a Christian artist, writer, evangelist, pharmacist, and host of The Traditional Millennial podcast. She received her Associate of Arts from the University of Central Arkansas, a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies from Moody Bible Institute, and a Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. You can read more about the author here.
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