"EQUIPPING THE SAINTS FOR MINISTRY" The Practical Necessity INTRODUCTION 1. In our previous lesson, we made the following observations... a. That Christ gave "gifts" to His Church - Ep 4:7-10 b. That such "gifts" included such functions as "evangelist, pastors, teachers" - Ep 4:11 c. That the goal of those so employed is to "equip the saints for ministry" - Ep 4:12-16 d. That the Lord is still building His Church, opening doors for those prepared to serve - Ac 14:27 ; 1 Co 16:9 ; Co 2:12 ; Co 4:3 e. That if we desire the Lord to open doors for us, we must be prepared to serve, both as individuals and as a congregation - 2 Ti 2:20-21 ; Re 3:8 2. Thus we have "The Providential Necessity" to be concerned about equipping the saints for ministry a. This needs to be a concern we have as individuals b. And it should be a concern we have as a local congregation 3. Before proceeding further, I thought it might serve well to describe what I call "The Practical Necessity" for equipping the saints for ministry [In other words, from a practical viewpoint, any congregation that wishes to grow must give serious consideration to "Equipping The Saints For Ministry". To understand what I mean, consider the challenge of maintaining consistent church growth...] I. THE "REVOLVING DOOR" SYNDROME A. MANY CHURCHES HAVE LITTLE TROUBLE GAINING MEMBERS... 1. Some are very diligent in spreading the gospel, and people are obedient to the Lord 2. Others are blessed to live in growing areas, and Christians look for a church when they move in to the area B. BUT MOST CHURCHES HAVE TROUBLE KEEPING MEMBERS... 1. They lose members about as fast as they get them a. New converts become weak in the faith, and drift away b. Christians new to the area attend for awhile, and then look elsewhere 2. It has been well documented that many churches cannot break beyond the "75 barrier" or the "200 barrier" a. Both barriers are related to "group dynamics" (principles that affect people's ability to relate to one another in a particular group) b. But the problem basically boils down to this: growth does not continue, because people are not being assimilated into the "family life" of the congregation [Some people do not really care about church growth, being happy to maintain the "status quo." But we are talking about souls here, not numbers, and any true Christian will have a concern on what can be done to add souls to the body of Christ! The solution to the "revolving door syndrome" actually has several different elements. But in keeping with our theme of "equipping the saints for ministry", let me focus on one essential element...] II. INVOLVEMENT OF EVERY MEMBER A. THE IMPORTANCE OF EVERY MEMBER INVOLVEMENT... 1. In his book WHY CHURCHES GROW, Flavil R. Yeakley emphasized the importance of every member getting involved in some way or another... 2. "The more involved a person becomes in the work of the congregation, the more important the congregation becomes in his life. It logically follows, therefore, that a congregation which offers people many opportunities for involvement would be more successful in attracting and keeping converts than would a congregation which offers few opportunities for involvement." (p. 40) 3. "Total evangelism includes more than reaching the lost. It also includes involving the members in the work of the local congregation. If a congregation does not use its members it loses them...the congregations with the highest drop-out rate were the congregations with the lowest involvement level." (p. 113-114) 4. "If a congregation can maintain a high involvement level, its conversion rate will be higher, its drop-out rate will be lower, and thus its net growth rate will be higher." (p. 44, 45) B. THE CHALLENGE OF INVOLVING MEMBERS... 1. Yeakley also addressed the challenge a congregation faces to involve every member, especially when it starts to grow... 2. "In general, the larger the congregation the lower the involvement level...Why does the involvement level tend to decrease as size increases?...The problem with the larger congregations is that they have not been able to increase the number of task assignments fast enough to keep pace with their expanding membership." (p. 41, 42, 43) 3. "Actually, the real problem was not always the ACTUAL roles- to-members ratio, but was sometimes the PERCEIVED roles-to- member ratio. In other words, a larger congregation might actually have more than enough specific task assignments to go around, but the members might not be aware of the many ways in which they could get involved." (p. 43) 4. "If a congregation has a good actual roles-to-member ratio but a low perceived roles-to-members ratio, the problem is one of communication...A congregation can have a high involvement level no matter how large it becomes--if: a. that congregation will do the necessary organizational work so as to have a high actual roles-to-member ratio b. the congregation's leaders will communicate in the right way so as to have a high perceived roles-to-members ratio 5. So the challenge is not just to have something for people to do, but letting them know what is available to do! CONCLUSION 1. Thus "Equipping The Saints For Ministry" is a practical necessity as well as a providential one 2. If we want the Lord to open doors for us so we can used by Him to reach lost souls, we must equip ourselves to be of service (the PROVIDENTIAL NECESSITY) 3. If we want those who come our way to feel that this congregation is important to them and vice versa, we must provide opportunity for every member to be able to serve! (the PRACTICAL NECESSITY) 4. Indeed, if we desire growth in the body of Christ, EVERY member must be doing his or her part, if the body of Christ is going to grow as it should! - cf. Ep 4:16 Having emphasized in these first two lessons the NEED for "Equipping The Saints For Ministry", our next study will focus on the diversity of function in the body of Christ.