If you are Christian, and especially if you are a Christian with a specific calling to public or vocational ministry, you are probably asked this question. “What are you here for?” Or “What are you doing here?” If you aren’t asked that question by others, you have probably asked yourself a variation of that same question. “What am I really supposed to be doing here?”
The Scriptures give us the answer.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13, ESV
Christ has given to the church certain gifts in the form of people. People with specific callings to the work of prophecy or evangelism. People with the call to pastor or to teach. We recognize these gifts in the local church by calling and sending pastors, missionaries, and teachers. But sometimes we wonder what we are really supposed to be doing. What is the end goal? Why did Christ give us to the church? What does He want us to be doing?
The goal stated in this passage is maturity in Christ. That is what we aim for as we work with other people. Yes, we must evangelize and seek to usher people into the family of God, but we cannot see that as the end goal. Yes, we must teach and preach, but simply filling people’s heads with more information is not the end goal. Yes, we must proclaim or prophesy of God’s work in the past and his coming judgment, but what is this supposed to accomplish?
The goal of each activity must be the building up and the growing up of God’s people so that there is Christ-like maturity evidenced in the body of Christ. This is the purpose for which God has called and given these gifts of leadership to the church. This is what we are here for.
How do we carry out this mission? What do we do? Ephesians 4 answers these questions well. Notice the specific sequence of actions.
Christ gave gifts of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor/Shepherd, Teacher
To equip the saints
So that they can do the work of ministry
So that the body of Christ is built up
Which will result in Christ-like maturity
We must recognize that before we can work to equip saints, there must be saints. Perhaps this is where the work of an evangelist plays the primary role. But as soon as there are saints, the equipping starts. We so easily bypass the middle steps and try to take a shortcut to the end goal without doing it God’s way. Far too many times, in both mission contexts and established churches, the sequence looks more like this.
The Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastor/Shepherds, Teachers
Do the work of ministry for the saints and to the saints
So that the body of Christ is built up and maturity is hopefully developed.
The very mechanisms that God has established for people’s growth and maturity in Christ have been bypassed. You see, saints doing the work of ministry, is how the saints are built up, and how maturity is actually achieved. If we do the work of ministry for the saints, then there is little wonder why we see so much immaturity in our churches and even in our mission efforts.
Every Christian, no matter how immature or how weak, must actively minister to others in order to grow up. Most of us have seen this in our own experience. When we minister to others, we are stretched and experience growth. But when we sit back and receive without giving to others, our spiritual maturity shrinks and we become more self-focused.
Let us not forget why we are here and what we are supposed to be doing!