Dear GCI Family and Friends,
Let’s begin this Update letter with a scriptural passage.
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 NLT)
The various church offices are a gift that Jesus himself, through the work of the Spirit, gave to the church. Note what the Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible says about church leadership:
As the apostles, prophets, and evangelists were special and extraordinary ministers, so “pastors and teachers” are the ordinary stated ministers of a particular flock, including, probably, the bishops, presbyters, and deacons. Evangelists were itinerant preachers like our missionaries, as Philip the deacon (Acts 21:8); as contrasted with stationary “pastors and teachers” (2 Timothy 4:5). [Typically] The evangelist founded the Church; the teacher built it up in the faith already received. The “pastor” had the outward rule and guidance of the Church. The bishop had regional oversight with a group of churches.
This is a general explanation of church polity, an overview of the offices and operations of the church. (GCI uses the title regional director rather than bishop.) Our specific purpose for this article is found in verse 12. The primary responsibility of all church leadership is “to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” This equipping is careful preparation for the followers of Christ to recognize and understand how they fit and how they participate with Jesus through the community of the church.Read More
In my February 8 letter, I described the element of “engagement” as an introductory stage, where new or younger believers are being introduced to ministry practices. It is a season of exposure to the broader ministries of the church and a time for exploration. A good example of what I am describing is the nuanced differences between our Ministry Internship Program and our Pastoral Residency Program. An intern is provided with a chartered course that allows them to spend measured amounts of time learning about and participating in the Faith, Hope, and Love Avenues as they are expressed in the life of the congregation where they are interning. A Pastoral Resident is more specifically focused on learning the role and the necessary skills for becoming a pastor. It is more specific and more defined.
For the health and building up of the church, it is important that each congregation has a pathway for all the saints to find their “best fit” in their role of service in the life of the church.
Accurately assessing spiritual gifts fits into this process. There are Bible studies and inventories that we can use to help the new and younger believers discover how the Spirit is gifting them to serve. (See this Church Hack for more information.) The desired outcome is what Paul says to the church in Romans 12: If a person’s gift is service, let him serve; if a person’s gift is leadership, let her lead; etc., etc. (my paraphrase). Also keep in mind that the personality of the individual, along with life experience and internal passion, will play a part in finding their “best fit.”
Good and thorough equipping has three major components: information, imitation, and innovation.
The information that the saints are to be learning is stated in verse 13: “the knowledge of God’s son.” GCI is deeply serious about learning about the Triune God who is revealed in Jesus. We are so committed that we support two institutions, Ambassador College of Christian Ministry and Grace Communion Seminary. We are working diligently to provide our fellowship with educated pastors and ministry leaders who then can pass along what they have learned about Jesus to others. Formal methods of learning must be delivered at the local church level as well because not all GCI members will become students in our institutions of higher learning.
Learning is both taught and caught. This is where imitation comes in. Most are familiar with Paul’s expression of “Follow me as I follow Christ.” There must be veteran believers reaching out to new and younger believers. The veterans must be intentional about including others in their ministry functions as well as deeply befriending and expressing a loving, inclusive posture in the fashion of Jesus (you might re-read the February 22 Update letter about Jesus, the True Disciple Maker).
Why all this work and intentionality around equipping? Again, verse 13 tells us the most important answer, so that we will be “measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” Christlikeness is the end goal for all believers. A couple of consequential byproducts are unity and stability in the church—unity in understanding and doctrine, and stability in maturing believers who can speak truth in love to one another.
Isn’t this a picture of the vision we have been talking about for four years – Healthy Church? This is the “innovation” goal on the training triangle, or as I like to think of it, “transformation.” We are on the right course!
Committed to Equipping Others,
P.S. It so happens that this edition of Update falls on International Women’s Day. It is my joy to celebrate the amazing contributions that women have made and are making in the ministry of GCI around the world. We have a special feature article about Debby Bailey, who was our first woman to be ordained an elder. We now have dozens and dozens of female elders who are sharing their leadership gifts with our 665 congregations in the 69 countries where GCI has a presence. We deeply appreciate the presence and contributions of the women in our fellowship. Together we are serving Jesus, his church, and the mission of the gospel.