by Demi Prentiss
In Ephesians 4, Paul declares that the work of church leadership is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry,” which he describes is “building up the body of Christ.” Observing the emphasis that many Christian communities place on gathering for worship, formation, and fellowship, it might be hard to discern how that “building up” process might be occurring for anyone except “insiders,” people who find their way inside the walls of the church building.
Those of us who understand “ministry” as a daily, whole-life endeavor for all God’s people long for the day that faith communities claim their calling to truly equip their members: to give them tools to leave the church grounds and become intentional, functional ambassadors for the reign of God wherever they find themselves. Such folks can transform organizations, neighborhoods, even cities as they work to do God’s work in the world.
Our friends at the Theology of Work website offer strategies for helping a congregation practice that sort of equipping. Their web page on The Equipping Church poses four key questions for churches that aim to equip their people for mission in daily work:
- What is God’s Mission in the World?
- How does human work connect to God’s work?
- What does this mean for people in their daily work?
- How can we equip our people for God’s work in the world?
Faith communities that want to “equip” their people tend to shift focus, prioritizing “beyond the church walls” work over “inside the church” work. That last question can help faith communities shape their lives together in ways that build up the body of Christ, both those inside the church walls as well as among all the people they encounter.
What does it look like in practice for a church to operate in a way that reflects these changed perspectives and priorities? Churches that have embarked on this journey demonstrate a number of common characteristics.
- have a vision of God at work where their people work
- actively hunt for examples and resources
- connect daily work to worship
- address the opportunities and challenges their people face at work
- invest resources in equipping people for daily work
- create structures to sustain this ministry
- empower and collaborate with people in the congregation to lead the ministry
- release and support their people for work outside the church
- encourage everyone to take responsibility
- include daily work as part of youth ministry and compassion/outreach/service ministries
What items on that list are characteristic of your own congregation? Which of those practices might you want to undertake during the coming year?