No too long ago I read an article where the author was addressing the role of church leaders in the context of the local church. His point was simple and based upon Paul's writings in Ephesians where he defines the work of the pastor as one who "equips the saints for the work of the ministry" (4:11-13).
This would be, I think, especially true for the pastor-teacher. For many of us, he is the one who takes the majority of responsibility for carrying out this work. According to the author, this not only is true for the pastor-teacher but for the other leaders God has given to the church.
One only needs a small amount of exposure to a present day local church body to realize that much is missing today when it comes to this mandate being fulfilled. Of course, there are many things expected of the pastor and leaders that in and of themselves aren't bad, but nevertheless fall way short of what it seems God wants for the everyday believer and member of his church body.
Many will say that the primary role of the pastor is to preach. In fact, there are many who would judge a pastor to be good if he is a good speaker. While I agree that preaching the word is central and very important to the work of the pastor-teacher, this alone falls way short of the ultimate standard. What then, is Paul suggesting the leaders of the church be able to do?
The text says that they (church leaders) are to equip the saints (believers) for the work of the ministry. It would seem easy to figure out what this means but maybe not. No one would not expect believers to serve the Lord in connection to their spiritual gifts and talents. But, to get at the heart of the mandate we probably should ask a question about the primary focus of the early church at this time.
Without question, the answer seems clear. The early church was about evangelism. That is, the expansion of the gospel into an unbelieving world. With this view in mind, the use of our gifts makes a lot of sense. We are to use our giftedness as tools to be use in reaching out to a world without Christ.
Now, if we go back to the point at which we began, we can see why many churches are not growing and what must be done. In order to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, we must return to the work of equipping the saints to understand the gospel and show them how to share their faith with others who do not know him yet.
If we stop at talking about evangelism or be satisfied with preaching occasionally about the importance of evangelism, then we deserve what we get. But, if we are committed to what's important to the Lord about the church, then we must equip the saints to evangelize effectively. And this will take a lot more than mere talk. What do you think?