Pillar 7: God's Preparation for Ministry
Passage: Ephesians 4:11–4:13
The Seven Pillars of Ministry
Pillar Seven – God’s Preparation for Ministry
Dr. Wayne Barber
Today we are going to be talking about Pillar Number Seven, “God’s preparation for Ministry.” How does He put it together now? Here it is. The church staff, the pastors, are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. That’s what they are here for and that’s what pastors are for is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. We’ve come to the last of our seven pillars today. What this has been is to show you the biblical philosophy of ministry. We said it was our philosophy, certainly it is, because we are believers; but it is the biblical philosophy, there is no other way. This is scripture. This is what ministry is all about. My prayer is that this study has been not only an encouragement to you, but also a great help in your understanding of what the church is supposed to be. I said it before and it bears repeating again. You cannot separate these seven pillars from Jesus being Jesus in us. If, somehow this has become a topical series that is separated from Christian life, which is letting Jesus live His life through us, then you’ve made a huge mistake. These seven pillars only become reality to the degree that we are allowing Jesus to be Jesus in us. “Jesus, be Jesus in me, no longer me, but thee, resurrection power fill me this hour. Jesus, be Jesus in me.”
The gifts, the ministries, the effects, will take care of themselves if we will walk in intimacy with Him, saying “yes” to Him in a surrendered walk with Him.
Now, let’s go back and get a little review. Some of you say, “Why does he do review all the time?” Well, let’s get back in the flow, let’s make sure we understand where this pillar fits with the other six that we’ve already looked at.
Pillar Number One was God’s Pattern for Ministry. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 we learned that God gives the gifts, God gives the ministry and God gives the effect. Man cannot come up with any of that. So it originates out of the heart of God.
Pillar Number Two was God’s Power in Ministry. What God raises up, He enables. What He initiates, He anoints. That was from Isaiah 6. God anoints with His enabling power.
Pillar Number Three was God’s Platform for Ministry. From John 11 we learned that ministry is received, not achieved. We must learn to join Him in what He’s doing if we want to witness what only He can do in our lives.
Pillar Number Four was God’s Priority in Ministry. We saw in Romans 15 and also in chapter One, that ministry does not result from our best fleshly efforts to please God, it results from our abandonment to Him, our surrender to Him.
Pillar Number Five was God’s Purpose in Ministry. You can see why it is where it is. It is in Romans 11:33-36. You see, God must get the glory, the divine recognition for all that He does in and through our lives.
Pillar Number Six was God’s Picture of Ministry. Like a snapshot. In Romans 12:1-8, but particularly verses 6-8, we saw how the church is beautifully pictured for us and how it looks when people live up under grace. It is one thing to talk about living grace, and it’s another thing to live it out. What does a church look like when people are living it out? Romans 12:6-8 shows what Christ living in us looks like within the walls of the church. When Christ lives His live through us, He manifests Himself in different ways in different people because He’s given different gifts. Just like the body has many different parts and none of them have the same function, but they all have to function for the body to be healthy. So it is with the Christian body of Christ. Each gift is a reflection of Him. Prophecy is Him living in us; confronting others with the truth that He has given to us. Serving is Christ in us, seeking to meet the practical needs through those He has gifted in the needs of the body. Teaching is Christ in us, clarifying truth so we can better understand it. Exhortation is Christ in us, which is comforting others with the truth of the Word of God. Giving is Christ releasing that which He has given the person the ability to earn—releasing that for the benefit of the whole body of Christ. Leading is Christ in us; helping us to stand out in front of the people and make critical decisions and move the body forward. Mercy is compassion in us for those who are hurting. It will manifest itself on different levels in different people. People don’t see us, they see Him magnified in us. When all these gifts are present, He is being glorified in His church.
We must remember this, since we are called the body of Christ, a body gives visibility to the entity that lives within it. At Dr. Olford’s funeral, I thought of this because he is always had that beautiful white, flowing hair, and the personality that flowed out of him and made that body function like it did. At his funeral they had an open casket. The body didn’t look the same. The body didn’t look the same because the life was no longer in it. It was dead; devoid of life on this earth. That’s what can happen to the church; the people do not function the way that God intended for them to function. Where they don’t let Jesus, who is the life—He is the entity that lives within us; people need to see Him and manifest Himself in those beautiful ways.
But, you know, God doesn’t stop there; God doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t just stop with giving us a snapshot of what the church looks like. It almost begs to answer a question: “Who is going to equip the members of the body so that they can come to a place to allow Christ to function in them; to allow them to use the gifts that God has given to them?” The most common and unlearned answer to that question is, “Good grief, we pay the staff to do the work of the ministry, so why are you talking to us about all of that?” Well, that’s totally wrong. I’m going to show you in scripture what the pastoral staff is all about today. God has designed everything to function the way He wants it to function and He’s put people into the body to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
We are in Ephesians 4:11-13. Let me put you in the context; any text without a context is a pretext. So let me put you into the context. Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus. Chapters 1, 2 and 3, he has taught them who and whose they are in the Lord Jesus Christ. He has shown them how to appropriate all the riches they have in Christ in their life, by faith, chapter 3:16-17. Then in chapters 4-6 all that’s in there hinges on what Paul said in chapters 1-3. If you don’t know how to be strengthened in the inner man, for instance, there is no way you can walk worthy of Christ in chapter 4:1. So all of chapters 4-6 bases itself on how we appropriate what God has given in Christ Jesus. Verses 1-3 of chapter 4 shows us how to preserve the unity of the spirit that He creates in people living surrendered lives. We cannot produce unity; we’re here to preserve it by a surrendered walk. Verses 4-7 he talks about the oneness of the body of Christ.
Then in verses 8-10, he begins to show the plan that God had and worked out for all of the body to be equipped. He says in verse 8, “Therefore, it says when He ascended on high [now watch carefully] He led captive a host of captives and He gave gifts to men. (Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean, except that it also means that He had descended in the lower parts of the earth. He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens so that He might fill all things.”
The word, “gifts” there “He gave gifts to men” in verse 8, is the word we looked at in Romans 12:6-8. It’s a different understanding here. The word here is doma a gift given with good will toward the person who is the recipient. But in this text he tells you what those gifts are very clearly. They are the gifted men. Now this is so unique. In Romans 12, he is talking about the spiritual gifts within men. But here he is talking about the gifted men that God has given to the body for specific reasons for equipping the saints for helping them to get to the point that they can be usable in the body of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13, will be our text for today. Let me read it for you. “And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ until we all attain the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to a mature man to the measure of the statue which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” There is a lot in there and we will break it down for our message today.
In verse 11, he mentions some people. He mentions prophets and he mentions apostles. You see, they gave us the foundation. We don’t need another foundation. We don’t have any apostles and prophets like they had in the New Testament. We don’t even need them. He quickly helps us to understand that’s gone; we don’t have those today.
The last two that he mentions, “evangelists and pastor-teachers,” we still have. The evangelists were those like Phillip. Phillip is the only named evangelist in the New Testament who knew the gospel message and traveled about spreading the good news of salvation through Christ. They reached the people outside the walls of the church.
But there was another office he gave to the church. Offices: here is the apostle, here’s the evangelist, now we have the pastor-teacher. Whereas the prophet and the apostle and the evangelist are not attached to any church, the pastor-teacher was and is. A single office; now remember, this is not just a position, this is an office in the church. It was a single office held by the one who was called to a church to be the pastor-teacher. For the sake of our culture today I’m going to call it the senior pastor-teacher. Why? Because in the days of scripture, they did not have a multiplicity of staff like we have today. They did not have a huge number of pastors that come alongside to assist in the work that God had assigned. There was no such thing as a pastoral staff. To be on staff and ordained and trained and called pastor today means several things. We need to get this in our heads.
If a person has come to our church to be on staff as a pastor in a particular area which he is assigned; first of all, it would mean that he is not in the office of senior pastor-teacher, because that is a single office. There is only one of those. It means that he has been called alongside whoever that is to help carry out the work and the assignment God has given. Secondly, to be an ordained pastor on staff, it would mean that they have the qualifications of an elder, but not necessarily hold the office of an elder. In scripture there were paid elders and there were non-paid elders; we know that already. Further, his heart has to be to shepherd the flock to the particular area to which he is assigned.
Now what does that mean? In fact, the word, “pastor” is the Greek word for shepherd. A shepherd does three things in shepherding the sheep: he guides the sheep, he guards the sheep, and he grazes the sheep. Now that is a literal shepherd. But a spiritual shepherd on staff, a pastor on staff, does the same thing; however, a little differently. He guides the sheep with the word of God, he guards the sheep with the word of God, and he grazes the sheep with the word of God. That’s what he’s here to do: to take the word of God and equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
Let’s look at that. There are four things about a person on staff. What is a staff all about? How come we need a staff? Well, let’s just look at it. There are four things they are responsible for. Perhaps it will help you in your understanding as we put all of this together. This is the last pillar.
First of all, the assignment of the pastor. Ephesians 4:12 says, “for the equipping of the saints.” The word equipping, katartismos, means to make someone fully ready for a task. It refers to the finished product. It refers to something that has been broken, perhaps, and is now mended. Something that was apart and has been put back together. Something that has been made functional in the body of Christ. When it comes to the equipping that is mentioned in scripture, there is only one way in which it can be done. There is no other way; this is something that we need to understand. It is only by and with the word of God. It is the word of God that equips a person for the work of ministry. Second Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is inspired by God and it is profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate and equipped for every good work.” The word of God has to be used. Why? Because it is profitable to teach, to show a person what track he is supposed to run on in his Christian walk. It is profitable to reprove, to show a person when he gets off that track. It is profitable for correction, to help a person get back on track. It is profitable for training in righteousness, to help that person stay on track. Ephesians 2:3-17, the word “equipped” is the root word that we are looking at in Ephesians 4:12 when it says “to equip the saints” That is the same exact word.
God-called pastors on staff alongside the senior pastor-teacher are not there to entertain people. They are not there to teach people how to cook; they are not there to teach people how to make baskets; they are not there to build numbers; they are there to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Why? So that the church can begin to bring glory to God and not to themselves and man-made ideas. Now, they will answer to God for that assignment. Anything less is unacceptable in a pastor-teacher who is coming alongside the senior pastor-teacher of a church.
America has been so deceived by this numbers game. Folks, I can’t tell you how it has swept our country. It’s making smaller churches feel like they aren’t even needed anymore. Many of them are trying to merge and go together so they can make a bigger church. Why? Because numbers are driving the whole thing. One nationally-known pastor made this statement: “Any pastor who thinks that the church can be built by preaching and teaching of God’s word and prayer is out of touch with people in the 21st Century.” Now, this is what we are up against. It is the numbers game in so many places.
Thank God, He’s shown us that we are here for a specific reason; we are here to equip the saints for the work of ministry so that every man might be presented complete in the Lord Jesus Christ.” So that’s the assignment. That’s what every pastor-teacher on this staff will stand before God one day and be held accountable.
Secondly is the aim of the pastor. Now we know what his assignment is; but what is his aim, what is he shooting at? We’ve seen the first one. We’ve seen that the word of God makes a person adequate. Adequate for what? What is the aim of this equipping? Verse 12, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service.” The word for service, diakonia, we’ve seen this word how many times before? The word translated as deacon, but it means “ministry.” It is the word for ministry.
Now we must couple what we are talking about right now with Pillar Number Six. We all received gifts when we were saved, but no gift is functional until the one who has the gift is walking surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. The pastor teacher is not necessarily teaching the person how to use his gifts. That really doesn’t have to be there. He is focusing on teaching the believer to live in such a way that his gifts are usable. That is what the gift of the pastor teacher is all about, to help a person get to a place in his walk that he can be usable, that his gift can be functional.
When you have a large church, like we have, we have to have more than one pastor teacher; we have to have many to come alongside. The only difference is, their assignment is the same, but it is more narrowed into different groups. The youth pastor is trying to do the same thing with our young people; this is what we are trying to do in the children; just what we are trying to do in the adult area: get everybody up on the same page to where we can start equipping each other so that our walk will be such that God can use us and bring glory to Himself within His church. The senior pastor teacher preaches from the pulpit, week to week. That’s what God has given, or however He designs it. But these others have different pulpits. They have different places in the church. Personally, I think they are just as valuable, if not even more valuable because they are more able to get on a one-to-one basis with the people. But a pastor on staff has the same aim as the senior pastor teacher.
I want you to understand something. None of us, from the senior pastor all the way through to the different pastors on staff, are here to pamper the unwilling. I want to make sure that we catch that. The word “saints” in Ephesians 4:12 refer to those who are willing to be equipped. We are not here to figure out why people don’t want to be equipped. We are here to equip the people who want to be equipped. Now, I want to tell you something fallout, losing numbers, always occurs when this is taking place. Why? There are many people who want to be functional in the body but they don’t want to be functional God’s way. To be functional God’s way, we have to deal with our flesh. To be functional God’s way, we have to be renewed in His Word day by day. So the assignment of a God-called pastor is to equip the saints. His aim is that they might be usable in ministry; they might be functional in the body of Christ.
Thirdly, the aspiration of a pastor. In 4:12 it says, “for the equipping of the saints [that’s his assignment)] for the work of service [that’s his aim, but then he aspires to something; look at this], to the building up of the body of Christ.” To the building up of the body of Christ. A true God-called pastor teacher wants to see the body built up. The word for building in the Greek text is oikodome, which means the act of building something. We have many builders here in our church. It is not the finished product; it is the act, the progress, the advancement of building starts here and continues to build.
That word does not refer to the finished product, although that’s in mind, but the pastor teacher is in the business of the process of the whole thing. The body of Christ is in a constant state of being built up. It is a work in progress. I’m going to buy a shirt someday that says, “Please be patient with me, God isn’t finished with me yet.” I’m in the process. The church is in a process. It is a task that is not ended.
You see, in the church, growth is not measured by numbers. I wish we could understand that; growth is never measured by numbers, although numbers are important, yes, they are people. But that’s not the driving force. Growth is measured by the people who start living lives where they are usable and functional in the body. When you see a person who is living under grace, you begin to see that grace worked out. You begin to see that person become functional and usable and God’s hand is all over what’s going on.
Now, once again, the materials that are used in this building are found only in the Word of God. In fact, Paul connects these two things, the Word of God and the building up of the individual and the body. In Acts 20:32, he is referring to the elders of the church at Ephesus, to which we are looking at in Ephesians. He says to them, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace [which is what the scriptures are] which is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” This is the aspiration of a God-called preacher; nothing melts his butter any better than this. Nothing lights his fire any better than this; than to see people get to a place in their walk to where they become functional and where they become usable; nothing blesses his heart anymore. That’s his aspiration.
But, finally, I want you to see the accomplishment of a God-called pastor. How does he know that what’s going on is actually working? I know you can see a person here and a person there, but is there any scripture that can help us here? Yes, in verse 12, it says, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of the service [assignment; and the aim] to the building up of the body of Christ [that’s his aspiration, but in verse 13], till 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.”
Now, that’s a mouthful, but oh, how powerful this verse is. Let me break it down and help you. Paul uses the word “all” in the phrase, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith.” No one is to be left out. His focus has got to be from the cradle to the grave. This is why we need a multiplicity of pastors. This is why we have pastor teachers who look over the youth and children’s areas, and the different areas. We don’t want anybody to be left out. We don’t want that. No one is to be left out.
“Until we all attain” Now that word “attain” is exciting. It is the word katantao, and it means to arrive at a place; until we all arrive at the same place. Isn’t that amazing? You have a team of pastors all working for the same thing, but what they want is for the whole body of Christ to arrive at the same place; until we all attain the unity of the faith. The word for unity, henotes, means a place with no variation; there are no strong differences that would cause us to divide. We begin to see God’s truth for what it is; we begin to see the word rightly divided. We begin to see where we are and how all of this fits.
The term, “the faith” until we all arrive or attain at the same place to the unity, where there is no difference or variation of the faith. It has a definite article behind it. Anytime you see the word faith with a definite article behind it, it refers to the revealed word of God, doctrine. You see, doctrine is important. So many people have told me over the years, “You preach too doctrinally. You preach too much of the word of God.” Are you kidding me?? We can’t get enough of the word of God.
The whole aspect, the whole assignment, the aim, the aspiration, of a pastor is to bring people to where they come into a unity. First of all in understanding what the Word of God has to say; that we understand what living grace is and what saving grace is; all these different things and how they fit.
But that’s really not his point. Paul’s point here is not just that we come to understand it—that’s one thing, that’s good—his point is that we come to the place to where there is no variation, there is no difference in the way all of us want to respond to what we say we understand. In other words, Paul says not only to teach the doctrine for the sake of information, the word of God is not just for information, the word of God is for transformation. When we come to the place where all of us not only understand but we are willing to obey it, oh that’s the accomplishment of the goal of a pastor teacher who is on staff at a local church. He wants to see everyone come to that place.
You say, “I don’t see that in scripture, where they are supposed to be obeying it.” Oh, yes, it’s there, if you’ll just keep reading. The next phrase says “until we all attain to the unity of the faith [now look] and to the knowledge of the Son of God.” You know what that word “knowledge” is? Epignosis. Gnosis is somebody who knows something. You ever know somebody who knew something and they try to cram it down your throat? That’s gnosis. Epignosis takes a person to a different level. Gnosis you can know in your head, epignosis you know in your heart. That’s the difference. Epignosis is when somebody is living something out. It is when he is experiencing what he says he understands and he knows.
The apostle Paul says, that place when people can understand doctrine and not only understand it, come to the place they want to obey it and then they will brought to the place of experiencing Christ in their own life; epignosis, knowledge of the Son of God, that’s what the accomplishment is. When everybody in this church comes to that individual place in their life that they love the word of God and they embrace the word of God, that they obey the word of God and they begin to experience Christ in their life; then He comes alive in the church. That’s the accomplishment of the pastor teacher. Until we all come to where there is no variance.
The sad thing is we are a work in progress, we’re not going to get there until Jesus gets here. But the beautiful thing is that the remnant can get bigger and bigger and bigger. And may I say to you there is remnant of believers that is so pure and so genuine; and my prayer is that remnant will get bigger and bigger and people will then, not only talk about what they say they understand but they will live it out they will experience Christ for themselves. That’s the accomplishment of a pastor’s efforts.
That’s the accomplishment in the youth group knowing that they’re losing kids because they want to be pampered; knowing that they’re is losing kids because we don’t give out CD players if you bring the most kids. They’re losing kids because they don’t have a smoke bomb on the stage and play all the wild music. The accomplishment in the youth pastor is the same that’s in my heart, the same that’s in the heart of all the pastors here. When he sees young people come to the place that they understand what God’s word says and they are willing to obey it and he starts seeing Jesus being Jesus in them. He knows then that the work is being done.
Folks, we’ve got to get with the program and understand if we continue on like we are doing, and the church grows numerically, thank God, because it won’t be because they didn’t understand where we’re going to take them. We are going to take them to the word of God, we’re going to equip them. I’ll tell you something, I know this staff doesn’t know anything else and neither do I. That’s what we are here for and that’s what we will answer to God for. What about the elders? What about the teachers?” I’m not talking about them today, I’m talking about the staff, that’s my only point. You understand that it all works together as a team. This is an on-going process.
Somebody asked me, “What are you going to be doing in five years?” I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing tomorrow; except, yes, I do. I’m going to be equipping somebody who’s a believer in the word of God so that they can get their life to a place that they can become usable and functional in the body of Christ, so that they glory can never go to them. The glory will have to go to Him.
Verse 13, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” Now watch this. He takes the “all” and makes us one body again. He says, “to a mature man.” He did not say “mature men;” the whole church functioning properly reflects Christ. “To a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” The word “mature” there is teleios, the accomplishment of a goal. Oh, man, watch this, “to a measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” The word stature is helikia, which means something that is mature, something that is complete. That’s the accomplishment, when the church gets to the point they don’t even see the different gifts. They just see Jesus. And all of those different gifts have blended together so beautifully to bring glory to Him and to magnify His presence in their midst.
When we as a body of believers under the equipping of our pastors and teachers come to the place of the measure of the statue which belongs to the fullness of Christ it’s been accomplished. And that is why we are here and that’s what a church is all about and how it functions.
There is a dear man in our church who gave me a picture. It’s in my office. It’s by Thomas Kinkade. My particular picture it’s a little church in the country and it’s got a little creek and a dirt road going down. He can take an ordinary setting and by the gifts that God has given him, make that setting come to life. How he works with light. We have a little light that goes over it, I click it on and it is like the sun just comes up. It just brings light out of that picture. How can anybody do that?
Well, the apostle Paul is the Thomas Kinkade of the New Testament. He takes an ordinary church that has its problems, that has its warts and difficulties, and he begins to paint a picture in Romans 12:6-8 of how it can look. Then he takes over in Ephesians 4:11-13 colors it in and brings the light into it. This is how these people are equipped to function. You have the two working together and it paints a picture like none that you can find anywhere else. You want to know what the church is supposed to be? We’ve just told you. That’s what it is supposed to be.
I was up in Michigan preaching this past week. While I was up there they have just begun to understand grace, living grace; Jesus be Jesus in us. You know what I did? I never did this before in my life. I just took what we’ve been doing in the seven pillars. I didn’t take them all, but I just put them together and started to show them what a church looks like that’s living under grace. Folks, we had revival this past week. That pastor stood and was so overwhelmed; he said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you. We didn’t know what we’re supposed to look like. We’re coming out of a performance mentality.” He said, “I don’t even know how to do this thing anymore.” Listen, folks, my prayer is that God will show Himself strong and that one day we will have those numbers, but they will be for the right reason and they will be for the glory of God and He will be magnified in everything that is going on. It will stand in the face of everything else that’s going on in our country. I believe that’s what God is doing, I really do. That’s from my heart to yours.
Well, let me ask you a question. Are you functional in the body of Christ? Is God using you? “Well, I work hard and I just come here to church. I sit down and I get up and leave.” Well, that’s fine. If you are saved, you’re still saved. But, I’ll tell you what, you have a function in the body of Christ. You have a gift. God didn’t send you here to sit and soak. God sent you here to get your life in such a place that you could be usable to Him and function in the body of Christ. The staff does not do the work of the ministry; this is not a staff-driven church, this is a staff-led church. But it can only be led to the degree of the people who are willing to say, “God, I’m here, use me.” You don’t have to know your gift, just know the giver and walk with Him. The rest will take care of itself.