People and Reaching Keeping People
Over the past twenty years, much has been written regarding the subject of church growth. However, if one would look at and study the book of Ephesians, he would find the key to what church growth should be. Too many times, we tend to focus on numerical growth instead of spiritual growth. Paul gives us a sense of how the body of Christ should develop, and it begins with proper leadership.
Leadership, which is given by God, will always present sound doctrine, and sound doctrine has its roots in the finished work of Christ. In other words, the foundation of doctrine must rest on the cross.
Ephesians 4:11 lays out the structure in which God enables proper growth, and it begins with the apostle. The apostle is the de facto leader of the church and is designated first among all callings, which constitutes the apostle as being the most powerful of all callings.
Through the role of the apostle, the Holy Spirit guides the church. This speaks of doctrine, direction, and the general thrust concerning the moving and the operation of the Holy Spirit. The apostle is generally given a distinct message that is specific to the church.
After the apostle comes the prophet. As the prophet was the de facto leader in the Old Testament, in the New Testament the prophet comes after the apostle. One who is called of God in the realm of the prophet is known for forth telling, which is a proclamation of righteousness; and fore telling, which is predicting futuristic events.
Many would assume that the sole responsibility of the prophet is to prophesy doom and gloom to God’s people. But much like the role of the apostle, the prophet also has been given a distinct word for the church, mainly the word “Repent.”
The next three are the evangelist, pastor, and teacher. The evangelist makes known the redemptive message of the gospel, and his main goal is to see souls saved. The evangelist is to spread the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was raised from the dead, and is coming again. The evangelist is also to present the truth that Jesus Christ can forgive sins to all who repent and simply believe.
A pastor is a shepherd—one who takes care of the sheep or has a great deal of concern and care for his flock—and offers godly leadership. John 10 tells us that Christ is the Good Shepherd, or Master Shepherd, and all pastors are under shepherds of the Great Shepherd Himself.
A teacher has a specific calling to teach the Word; to break the Word down without watering the Word down. Teachers are to pass on content and explain what that content means, and they are to exhort the hearers to live in conformity with what they are being taught. They tell the community of believers to read the Word, study the Word, and live the Word. A teacher is one who expounds the Word of God to impart fruitful knowledge and to produce a higher standard of living (Eph. 4:17-32).
The Purpose Of The Gifts
The purpose for Christ giving us these specifically called individuals is to perfect or equip the saints. The primary task for these individuals specifically called to one of these areas is to be an equipper—one who makes disciples and prepares those disciples to serve Christ. That word, perfecting, simply means “to equip; to equip for service.”
Jesus has given gifted leaders to the church not only to do ministry but also invest their time in developing and preparing fellow believers to engage in ministry to the body of Christ.
Discipleship is the means of church growth. How do I know this? Because Paul states that the reason God gives gifted leadership to the church is to prepare God’s people for works of service. This means that our responsibility is to equip the body of Christ and prepare them for the work of the ministry.
This is contrary to the traditional leadership model of the local church in a pyramid shape, where the lead pastor sits high on his pinnacle looking down at the laity beneath him. The biblical model for church growth is for everyone to participate in evangelism. It is the individual that God calls to develop disciples to go out into all the world and live the gospel. The blueprint of the book of Acts was to start local with the vision to extend globally. It is no different today. Start locally but think globally.
The Priesthood Of All Believers
We believe in the priesthood of all believers, which means that God has called every one of his children to a specific ministry.
Whether standing behind the pulpit, being a greeter or an usher, or having a manual labor job—whatever God has called us to do we must do. Those in the fivefold calling equip the saints for their specific tasks, and those who are being taught and equipped must be equipped properly in order that they fulfill the call of God on their lives. If the body is not properly taught, then there will not be proper growth and maturity. If believers are not properly equipped, then there will be little work done regarding the Great Commission. It is so important that those who are called of God to stand in one of the fivefold offices understand truth, doctrine and, above all, the message of the cross.
Bible scholar Kenneth Wuest states, “This is an order that the body of Christ, the church might be built up, by additions to its membership in lost souls being saved, and by the building up of the individual saints.”1 His words are so true.
Reach People And Keep People
Our main goal as a church is to reach as many people as possible while at the same time investing the time and energy to build up the body of Christ so that they may replicate discipleship. We must never become so focused on one that we lose sight of the other. We are in the people reaching business, and that means our main goal is to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But once we reach them, we have to keep them. We keep them through proper discipleship, teaching the Word of God, and explaining the Word of God so they might live in accordance to its precepts.
The body of Christ is truly a called-out body. We are not called out of this world to be isolated from everyone else, but rather called to be separated unto God that we may be a blessing to the world as salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16). As the body of Christ, we are to be motivated to carry the gospel outside of the church and reach people wherever they may be without a desire for numerical success.
The church, for all intents and purposes, is a different kind of populace; it is citizenry of faith—a group of people that has been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is our mission to carry the gospel wherever we may go and to demonstrate the gospel throughout our communities.
To do that, we must be willing to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23).
1Kenneth Wuest, Wuest Word Studies: Ephesians and Colossians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), 101.
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