But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:7-16
When Jesus ascended into heaven after his death and resurrection, he gave gifts to humanity. Specifically, he names them as Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers often referred to as “ministry gifts.” It’s not my purpose today to delve into the many questions about these gifts, “Are there four or five?” “Are apostles and prophets extant in the church today?” etc. Rather, how do the bulk of us who do not see ourselves in the role of one of these ministry gifts view their function in our lives?
Paul’s stated purpose of these gifts is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” That is often seen as a function to train believers to be good Sunday school teachers or small group leaders, etc. That training is fine, but I believe misses the real thrust of what it means to be “equipped.”
Excuse me for getting a little technical with language here, but the term could well be translated “to mend or repair.” We find the same word used when James and John are “mending” their fishing nets. Galatians 6:1 encourages us to “restore” our brother.
Some of us, when we first came to Christ, were very broken people. Effective ministry of the Word and prayer has mended or restored us to wholeness and usefulness. This condition of brokenness is not limited to new believers.
Just recently I had a first-time-in-my-life-experience of an anxiety attack. I had missed a lot of sleep over a three day period before entering into a very stressful meeting. At points during that meeting, I realized I wasn’t able to think as clearly as usual and became somewhat confused. It was a horrible experience. It carried over to the next day when I found myself freezing cold when I should not have been. I finally realized it was an anxiety attack, something that I had never experienced before. I had become “broken” and needed mending.
My relationship with the ministry gifts
I was in need of the ministry of my Pastor. I was able to go to him and share my heart and what had happened to me. Together we prayed and shared the Word, and the mending has begun. I am sure it will take a little while for me to be entirely over the effects of this experience, but what I want to communicate is that we can all get broken now and then and we need to be able to go to a “mender” of the saints and get repaired. Ultimately, of course, Jesus is the mender, but one of the means he has provided to do the mending is ministry gifts.
If I were not in relationship with my Pastor, I could not have gone to him in the manner I did. People who think they can get along without the church and don’t need human leadership in their lives don’t understand the Scriptures. If you do not presently have a good relationship with a local church and its leadership, I strongly encourage you to pray and get about finding your place in God’s great church. It is there that you are equipped, mended, repaired and restored. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
Jesus gave these gifts to you for your good, don’t refuse them or ignore them.