Equipping the Saints for Ministry

October 01, 2017

Chris Westmoreland, pastor of Long’s Chapel UMC in Lake Junaluska

It was my last year of seminary when I sat down in the office of a beloved professor who was asking a question about a recently submitted project.  He asked, “I am not ordained but do you believe that I too am called by God?” My answer was confident, “Of course you are, we are all called and gifted by God for service.” Then I graduated and it’s like I had spiritual amnesia. I wanted to be super pastor. I didn’t see it at the time but everything I said “YES” to in ministry was depriving a volunteer servant in the church of using their God-given gifts.

I firmly believe that everybody who connects to church is looking for significance and purpose. My most important job was helping people find significance in being loved by Christ and, serving Christ in response. My call was to live into Ephesians 4:
11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”
But I honestly felt that the congregation was “paying” me to do ministry on their behalf: to caretake the flock, to lead the missions, to organize the church and so on. Anything less would be “shirking my responsibility.” What if there were a higher calling? Now don’t get the wrong impression - I wasn’t doing everything in the church, there were amazing servants doing incredible work - but I didn’t see my primary role for what it was:  “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” I didn’t just wake up one day and get all this. But given some tools like “Apprenticeship” and investing in others, I started taking notice of folks that I was equipping and what a “win” it was to see them succeed. It was contagious and beautiful and I was hooked. As a pastor, I need to be “willing” to do any job in the church but my primary job is to give ministry away. That’s not shirking my responsibility, IT IS my responsibility.

God tells us we need each other. No one person has all the needed gifts, so we must work together. When we help people use what God has graced them with: people are fulfilled and God is honored.

Truth is, we are all significant. There is only ONE of you, and there will never be another. If you don’t offer what you have to build God’s kingdom on earth, the world is deprived of that contribution. We are all a masterpiece, a one of a kind.
“For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)
If you are a church leader - don’t deprive the kingdom of the gifts of your people. “Equip” and “empower” and “encourage” should be HOLY words to us. We are NOT called to change the world as much as we are called to reach and lead the people that will change the world. Tom Patterson says, “Show me a person who doesn’t know his talents or hasn’t developed them for service to others, and I will show you a person who has little sense of purpose, meaning, motivation or value.”

Everything that is needed to renew the church, we already have.  We just need to unleash it.

Church leadership is messy work. Developing people is messy work. But just as the beauty of a masterpiece eventually emerges through the strokes and colors thrown on a canvas, Jesus is doing a good work through you. Philippians says, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” God will keep working on you until you look just like Jesus. And that’s the hope for the world.
Follow Jesus. Make Disciples. Transform the World.