Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Relating to an Ephesians 4 Team
Steve and Debra Sudworth, along with their 2 girls, Rebecca and Hannah, arrived in Chicago in May 2004 in obedience to God’s call to church plant. They have been leading Church in the City (www.churchinthecity.us) since then. Their son - Cade - was born 2 years into the plant.
How Leaders & Churches Relate to an Eph-4 Team!
Before getting started I need to assume that we (elders, deacons & leaders, at least, but hopefully saints within our churches too) have settled (at least to some degree) the WHY of Eph-4 ministry. Perhaps it's presumptuous to assume this but in this article I want to focus on HOW to relate to Eph-4 ministry, not WHY. Let's agree at least that Eph-4 ministry into local churches is not the latest church growth strategy but THE biblical wineskin for local churches to come into maturity in the fullness of Christ. Eph 4:7-16 is all about that...it's from Jesus, for Jesus, about Jesus, pointing to Jesus. Paul emphasizes this in his apostolic exhortation to the church in Corinth, hoping their devotion to Christ remains sincere, pure and wholehearted (2 Cor 11:3).
I have the privilege of providing leadership to the elders and deacons who lead Church in the City in downtown Chicago. I would never want them to view our church's current partnership with an Eph-4 team as "Steve's thing". No! If something were to happen to me to prevent me from leading the church or if and when our leaders plant churches I would want them to partner with Eph-4 ministry because, simply put, it's biblical. But more than that, the text in Eph 4 says nothing about training leaders but rather training and equipping the SAINTS for ministry until ALL come to maturity in Christ.
So, how should our leadership teams and churches relate to an Eph-4 team?
1. Welcome them warmly!
Acts 21:17 and Acts 28:14b-15
How? Intentionally & thoughtfully teach your people OFTEN & SPECIFICALLY about translocal/Eph-4 ministry.
If translocal/Eph-4 ministry relating to and working with local churches is biblical (which it is), then it should be part of our church's DNA and foundation! And if part of our DNA, then we should be speaking and teaching on it often. Quite simply, it just takes people time to understand so we need to be incorporating this into our leaders meetings & training, Sunday gatherings, "membership" classes, connect groups, prayer meetings, blogs, etc.
But our teaching and training needs to be specific about which team your local church relates to otherwise Eph-4 ministry can become to many a nebulous concept. The church I am a part of relates to NCMI. These are the kinds of questions we regularly ask and answer...
• Who is NCMI? A translocal team of Eph-4 gifts with an apostolic/prophetic heart (going and breaking into new regions; seeing, preparing and becoming the future in God) helping local churches achieve their God given vision. Key texts are Acts 14, Acts 19 and Eph 4.
• Who is visiting from the team? This requires some level of relationship so that I can stand before the church with conviction and say "You can trust this couple."
• What to expect and why is it important to prioritize the time?
• How should we receive them? Scripture is clear that when we receive a prophet we receive a prophet’s reward! We need to be clear to our churches how to receive the Eph-4 gift in order to receive greatest benefit.
• (And with respect to nationwide EQUIP's or training times) Why is it important to take a week’s vacation and spend money to travel and attend an EQUIP?
2. Receive them as friends!
• Create some space for relational times over the weekend with your leadership teams and potential leaders.
• Whilst it is a privilege relating to a diverse team with diverse gifts, there is value in having 1 or 2 team couples through your church consistently.
3. But recognize and receive their authority!
Philemon 8-9, "Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order (command) you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love."
• There is an authority that an Eph-4 gift carries but it's not an hierarchical authority but an authority associated with their gifting.
• Because of this recognized authority it is helpful to reference the Eph-4 team on key decisions involving DISCIPLE, DOCTRINE, DIRECTION (asking for perspective, though, not permission).
4. Listen carefully to what they say!
In Acts 2:14 Peter starts his incredible sermon at Pentecost with) “Listen carefully to what I say…” How do we ensure this? Create space BEFORE (to adequately prepare the saints) and AFTER (to respond effectively to Eph-4 ministry). We can easily dilute what God wants to say and do in these times by planning to many Eph-4 events or visits back-to-back or cluttering our church planners with other events around Eph-4 ministry times that forces people to choose. In this case I believe less is sometimes more!
• Factor in the "rocks" of (for e.g.) 3-4 Eph-4 weekends in your church, a regional GTT and national EQUIP time into your planner and let the church know as soon as possible so they can plan accordingly.
• Be STRATEGIC in who you invite in response to what God is saying and doing within your local church. If you're not sure who to invite in response to a specific season God has your church in then ask one of the team guys that you know well to recommend someone you might not know.
• Be specific in communicating EXPECTATIONS for the weekend so they have at least some idea of what God is already doing within the local church and what have you been teaching on.
5. Have great expectancy for their ministry amongst you!
Acts 11:25 + 27 = Acts 13:1
The apostles and prophets we read about in Antioch did not happen perchance but because apostles and prophets had already been ministering into that local church for some time. Be expectant for God to do much and release gifts within your local church.
6. Devote yourself to their teaching!
After the Eph-4 ministry weekend or GTT or EQUIP is perhaps more strategic and important than before. Most of us agree that "more is caught than taught" so for a saint to see Eph-4 ministry in action rather than just to hear teaching on it is infinitely more effective and valuable.
• Reinforce the biblical precedent, value and importance of Eph-4 ministry following a ministry weekend.
• So much is communicated by what we do or don't say after an Eph-4 ministry visit. We can add infinite value to the ministry by taking time to go over key points, truths or application for your local church, perhaps interrupting your preaching series for a week or two to do this. We perhaps communicate loudest when we don't say anything to our church about an Eph-4 ministry visit.
• Encourage everyone to ask themselves 2 questions following Eph-4 ministry; (1) What did God say? (2) What is my response? Do this as a leadership team too.
Trust you find this helpful as we go into the new year. May 2012 be an incredible year of serving our King and extending His Kingdom for all of us!