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The Role of Leaders in Jesus’ Mission

Training God's Ministers

The following explains at length my philosophy of leadership. This applies to Pastors, elders, deacons and any other church leaders responsible for the work of the church as a whole.

So Christ himself gave
the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors-trainers,
to prepare his people to serve,
so that the body of Christ may be made larger and stronger
until we all work as one by trusting and knowing the Son of God
and become mature, growing up match all that is Christ.

– Ephesians 4::11-13

Most of us know the “80/20 rule” – 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work. Sadly this applies to most churches. Many people come to church to received and not give. Paul tells us that the fault for this lies with leaders. In Ephesians 4:11 he clearly states that the purpose of leaders is

“…to prepare [Jesus’] people to serve…”

If people in the church do not see their role as service, then the fault lies with those of us who lead. Let’s examine this God-ordained role of church leaders.

  1. So Christ himself gave… Church leadership does not arise from the democratic impulses of our people. Jesus gave leaders. Therefore, Jesus designed leadership for a definitive purpose that cannot be altered. True leaders of churches serve Jesus’ purposes and the desires of the people and/or the church as an organization second, if at all. What Paul tells us about church leadership can be ignored only by denying Jesus his Lordship.
  2. So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors-trainers… Here Paul defines broadly the basic kinds of leadership. While various ideas circulate around whether apostles and prophets still exist today, and what the nature of the work of an Evangelist may be, clearly the Pastor-Trainers directly impact the local church.

    I have hyphenated this last category because the Greek construction that Paul uses indicates that these last two categories belong together as one. I have also replaced the traditional translation “teacher” with “trainer” since Jesus designed these particular leaders to apprentice members into particular tasks. They use the foundational theological work of the apostles and prophets (the Bible) along with the evangelists (planting churches) to form and train apprentices who will serve.

  3. So Christ himself gave… …the pastors-trainers, to prepare his people to serve… This measure of leadership contradicts most of the measures we currently use. Paul does not focus on how good they preach, administer, or even evangelize. He declares pastors-trainers to be effective when they prepare others to serve. How often to do we make the major focus of evaluating a pastor (or other leaders) whether others around them become more active and more effective in service? Yet this is the obvious implication of Paul’s words.

    We dare not reduce this to simply calculating the number of people busy in church programs. Activity does not equal service. Paul describes &3147;service” as «διακονιας» (pronounced “dē ă kō NĒ ahs”). This word refers to the kitchen slaves in a house who waited at the sides of the dining room to replenish food and serve the other needs of those who dined. They watched for what was needed and met that need. Serving in a church program may reflect providing what is “needed” or just filling slots provided for by entropy in the church programs. This depends much on the giftedness of the members.

    Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,
    as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

    – 1st Peter 4:10

    Service needs to be gift-based. If we have people busy with activity based on our program’s needs, rather than their gifts, we fail to effectively lead Christ’s Body. Futhermore, looking back at God’s mission for the church we see that the service needs to ultimately lead to going to people outside the church, embracing them into the presence, power, authority and identity of God in Jesus Christ and leading them to master Jesus*#146; work of seeking and saving the lost. Effective leadership can then be measured by how many people are being trained and deployed into Jesus’ mission. Paul says as much here.

  4. So Christ himself gave… …the pastors-trainers, to prepare his people to serve,
    • so that the body of Christ may be made larger and stronger
    • until we all work as one by trusting and knowing the Son of God
    • and become mature, growing up match all that is Christ.

    Paul here describes three goals for service:

    1. A larger and stronger church. In some Christian circles we speak about “edifying” the church. The word comes from this passage where Paul says that we are to «οικοδομην» (pronounced “oi kō dō MĀN). This word literally refers to building a house. When we build a house the building gets larger. The building does not feel “happier” or “blessed”. And we do not simply make what has been built so far “stronger”. A house that does not grow in the process of building remains nothing more than a foundation or at best a frame. New pieces must be added to the old to complete the project.

      Likewise, a church that does not grow by adding new apprentices, cannot be said to be “edified”. Of course churches do not grow larger forever. At maturity any church needs to do what all mature creatures of God do: reproduce, plant new churches. If you think your church is “large enough” and shouldn’t grow any larger, then prove it by planting a church. Furthermore, churches usually have to draw in new members at a rate of about 3% a year just to replace members who leave or die. No church can afford not to reach out. Leading churches that do not make apprentices indicts us as leaders.

      Of course, Jesus does not desire a larger weak church. Building the church will entail making the best apprentices we can. And that leads us to the second goal for service.

    2. Unity in Jesus measured in faith and knowledge. Paul calls us to serve in a way that increases our unity by increasing our faith in and knowledge of Jesus. Keeping this in the context of God’s mission for the church this means unifying around what Jesus did. It begins with his work to seek and save those who are lost ((Luke 10:19), to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). We entrust ourselves to his work of rescuing us and submit ourselves to him as Lord. Yet, once we understand that we are apprentices of the Savior, we see that we, too, have one mission, the same mission of Jesus.

      Unity in Jesus means unity in recruiting apprentices to Jesus. Unity based on any other goal falls short of Jesus’ mission. As we grow in our knowledge of Jesus we cannot miss this part of being his apprentice. We learn about Jesus’ trade and then we learn to do it. We watch Jesus in action and then we begin with small reflections of his master craftsmanship. And as we trust Jesus more and more we come to trust that as we try our hand at his work we will both find grace for our inadequacies and power from the Holy Spirit. This leads us to the final goal.

    3. Fully achieved mastery of Jesus’ trade. Paul indicates that mature Christians achieve the heights of Jesus. Many of us had places where, as we grew up, our parents placed a mark on the wall. The goal always seemed to become growing to the height of dad or mom or our older sibling. We would be “grown up” when we got “that big”.

      Mature Christians grow up to be like Christ Jesus. We who say that we are mature need to make sure that we are measuring against the full stature of Jesus. And we, as leaders, need to ask if we are leading churches where people become trained to add members, unify around Jesus’ mission, and grow all of us up until we reflect all of who Jesus is, including entering his trade as journeymen and masters. If we measure our leadership on that basis, we will make real headway as churches.

For more information on improving our effectiveness in Our Only Mission see: