And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head — Christ. From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. – Eph. 4:11-16, CSB
As we continue our journey to identify the three areas that we, church leaders, should target to improve the long-term ministry and vitality of the churches where God has placed us, we’ll focus our attention on the second part of our first point:
Understand the Individual Mission of the Church
In his letter to the Church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul informs the church that they are being fitted together as pieces in God’s holy temple. He shares with them his desire to see them grow into strong, mature Christ-followers (Eph. 2:19-22). Then the Apostle encourages them that they have exactly what they need to be equipped “for the work of the ministry.” Now, generally speaking, the work of the ministry is as what has been already described: glorify God through the making of disciples. But what is intriguing is that Paul never instructs them in exactly what that particular ministry looks like. This is not accidental.
If the Apostle Paul, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, would have penned any definite work of the ministry of his day, then the churches would never have left that rut. When the world around them changed, they would have continued doing what has always been done even if it ceased to be effective or practical. God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that each generation would face slightly different circumstances than the last.
Remember the words of Paul in his sermon at Antioch:
“For David, after serving God’s purpose in his own generation, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and decayed” – Acts 13:36, CSB
David served God’s purpose in his own generation.
Remember God’s words in Jeremiah: For I know the plans I have for you (Jeremiah 29:11).
The point is that God has a particular purpose for those who belong to Him. He has something that He has called them to do in their generation. If he has called individuals to specific callings, then doesn’t it make sense that He calls the individual bodies of believers that make up the church to specific purposes?
For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body — so also is Christ. – 1 Corinthians 12:12, CSB
But now you are probably saying, “But how do I discover the God-ordained purpose of the church/ministry where God has placed me?” Below are three question I used that helped me understand God’s purpose for where He has placed me.
- What are the needs of the community surrounding the church?
- What energizes, excites, and encourages those in the church body?
- What gifts/skill/abilities has the Lord placed in the church where I serve?
These may seem like simple questions, but as we explore the value of each of these in the next few posts we’ll soon discover the answers, and the means to tie them together are quite complicated. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read, and I hope that you’ve been encouraged and equipped with practical resources to help you lead well in your ministry context.