And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4.11-12, New American Standard)
The first time I put Ephesians 4.11 together with Ephesians 4.12 was twelve years ago in a college ministry. I realized that college students are versatile and mobile. They are able to work in any setting of the Church if properly guided. Ministry has never been the same. My focus has been on equipping and empowering laypeople to minister. The Church must be a potent force in our culture. A Church cannot reach the community if its only focus is on bringing people in to hear great worship, be part of a new program, or listen to an expert preach. Church is not only about bringing people in. Church is a people sent out.
The individualized mindset in the West is one of the greatest obstacles to properly understanding the Bible, much less living it out with a commitment to mission. “Instead of isolated individuality, the overarching focus of the Biblical narrative is the person-in-relationship or the individual-in-community.” We hear God as part of a listening community spanning history. Dallas Willard states, “We stand within a community of the spoken to.”
Personal meaning in life, purpose, or destiny drives Western thought. Ultimately, this existential quest leads the individual into isolation. Personal meaning in life does not compare to shared meaning. There is great joy in realizing we are not alone. We experience God together. We are connected intimately and mysteriously with the family of God. We operate together in Kingdom authority, advancing in the initiative of the Spirit. We are a visible community, a colony of the mother country.
The Early Church leader is not driven by personal destiny or by climbing the corporate ladder. He is noticeably different than contemporary leaders who exercise controlling authority over their followers (Matthew 20.25-28). The Early Church leader takes on the role of a servant and empowers his followers to lead. He equips the saints.