During the early days of television two shows dominated the airwaves. One aired on Tuesday nights and the other on Sunday evenings. Initially the more popular show was The Texaco Star Theatre hosted by Milton Berle. It was designed originally along the lines of the old-fashion vaudeville variety hour with a host highlighting half-a-dozen guests each week.
However, little by little, Milton Berle became the star. As the format changed, the accent gradually focused increasingly on Berle. There were fewer guest acts as Berle began to dominate each show. In just eight years, the show ran out of steam. No one person is talented enough to carry any show, or any ministry, for more than a short time.
The other show, The Ed Sullivan Show, experienced a very different fate. If any show in the history of television could be called an institution, it would be The Ed Sullivan Show. Every Sunday night for more than two decades this show brought an incredible variety of entertainers into homes. Sullivan’s show continued as a major hit for fifteen years longer than Berle’s show.
Unlike Berle, Sullivan never wavered from his original format. He was the host who called other people to center stage. Numerous performers made their television debut on his show: Walt Disney, the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, and hundreds more. Though Ed Sullivan died soon after the last run of his show, his legacy outlives him.
Are You Like Milton Berle or Ed Sullivan?
God calls Christian leaders to be like Ed Sullivan, not like Milton Berle. If we’re like Berle, and the spotlight increasingly focuses on us and our individual ministry, then biblically we’re missing God’s mark as equippers. If we fail to focus on equipping, then we selfishly treat God’s people like children who have never grown up spiritually.
God wants us to be like Ed Sullivan—a host who calls others to center stage by equipping them to fulfill their calling. When we focus on equipping, we leave an other-centered legacy of loving leaders.
God’s Grand Vision for His Church: Ephesians 4:11-16
In Ephesians 4:11-16, the Apostle Paul highlights the Bible’s most powerful, focused vision statement for the Church. This passage offers God’s ministry description for church leaders.
Most pastoral search committees would be thrilled to read a candidate’s résumé that demonstrated the ability to preach, counsel, and administrate. Most seminaries would be delighted if graduate exit interviews indicated that pastoral ministry students perceived that their seminary training equipped them for preaching, counseling, and administrating. Being equipped to do the work of the ministry seems to be everyone’s ideal goal for church leaders.
Everyone but Christ.
Christ’s pastoral ministry description demands the ability to equip others to do the work of the ministry. If seminaries followed Christ’s vision for pastoral ministry, they would focus on training trainers. If pastoral search committees desired in a pastor what Christ desires, they would throw out every résumé that failed to emphasize experience in and passion for equipping the saints.
The Pastoral Ministry Mindset Shift That Changes Everything: Every Pastor an Equipper of Equippers
You would think that we would listen to the Head of the Church. Instead, we listen to modern church culture that screams, “The pastor is the preacher, care-giver, and CEO!”
It’s time to listen again to the Head of the Church.
“It was he who gave some to be… pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service…” (Ephesians 4:11-12a).
Christ’s grand plan for His Church is for pastors/teachers to focus on equipping every member to do the work of the ministry.
Paul launches verse 12 with a tiny Greek word (pros) translated by an even smaller English word (“to”) with giant meaning: with the conscious purpose of, in order for, for the sake of, with a view to. The word indicates the future aim and ultimate goal of a current action. That is, by definition, a vision statement—Christ’s grand vision statement for every pastor/teacher.
The Résumé of Pastors
What is the future view, the future vision to which Christ sovereignly gave His Church pastors and teachers? Paul says it succinctly: “To prepare God’s people for works of service.” These eight words must be every church leader’s reason for existence.
One central word—“prepare”—must capture every leader’s passion for ministry. “Prepare” comes from the word for artist, craftsman.
Local church leader—your special craft, your opus is people, equipped people, disciple-makers. Your spiritual craft or gift is to help others to scout out their spiritual gift, identify that area of ministry, and empower them to use that gift.
In Paul’s day, people commonly used “prepare” in the context of conditioning an athlete. Local church leader—you are a spiritual conditioning coach. Your job is not to play all the positions on the team, but to coach every player on the team, to strengthen their spiritual condition so they are able to do works of service.
This fits perfectly with how Paul uses the word prepare—to train someone so they are fully fit and mature enough to complete their calling. The leader’s calling is to help God’s people to fulfill their calling.
Passing the Baton of Ministry
These weren’t just words for Paul.
- He made making disciple-makers his personal ministry description—Colossians 1:28-29.
- He made equipping equippers his personal ministry practice—Acts 20:13-38.
- Christ’s grand vision so captured Paul’s ministry mindset that at the end of his life he passed onto Timothy the vision of equipping equippers of equippers—2 Timothy 2:2. The baton of equipping passed from Christ’s hands, to Paul’s hands, to Timothy’s hands, to the hands of reliable disciple-makers who passed it on yet again.
Let’s not drop the baton. Let’s keep Christ’s grand vision alive and move into the future by being Ed Sullivan-like pastors.
Join the Conversation
What can you do to be more and more the “Ed Sullivan” Christian leader?
Note: This post was developed from material in Equipping Counselors for Your Church and is used by permission of Bob Kellemen and P & R Publishing.