“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-15 (NIV)
Ministry in general, and youth ministry in particular, has long been misunderstood in its purpose by the church as a whole. Does ministry exist to evangelize the unsaved? Do our churches have classrooms for kids and teenagers so they can be kept busy while parents attend “real” church? Is it so we can have our weekly dose of positive and motivational feelings to get us through the coming week? While there may be some value to these reasons and others like them, the Scriptures seem clear as to why Jesus has called men and women the world over to dedicate their lives to formal ministry; to equip God’s people to live lives dedicated to the cause of Christ.
There is much that the modern Christian must contend with in our culture. Jesus never promised ease, comfort, or convenience when He brazenly challenged us to pick up our crosses, leave all behind, and follow in the path that He set for us. First of all, our adversary, the devil, never ceases in his attempts at causing division and conflict among the saints. If we are too busy fighting one another, we cannot take up arms in a unified front of spiritual warfare against him! Thus it falls to the ministers of the Gospel to lead God’s people in being unified in our cause for Christ.
Jesus also warned us about false prophets and teachers that would arise in the last days and lead many astray with their doctrines of men and demons. How many well-intentioned, passionate brothers and sisters have had their spiritual growth come to a grinding halt because they were deceived by sharp-tongued, charismatic “spiritual” leaders who really only had their own personal interests at heart? It is the purpose of the church to stand firmly on the foundation of God’s holy, revealed Word against “every wind of teaching” that comes and goes with every fleeting fancy of false prophets. The minister of the Gospel is to be a beacon of truth that lights the path back to Scripture for every disciple of Christ to follow.
Evangelists, pastors, and teachers are called to look for the gradual growth of their congregations in understanding deeper truths of Scripture and maturing in Christ. Too may of our churches are locked in a spiritual arrested development, having to rehash the same “milk” of the Gospel over and over again and never broaching the “meatier” matters of conforming to the image of Christ (Hebrews 5:11-14). God’s Word is more than altar calls and sinners’ prayers. It divides soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12) and reaches to our most inward parts. It is life, sustenance, and power to those who would access the blessings that God offers us freely. It transforms us from the inside out and threatens to do more through us than we can ever ask or imagine! (Ephesians 3:20)
The gifts of the Gospel are there for the taking and it falls to divinely-appointed, Holy Spirit-empowered shepherds to teach God’s flock how to recognize, embrace, and fully use them to the glory of Christ our Savior! This is what it means to equip God’s people. This is what it means to minister.