Some of the challenges facing the Church today in Western culture are not caused by pandemics or politics. They are sourced in a disconnect created when the equipping gifts are not allowed to work in harmony with each other and instead, function as separate silos of ministry.
Three of the equipping gifts, Apostle, Prophet, and Evangelist have for the large part been removed from the lexicon of pastoral ministry at a local church level. Faithful pastors and teachers attempt to train and equip the Church to a place of maturity but are not able to fully accomplish the task because not all the equipping gifts are working in harmony with each other.
There is a purpose for these equipping and training gifts working in a unified effort. Paul wrote about this combined effort in Ephesians:
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).
The five equipping gifts were designed and purposed to bring us to a place of maturity. Without their combined effort, the Church will not reach maturity, unity of faith, and complete knowledge of Jesus. Paul went on to reveal the goal for that maturity.
“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever, they sound like the truth” (Ephesians 4: 14).
Many within the current expression of the Church languish in a place of spiritual immaturity. They are being tossed like ragdolls by error so well packaged it sounds like the truth. They have been told to remain silent when a cultural narrative is forced upon them that requires their compliance. They have never been taught how to speak the truth in love to a diverse, and at times, antagonistic culture.
This silent immaturity seems to work when only the personal growth and well-being of a believer is taught year after year as the supposed goal of our teaching. It works until a time of cultural and spiritual crisis arrives and shakes its weak foundation. In a self-focused message, we can remain uninformed about our larger mission in the Great Commission to disciple nations and the individuals within those nations.
After Paul wrote about the Church being equipped and matured, in the very next verse He spoke of the product of that maturity, “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church” (Ephesians 4: 14-15).
A growing faith is a maturing faith. Our continued growth as believers does not take place in the context of a silenced faith removed from social conflict. The great reformers in history learned how to speak the truth in love to power and culture changed for the better. Some good people within the Church have been led to believe their silent, devotional form of faith is the goal of their equipping and training when in reality it is only part of a much larger picture and assignment. We need all the gifts working together to accomplish our personal and corporate mission. The promised harvest of souls cannot be reaped without all the gifts working together in harmony.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Garris Elkins