And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God … Ephesians 4:11-13
Biblical Christian ministry involves more than just being called ‘the church,’ or going to a church building once or twice a week – it is being and living as God’s people in a unified community meant to display the very unity of the Trinity! But we need only look around to see how far short we fall of displaying such unity. However, just as God brings people, circumstances, trials and victories, into our individual lives to conform us into the image of His Son, He likewise has a plan for the corporate church to come to the unity of the faith.
God calls out a people (the church) and separates them from the world and unto each other, so that the corporate church might come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:13). Toward this end, God gives specific ministry gifts to His church – specific gifts for those whom God ordains as leaders of the body. God’s plan to bring His church to the place of maturity and unity includes human instruments – namely, apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. These are gifted and qualified men whom Christ gives to the church, as examples and instructors of spiritual growth, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, and for the edifying of the body of Christ (vs. 12). In addition to leaders, every believer in Christ’s body has received a gift to serve the whole body (Eph 2:7), and the ‘ministers’ (apostles, prophets, etc.) are given to direct the church in what these gifts are and how to use them.
It is a most heart-breaking thing in the ministry to see members of the body of Christ remaining spiritual babies their whole Christian lives – never growing up to discover or fulfill their calling. Often what lies at the heart of spiritual immaturity is an errant belief system. But as we submit ourselves to solid, balanced scriptural teaching, error will not sway us – in fact we will be able to identify, and even expose it. On the other hand, it is perhaps the most frustrating thing in the ministry to see pastors of churches occupied with programs and the busyness of ministry, while neglecting the teaching of the Word; for it is only as Christians grow in the Word of God that they are adequately equipped to grow to maturity. Compare the program-driven ministry of the modern church, to the emphasis of the early church outlined in Acts 2:42 – they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Here is the one and only Biblical program for the body of Christ to attain to the unity of the faith unto mature manhood. Because the disciples of the early church gave themselves to the study of the Word, and the spiritual disciplines taught therein, their love and unity had a profound impact on the Roman world around them. Can the same thing be said of the church today?