In Eph 4:11-16 Paul speaks about the privilege of the responsibilities that have been placed upon the shoulders of leaders in the church:
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, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
We don’t always do this well. Sometimes we allow the saints to languish in anonymity, unprepared for the work of ministry. Too often we are more interested in “keeping a good thing going,” in maintaining the status quo instead of engaging the more difficult work of building the body. At times we are frustrated with the apparent immaturity of the people around us without acknowledging that is our responsibility to point them toward Christ – the ultimate source of their sanctification and maturation. And when they are not doing that then it is at least in part our fault.
In an excellent recent post at The Resurgence, Ed Stetzer notes that, “the default mode of culture and people is toward ceremony and hierarchy, rather than devotion and ministry engagement… We don’t want a priesthood and ministry of all believers. Instead, we want people to go to God for us and leaders to do the ministry to us—that is the default condition of the heart. It is the religion that we seem to crave—yet it is not Christianity, at least not biblical Christianity.”
He goes on to say that sometimes pastors and other church leaders intentionally disempower those they should be empowering:
“Many pastoral leaders enjoy (and take their identity from) doing the work of the ministry more than training and equipping all God’s people to do that ministry—that hurts the pastors and the people. Some pastors are concerned about their employment, wondering, ‘If I train them for the ministry, then why would they need me.’ Others are concerned about their identity asking, ‘What do they need me for if they do the ministry?”
Church leaders – We are God’s gift to the church. Understand what that means – and doesn’t mean. It means that we serve the people in our care. It means that we do not to lord our authority over others or use it to our advantage. Instead, our overriding desire should be to use our authority to serve and not to be served. We have been given to raise others above ourselves.
When we do this we will see a unified, growing and coordinated body that is under the direction of Jesus Christ. Joined and held together by him, and being equipped and in proper working condition, this body will grow and continue to build itself up in love. This is the way the church was designed to function.