But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it… So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. (Eph. 4:7,11-12)
The pastor and his staff had assembled for their weekly staff meeting and everyone was in a good mood. The pastor was back from his vacation and everything had gone smoothly while he was gone. Guest speakers had ministered on the Sundays he was gone and each staff member had made sure things went well in their realm of responsibility.
“It sure feels good to be back!” exclaimed the pastor. “I really needed the break and enjoyed the downtime but I missed you all and wondered how things were going. Let’s take some time for each one of you to fill me in on what I missed and tell us how things are going in your area of ministry. Let’s talk about the Sunday services first – what went well, what didn’t, what we need to work on – you know what I mean.”
“I’ll start us off,” said John, one of the associate pastors. “I have to admit; I was wrong about wanting to bring in high-powered guest speakers to fill the pulpit. You were right about recognizing the gifted speakers right here in our midst. The youth pastor did a great job (everyone around the table looked his way as they all nodded and affirmed him) and he really energized the whole congregation, not just the youth or his friends and family who had come to see him preach. He clearly has a teaching gift and is a great communicator!”
“And speaking of great communicators,” John went on, “Your decision to ask Fred to speak was brilliant. I know I was against having him speak, but I now realize that I was wrong and I apologize for being so out-spoken at our meeting before you left. It’s just that Fred is so enmeshed in the business world that I didn’t think he would bring the Word boldly or in an engaging way. I was afraid that he would be boring or not relevant or off target theologically. And that could not have been farther from the truth. Fred spoke persuasively from his years of following Christ in a business environment and the Scriptures came alive as he used examples from his workplace to describe how to live for Christ. He offered a perspective that professional preachers often lack! He was awesome – people went away feeling like they too can live for Christ and make a difference in the lives of their co-workers.”
“I agree!” exclaimed Burt, the marriage and family pastor. “He was fantastic. One of the best speakers I have heard in a long time. No offense, pastor. He was just that good. His illustrations from his life and his testimony of how some of his co-workers had come to Christ or been healed or had their marriages saved was awesome. And somehow, he was able to come across as a simple man who God happened to use from time to time rather than as an expert who had it all together. He was light-hearted enough to make us laugh at our own insecurities but serious enough to challenge us to live for Jesus and tell people about Him. We were wrestling with the conviction that we needed to do more for God and laughing at the same time.”
“So, Pastor, how did you know that Fred would be such a good speaker?” asked John. “I would have never guessed it. He is so soft-spoken and unassuming. Sure, he has a high position in his company, but that doesn’t always mean a person would be a good speaker or have such an excellent grasp on Scripture and relationship with God.”
“Fred and I go way back,” said the pastor. “We were in Bible college at the same time. In fact, we both worked at UPS in the evenings and went to classes in the mornings. So we saw a lot of each other. It took him a lot longer to graduate though as he was promoted to fulltime and was doing well as a manager at UPS. I first heard him speak in a Preaching Practicum class and in later years at the Christian Businessmen Meetings. He has a passion for Jesus that is contagious and it almost always comes through when he teaches or shares his testimony.”
“So why didn’t he become ordained and take a position in a church?” asked John. “Do you think he was distracted by the love of money and the pursuit of position and power? The corporate job was just too attractive? Going into the ministry demanded too much sacrifice?”
“I don’t think so,” said the pastor. “Fred never cared much about that stuff and still doesn’t as far as I know. He had a wife and small children to care for at that time so there were some financial pressures that made him work fulltime while finishing his degree. I guess the bottom line is that God didn’t call him into the ministry.”
“Or maybe God called him into a ministry that is different and maybe even more powerful than preaching,” mused Burt. “Do you think that maybe he has made more disciples by preaching with his life and proclaiming Christ in the workplace than we do with our Sunday morning preaching? Think about it. He has ongoing relationship with people who have come to Christ and grown in the Lord through his influence over the years. People come and go all the time in our church. We don’t really know them well at all and it’s hard to know the impact that we have made or not made in their lives.”
“I think you are on to something there!” interjected the youth pastor. “I’ve been listening to all this, and a thought occurs to me. I think it might be the Lord, and I don’t mean to offend anyone, but could it be that Fred doesn’t speak in church or do much at all in church simply because we never asked him? Could it be that he is on the sidelines simply because no one recognized his gifting? I mean, we all know that he’s not one to promote himself – he didn’t seek a position or ordination – but does that mean we shouldn’t utilize his gifts? He speaks at Christian Business meetings and at corporate meetings – sometimes even as a motivational speaker – why haven’t we asked him to speak before?”
“I guess that is my fault,” admitted the pastor. “I just haven’t thought of it the past few years. It used to be that he would speak on a Sunday night or Wednesday night but we don’t have those services or Bible studies anymore. He was also an adult Sunday school teacher but we don’t do that anymore either. He has been a home group leader off and on over the years, but we all know that our home groups ministry has really lost momentum since we made them interest-based rather than Bible-based. But that’s a topic for another day. I guess it’s just the way church is done now – there really isn’t much place for people like Fred to minister except for the workplace or his own living room.”
“We have to make a place then!” exclaimed the youth pastor. “God has given gifts of men and women to our local congregation so that all the saints can be built up in Christ! We need people like Fred! We have to identify and release people like him to do what God is calling them to do!”
“You’re right!” agreed the pastor. “We need to think through what we’re doing and how we can do a better job of making disciples and releasing people to use the gifts God has given them. Right now, though, I want to hear more about how it went while I was gone. Next meeting, though, we will start an ongoing conversation about what changes we can make to do a better job of making disciples and releasing people to minister.”
That pastor and his staff started a conversation the following week that lasted not only weeks or months but even years. In fact, it is still going on to this day. How about the church you lead or attend? Is it a conversation that you need to have or need to start up again? Are you thinking through how to make disciples? Are you training, empowering, and releasing people to minister in the way that God desires?
Questions for Contemplation and Discussion
Respond to the questions at the end of the article. Does the church you lead or attend have an ongoing discussion about how to do a better job of making disciples and equipping people to minister to one another and to the world? Are you a part of that discussion or is there someone you can talk to about it?
Take a moment to think about your own life and giftings. Are you being used by God to make disciples? Why or why not? Are you being used by God to equip others to minister? Why or why not?
Reflect on your own life some more. When are you most happy and fulfilled? When you are used by God to bless, serve, and instruct others? Or when you sit in church doing nothing? Most of us feel happy and fulfilled when we are serving God and others. What can you do to see your own gifts and abilities used more often for God’s glory? What can you do to help others use their gifts and abilities?
Scriptures to Study: Eph. 4:1-16, 1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12:3-8, 1 Peter 3:15, 1 Peter 2:12, 2 Tim. 2:2, Heb. 5:12 Let’s Pray Together: Lord, you know me and you know my situation. You know my heart to serve You more. Help me to step out in faith and use the gifts and abilities You have given me to bless others. Help me to encourage others to step out and minister to others. And Lord, help our church, and churches everywhere for that matter, to do a better job of making disciples and equipping people to serve You. Help our church leaders to train, empower, and release people to serve, teach, pray, and do whatever You designed them to do. Let our leaders be people who equip and release others to do the work of the ministry. I pray for the following people as you put them on my heart today… (continue praying as you feel led)