The Résumé of Pastors: The Church as a Teaching Hospital for Soul Physicians
In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul highlights the Bible’s most powerful, focused vision statement for the church. This passage offers God’s ministry description for church leaders and for every member. By distilling the essence of God’s call, Christ’s vision captures our imagination and motivates the shift in ministry mindset that changes everything.
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. His 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.
Instead, we listen to modern church culture that screams, “The pastor is the preacher, care-giver, and CEO!” It’s time to listen 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.
An Eight-Word Pastoral Mission Statement
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.
A church is a community of gifted people, not merely a community of people with a gifted pastor.
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.
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 moving into the future.
A Teaching Hospital for Soul Physicians
Caring churches often talk about the church as a “hospital for the hurting.” I agree with that mindset, but I’m convinced it will not become a reality unless church leadership envisions the church as a teaching hospital for soul physicians.
In any quality teaching hospital, experienced physicians mentor physicians-in-training through on-the-job training. In any Jesus-centered church, experienced soul physicians equip soul physicians-in-training through giving and receiving biblical counseling in community.
The Rest of the Story
For an introduction to what this looks like, we need to ponder a second résumé: The Résumé of the People of God: The Church as a Community of Grace Sharers. Our next RPM blog post will develop this résumé from Ephesians 4:15-16.
Join the Conversation
How would church ministry change if these eight words were every church leader’s reason for existence?
“To prepare God’s people for works of service.”
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