The Maturing of the Saints

 

“But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days!”   Matthew 24:19.

This was a warning that the Lord Jesus gave when He was describing the last days.  Another way that I think we could phrase this is, “Woe to those pastors who keep their people in immaturity!”

Yesterday, we addressed the need for the equipping ministries listed in Ephesians 4 if the church is to function and mature as it is supposed to.  I want to now elaborate a little on the next verse in this chapter, Ephesians 4:14:

“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.”

This verse is a good depiction of much of the body of Christ today.  It is accurate to say that most Christians remain spiritual children.  They get tossed about by waves and movements, but seldom mature, and few ever walk in their calling.  Those who are not tossed about by waves and movements are tossed about by winds of doctrine that carry them from one emphasis to another.  These are the ones who are doing relatively well!  The rest are captured by the, “trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.”

As we read in the previous verses, one of the reasons the equipping ministries are given to the church is so that this will not happen.  It will continue to happen, however, until these ministries are restored and given their rightful place of authority and influence in the church.

We begin to feel good about ourselves if we think that we know some apostles, prophets, or evangelists, etc., and that our church recognizes and receives from them.  This may be true of some, but if we are to examine the fruit of those who call themselves apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, or teachers, do we see what is described here in Ephesians 4?  Is there any church on earth where all of the members are really being equipped for the ministry as it states in this chapter?  Is there a congregation anywhere that is really growing up into the measure of the stature that belongs to the fullness of Christ?

I am including the congregations that I have been a part of planting in this assessment as well.  We have done fairly well in equipping some of the people to do some things, but overall we too fall far short of this level of ministry that is supposed to be the standard for all churches.  I am therefore not writing this to condemn anyone’s church or ministry, but rather as a cry that we must wake up.  We only have a couple of the equipping ministries functioning in our church at this time. We invite those who would like to visit and help us in what we are lacking, and they do, but not in the kind of depth that it really takes to equip the people to do the work of the ministry.

As I stated yesterday, I only know of a handful of ministries throughout the world who really seem to understand and are committed to equipping believers to do the work of the ministry.  Most just think that it is their job to go around performing their ministry, and if people catch on to what they are doing and are able to then do some of it, great.  It is apparent that less than 10% of the Christians in the church today even know what their calling is, and less than this are actually functioning in their calling.  This is a spiritual tragedy.

I watched my father endure a number of strokes until he could only move one arm a little.  To see him in this condition for several months has been one of the hardest things I can ever remember going through.  How does the Lord feel when He looks down on the church that is supposed to be His glorious bride and she can barely move an arm a little?  If we have been trusted with an equipping ministry in the church, are we not responsible for this?

The present form of ministry in the church, as it is understood and functioning, is not accomplishing its biblical mandate.  There must be a radical change in our understanding of ministry.  As the saying goes, “Unless you change your course you will end up where you are headed.”  We are in need of a drastic course correction in the very way that church leadership and ministry is now conducted.

Our condition is not just the result of the church failing to understand and accept apostolic and prophetic ministries today.  It is deeper than that.  We do not really understand evangelists, pastors, or teachers either.  It appears that those who have these callings seldom even understand their own purpose in more than just a superficial way.

Jesus is the model of all true New Testament ministry.  When you think of Him you must also think of His disciples.  Immediately after He began His ministry He started calling disciples whom He could train to do everything that He did.  This should be fundamental to all who are in ministry.  Whenever we are sent out to do ministry we should have around us those who are not just called to be assistants, but who are there to learn to do everything that we are doing so they can go out and do the same.

There are not many who are secure enough in their ministry to do this.  I have questioned quite a few who feel that if they do this then those whom they disciple will end up taking many of “their people.”  One who is this insecure should not be in ministry in the first place. If the Lord really commissioned our ministry, then He will take care of us.  If we do not have this fundamental security in our lives, then we need to question whether the Lord has really sent us, or if we have just assumed a position by our own efforts.

One of the great models of New Testament ministry was actually the last prophet under the Old Covenant, as well as the first under the New Covenant, John the Baptist.  His whole purpose was to prepare for the One who was to come after him, to point to Him, and then be willing to decrease as He increased.  Contrary to this, church history testifies that almost every movement persecutes the succeeding movements instead of helping to prepare the way for them, blessing and commissioning them.  Therefore, almost every new movement that arises to help the church advance also comes with all of the problems of not only being an orphan, but one who had to live in fear of his parents trying to kill him! This must change.

Like the Lord Himself, we must understand that our fruit will not remain unless we help prepare those who are to carry our ministry further and even do “greater works” (see John 14:12).  Until we do this, the church is going to continue to be tossed about and subjected to the trickery of men instead of advancing toward her destiny.  The encouragement is that there is now a great movement across the earth to recover our basic biblical mandate for ministry.  It is time, and it will soon be accomplished.

 

~ Pastor Rick Joyner


Rick JoynerPastor Rick Joyner is the founder and executive director of MorningStar Ministries and Heritage International Ministries and is the Senior Pastor of MorningStar Fellowship Church.

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