The Old Approach to Equipping the Saints (Jul – Aug 2009)

By Matt Dabbs

by Lee Keele
July – August, 2009

ChristiaNation?Knowing I risk certain labels, I’ll go ahead and write about laying hands on people and praying that God will equip them for ministry – supernaturally. You’ll note eventually it’s not really about apostolic authority or physically laying hands on people – but believing in the power of God through his Spirit to equip people for ministry because we as his children are asking him in prayer to do just that.

The following thoughts occurred to me during our church’s last celebration of the National Day of Prayer. During an all night vigil – I was praying over each of the points of our congregations mission statement as we have articulated it: Enjoy Freedom in Christ, Equip Saints for Ministry, Engage God’s Mission for Life. Specifically, I was praying that God would help us become an equipping church as our mission statement says. As I prayed and meditated – something occurred to me.

Was it possible that I (we) had missed the boat? Or maybe at least half the boat. That is, if its possible to miss half a boat. (If you’re picky about metaphors – just insert another more appropriate one like “I missed one side of a two sided coin” or something like that.) Anyway, I started thinking about how I as a church leader am involved in equipping people for ministry and I noticed a glaring omission.

Traditionally, we here at Crossroads offer a “Spiritual Gifts” inventory as a part of our membership classes. I won’t disclose it’s title, but our approach has us questioning folks and categorizing their talents and interests through a very carefully thought out survey. Once this is complete, we have helped them “discover” their “spiritual gift.” But as I prayed, and as I thought and mediated on Scripture, it occurred to me that this is not a Biblical way to go about determining Spiritual gifts. In fact – Biblically speaking, gifts are determined not through any man made inventory, but by the “Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:10-12). In truth, we humans don’t determine spiritual gifts at all except to pray for the power of the Spirit and then to wait for God to do whatever he is going to do! I notice especially that in the New Testament, no one was left guessing about their spiritual gifts – they either had them or they did not. When they were endowed with a gift – they were specifically given the ability to do something they could NOT do without divine intervention. Now that’s a gift!

By the same token, I don’t want to slam inventories or questionnaires that help people get plugged in – that is – if they really are helping get people plugged in. The last thing we need in the church is more “busy work” – you know – more surveys and papers to fill out eventually get shuffled to the bottom of the pile – then to the dismal gray of the bottom desk drawer only to be discovered years later when someone is cleaning out their desk because they’ve taken a ministry position somewhere else. But if we can use these tools to direct people toward better ways of employing themselves in the Lord’s church – them let’s use them!

Let’s look at both sides of this coin – or to use my poorly chosen metaphor – let’s not miss the boat. We need well rounded ministries that include prayerful Spiritual equipping (as was the case in the NT as Christians prayed over and on behalf of other Christians – believing that the equipping was determined and accomplished by the Holy Spirit). We also need an approach that includes the involvement of people with their various talents and interests. I think of Romans 12:1 where we are reminded to offer our bodies as living sacrifices! Our spiritual gifts inventories may do a great job helping us get there. The more we understand what it is that we have to offer – well the better equipped we are to offer it! But this side of the coin is the human side.

Spiritual gifts flow from both divine and human directions. There are God’s gifts to us – supernatural in nature. These are the gifts that grant the divine ability to go beyond our normal human capacities. I think our denial of these things has less to do with our theology than it does with the simple fact that we haven’t really tried it. At least this is the case for me. It’s so much easier to give some hollow theological reason NOT to do something than to take a step of faith and do what we find in Scripture.

When was the last time we gathered around our preacher and prayed for him as Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him? Listen to the passion in his plea: “Pray that when I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (Ephesians 6:19-20) Talk about an equipping prayer! Paul, the apostle, is asking the church to equip him through prayer! I’m sure there are churches around that are already doing this, but I fear that many of them aren’t a part of the restoration movement.

But consider this and fret not, my restorationist brothers and sisters! The people in Ephesus were not apostles. Nor were they in a position to physically lay hands on Paul. So apostolic authority or the laying on of hands isn’t really the issue. What appears to be the case is that Paul, the apostle, believes that these ordinary Christians can pray and that God as a result, will do these things. . .

1) Give him (equip him with) words to speak that he might not otherwise have.
2) Give him (equip him with) courage that he might not otherwise have.

Surely if these Ephesians can pray this for their apostle – we can pray it for our leaders today! How much more meaningful a prayer is when offered “hands on” and face to face. I urge churches everywhere to get on their knees and pray that their ministers, preachers, shepherds, and other leaders would be equipped by the power of God’s Spirit to work fearlessly, to preach the gospel confidently – not just with the facts, but with power from God and the equipping that comes only through the touch of his Spirit.New Wineskins

Lee KeeleLee Keele – Christian at age 17. Oklahoma Christian University Grad – (both BA and MA). Preacher for churches in Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas. Now preaching for Crossroads Christian Church, Hutchinson, KS. Married to Ginger for 16 years. Four kids – Garrett, Sam, Emma & Savannah. Law Enforcement Chaplain for 7 years total. Love my job. Love life. [ www.ccchutch.com; www.evenkeele.com] Reach him at [lee.keele@gmail.com]

categoria commentoNo Comments dataJanuary 13th, 2014
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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1584 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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