The Leader as Catalyst - Part 6 (Equipper)
This is the sixth installment in a seven-part series on understanding the leader as a catalyst. In the last five weeks, I have laid the foundation for this concept from a biblical perspective, so if you missed it, you should take the time to revisit those blogs. Today I would like to introduce the last of five key elements within this framework, each being a different role the leader plays within the community to which they provide leadership. These five roles are essential to catalyzing a community to embrace the Jesus way in both thought and practice. They are sequenced by design, each element being foundational for the next.
Equipper (Prepare those on the Way)
As we come to the last of the five critical elements of a catalytic leader, the leader as an equipper of the saints, we engage a topic that has been highly discussed but often misunderstood. All of us would agree that the commission of Jesus is to make disciples, not just "get people saved." But equipping as part of that discipling process is more than just training to do a task. Most often, people are indeed disciples to a job instead of being taught how to be an effective disciple of the Jesus way. The Greek term for "to equip" is katartismos, to make someone completely adequate or sufficient for something—‘to make adequate, to furnish completely, to cause to be fully qualified, adequacy.' Of course, this well-known term comes from the letter by the Apostle Paul to the Church in Ephesus (ref. Ephesians 4:11-12). But to provide what? Job skills for some church ministry tasks? No, it is so much more than that.
In the fourth chapter of Paul's letter, he addresses how Christ has gifted His Body with those individuals who are uniquely called and graced to work with others on the Jesus way. The goal is to see the disciples become more whole in Christ. From there, Paul explains what that wholeness produces in the Body. Let's dive into this more deeply.
In the first six verses of this chapter, Paul discusses how the unity of the Spirit is lived out through what I refer to as the Five Relational Words. These relational attributes of humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and love are essential in maintaining the oneness of the Body. It is this unity in the Holy Spirit that allows for a diversity of expression in leadership gifts: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers (vs.7-11). We can be different because we are one, unique in our expression of Christ's grace – without any element of human competition.
What's the purpose of these roles? Specifically to equip (fully furnish, provide that which is lacking) the Body for service, building it up (v.12). It's not just task-oriented training, but a development of the whole person in Christ. The integration of "doing" flowing from "being in Christ. This "fully furnished" outcome is so that the Body grows and matures, now being fully equipped becomes self-teaching, self-caring, self-nurturing – all in love (vs.13-16).
Gifts of People
This is where you come in. Out of His triumph, Christ gave His Church people gifts – and you are one of them. The term "gift" in this passage is not charismata (meaning grace-gift, spiritual gifts), but dōrea, which means "that which is given or granted." While both charismata and dōrea are a function of the Holy Spirit in and through a person, the distinction here is that He gave some persons to the Church in the same way the Father gave the Son to humanity. You are one of these people. Dr. William Lane used to say, "When God gives a gift, He wraps it in a person." You, as a person, have been granted to the Body of Christ for a specific purpose in preparing His people, seeing them become whole in Christ so that they might serve Him. Like you, these people Christ has granted to His Church each have specific roles, each a different expression of Christ's ministry to His Church:
Roles which are the foundation for the Church (ref. Ephesians 2:20)
o apostles (apostolos – sent ones)
o prophets (prophētēs – those who speak edification, exhortation & comfort: ref. 1 Corinthians 14:3)
A role that helps others to expand the Church:
o evangelists (eunagelistēs – proclaims the euangelion, the good news of the Kingdom)
Roles that encourage and instruct the Church:
o shepherds (poimen – shepherd)
o teachers (didaskalos – teacher)
The purpose of these people, these gifts from God, is to equip (fully furnish, make complete, provide what is lacking) the saints for the work of ministry (Gk. didaskalos - service). When that happens, there is a building up (oikodomē - house/household building) the Body of Christ – with ongoing growth and spiritual reproduction!
When Christians Grow Up
When we equip people, we help them mature in Christ. By the Holy Spirit, we are fully furnishing, completing what is lacking – helping each disciple on the Jesus way fulfill the given responsibilities of service, which causes the Body to be entirely constructed. Why? So that we can attain:
1. Unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God – a common understanding of who Christ is
2. To mature manhood – a fully grown man
3. To the measure (metron) of the stature of the fullness of Christ – into the fullness of He who is the standard
We are to no longer be children (immature) who are tossed to and fro carried about (whirled about) by every wind of doctrine (teaching fads). These things happen by human cunning (literally in the text – tricky dice throwing), craftiness in deceitful schemes (treacherous, deceptive methods). We are to speak the truth in love (lit. truthing in love) – maintaining validity in love in speech and action – being and walking in truth. In this, we can as a local church community grow up in every way (fully mature in all aspects)...into (more incorporated into/aligned with) Christ (Who is the Head). It is He who holds the whole Body (firmly) together by every joint (connection, like a ligament) which He supplies – the relationship between His people in Him. And, when each part is working correctly – functioning according to the standard of the measured/apportioned work of each individual, makes the Body (His Church) grow properly, healthily so that it builds itself up (automatic, organic growth) in (in the midst of an environment of) love. This is the goal of the equipper, the one who prepares those who are on the way with Jesus. This is our role, your role, in catalyzing the Kingdom of God.
What This Means for Us
As "people gifts" that are given to the Body to facilitate spiritual maturation, we must see our role as being those who provide that which is lacking so that people might become mature in Christ. It's more than teaching someone how to do a church role – it's so much bigger than that. When people receive us in this role as equipper, it releases our service to them (ref. Matthew 10:40-42). This spiritual maturity comes from a more complete communal understanding of who Christ is – as we see and partner with Christ In each other (ref. Ephesians 1:23). This, in turn, fosters us becoming more mature and discerning, not moved by spiritual fads or deceptive belief systems (like cults, the occult, or the new age). By being in the One Who is the Truth and walking daily in Him, aligning our speech and actions to His, we can fully mature and align with Christ and become more tightly connected with Him and His people. We can empower others to take their place in the Body and make their contribution to His Kingdom. When we do, the natural, organic growth of His Body, His Church happens automatically, producing an environment of love – and of spiritual reproduction: "praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47).
Equipping is so much more than training or discipling to the task. The work is in bringing people to wholeness in Christ that they might bear fruit in seeing more disciples made for Him. The role of the equipper is a critical catalytic role and must be a significant focus of our ministry to others.
So, my question for you today, dear leader, is who are your equipping? Are you indeed "fully furnishing," or are you simply training towards church ministry tasks? Is maturity in Christ for others your goal, or is it merely staffing your organizational needs? Think bigger! Remember, you are a gift bestowed upon the Body you serve. Do not neglect the grace you have been given to see the Church you serve build itself up in love – and truly live the Jesus way together!