Every year before every sports league resumes its games, all the players for all the teams gather for training camp. Fundamentals are practiced. Plans and plays are designed, learned, and practiced — repeatedly. Only after several weeks of preparation are the teams declared fit for beginning the season and “the games that count.”
Whenever a young man joins the military, he is immediately sent to boot camp. Like his athletic counterparts, he needs to learn terminology and plans, get fit physically, and be evaluated for skills that will make him an asset to his branch of service.
Many companies have annual, and even quarterly, meetings and retreats when the corporate leaders and then the employees gather to evaluate the preceding year or quarter and formulate strategies for improving their product or their position in the marketplace. Only when the plans are fully discussed and vetted are the employees released to implement them.
Churches also follow a similar pattern. Elders gather to pray, plan, and implement spiritual strategies to equip the members of the church body and to minister to the community with the gospel and to reach the nations through missionary influence.
In fact, it might be noted that the church is not following the pattern, but the world may actually be following the pattern of the church. The apostle Paul set the pattern for the church in Ephesians 4:11-16 — God gave gifted leaders to the church, the gifted leaders prepare (“equip”) the people of the church, and the people (all the people) serve in the church body with their gifts, and the result is that the church body is built — not only numerically (though that will also often happen), but primarily spiritually.
How are people equipped?
They are equipped through the ministry of the Word of God. The Bible is explained so that people understand what God has said, and what the implications of what He has said are for the members of the church in caring for one another. So every member works, being established and brought together by the Spirit of God, and then the church is lovingly built up (Eph. 4:16).
They are equipped by being freed to use their spiritual gifts to care for one another. The primary means of caring for each other is through the use of our spiritual gifts. The leaders provide training and then the people are freed to engage in spiritual care of souls.
It is with those two ideas in mind that at GBC, we spend much time teaching — not to fill heads with info, but to equip to serve, because everyone is either equipping or being equipped (and most of us are in both roles). We want people whose minds have been renewed and prepared (equipped) then actively engaged in helping one another.
Our culture has developed a “do it for me” attitude; sitting on the couch, we want others to care for our needs. That can develop too readily in the church, and it’s devastating. A healthy church is not the church with frenetically busy pastors and elders, but with elders who are investing in the lives of others so they can be equipped to serve — and the whole body is then working.
From this basic idea of equipping we derive multiple implications for how we will always do the work of ministry at GBC — and how we want to be reminded to do it this year, as we emphasize the priority of “Equipping the Saints:”
This will influence the way we structure ministry — we will always emphasize people over programs; and substance over style.
Every believer always has a function in the church. He or she may not a “job title,” but everyone is important and everyone has a function and a role to play in the church.
Building and preserving relationships will always be a priority. We will work hard to preserve unity because God gave it to us (Eph. 4:3). We keep that unity by pursuing reconciliation and encouraging fellowship and service of one another.
Everyone needs someone. No matter how mature anyone is, he has not attained perfection and he still needs the ministry of others to help him.
Never make assumptions about the inability of someone to change. Though someone may be struggling (even repeatedly and persistently) it may be that God has placed you in his life for the very purpose of helping him change.
Always work. Always look for and take opportunities to cultivate relationships so that you will have opportunity to stimulate others to maturity in Christ.
Stimulating others to maturity is not optional. It’s for all of us. Just like a mother feeds and changes a newborn baby every believer works to help others mature in Christ.
In summary, the church is not a place for “professionals” or even for “entertainment.” It is a place where all God’s people gather to exercise their gifts towards each other for the benefit of each other.
It’s tempting to say, “I’m not needed in the church; I have nothing to contribute.” But the opposite is true. You not only have something to contribute to the care of others in the Body, but it is necessary for you to function in the Body. We need you. We need you equipping, being equipped, and serving one another.