The Misunderstood Ephesians 4:11-12 (Part 2)

In Part 1 I wrote about how the church has continually misunderstood the role of God’s gifted-persons such as the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (or, pastor-teachers). The wrong understanding is: Since they are gifted by the Lord then they should be the ones to do ministry, while the rest of the church just sit back and soak. Ephesians 4:11-12, however, teaches to the contrary. The right understanding is: The primary job of the gifted-persons is to empower; it is the job of all in the church, who have been thus empowered, to do ministry. In this way the body of Christ is built up.

Alright, so we now know what the gifted-persons are to empower God’s people for. The follow-up question is: What is the former to empower the latter with? A misunderstanding of the former usually leads to a misunderstanding of the latter.

It’s apparent that we can only empower another person in the area that we ourselves have the ability or talent. A non-musician can’t teach someone to play the piano. A drummer can’t teach someone to play the saxophone. To state the obvious, only a bassist can teach a guitarist how to play the bass.

As it is in the natural; so it is with the spiritual. We can only empower others to do what we ourselves have been gifted to do. The apostle, among other things, pioneers ministries. Correspondingly, when raising up leaders in the body of Christ, his job is to empower others, for example, to plant churches or to start new Christian ventures.

As for the prophet, he is to train believers to hear and to speak a now word from the Lord. The evangelist is to raise up the people in the church to effectively share the Gospel with unbelievers. The pastor is to train the members in the body to provide pastoral and spiritual care for one another (and also for those outside the church). And the teacher is to teach others how to teach the Word of God.

It doesn’t mean that these gifted-persons don’t do ministry with their giftings. If they had not, they would not have gotten to know their gifts and ministry, and to develop them to the extent that they are now able to pass them on to others.

In fact, they rightly never stop exercising their gifts. The evangelist still evangelises the lost and the pastor still nurtures people in the faith. They still have to walk their talk; and not just talk about how they used to walk! More than what they had done, it is what they are doing that gives them credibility as they train others. It is from their current experiences of ministry that they can best illustrate and inspire others to do what they are doing.

I like what John Maxwell says in his Leadership Bible. I think it might be appropriately called “Multiplication Maxims”. They are stated in the first line of each point, and I follow-up with a bit of my own commentary.

  1. It takes one to know one. We tend to see what we possess ourselves.

It is not that we can never see what others have if we don’t have it ourselves. But it would be true to say that we can more easily recognise something in someone because we know what it looks like in us. Furthermore, we are able to evaluate the degree of the gifting and its potential for development.

  1. It takes one to show one. We cannot model for someone what we haven’t done.

I am stating the obvious: Nobody can teach what he doesn’t know. He won’t be able to explain it nor show how something is done when he has never done it himself. We can only model for others how to operate in a certain spiritual gift or ministry when we have experience in doing it ourselves. Besides the issue of ability it is also about credibility.

  1. It takes one to grow one. We cannot train someone until we’ve done it ourselves.

This kind-of-follows Maxim No. 2 about modelling. This is about training. And the more we have developed the gift and ministry the more we will be able to grow others in these areas.

Clearly, when a church puts into practise Ephesians 4:11-12 it will have many more people with an apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching giftings and ministry (though, in varying degrees). Imagine how more effective the church would be when that happens.

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