“Dad, I think it’s stripped!” Maybe you have heard that before… maybe you have said that before. I heard it a lot from my son, he was always a fixer. When we were missionaries living overseas, at times, it was a little lonely for a young boy. So his creative mind was usually busy building or “fixing” something.
He saw a problem and always looked for a solution. Sometimes he could fix it by himself, but often he couldn’t and usually it was because, he either didn’t have, or he didn’t use the exact right tool.
It’s interesting that they actually market tools that are supposedly able to adjust to any job, but the serious projects need exactly the right tool. In fact, for those jobs these all-in-one tools actually do more bad than good.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-12 KJV
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but something is broken in the modern church, in fact modern Christianity. Seminaries, Bible Colleges, Institutes, Leadership Conferences, Bible Conferences, Missionary Conferences, and Mission agencies, still haven’t solved the problem.
Something is broken, and these all-in-one solutions aren’t fixing it. In fact, things seem to get more damaged the more we try. I believe Paul was trying to address this very issue when he shared with the Ephesian an important clue to preventing and or fixing what is wrong. And we have interpreted what he has said all wrong. We have made all these roles into one person, THE Pastor or THE Missionary.
In verse 8, Paul tells us gifts were given to ALL mankind, and that Jesus “descended” and “ascended” specifically so that He could tend to this task of gift giving. There are other Spiritual gifts that are addressed elsewhere, but these gifts were given to mature Believers, and intended to be split up. No one does them all, nor could they.
Each takes on certain traits, certain strengths and weaknesses, and need the others to complete the task of equipping and edifying the saints. This is so crucial in the church and Christianity today and is why so many are hurt today. We are expecting too much from our leaders, pastors, and missionaries, and we place them on pedestals that they are certain to fall from.
If “apostle” literally is defined as an envoy or ambassador, how good a preacher or teacher do they need to be? But if he’s winsome, flexible, approachable, and able to make good inroads with people wouldn’t he be a valuable asset to work alongside that Bible scholar (Teacher) who may be not so good with relationships, but is a deep thinker, well-rehearsed in scripture, and able to communicate it?
And have you noticed, those people that are truly gifted in evangelism, they seem to fly by the seat of their pants, going as “the Spirit leads”, but sometimes not picking up social cues, sometimes hard on sin and the sinner. Paired with a Shepherd, together they can deeply meet a person’s needs on a deeper level. They need each other to be most effective.
But the church also needs the voice of experience. Someone who has seen the world, the church, its leaders and Christians and is able to “see around corners”. Someone who has been down many paths and who is willing and committed to share what he sees and knows, as a prophet.
The job of the New Testament prophets was similar to that of their Old Testament counterparts. They were to speak forth the Word of God to the people. More than that, they take the Word and wisely and skillfully apply it to people’s lives.
So you see, it is not one man’s (or woman’s) job, there is no way it could be. It is all our job, to grow into the gift that we have been given and shown, led how to mature it. As leaders, we haven’t been doing our job of discipling younger men and women into their role of edifying the next generation of gifted, disciple making, ambassadors, elder / prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers.
Until we do so, churches will never experience the unity, the fullness, the stability, the truth and the love that Paul speaks of later, and we will fail at the Great Commission. How can we expect to pull off such a great task with anything less than the right tools God has given us.
Dr. Ronald J. Barnes. Jr.
January 10, 2022