In Ephesians 4, Paul makes reference to the equipping ministries sometimes also called gift ministries:
8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men………11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4:8,11-12)
The purpose of these individuals are directly involved in 1. perfecting (maturing) of the saints, 2. work of the ministry (serving), 3. for building up the body of Christ .
So what is the maturing of saints? Maturation involves growing up and coming into full functioning capacity. Spiritually in the day and time we live, it means grow up in Christ. As human beings, maturation means to grow to a place of functioning as adult physically, mentally. and spiritually It means taking on the responsibility for life, making decisions, and discriminating between good and bad, or in other words, functioning on ones own.
As we grow up spiritually believing more and more in our spiritual nature, we become mature and learn to lean more on God less on men. We have been given the holy spirit as a ‘paraclete’ (help that walks alongside). As we mature we are then are in a position to help others grow up in Christ. We can help others grow up and lean on God themselves.
The word ‘pastor’ as it is used today conjures up a different picture than was intended biblically. Often we see the function of a pastor as a big encourager, soother and generally, a kind influence. One of the chief functions of a shepherd is to keep the wolves out of the pen. Shepherds have to be tough and have no fear or hesitancy in recognizing evil. A shepherd cannot be an ‘enabler’ of evil. The spiritual tool absolutely necessary for a pastor-type is differentiating between what is good and what is not good.
A prophet functions in a different capacity. He continues to love, re-love and love some more, by speaking what God wants spoken. In many situations nobody listens. He continues to love with justness and truth by encouraging people with the word of God. God is love, His word is love and a prophets chief responsibility is to call people back to God’s truth. The prophet has to be tuned in to knowledge and wisdom revelation. When one reads through the Old Testament prophets this can be seen quite clearly.
Purpose #2, work of the ministry, needs to be understood as service. ‘Ministry’ in today’s culture projects an organizational structure. In the Bible, it refers to the actions of people to carry out God’s purposes. God’s purpose are God’s purposes not man’s.
Purpose #3, building up the body of Christ, is beautiful. Jesus Christ is the head of that body and he works to build up that body through the spirit. I am amazed at how this is all carried out! As I get older, this concept intrigues me more and more. The smallest details of life often blossom into bigger ramifications than we could ever imagine. Sometimes we don’t immediately see it but over the course of time God often makes sure we see it. Why wouldn’t he?
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:13-15