I was in La Grange, Texas, this past weekend for a Church Inside Out seminar. I really enjoyed my time with that congregation; they are already actively engaging their community and are anxious to do more. Yesterday, I got to eat lunch with their leadership team (minister, elders, deacons) and talk a bit about leadership. As always, studying and talking through some of these things helps me learn.
We focused on Ephesians 4:7-16. Paul opens that discussion (which follows a section on the unity of the Spirit) by noting that Christ has given different “grace” to each of us. Verse 8 and following make clear that when he says “grace,” he’s talking about gifts/ministries. He seems to specifically have leadership in mind, from what he says in verse 11:
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11)
So what follows should be read as a description of what leaders do to help the body grow.
- Leaders help others discover their own ministry. Verse 12 states that explicitly:
“to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12)
Paul’s focus isn’t on leaders doing the work of ministry; his focus is on leaders preparing God’s people as a whole for ministry. That’s brought out in verse 16 as well:
“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16)
As each part does its work… that’s how the body grows. Not just as the leaders do their work, but as each part of the body is performing its proper function.
- Leaders help the body grow in unity. Look at what Paul says in this passage:
“to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:12–13)
Leaders prepare others for service; that service leads to unity. (Too often we want to achieve unity through navel gazing and group hugs; unity is built by working together!) Look at verse 16 that I quoted above. The body grows and builds itself up in love (speaking the truth in love, according to verse 15).
- Leaders help other Christians become more like Jesus. That’s the goal.
“until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13)
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15)
As Jay Guin once noted, a church that is focused on rule keeping will produce members that are fixated on fault-finding and criticizing others. A church that is focused on being like Jesus will produce members that become more loving and forgiving over time. And Christians that are trying to be like Jesus will “keep the rules” by imitating Him!
Skipping down a bit in chapter 4 we read:
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22–24)
That’s what it’s about. Not just following rules. Becoming like God.
So leaders are helping their members grow in three ways:
- Growing in service
- Increasing in unity
- Becoming like God
I want to expand on that a bit more in my next post. Any observations?