Christ’s Grand Vision for his Church

By: Bob Kellemen

As I consult for local churches, I repeatedly hear the concern that “our church seems to be going in a million different directions.” We need a biblical vision that perceives the grand story God is writing and our role in it as His church. This starts as we understand the résumé of pastors and of God’s people.

In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul highlights the Bible’s most powerful, focused vision statement for the church. This passage offers God’s ministry description for church leaders and for every member. By distilling the essence of God’s call, Christ’s vision captures our imagination and motivates the shift in ministry mindset that changes everything.

8 Words Describing Every Pastors Calling from Christ: The Résumé of Pastors

Most pastoral search committees would be thrilled to read a candidate’s résumé that demonstrated the ability to preach, counsel, and administrate. Most seminaries would be delighted if graduate exit interviews indicated that pastoral ministry students perceived that their seminary training equipped them for preaching, counseling, and administrating. Being equipped to do the work of the ministry seems to be everyone’s ideal goal for church leaders.

Everyone but Christ. His pastoral ministry description emphasizes the ability to equip others to do the work of the ministry. Christ has every right to write our ministry description…and He does: “It was he who gave some to be … pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service…” (Ephesians 4:11-12a).

Christ’s grand plan for His church is for pastors to focus on equipping believers to do the work of the ministry.

Paul launches verse 12 with a tiny Greek word (pros) translated by an even smaller English word (“to”) with giant meaning: with the conscious purpose of, in order for, for the sake of, with a view to. The word indicates the future aim and ultimate goal of a current action. That is, by definition, a vision statement—Christ’s grand vision statement for every pastor/teacher.

What is the future view, the future vision to which Christ sovereignly gave His church pastors and teachers? Paul says it succinctly:

To prepare God’s people for works of service.”

These eight words must be every church pastor’s reason for existence.

One central word—“prepare”—must capture every pastor’s passion for ministry. “Prepare” comes from the word for artist, craftsman. Pastor—your special craft, your opus is people, equipped people, disciple-makers. Your spiritual craft or gift is to help others to scout out their spiritual gift, identify that area of ministry, and empower them to use that gift.

A church is a community of gifted people, not merely a community of people with a gifted pastor.

In Paul’s day, people commonly used “prepare” in the context of conditioning an athlete. Pastor—you are a spiritual conditioning coach. Your job is not to play all the positions on the team, but to coach every player on the team, to strengthen their spiritual condition so they are able to do works of service. This fits perfectly with how Paul uses the word prepare—to train someone so they are fully fit and mature enough to complete their calling.

The leader’s calling is to help God’s people to fulfill their calling.

These weren’t just words for Paul. He made making disciple-makers his personal ministry description—Colossians 1:28-29. He made equipping equippers his personal ministry practice—Acts 20:13-38. Christ’s grand vision so captured Paul’s ministry mindset that at the end of his life he passed onto Timothy the vision of equipping equippers of equippers—2 Timothy 2:2. The baton of equipping passed from Christ’s hands, to Paul’s hands, to Timothy’s hands, to the hands of reliable disciple-makers who passed it on yet again.

Let’s not drop the baton. Let’s keep Christ’s grand vision alive and moving into the future.

5 Words Describing Every Believer’s Calling from Christ: The Résumé of God’s People

We often miss the vital real-life, how-to application of every-member disciple-making that Paul embeds in Ephesians 4:11-16. Exactly what are pastors equipping people to do? Specifically how do members do the work of the ministry?

Paul answers: By “speaking the truth in love” we grow up in Christ (Ephesians 4:15). Every word in this passage funnels toward this remarkable phrase:

“Speaking the truth in love.”

These five words must be every believer’s reason for existence.

Christ’s grand plan for His church is for every Christian to be a disciple-maker by speaking and living gospel truth in love.

Paul selects a unique Greek word which we often translate as “speaking the truth.” We should translate it as “living the truth.” We might even coin the phrase “truthing.” Paul likely had in mind Psalm 15 where the Psalmist asks, “Who may dwell in your sanctuary?” He answers: “He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart” (Psalm 15:2). Who can serve in God’s sanctuary, the church—the one who embodies the truth in relationships.

Paul’s word for “truthing” means transparent, truthfulness, genuine, authentic, reliable, sincere. It describes the person who ministers from a heart of integrity and Christlike, grace-oriented love. It pictures the person whose relational style is transparent and trustworthy. The tense and context indicates that the body of Christ should continually, actively, and collectively be embodying truth in love as it walks together in intimate, vulnerable connection.

While “truthing” means more than speaking, it does not mean less than speaking. While it means more than sheer factual content, it does not mean less than the gospel fully applied. Paul uses the identical word in Galatians 4:16. There he is clearly speaking of preaching, teaching, and communicating the truth of the gospel of Christ’s grace (salvation) applied to daily growth in Christ (progressive sanctification).

Combine Galatians 4:16 with Ephesians 4:16, both in context, and we find an amazing description of gospel-centered ministry—of the personal ministry of the Word. Speaking the truth involves:

Communicating gospel truth about grace-focused sanctification in word, thought, and action through one-another relationships that have integrity, genuineness, authenticity, transparency, and reliability, done in love to promote the unity and maturity of the body of Christ for the ultimate purpose of displaying the glory of Christ’s grace.

The normal agenda and priority of every Christian is to make disciple-makers. Christ’s training strategy for disciple-making involves pastors equipping every Christian to embody the truth in love through the personal ministry of the Word—gospel-centered biblical counseling.

What happens when pastors focus their calling on equipping God’s people to make disciple-makers through the personal ministry of the Word by speaking and living the truth in love? Paul shows us in Ephesians 4:16. The Body in robust health grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work.

Truth for Life

How would our churches change if we followed Christ’s 8-word résumé for pastors?: “To prepare God’s people for works of service.”

How would our churches change if we followed Christ’s 5-word résumé for God’s people?: “Speaking the truth in love.

 

Dr. Robert W. Kellemen is the Vice President for Institutional Development and Chair of the Biblical Counseling Department at Crossroads Bible College, the Founder and CEO of RPM Ministries, and served for five years as the founding Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. For seventeen years Bob served as the founding Chairman of and Professor in the MA in Christian Counseling and Discipleship department at Capital Bible Seminary. Bob pastored for 15 years and has trained pastors and counselors for three decades. Bob earned his BA in Pastoral Ministry from Baptist Bible College (PA), his Th.M. in Theology and Biblical Counseling from Grace Theological Seminary, and his Ph.D. in Counselor Education from Kent State University. Bob and his wife, Shirley, have been married for thirty-five years; they have two adult children, Josh and Marie, one daughter-in-law, Andi, and three granddaughters: Naomi, Penelope, and Phoebe. Dr. Kellemen is the author of thirteen books including Gospel-Centered Counseling and Gospel Conversations.

 

 

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One comment on “Christ’s Grand Vision for his Church
  1. Wayne Moore says:

    Thank you for sharing these truths. I find that I must stop often and evaluate my ministry. It is so easy to get distracted. Your article helps me to zero in again on my main goal.

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