|Leadership #15 - Ephesians 4
Leaders as Equippers
1. Verse 7 makes an astonishing claim, and one that is usually overlooked. Everyone has been given “grace.” This does not refer to the category of salvation, but rather to giftedness. Verse 8 makes this clear as that line is explained by the quotation from Psalm 68:18 that Christ gave “gifts” to his people. Each Christian is gifted. Christ has distributed gifts among his people according to his own design.
2. Paul then lists some of these gifts in verse 11. He lists four: (a) apostles; (b) prophets; (c) evangelists; and (d) pastors/teachers. Some think (d) should be broken out into two separate gifts: (d) pastors (shepherds) and (e) teachers. However, I think the structure in the Greek text (indicated by the four-fold use of “some” in the NIV) indicates that “pastors and teachers” refer to the same gift.
3. Paul does not offer a comprehensive list of gifts. There are many more than these, as other texts indicated (as, for example, Romans 12:3ff). But why does he mention these particular gifts here? Why does he focus on the teaching function of the pastor here?
4. I think the answer is found in verses 12-13. Paul has an explicit purpose in mind here. He is thinking particularly about gifts that equip the saints for ministry within the body. While the NIV sasy “prepare,” a better translation might be “equip”. The role of leaders is to equip saints so that they are prepared and enabled to do works of ministry (service). The leaders equip so that the members are able to serve. In fact, it may be that the list (apostles, prophets, evangelists and shepherds) is ordered along the lines of their role in the kingdom from very broad (church universal=apostles) to very specific (a particular local congregation=shepherds). Prophets and evangelists were generally intinerant workers, traveling from place to place though also working specific congregations as well.
5. The immediate result of saints ministering is that the body of Christ is edified or built up. The body grows (matures and is enlarged) when saints minister as leaders equip. The goal of this growth is the “faith and knowledge of the Son of God” in unity and maturity. The goal is to grow up the body of Christ into a mature and full likeness of Jesus Christ. The church is to embody Jesus in this world. It is the image of Jesus. Consequently, the measurement of the church’s maturity and unity is how well it reflects Jesus Christ; how well it images Jesus.
6. The function of apostles, prophets, evangelists and shepherds is to provide the leadership to accomplish this goal. They equip the saints for that goal by preparing them to serve. Leaders and saints work together toward the same goal--to be like Jesus Christ.
7. Verses 14-16 are a further comment on the stability that this maturity creates. We are no longer infants, and we are no longer easily deceived. We are rooted in truth. [This may indicate that a significant part of the function here is teaching. Thus, the focus on the teaching function of shepherds in this text.] We have roots through the leadership of apostles, prophets, evangelist, and shepherds. These roots enable the church to grow into the likeness of Christ, that is, we grow up into him who is the head of the body.
8. Verse 16 is particularly significant because it offers a vision of unity and diversity in ministry. The body grows and is edified (matures) when each part of the body does its work. The whole body is benefited when each one does their part. We are a diverse body of people, but each ligament -- joined to each other -- must do its part for the whole to grow.
9. This text offers a vision for the mechanics of “doing church.” Leaders equip (teach, prepare, enable), members serve (good works of ministry, everyone does their part), and the body grows in the context of love (speak truth in love, grows in love) toward the goal of embodying the reality of Jesus Christ in our community.
10. The church is the body of Christ. So, the church must look like Christ. The church is Christ in the world. Leaders equip and members serve in the light of that responsiblity toward the mutual goal of imaging Jesus in the world through the ministry of the church.
Questions for Discussion
1. Ephesians 4:1-6 talks about a unity that is already here. Ephesians 4:7-16 talks about a unity that is to come. What is the difference? How does 4:7-16 build on and assume 4:1-6?
2. In what way is the task of the church ongoing? Why is it never complete? When will we reach this goal of unity and maturity?
3. How would you define the goal of the church in your own words?
4. What is the function of leaders in reaching this goal? What is the function of members in reaching this goal?
5. How does this text hightlight the teaching role of shepherds? What do you expect from shepherds in terms of teaching?
6. Does it surprise you that evangelists are in this list as well, and that they are listed before shepherds? Do you see any significance to that order?
7. What is the role of an evangelist in this text? What do you expect from an evangelist in the local church setting? [We will discuss this more next week in the light of 1 Timothy 4:6-16.]
8. While this text focuses on four particular gifts, it does say that everyone is gifted? Do you have a sense of what your gift is? How can we discover these gifts? What can leaders do to help you discover these gifts?
9. What does this text say about trying to live the Christian live apart from a community? In what way to do we need others? How must the body work as a whole?
10. What one thing would you tell your leaders must be part of the equipping process if the church is truly to mature and grow?