"EQUIPPING THE SAINTS FOR MINISTRY" The Providential Necessity INTRODUCTION 1. In Ep 4:7-16 , we see where Christ has given "gifts" to His church... a. These "gifts" are such functions as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers b. Some of these "gifts" were temporary 1) Such as apostles and prophets 2) For their work relates to the establishing the foundation of the Lord's church - Ep 2:19-22 3) Once the foundation had been laid, their work as such was completed c. Other "gifts" are permanent 1) Such as evangelists, pastors, and teachers 2) For their work of adding to and building up the body of Christ continues to be needed 3) Building upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, this work is ongoing - cf. 1 Co 3:9-11 2. The purpose of these "gifts" (offices, if you will) is defined by Paul in Ep 4:12 ... a. "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry" b. "for the edifying of the body of Christ" 3. "Equipping The Saints For Ministry", then, is an important function of those who serve as evangelists, pastors, and teachers... a. Indeed, it is a major reason why we assemble together - He 10: 24-25 b. Titus, a young preacher, was instructed by Paul time and again to work toward this end: 1) "Remind them...to be ready for every good work" - Ti 3:1 2) "...these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works." - Ti 3:8 3) "And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful." - Ti 3:14 4. As a minister of the gospel of Christ... a. I certainly have a responsibility in the area of evangelism - cf. 2 Ti 4:5 b. But if I am to "fulfill my ministry", I must think in terms beyond my own personal work as an evangelist c. I must also give thought to how I can contribute toward "equipping the saints for ministry" 5. Thus with this lesson, I begin a series of studies designed to... a. Point out the "necessity" for a local church to focus on "equipping the saints for ministry" b. Stress the need for, and the value of, diversity of function in the body of Christ c. Provide direction on how we, as a local congregation of Christ, can facilitate "equipping the saints for ministry" [In the first two lessons, I want to emphasize the "need" for a congregation to be concerned about equipping its members for service. For unless we appreciate the necessity, we are not likely to possess the motivation required to carry through with the challenge we face. There is first of all, "The Providential Necessity" for equipping the saints for ministry. To understand what I mean by that, consider that...] I. THE LORD IS BUILDING HIS CHURCH A. "I WILL MY BUILD MY CHURCH"... 1. Jesus made His promise in Mt 16:18 a. Certainly this promise pertains to the "establishment" of the church b. But I believe we have good reason to say that Jesus is still building His church 2. As the "head" of the body, the church (Ep 1:22 ,23), we should not be surprised to see that He is very much involved in the "expansion" of the church! 3. In fact, in nearly every example of conversion recorded in the book of Acts, the Lord worked in some way to create the opportunity for the person to hear the gospel B. EXAMPLES OF THE LORD'S INVOLVEMENT... 1. The Lord waited until thousands were gathered in Jerusalem to pour out the Spirit and let Peter preach the first gospel sermon - Ac 2 2. Philip was sent toward Gaza where he would meet the Ethiopian eunuch - Ac 8:26-28 3. The Lord saw to it that Saul and Ananias would get together - Ac 9:10-18 4. Likewise, it was the Lord who saw to it that Cornelius would have an opportunity to hear the gospel from Peter - Ac 10 5. The evangelization of Europe (beginning with the conversion of Lydia and the Philippian jailor) occurred after the "Macedonian Call" led Paul and his companions in that direction - Ac 16 C. THE WONDERFUL PROVIDENCE OF GOD... 1. Granted, the above examples are in keeping with the miraculous events surrounding the establishment of the Lord's church 2. However, I propose that they illustrate a principle that is just as valid for us today... a. The Lord knows the hearts of all men, and still seeks those who are seeking Him - cf. 2 Chr 16:9 b. He will make sure that those who "hunger and thirst for righteousness" will somehow be "filled" - cf. Mt 5:6 3. This is where the providence of God comes in... a. If someone, somewhere, is seeking to do God's will (as was the eunuch, Cornelius, and Lydia)... b. ...the Lord will give the one seeking truth an opportunity to come across one prepared to do the teaching 4. Thus Paul viewed those who taught others as "God's fellow- workers" - 1 Co 3:5-9 a. They are simply servants through whom the Lord gave opportunity b. It is God who is giving the increase [So the Lord is very much involved in the "expansion" of His church, and can do much through His providential workings in the affairs of men. Of course, how useful "we" can be to the Lord in His providence is dependent upon our willingness to prepare and be available for service...] II. THE LORD "OPENS DOORS" FOR THOSE PREPARED TO SERVE A. THE SCRIPTURES OFTEN SPEAK OF "AN OPEN DOOR"... 1. Some doors the Lord opened... a. An "open door" for Paul at Ephesus - 1 Co 16:9 b. Another "open door" at Troas (though not fully utilized by Paul) - 2 Co 2:12-13 2. But these doors are opened only when there are those prepared to be used by the Lord - cf. Re 3:8 B. IF WE DESIRE TO HAVE DOORS OPENED, WE MUST PREPARE OURSELVES... 1. To be useful to the Master, we must be prepared for every good work - cf. 2 Ti 2:20-22 2. This applies to congregations as well as individuals... a. Individuals must prepare themselves to be able to teach, or to lead souls to those ready to teach b. Congregations must be ready to assimilate new converts into the family of God where they can be nurtured during a vital stage of their new life in Christ 3. What if we as individuals and as a congregation are not prepared? a. Can we really expect the Lord to us in His providence? 1) Who can He use to teach? 2) Who can He use to encourage? 3) Who can He use to serve? b. Can we really expect Him to "open a door" for a congregation if it is made up of uncaring, and therefore unprepared, Christians? CONCLUSION 1. And so there is "The Providential Necessity" for us to be concerned about "Equipping The Saints For Ministry" a. If we wish to be a "light" for the Lord in our community, we must develop our ability to "shine" b. If we wish to be "salt" that He can use, we must develop our "flavor" 2. In our next lesson, we shall examine the "necessity" from another angle, what I call "The Practical Necessity" for equipping the saints for ministry Dear brother or sister, are you doing what you can to make yourself "useful to the Master"?