Why We Need to Equip and Be Equipped

April 30, 2013

Equipping Series - Why We Need to Equip and Be Equipped

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Adam Embry

Equipping Series - Why We Need to Equip and Be Equipped

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part Seven of a seven-part Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Equipping Counselors for Your Church. In this series, you’ll read:

The Biblical Basis

“Equipping” is a huge word in the world of biblical counseling. Numerous books are written and conferences held to equip biblical counselors so they can in turn equip others.

While preparing to preach on Ephesians 4:11-16, I noticed several reasons in the immediate and larger context for why ministers must equip and church members must be equipped. The first section is for ministers; the second, for laity. Each point in the sections corresponds to one another.

Reasons Ministers Must Equip

  1. Equipping magnifies Jesus’ love for the church. After His ascension (Ephesians 4:8), He gave the gift of ministers to the church (Ephesians 4:11) to equip the church to grow in Him (Ephesians 4:15). Equipping others makes much of our gift-giving Lord.
  2. Equipping magnifies Jesus’ cosmic victory over evil. Paul’s reference to Psalm 68:18 in Ephesians 4:8 puts Jesus’ incarnation and ascension into focus as the mission to save the church and defeat evil. In Ephesians 4:10, Jesus is said to “fill all things,” which is a reiteration of Ephesians 1:22, where He is exalted over His enemies as the church’s ruler. Further implications of Jesus’ victory over evil are seen in Ephesians 6:10-20, the armor of God passage based on the warfare language of Isaiah 11:4-5 and 59:17. Equipped ministers (and all believers) stand on the edge of eschatological battle against evil knowing victory is immanent (1 Thessalonians 5:8-9). The days are evil, live Spirit-filled (Ephesians 5:16).
  3. Equipping confirms a minister’s calling, as equipping members for the work of the minister is part of his ministerial labor (Ephesians 4:11-12). The 19th century Baptist theologian, John L. Dagg, said, “Every man who believes alone, that he is called of God to the ministry, has reason to apprehend that he is under delusion. If he finds that those who give proof that they honor God and love the souls of men, do not discover his ministerial qualifications, he has reason to suspect that they do not exist.”[1] If we are equipping others, then others can point to us and say, “There’s a minister, a man who cares for our souls by showing us how to live holy and help others do so.”
  4. Equipping others allows grace to flow into your life and others. Paul didn’t minister in his own strength (Ephesians 3:2) and explained to the Ephesians that they must rely on Jesus’ grace for service, as well (Ephesians 4:7). Equipping others to serve shows church members we want grace to build the ministry, not our ambitiousness, savvy leadership, delegation skills, or, even worse, our self-sufficiency. Equipping unifies the church around Jesus, not us.
  5. Equipping is one of the greatest implications (or validations) of congregationalism or a church built on every-member-ministries.[2] The question of different ecclesiologies aside, church members who believe their main contribution to the church is their ability to cast a vote (hence my emphasis on congregationalism in this point) can miss the point that every member should be contributing to the unity and growth of the church (Ephesians 4:3, 16) by being equipped to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12).
  6. Equipping forces ministers to mortify sin and grow in holiness. As Paul Tripp says in so many helpful and different ways in Dangerous Calling, you can’t give away what you don’t have. Paul could instruct on how to live by grace because he was changed by grace (Ephesians 2:5; 3:2). He understood the impulse for self-righteousness and knew how to defeat it (Ephesians 2:8-10; 3:8). The English poet and pastor, George Herbert, recognized this and said, “So that the parson having studied, and mastered all his lusts and affections within and the whole army of temptations without, hath ever so many sermons ready penned, as he has victories.”[3] Every temptation to sin that is mastered provides a moment to equip others in public or in private (Acts 20:20).
  7. Equipping others for the work of the ministry fulfills the Great Commission. Making disciples of Jesus is the labor of biblical counseling. Whether it’s in our role as husband, wife, child, or worker, all believers need to be equipped to observe all that Jesus has commended through his Word (Ephesians 5:22-6:9; Matthew 28:20).

Reasons Why Members Must Be Equipped

  1. Being equipped says Jesus’ death for the church was worth it and that we are submissive to His rule over us. Jesus’ incarnation, defeat over sin and Satan on the cross, and ascension to rule the church and the universe demand that we submit ourselves to Him as our King who calls us to be equipped to serve His church (Ephesians 4:11-16). Redemption and deliverance into His kingdom implies service to the church in ways that He has planned for us to fulfill (Ephesians 1:7; 2:10).
  2. Being equipped is your way of pushing back the kingdom of darkness. The days are evil, and unequipped or ill-equipped members will be susceptible to Satan’s schemes and false doctrine (Ephesians 4:14; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3). Living holy, living as participants in the new creation of Christ, verifies that we have an inheritance in the kingdom of light and are no longer under Satan’s rule (Ephesians 2:5-7; 5:8-9). You must be armed and equipped with spiritual weapons to fight against the forces of hell (Eph. 6:10-20).
  3. Being equipped confirms the calling of your pastors. Your pastor should be laboring to see Christ formed in you and every member at your church. When you give yourself to be equipped by them, you confirm that the Lord’s grace is at work in your church (Ephesians 4:7). What do we often find in our churches but church members complaining about matters of preference and neglecting to invest in the work of the ministry. Imagine ministry like this—you’re in a Humvee riding into spiritual battle. Your pastor is giving you instruction for spiritual warfare but you’re in the back seat complaining about the tunes on the radio station (worship wars!). We should be respecting and esteeming our pastors who equip us for the work of the ministry (1 Thessalonians 5:12), not complaining about how we want things done. Too much is at stake for this. Being equipped means remembering your leaders who spoke God’s Word to you and imitating their faith (Hebrews 13:7).
  4. Being equipped allows God’s grace to keep us focused on the purpose of the church, a group of redeemed sinners who are growing into Christ-likeness together (Ephesians 2:20-22; 4:16). Grace for ministry is given to all believers (Ephesians 4:7). Focusing on receiving grace to give grace keeps us from heresy and sinful living (Ephesians 4:14) and toward orthodoxy in doctrine and Christ-likeness (Ephesians 4:15-16). Grace-equipped believers ensure churches are committed to Christ’s prerogatives and not their own.
  5. Being equipped is your greatest contribution to congregational life. For example, issues of church discipline (assuming it’s practiced at your church)[4] are dealt with at the relational level among equipped church members before anything is voted on by the majority of the congregation (2 Corinthians 2:6). You can’t live out Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18:15-18 or Paul’s in Galatians 6:1-5 if you’re not equipped to help others deal with their sin, seek forgiveness, and grow in holiness.
  6. Being equipped forces you to grow in holiness and hatred of sin. Paul describes that the church is able to live united because ministers equip the congregation to do the work of the ministry which binds all believers together in Christ (Ephesians 4:1-16). He then describes implications of a united church. Believers live holy together by putting away sinful living and putting on their new life (Ephesians 4:17-32), live together in love (Ephesians 5:1-6), living in light (Ephesians 5:7-14), and living wisely (Ephesians 5:15-6:9). Equipped members can help bring about the holy, loving, and wise church that Christ intends for his people to have.
  7. Being equipped fulfills the Great Commission, as you are a disciple who makes disciples. For example, equipped husbands and wives (Ephesians 5:22-33) turn into equipping grandfathers and grandmothers (Titus 2:1-5). Seek to ensure the congregational health of your church 30 years from now by equipping yourself today.

These corresponding lists are just a starting point for you to consider how necessary it is to equip and be equipped. Hopefully, they have expanded your thinking in theology and biblical theology about the necessity of an equipping ministry. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it continues a discussion in biblical counseling, ministry practices, theological formation, and most importantly, benefits our churches and evangelicalism at large.

Join the Conversation

Which point(s) did you find helpful or challenging to your ministry and church? What other points would you add to the necessity of equipping and being equipped?

[1]    J. L. Dagg, Manual of Church Order (Harrisonburg, VA: Gano Books, 1990, reprint), 248.

[2]    I write as a Baptist speaking to Baptists, at this point, also knowing different church models incorporate the congregation in meaningful and biblical ways. I fully acknowledge the Presbyterians have served (and led) the biblical counseling movement very well!

[3]    George Herbert, A Priest to the Temple, 251-52.

[4]  Referencing Dagg, once again, on page 274: “It has been remarked, that when discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it.”