Where are the equippers? I started this journey of questioning what was going on in our churches years ago. I had traveled all over the country with popular Word of Faith preachers. We went to small country churches, large metropolitan mega-churches, and every church size in between from the east coast to the west coast.
The one trend I noted was that each church was run by a charismatic, choleric, CEO type pastor. I observed the top down, pyramid style of leadership. The "buck" stopped at the top. There seemed to be ministry going on. The churches in the big cities had outreaches to the inner city and all sorts of programs for everybody to plug into. The music, especially at the big mega churches was performed by worship teams that were made of gifted musicians and singers.
However, when I read my bible, I found a disconnect in what I saw in the churches across North America and what I saw in the bible. Nowhere do I see one man running churches in the NT. Nowhere do I see pyramid type government practiced in the early church. When the saints gathered it was to share a meal for the Lords supper, have fellowship, provoking one another to love and good works and exhorting one another. It was highly participatory gathering. Sure there were leaders present in the meetings as elders. But there was no such thing as a senior pastor, a teaching elder, or youth pastor.
All the bible speaks about, concerning the local church, are elders (Acts 20:28, 1 Pt 5:2), who are overseers (bishop) and feeders (shepherds) of the flock. It was not an office but a function. There is no evidence that churches ever hired a pastor from some other location and paid him a salary. That is the definition of a hireling. Paul (Acts 20:33-35) was very clear in his charge to the Ephesian elders to labor as he did to help the weak.
The distinction I want to make is that elders were local in nature and not brought in from the outside. Their qualifications are clear from Titus and Timothy. Elders should be men who are older and mature, but how many "younger's" have you seen pastoring churches. It does not mean that younger men are not gifted; it just means they are not older. Elders are men who must be apt to teach or instructive, and be able to feed the flock.
We are all familiar with Eph. 4:11-12: And he gave some, apostles; some, prophets; some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ… Some call these, the five-fold ministry gifts. Many call them titled offices of the church; but many say there is no such thing as apostles and prophets anymore. I have personally yet to read anywhere in the bible that says the gifts of apostles and prophets have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Regardless of whether these offices, titles, functions, gifts exist partially or in total, let's get to the heart of the matter. Whoever or whatever these men are, they are supposed to equip or perfect the body of Christ.
In the Greek, this word perfect or equip, implies a complete furnishing. It is a strong word. So, what is the best way to equip someone? An example would be my grandfather. He was a farmer. His father was a farmer. My great-grandfather equipped my grandfather to be a farmer. How did he do that? It happened as they went about their daily lives of planting crops, putting meat in the smokehouse, and vegetables in the cellar. My grandfather did not sit in the living room of his farm house and listen to three-point lectures on raising cotton, castrating calves, and smoking bacon. His father equipped him to be a farmer by providing him the practical skills and knowledge to be a farmer. It was one on one mentoring. I believe that was Jesus' technique with his disciples.
Another example is when I was flight instructing. When I took on a new student I would spend hours with them. This included discussions or "ground" school on techniques, regulations, and navigation. This was followed by a flight lesson and then a debriefing of the flight. What's amazing; is that on each flight, I actually let the student fly the airplane. Now you may say, "Of course, how would you learn to fly an airplane unless you were allowed to touch the controls?" Sure, that is self-evident, but apply that to your typical church life and the typical layperson sitting in a pew listening to a sermon every Sunday morning. Ask yourself, "When does he or she get to touch the controls?"