“I have never felt a deeper relationship with my brothers in Christ than since we have been serving together on the same ministry team.”
This is something not only heard, but observed in the lives of those committed to sharing ministries in the church. As believers we are all members of one body. The apostle Paul says that from Christ the head, “the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16).” Earlier in the same passage we learn that the members of the body do their work when they are equipped for ministry.
Today the term “equip” has a variety of meanings, but originally it meant to connect. Churches that have transformed their elected committees into functioning ministry teams, in which every member has a responsibility to fulfill, have made an encouraging discovery. They have learned that connecting people to ministries also connects them to each other in relationships that are deeply fulfilling.
During the past few years a number of churches in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches have become a part of an Equipping Network. This is an informal grouping of churches in which the leaders, both pastors and lay leaders, measure their effectiveness not only by how well they do ministry, but also by how well they involve others in ministry.
Though equipping occurs in one way or another in every church, the challenge of every church is to make it a part of the church’s DNA. An Equipping Church is one in which there is an intentional commitment to equipping, the designation of someone to serve as an equipping coordinator, and an effort to make equipping an expression of the church’s culture.
Here are some observations that have grown out of the experience of those who are seeking to infuse such a culture into their churches.
Intercession. Dependent prayer is the indispensable element for being an equipping church—not just through lip service or routine prayers at the beginning of meetings, but prayers of genuine faith. Ministry is not what we do for the Lord, but what He chooses to do through us. Praying in faith means total dependence on the Lord of the church as the One from whom and into whom the church grows. Infusing an equipping culture requires the mobilization of people to intercede regularly for the involvement of the church’s members in ministry, for members to identify their giftedness, and for the church’s ministries.
Identification. Every church must be able to identify its ministry needs. For many churches, this is difficult because paid staff members fulfill most ministries. When ministry needs are identified, equipping churches are able to focus on the development of open-ended ministry teams focusing on these needs. These ministry teams usually re- place the committees and commissions that are elected on a yearly basis. Equipping churches develop ways of identifying those the Lord has sent them in order to involve them in ministries.
Involvement. An Equipping Church believes that every member is gifted for ministry. Therefore an Equipping Church will be focused on involving every member into a specific ministry. This will enable the members to discover their gifts, and will create a thirst for further training. Traditionally we have been led to believe that people should first be trained, and then allowed to become involved in ministry. However, the best training is in ministry rather than for ministry.
Instruction. It has been mentioned that involvement in ministry creates a thirst for further training. Train ing that is disassociated with ministry can easily become theory. In addition to personal mentoring and coaching provided by the ministry teams, specialized training should be offered. This training should be related to felt needs and should be holistic, targeting both the head, heart, and hands. Though creating a Bible training school within the church can be an effective aspect of training, this kind of formal training is only one of many training tools for equipping.
Inspiration. The success or failure of infusing an equipping culture is directly related to the ability of the church to give value to those in ministry through positive affirmation. Nothing is more motivational than a spontaneous word of sincere appreciation for ministry well done. Problems have to be dealt with, but can usually be handled in a way that will not diminish the person’s sense of value. Criticism should always be sandwiched between statements emphasizing appreciation on the one hand, and challenges to the potential of the person on the other. In addition to spontaneous affirmation, monthly equipping gatherings that foster a sense of teamwork for all who are involved in ministry are very effective for showing appreciation to those involved in ministry.
An Equipping Church values people above programs.
An Equipping Church values people’s potential above their position.
An Equipping Church values people’s purpose above policy and process.
Becoming an equipping church is a journey, rather than a destination. But it is a journey well worth taking, for it can transform ministry consumers into ministry co- workers. An Equipping Church encourages all members to rise to their full potential for Christ. – by Tom Julien
Editor’s Note: Tom Julien is the former executive director of Grace Brethren International Missions (Encompass World Partners). He now serves as equipping pastor at the Winona Lake, Ind., Grace Brethren Church, and continues to be a leader in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches.