EQUIPPING THE SAINTS - BUILDING AND NURTURING A CHURCH

How does one teach, train and build a congregation of 200 from scratch?

To train and equip a congregation, it is first necessary to define what the congregation stands for, and the rationale behind the leadership framework through which is the means of ministry to the congregation. The manner and basis in which the leadership structure is to be set up determines the quality and plan of ministry to the congregation. It is not much point to set time-tables, programs, etc, and just "do things" if the basis of ministry to the saints is not properly understood or clarified. Too often we fall into the rut of "doing things", trying to do what everyone else is doing, sometimes being swept along in an emotional wave of hyper-charismatism and the members are then in turn caught in this tide of activity and develop a religious fervour, based on emotions without having or knowing any Biblical basis to their actions. It is therefore crucial that first the leadership, and then, the congregation, be firmly entrenched in the Word of God and not get affected or even deceived by every whim and fancy that comes along. Therefore the basis and concept of leadership to be developed in the congregation will first be discussed, and then the ministry of the Church. Also, this article is more of a "what to" rather than a "how to" because I believe that the basics are more important, and the "how to" will come more easily when the people know "what to".


The Leadership

Basis and Concept

It is to be recognized that one man alone cannot hope to care for, train, and equip an entire congregation of 200. This was the dilemma faced by Moses (Ex 18:13-26). Moses was the Pastor--Shepherd, Educator, Official Representative and Administrator of the Church in the Wilderness (Acts 7:38). The burden on one man was too great and Jethro gave Moses a word of wisdom by suggesting that he bring in teamwork of qualified men.

The Psalmist said it was good and pleasant for brethren to dwell together in unity (Ps 133). The Psalm can certainly be applied to Christ, our Great High Priest, and to His priestly Body, the Church. The key is Unity. The same anointing flows from the Head to the members of the Body, and where there is unity, there is blessing, there is life. Much has been made of this term "unity", and often it has been applied to mean conformity, usually to one man's ideals or vision. True unity, however, is -unity in the Spirit, in Christ and in His will. Unity does not mean conformity. Although the principle of Psalm 133 is applicable to the whole Body of Christ, it can be applied more especially to the ministries in the local church. For, if the ministries do not flow together in unity, then the people will find it difficult to do so. As a local church grows, then the plurality of leadership will emerge. It is imperative that all work together as a team, brethren dwelling together in unity. Otherwise plurality can never work as God intended to. In the beginning of a work, many times a minister has to be an all-round person, because of the lack of personnel. However, as a local church grows and increases, it is absolutely impossible for any one man to meet everyone's needs. Hence the need for developing a team. Frank Damazio has listed ten problems of the one-man ministry which accentuates the need for plurality and team-work:

1)One man cannot shepherd successfully a large flock of God.
2)One man is limited in his ministry and gifts.
3)One man may fail in wisdom, knowledge and judgment.
4)One man will have difficulty in finding the mind of God for everything.
5)One man limits the potential growth.
6)One man has no one to adjust or correct him.
7)One man has no "checks and balances".
8)One man may break physically, mentally, emotionally and morally under pressure.
9)One man may become an autocrat or dictator.
10)One man ministry is contrary to the revealed will of God in the Scriptures which teaches plurality of leadership as well as someone who is "first among equals".

We must be reminded here that a single pastor together with a number of staff and the parochial church council (PCC) (as is the situation in a number of our churches) do not necessarily constitute a team. More often than not, in practice it is a one-man show with the staff and PCC as "enforcers of policy" (i.e. "rubberstamp"). This is what happens when the church adopts worldly management methods, creating a corporate structure with a "boss" at the top. The Bible not only provides us with the standard of Christian character and lifestyle but it also provides us with examples of ministries working together as a team, yoked together in the Gospel of Christ. As was mentioned earlier, Jethro's advice to Moses is one such example. Many men in the present pastoral system have been forced, for various reasons, to become a one-man ministry. Many ministers feel that they have to be a "pastor" to be able to function, or else there is no place for them. The one-man ministry and most of the present pastoral system then becomes "the cork in the bottle" and all other ministries are suppressed, under the cloak of submission and cannot get by or around him. The sad result often manifests itself in division in order for these other ministries to surface.

Practical Principles

Having set forth the principle of plurality of leadership, we now consider some practical principles of working together as a team. For, it is not only the mechanics or letter of it that counts, but the spirit and life of it, otherwise there is death. It can be organization without organism, structure without life.

Leadership in the church is not arrived at by "the law of the jungle", i.e. "the survival of the fittest". This is not the way it is in the kingdom of God. Jesus reproved the disciples for the wrong motive and desire to exercise lordship and authority over the people as did the Gentiles (Lk 22:24-27). It is because Christ Himself, as the risen Head of the Church, calls, equips and places His mantle of leadership on that person to lead the flock of God. This person may be referred to as "bishop", "senior pastor", "apostle", etc. We may say that "not everyone can drive the bus, or the train". It is recognized that the Lord Jesus Christ is The Chief Elder above and among all other Elders (1 Pet 2:25; 5:4). He is The Chief Shepherd, and The Bishop of our souls. This is something we must always keep in mind, that He is the Head of the Church, not the resident pastor or elder. Whilst recognizing this, it is also evident from Scripture that, within a local church, having plurality of leadership, Christ will place a mantle of leadership upon some one elder to direct the people of God. This is done in conjunction with the multiple eldership. So there should not be any problem in speaking of some one, upon whom God has placed the mantle of leadership, as the "senior elder". The thing that he has to beware of is that Diotrephes spirit and attitude, the desire to have pre-eminence (3 Jn 9,10). He has to truly recognize that he himself is an elder among other elders, and not an elder above other elders. The thought of "First among equals" is illustrated in the very persons of the Godhead. The Father is the First Person, the Son is Second, and the Holy Spirit is Third. However, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal as persons. For the purposes of creation and redemption, however, there is this order in the Godhead. The Father is indeed "first among equals". There is no competition, but recognition. Each person has distinctive function and ministry, yet are one in mind, will and judgment.

Having seen that God does raise up leaders of His people in the "set man", what then is the safeguard against this man becoming a dictator or autocrat? The answer is seen in the plurality of eldership and the co-equality of such persons. These provide checks and balances for the "senior pastor". He is first in leadership but certainly not exalted above the other elders. This is important because he is one of the keys to successful teamwork. Whatever the head of the team is, so will be the team. Hence the importance of the leader working according to Biblical principles. Kevin Conner in "The Church in the New Testament" has listed some Biblical criteria for the "senior pastor", and it applies equally well to all others in the leadership team. These criteria should be remembered when we are forming the leadership team to train and minister to our congregation of 200.

a)He must be an example the team can follow (1 Cor 11:1, Eph 5:2; Phi 4:9).
b)Must not have a dictatorial spirit (Lk 22:24-27; Mk 10:42--45; 2 Cor 1:24).
c)He must have a servant spirit (Mk 10:45; 1 Kg 12:7-8).
d)He must be a person who can have others work with him and not just for him. Many ministers cannot have people work with them as they become insecure in their position and then get rid of them (in 13:3; 1 Tim 1:12).
e)He must allow for mistakes in the development of the team, i.e. Jesus did with the twelve apostles.
f)He must have confidence in the team and not question their integrity or motives.
g)He must be willing to delegate responsibilities and the corresponding authority (Mk 13:34), not just responsibility without authority.
h)He must respect his own chain of command given to team members.
i)He must be willing to share his honor and not be jealous of others when they succeed (Num 27:20; 11:14-17).
j)He must seek to release the ministry gifts of the team and not suppress them.
k)He must keep the lines of communication clear and open always. Need to speak freely without taking offence, or being on the defensive.
l)He must recognize three major problems to watch for in the ministry:
1)Misuse-unqualified persons, not trained.
2)Disuse-uninvolver; feeling you can do it better yourself and not involve others.
3)Abuse-overload and overwork the more talented and gifted ones.
m)He must build relationships with the team members. Relationships do not just happen. They have to be built. Relationships cannot be legislated; cannot relate the unrelatable (1 in 1:5-9).
n)He should surround himself with strong men who can strengthen his weaknesses and vice versa; not have a group of "yes men" (Prov 15:22). In the multitude of counsellors there is safety.
o)He must have Divine love for the team and congregation (1 Cor 13) .
p)He must be a gracious man.
q)He must be humble.
r)He must be sensitive to people, but not over-sensitive, touchy.
s)He must not be a man of many masks (Mt 23).


For the successful functioning of the team, the following are some principles and guidelines:

1)There can only be one head of a team, as seen in the role of "first among equals".
2)The team must be brought together by the Lord (Mk 16:20). If the Lord is not in it, then the team will fail. Each member must seek the Lord that this is His will that they work together. Too often the senior pastor gathers around him those whom he feels are "with him" and from them forms the leadership team. Having the same vision as the pastor or being particularly anointed in an area of ministry does not mean that God has put them into the same leadership team. The Law forbids the ox and the ass plowing together (Deut 22:10).
3)The team must be men whose hearts God has touched (1 Sam 10:26).
4)The team must keep the lines of communications open at all times. Avoid biased information, or inadequate information.
5)The team must be accountable for areas of responsibility.


We now see the purpose and blessings of team ministry. The blessing is to be found in the cluster of grapes, not in one grape alone (Isa 65:8). Some purposes and blessings of team ministry is as follows:

a)A team ministry provides a living demonstration of Body ministry (1 Cor 12).
b)Team ministry makes it easier to find the mind of the Lord and His will in things (Mt 18:19-20).
c)Team ministry is more effective and produces greater results (Ecc 4:9-12).
d)Team ministry provides for greater safety and checks and balances (Prov 11:14).
e)Team ministry helps guard against the immoral or pride or other snares set by the enemy which have ensnared many lone ministers.
f)Team ministry provides strength and encouragement for the ministries themselves (Ex 17:12).
g)More importantly, team ministry provides an opportunity for the development of disciples in the Lord and releasing their ministries. i.e. Timothy, Titus, Joshua, Elisha, all were trained under other ministries.


Training and Nuturing

Having discussed the basis and principles of team leadership, we can now proceed to plan a church "program" to minister to and train the members. I personally hesitate to use the term "program" because it gives the connotation of a set of activities (usually equated with "commitment") which the church members have to go through. Too often we get wrapped up with our personal "programs" that we strive for results through it, with the result that we forget the individual. The designed "program" should be people-oriented, and not objective-oriented. Some people may say that this is bad management techniques, but what are we really called to do? Build a corporation, or build a body? We must always keep in mind that we are Christ's body, and the body is composed of people, not objectives.

Identifying the Leadership

To begin, we must first identify the "set man" for the congregation. Usually it is the person placed in charge, but if he is not, he should acknowledge that it is not God's calling for him, and seek to identify the person whom God has called from among the congregation. This "set man" should then be the "first among equals" in the congregation, but he does not have to be the traditional "pastor", but could be any of the ministries if gifted for that place. The first thing in implementing the church ministry program is then to form the leadership team. This team should ideally include the five-fold ministries. How should we recognize and receive these ministries? Jesus gave us a principle in Mt 10:41-42 when He spoke the following words to His disciples: "Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward." The key word is "receive". We can only receive when we recognize. The principle is laid out clearly by our Lord. If we recognize and receive an apostle, or a prophet, an evangelist, a shepherd or teacher, we receive the reward of their labours, of their ministry. If we do not recognize and receive them, we bind them so that they cannot minister and we cannot receive. This principle is true of all ministries in the body of Christ, as also of all members of the body of Christ. The leader should then set about asking God to show him who the five-fold ministries are. It is also important to note that one cannot "make" people to be five-fold ministries, to put staff or PCC or whoever else into the office of the five-fold ministries if he or she has not been called to it; neither can one train just anyone into the job. The person has to be called to the, ministry and then trained (this is not to say that he has not been training or in service before, but the training mentioned here is that which will bring him into the fulness of the five-fold ministry to which he is called). While this may not be possible at the onset, it should be the goal toward building the team. Until then, the leader would have to slog it out on his own, with the accompanying pitfalls of one-man ministry. He can lessen this burden by identifying "leaders of 10", "leaders of "50", etc and training them to minister to the congregation, even as he in turn ministers to them and trains them personally. These leaders can be grouped on the basis of age-groups or common interest groups. Some may be called to look after Sunday-school age kids, some to the elderly, some to youth, etc. The leadership must be sensitive to the needs of the different age groups present, and that not all are at the same educational or financial level, and that each and every person needs to be cared for individually, not to be "walked over" for the "greater good", whatever that may be.

Thus, the first ministry of this fledgling congregation is the pastoral ministry. If a baby is not fed or cared for, it will not grow, and you cannot expect a baby to accomplish things meant for adults. These pastorally-inclined leaders should be selected on the basis of knowledge of God's, word, Christian maturity, a shepherd's heart, and above all, God's calling. They should not be selected or excluded on "political grounds" or a "need-to" basis. There is a danger of putting people into ministry simply because there is shortage of personnel.

Training the Leadership

On the practical aspect, any leader to be raised from the congregation should be trained and qualified for his task. The single most important criteria would be the proper grounding in the Word of God. Any person who has no grounding in the Bible, no matter how gifted he may be in various "practical" ministries (eg. healing, music, worship, etc), should not be placed in positions of leadership. This may sound drastic, as most churches seem to look up to "anointed" men, but it is very important that this criteria be observed. Otherwise, such men may lead the congregation astray with false teaching and pseudo- Biblical interpretations that are based more on experience than on the Word of God. This kind of cancer can and should be nipped in the bud even before they can become established. It is often justified that such men can be put to leadership first, and then "tempered" by discipline to study the Word. While this may be true of some, generally it is a fallacy and by the time this man may have come to study the Bible, the damage would already have been done and the false teachings ingrained into the members of the flock. Anointing is no excuse for not studying the Bible. In fact, one questions whether the "anointing" is real if he refuses to be grounded in the Bible, giving various excuses for his inability to do so. Zeal without knowledge is dangerous - it may lead to heresy. In short, no practical Bible knowledge, no leadership position.

As a practical footnote, potential leaders will be trained to be grounded in the Bible by studying Biblical studies units and taking the exams. Practical qualifications for leadership should include the completion of 5 practical ministry modules and 5 Biblical study units. The core practical modules should comprise modules covering the basic aspects of Christian living, and the core Biblical study units comprising units that cover the Gospels (announcing the Good News), Acts (preaching the Good News), Romans and Galatians (understanding the Good News), Pentateuch (the Law), and Isaiah to Ezekiel (the Prophets), giving a good overview of the Bible from both the old and New Testaments. Those aspiring to leadership will be required to complete these core modules and units. Teaching will be carried out at a convenient time either on Sunday or during the week, and the core modules/units taught in a cycle throughout the year, with other modules/units being taught alongside, subject to the availability of trained teachers. Members will also be encouraged to attend modules/units conducted at other parishes if they are not available locally.

Once the leadership team is in place, (keeping in mind that there is ongoing ministry to the congregation), which may take from six months to a year, the congregation then can move into the next phase of spiritual growth. Sometimes some congregations are pushed into the growth phase without the leaders being in place or properly trained. This causes many problems when the church expands, especially with the congregation receiving poor teaching from leaders without proper Biblical foundations or training. It is here that we recognize what the church is in existence for, and how the teaching and training program is to be organized around it.


The Purpose of the Church

The Church has a fourfold purpose for its existence - (a) Ministry unto the Lord; (b) Ministry to the saints; (c) Ministry to the sinner; and (d) Ministry of conquering Satan and his kingdom. All four ministries must be covered equally, not having overemphasis on any one aspect, as some tend to do. And, to achieve these four purposes, the responsibility lies with the five-fold ministries who, because of their different giftings, are most suited to equip the saints for the "work of the ministry" (Eph 4:12). What is the "work of the ministry"'? It is the fourfold purposes of the existence of the church.

Ministry unto the Lord

The chief purpose for the Church's existence is to glorify and worship God. The Church is redeemed to be a worshipping community (Psa 29:1-2), redeemed first to worship Him, then to serve Him (Matt 4:10). It is first upward, then outward; it is first God, then Man. Worship always preceeds service. Sometimes this order gets reversed in our misplaced zeal to fulfill the Great Commission. The Westminster Catechism answers the question: "What is the chief end or purpose of man?" by saying: "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." The first teaching to the congregation is therefore, how they are to relate to God in worship, who to worship and how to worship. Man does not know of himself how to worship God and thus creates various forms, rituals, etc. and then asks God to bless his program.

There is no specific form of worship or order of service laid down in the Old or New Testament. Therefore there is no justification for any one man to claim that a worship service is to be carried out in any particular way. I say this as much towards the charismatic form of worship as to the liturgical form. One can worship God through both forms. It is not only the "charismatic" way that gives access to God's presence. After all, John Wesley sang only hymns, yet his meetings were powerfully anointed. The key is, that God is Spirit, and those that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:20-24). God is not looking for any particular form of worship, but that which born of the Holy Spirit. True worship begins in the spirit of man quickened by the Holy Spirit. One does not require choruses, emotionalism, volume, liturgy, etc. What one requires is the Holy Spirit, and it is wrong to say that the Holy Spirit resides only in "charismatic-type" worships. Jesus said that He will be in the midst of us whenever two or three are gathered in His Name (Matt 18:20). Worship in spirit means that the Holy Spirit is moving upon, energizing and quickening our redeemed spirit to worship God who is Spirit. It does not mean singing or speaking in tongues. Many more things can be said of our current worship services, be it liturgical or contemporary, but it is clear that the congregation must be taught the Biblical basis for their worship, and that it is not the form but the Spirit that enables them to worship God. The task for the leadership then is to identify those that have been called to the music and worship ministry, and to train and weld them into an effective team through sound teaching. We must keep in mind that natural talent does not equate to calling. If one is not called, he should not serve in that ministry. Also, instruments of music should never replace or supplant the instruments of the believers, individually and corporately.

At the same time, the congregation will be taught about the various aspects of the worship service such as music; prayers, thanksgivings and intercession; tithes and offerings; ministry of the Word; ministry of members of the Body (testimony, sharing, Scripture reading, etc); gifts or charisma; ordinances (baptism, communion, confirmation, laying on of hands, etc). Worship is judged as to its final analysis whether it 1) Glorifies the Lord, and 2) Edifies the worshipper in the most holy faith to minister to the world. The Church is called first to minister to The Lord. All other ministry will only be effective as this ministry is. As we present our bodies a living sacrifice then we can move in priestly ministration and service (Rom 12:1-2).

Ministry to the Saints

The second purpose for the Church's existence is to edify itself, this being done by the saints ministering to one another. This is the ministry of the Body edifying and increasing itself in love (Eph 4:9-16; 1 Cor 12). The "program" for the training and equipping of the congregation should include the following points:

1)The saints are to be built up in the most holy faith (Jude 1-4). God has given various ministries for this purpose (Eph 4:9-16; Col 2:7; 1 Cor 3:10-15; 14:26). The five-fold ministries are to educate the members of the Body of Christ with the Divine doctrines of the Word (Matt 28:18-20).
2)The saints are to be built up as to holiness of character and conformity to the image of Christ (Eph 5:23-33).
3)The saints are to be brought into the work of their ministry as functioning members of the Body of Christ (Eph 4:9-16).
4)The church is also to be a covering and protection for the saints of God. It is the house of the Lord and all that a natural home provides, so should the house of the Lord (Isa 2:1-4).
5)The saints will minister to one another (Jn 13:34-35; Gal 6:2), even as the members of the natural body minister one to another. One does not cut off a part of the body that is wounded or hurting, but ministers to it in order to bring about healing and life.


This seems like a lot to do, and in reality is too much to be covered by any one man in a fixed time period. However, the key to successful equipping and training is not force-feeding, but rather discipling and nurturing. On the general level, members of the congregation can be encouraged to be trained for practical aspects of Christian ministry through practical ministry modules, and given the opportunity to exercise what they have learnt. These modules will be taught by those that have completed 10 modules and at least 5 Biblical study units. The emphasis on Biblical study qualifications is again because of the need for sound Bible-based teaching. Also, this scheme widens the teaching base, enabling more modules to be taught at any one time due to the increased availability of teachers. The congregation will also be encouraged to prepare for the Biblical study exams in order to be equipped with a working knowledge of the Word of God.

However, it is also noted that modules and units will only equip a person up to a certain level. What next? This is where the specialised level of training comes in. While the members are being trained, they will also be encouraged to discover their gifts and ministry. When their call to ministry is confirmed, they will be led to the specialised level of training after completion of the practical modules and Biblical study series. The specialised level is really nothing very special or radical, but using the time-tested Biblical way of discipleship. One can be taught theologically or otherwise to be filled with knowledge, but nothing surpasses that of following a "master" at work. Jesus taught the 12 Apostles that way for 3 years, Paul trained Timothy the same way, as did Elija train Elisha. In our case, the five-fold ministries would identify and "adopt" those who would be moving on to higher levels of ministry. It does not mean that the apostle can only train those in the apostolic ministry, the prophet those in the prophetic ministry, evangelist those in reaching out, etc. but given the diverse gifts that the Lord has given to the Church, the five-fold ministries can, individually or in combination, effectively train and equip all of them for their ministry. After all, this is what the five-fold ministries were called to do (Eph 4:12).

The various leaders gather around themselves those whose ministry would most benefit from the leader's own ministry, and he trains and guides them personally, teaching them the Biblical basis for the ministry, coaching them in practical ministry by a "come follow me, do as I do" way such as Jesus did, and taking time to care for and minister to each disciple. This is not to form cliques or enclaves within the congregation, but rather for the benefit of the congregation. Such training teams are not secret, covert or exclusive, but are known to the congregation at large. It is not some super-secret task force where only privileged members have access. Church ministry is public, not covert or exclusive (something which the "Army of God" cult was). As these disciples grow, they are released for more and more responsibilities, eventually to disciple others in turn for their ministries. One example may be the training of the practical ministry and Biblical study teachers by the person who is the five-fold ministry teacher. The five-fold ministry teacher prepares the teachers under his charge, teaching them various communication skills, etc. and whatever else experience he may have, and guides them into the actual teaching of the modules/units itself, allowing them to teach first with supervision, and then independently. Another example would be the apostle taking members on missionary trips overseas, teaching and training them as they go along, encouraging and "letting them loose" into the harvest fields, letting them catch the vision of field work. I believe that this is the only way ministries can grow in a congregation.

One cannot use a program like a factory and hope to churn out X number of ministries in Y timeframe, similar to a production line. Ministries grow through care and feeding. Furthermore, there should (after the initial ministries and leaders have been set up) not be a manpower problem, as each ministry is self -reproducible. It is the responsibility of each leader to pray for and identify new people to train and equip in order to expand the ministry. Recruitment drives do not work. The only situation where this will fail is when the leader feels insecure and makes himself indispensable, hoarding power and thus restricting the ministry only to himself. In this case, the plurality of leaders will have to come together and admonish this person (this case also shows the need for plurality of leadership). By such successive rounds of training and discipleship, the saints will be released into their ministry equipped, and the entire congregation can be equipped, for more diverse ministries and in a far shorter time than will be possible for a one-man show. Leaders called to church leadership levels (eg. PCC, lay pastors, staff) will also be sent for church ministry courses to enable them to gain a macro perspective of ministry (get the frog out of the well) as well as to fellowship and learn from their peers from other parishes and different walks of ministries.

Ministry to the Sinner

The third purpose for the Church's existence is to minister the Gospel to the sinner. The more effective our ministry is to the Lord, the more effective ministry is to the saints, then the more effective should be our ministry to the world, to the unsaved. When the saints are built up they should multiply themselves. When the saints are properly built up, preaching the Gospel should come naturally, and should not require programs and courses to achieve it. Programs and courses turn what should come naturally into something of a routine, with quotas to be met and activities to be performed. What should be joy and life-giving will become mechanical and a lifeless chore. It is not realistic to talk about persevering by the Spirit's fire when things become lifeless and an obligated chore. In such cases, the Holy Spirit's fire would have been quenched and the member is persevering out of obligation to a program and hence by "fleshly fire". The Spirit's fire burns but does not consume, but "fleshly fire" will burn and consume. In the end you will have a wreck of a Christian that will be very hard to revive. It is one thing to initially "kick-start" the congregation off to evangelism using a program, giving them the "tools of the trade", but to turn it into a repetitive obligation is to remove the joy of service. We should be obligated to God, not to a program. We should not justify the use of various programs quoting success by numbers or results. God does not work by results or quotas. The Christians in the Book of Acts did not follow any set program of evangelism, but simply preached the Gospel out of the overflowing of joy of knowing Christ and having the fire of the Spirit burning in them, having been ministered to by the leaders and by each other (Acts 2:42-47).

The Church is to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to the world before the end of this age comes (Matt 24:14; 28:18-20). Sometimes we put the cart before the horse and push "evangelism" so aggressively at the expense of ministering to the saints. In this case, the balance between maintenance and mission is upset. When maintenance is in trouble, the mission will be short-lived. One cannot continue running a car if there is no continuous supply of petrol or maintenance of engine. The engine would break down or be worked to death. The inheritance of Christ is the salvation of the heathen (Ps 2:8; 11:6). We are to scatter seeds and win souls, and to be a light to the world (Matt 5:14-16). Signs and wonders are to follow the preaching of the Gospel (Mk 16:15-20). The Church is to be God's arm of salvation to a lost and dying world (Jn 3:16). He sent His disciples out to continue His ministry until out of every kindred, tongue, tribe and nation there will be those who are the redeemed (Rev 5:9-10). The Church is to minister the evangel, and I advocate that it should be done, both individually and corporately, with joy out of ministering to the Lord and to each other, as something which comes naturally as part of Christian living, rather than something imposed upon. It is human nature that we do things better out of conviction than out of compulsion. If we follow Biblical precedence and simply minister the evangel wherever we go, the Lord will add to our number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47). We accept this by faith, not by quotas or targets or programs, so that no one can boast.

Ministry of conquering Satan and his kingdom

The Church is finally to bring about the downfall and casting out of Satan and his evil hosts. The type of Church Christ will build is a victorious Church. The Gates of Hades will not prevail against it (Gen 22:17). It will come in conflict and warfare in the spiritual realm with the Gates of Hades (Gen 24:10). It will prevail and go forth conquering and to conquer. The Church will be clothed with the armour of God and the spiritual weapons of warfare for battle (Eph 6:10-20; 2 Cor 10:1-5). The weapons will be mighty through God; not a militant spirit as in the Crusades and so-called "holy wars" against flesh and blood. Our kingdom is not of the world system, and should not be run as one. The warfare is with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world, and wicked spirits in heavenly places. The five-fold ministries and the leadership have the responsibility to train and equip the congregation for this kind of war. They are to teach the congregation how to be clothed with the armour of God (it doesn't come automatically), and how, individually and corporately, to storm the Gates of Hades. These teachings can come through either the prayer meetings, teaching sessions, or handed down from teacher to disciple. The emphasis is also on responsible teaching, rather than to adopt charismatic cliches which are Biblically and theologically incorrect (such as "casting Satan into hell" - not our job but Christ's; "showering with the blood of Jesus" - as if the Blood of Christ was some kind of talisman; unhealthy emphasis on speaking in tongues - seeking the gift rather than the giver; using the Lord's name as a punctuation mark in prayer, etc.)


The Task of the Church

The Church will have the keys of the kingdom (Matt 16:19). The key is always significant of authority and power, and the four keys in Acts were The Word, The Spirit, The Name and The Prayers of the Church and of all the saints working together. The message of the kingdom is repentance, faith and baptism (Matt 4:16). The early Church taught and demonstrated the kingdom (Acts 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:28-31). We have a responsibility to do likewise. The congregation has to be taught, trained and equipped to such a task, and to be constantly ministered to to maintain such a task. Such a task does not come by coercion or imposition, but by conviction. If any member does not understand the gravity of this task, it is the leader's responsibility to minister to him and help him comprehend, rather than force or impose it upon him with the hint of exclusion from the main thrust of the church for noncompliance. Such people will either go about doing the task without knowing why, in which case he is vulnerable spiritually, or else they will simply become disinterested and fade out from service, their fire having been quenched. The task of the leadership to the congregation is to be a pediatrician, helping people to grow, and not a surgeon, cutting out parts that are unable to follow or keep up.

As is seen, I have not put forward a specific program or timeframe for the training of the congregation, tempting though it may be. Having grandiose schemes and programs tends to put us into a routine, and we become bound to our programs, and get so engrossed in trying to meet the targets and quotas that we set so much so that we do not realise that God may be moving in new directions. Targets and the need to achieve results are burdensome to the congregation. Our visions and programs will become our bondage, and too much emphasis will be placed on human achievements and results rather than total reliance on God to provide. In effect we will develop tunnel vision, some sort of putting blinders on a horse and refusing to see anything beyond our plans and programs. Anything outside our plans becomes suspect and the congregation will be prevented from developing ministries that do not fall within our programs. And, in the long term, we end up trying to achieve the goals of our programs rather than achieve the task that God has set before us. We end up working for ourselves, not for Him, noble and God-centered though the aim of the program may have at the beginning.

I am not disparaging programs, but we should not let it become an end in itself. Any computer can run programs, but does it have life? The Church is to minister life through the Holy Spirit. The Church is a living body, and as all living things, the various parts have to be taken care of before the body can function effectively as a whole (1 Cor 12:12-31, esp. v. 21). We should use programs, rather than create programs to follow, in developing and training the congregation. One notable "program" which has been discussed and used extensively is of course the Diocese of Singapore Lay Training series (DLT). In the final analysis however, the DLT series is a means rather than an end in itself. We should structure and train the congregation around the fourfold purposes of the Church, using whatever suitable means available for the current needs, rather than fall into the rut of creating a machine that runs programs. The Church is a living organism, and growth, reproduction and multiplication is inherent in its life, provided proper ministry and feeding is given.


To Build and Nurture

This returns us to the statement at the beginning of this article that the manner and basis in which the leadership structure is to be set up determines the quality, plan of ministry, and growth of the congregation. Biblical leadership and ministry will result in a thriving congregation that will naturally grow and multiply as in Acts 2:47 without having to be told. That was the way it was in Acts, and that should be the way it should be now. This may seem idealistic, theoretical, or even retrogressive, but if the Christians in Acts did it, why can't we now? Why should we add additional burdens onto our congregations and deprive them of the joy of serving the Lord fully and simplistically?

We talk of church growth strategies and plans. This is perfectly good at the macro level (both nationally and internationally, eg diocesan- or denominational- wide), which is tasked with co-ordinating the work of the various parishes and to make sure that no work is duplicated needlessly, to channel limited financial resources to areas of greatest need that will benefit the whole Diocese, and to carry the work of the Gospel overseas. On the local church level, the Lord has only one strategy - that of Acts 2:42-47, with the letter to the Ephesians as His love letter to the Church giving her guidelines for her work. We should not run the local church as if it were the Diocese, or try to build a diocese within a diocese. The local church leadership must be able to discern the Lord's leading daily. This is where the battle is, and as with all wars, situations are fluid, and the church must adapt the training to the situation, not slavishly bound to set ideas and programs. So, in such ever changing situations, how can the church grow if fixed to man-made strategies and "long-term" plans? The only thing that is unchangeable is the Word of God and His strategy. The local church simply grows through the Lord's blessings as they preach the Gospel in and through their daily living, and when it gets too large, it divides and becomes two daughter churches, each going whichever way the Lord may direct. This kind of church will survive any situation (1 Pet 2:12).

The New Testament Church is redeemed to minister to the Lord, to the saints, to the sinner and finally be used to judge Satan and his evil kingdom. This is the fourfold purpose of the Church's existence. No wonder Paul said "Unto Him be glory in The Church both now and ever more" (Eph 3:21).





© Nicholas Tay 1992, 1999




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