Every Member Ministry

Ephesians 4 follows three chapters that rehearse the glorious position that belongs to the Christian because of the work of Christ. It starts the final 3 chapters that make everyday applications of the gospel in the local church, the home, the workplace, and the world at large. In 4:11–12, Paul speaks of leaders who have been given to the church by God for its development. My understanding of verse 11 (with an eye on 2:20) is that the gifts of apostle and prophet were foundational and temporary, but that the gifts of evangelist and pastor-teacher are still functioning today. I’d like to focus on verse 12, however. It teaches that one of the main jobs of ministerial leaders is to “get the work of the ministry done through others,” as Bill Hull put it in his very helpful book The Disciple Making Pastor. The American Standard Version of 1901 communicates the idea most clearly. Church leaders were given by Christ “for (pros) the perfecting of the saints, unto (eis) the work of ministering, unto (eis) the building up of the body of Christ.”

So what? So the pastor-teacher is to equip the entire church body with the goal that they can minister and build each other up effectively. Your pastor’s job is to get you working—and your job is to make that easy on him! The biblical norm is “every member ministry.” That’s the point of 1 Corinthians 12’s body imagery. That’s the point of Ephesians 4:15–16’s focus on “every joint” and “each part.” That’s the point of the perpetual focus on “one another” ministry in the New Testament.

Let’s close with a picture. Too many churches rise and fall with the pastor. Relationships and responsibilities look like a wagon wheel in which all the spokes are connected to the pastor-hub. If he falls, or leaves, or dies, every other spoke is in jeopardy. He’s the center; he’s essential; he’s preeminent. Much better is a church that looks more like a spider web, with relationships and responsibilities moving in every possible direction, thereby making every member both important and expendable—including the pastor. The only indispensable one is also the only preeminent one: Jesus Christ. August Strong put it this way in his Systematic Theology:

“That minister is most successful who gets the whole body to move, and who renders the church independent of himself.  The test of his work is not while he is with them, but after he leaves them.  Then it can be seen whether he has taught them to follow him, or to follow Christ; whether he has led them to the formation of habits of independent Christian activity, or whether he has made them passively dependent upon himself.”

A healthy church isn’t dependent on one man or even a handful of people. It is one in which 100% of the people do 100% of the work, to the glory of God. Every member ministry.

February 2010

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