“for the equipping of the saints for ministry…” – Ephesians 4:12
I was recently asked by a prospective Pastor, “What are the top three things you’d recommend I do when planting my Church?” At the time I basically shared, “The Bible, the Bible, and the Bible.” Yet, after reflection, I would have expanded on that by sharing what I’m sharing with you now.
When you walk into a Christian bookstore or peruse the top Christian books on Amazon, you’ll notice consistent themes. Firstly, there will be Christian books focused on a, “Better you.” The most frightening recent example is titled, “The Yoga of Jesus.” This is simply New Age transcendental humanism, better known as Oprah “Believe in yourself” theology, that has leaked into the Church. The second series of books you’ll observe will be about, “Leadership.” Those who seem to be successful due to subjective forms of creativity, scope, or scale, pen their victories, and then millions attempt mimicry.
This simple assessment of Christian books provides us a simple assessment of the Christian focus in America. Into ears from ocean to ocean supposed Christianity whispers something akin to, “You matter, there is more, Jesus is like you, your best life now, join the supernatural, be swept in the emotion, be entertained by the guests, listen to what makes sense, unify with all others, you’ll find a life of meaning, and receive what you deserve!”
Interestingly, there will be some of you who read that statement and ask, “What’s wrong with that?” And, therein lies the immense problem. Your “Christianity” is a self-focused spa treatment, tiding in and out on daily emotion, managed by Churches utilizing corporate techniques, and only retaining you as long as your family remains amused.
RESETTING THE BONES
A favorite verse of mine is Ephesians 4:12, “for the equipping of the saints for ministry.” Paul uses a Greek word, “Katartismos” (equipping) which refers to that which is, “Fit” or restored to original condition. First century Greek literature used this word to reference the painful, pre anesthesia, form of resetting bones. Can you imagine what it was like back then to have your femur or tibia snapped in half from a horse fall or warfare? Then, can you imagine what it was like to bite down on a stick while two men popped the exposed bone back into place using crude medical tools? The author of Hebrews also used this term, “…Even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)
Therefore, according to Paul, the job of a Pastor, a Christian, and the Church, is foremost to equip the Saints for further ministry. And, based on Paul’s selection of words, we must accept that this resetting of the bones is not an easy, popular, or painless process. Error, deceit, disobedience, or false prophecy – The very picture itself indicates that there will be bones sitting broken. Maybe more than one! Disconnected from one another. Causing nerve endings to shoot pain towards the brain. Prompting screams from the mouth and keeping the body from any worthwhile usefulness. And, just about the time one leg is healed, another arm may get splintered or completely shattered, requiring the hands of the surgeon go right back to work. Apparently Paul wanted it made crystal clear that ministry, like medicine, is arduous, honest, and even painful work.
TOOLS OF A SURGEON
For a true Christian to reset bones he must first understand the anatomy of Christ’s body the Church. A medical surgeon is more a danger than an advantage if improperly trained. He must take time to learn the bones before he works to reset the bones. Likewise, Christian Saints must take time learning before they go about equipping. The Christian’s graduation into bone-setting responsibility will come with three basic tools:
The first tool is your Bible. “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15) If you do not accept your Bible as God’s completely revealed truth, you will never be gifted at resetting the bones of fallen comrades. This is true for two reasons. One, you will not take study of the Bible seriously and therefore not know the body well enough to realize when a bone has been broken. Two, you will attempt to use your own faulty presumptions and opinions when operating which only leads to further fractures in you and in others.
The second tool is prayer. “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4) Prayer is the admittance that God is sovereign, literally in control of all things. And, this awareness leads you to repentance and surrender, prompting you desire His desire for your life and His Church, thereby giving you strength to reset bones, regardless of the consequences to your personal popularity.
The third tool is testing. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:2-3) Trial and suffering are the purging experiences by which God refines you unto greater holiness. When you respond to God’s testing by trusting and obeying, your spiritual muscles are strengthened, and you are better able to reset the bones of fallen comrades.
If you and I plan to be true Christians, resetting broken bones, than you and I will need to avert our eyes off self and place them solely on Christ, desiring that His worship and His Church operate precisely as He’s commanded in Holy Scripture. We must commit that clear biblical truth in love be shared regardless of the cost to our personal popularity or pocketbooks. This changes how we relate to our spouse. This changes how we lead our children. This changes how we preach. This changes how we speak in small groups. This changes how we respond to our boss. This changes how we respond to open sin. This changes how we confess our own sin. This changes how we post online. This changes the friends we choose.
To the potential Saint, I beg you not be caught in the pragmatic consumerism of American Christianity! You are told that a profession in the historic Jesus at age ten, along with your attendance at Christmas Eve, and prayers at large family gatherings, will suffice in eternal inheritance, but it will not. You are prodded by marketing machinery to attend Church due to special guests and famous bands, only to walk away week after week questioning why your soul has not been stirred to obedience, and your desire for Bible reading quickened like men of old. You are told to use Christ to focus on yourself. All of this is Satan’s trap, evil’s lair, the lie that you can do, “Just enough” to live well here and escape with your chinny-chin-chin into heaven’s gates. See the lies for what they are. Paul wrote starkly:
“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power… I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth.” (2 Tim 3 & 4)
To the people-pleasing Churches who allow pacifying ministry continue, I beg that your first concern be turned to the filled seats, not the empty ones. One time a young preacher approached the famed Charles Spurgeon specifying that his own rural congregation was too small. Spurgeon replied, “Well, maybe it is as large as you’d like to give account for in the day of judgment.” We will all stand accountable for those whom we claimed to, “Teach” (James 3:1), so teach them all, and teach them well.
The true Church must stop being enamored with things that are, “New” and designate it’s time to resetting the age-old bones of truth. The Bible provides detail sufficient for living today. Christ is surely sufficient today. Therefore, give your people Christ through Scripture today. Is there a time for marketing outreach? I am sure. Is there a time for org charts and business meetings? I believe. Is there even a time for God-honoring entertainment as unto the Lord? Likely. Yet, the surest way for the Church to die is to place it’s focuses on activities, committees, and programs, that strap the fancy clothes atop flesh, while never working to heal the broken bones beneath.
Declare the truth in love, trust God with the consequences.