“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
Ephesians 4:11-16 NLT
Leaders and shepherds are gifts from God to the church. Gifts are just that: gifts. They should never garner more attention than the “Gifter” (God). Sadly, this happens sometimes. Occasionally, these “gifts” prop themselves up, make names for themselves, and gather admiration from equally “immature” Christian audiences. You might come across posters advertising Christian conferences where the picture or name of a renowned speaker takes center stage. On the side of the church members, there is a danger of giving more honor to God’s servants than to God Himself. I once witnessed a congregant scrambling to a front-row seat to have a better view of a visiting renowned speaker and to experience a closer range of anointing from him. When people start to “treasure” the gifts above the Gifter, it becomes idolatry.
Paul clearly spelled out the responsibility of church leaders: equipping and building. When you think about equipping and building, what comes to mind? Is it training sessions and an increasing congregation size? Is that what God wants for the church—a community that buzzes about attending Christian courses and works hard to bring people to church to enhance the numbers? No, there is something more vital: the church should “be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” God is not seeking a big church filled with “baby” believers but a congregation of mature disciples who portray Christ-likeness.
Then Paul singled out the marks or symptoms of immaturity. Perhaps it is easier to see the negative before understanding the positive traits of maturity. The signs of immaturity are when people are “tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching” and “are influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” A clear mark of immaturity is not the absence of service in a church, but rather when people go or serve solely where the attraction lies, be it “feel-good” sermons or “spine-chilling” supernatural experiences. This is a dangerous path to tread, particularly in the end times when false teaching becomes rampant and commonplace. Paul stressed that we can only be mature when we grow “in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son.” Personal knowledge and a daily relationship with the Lord Jesus are the only ways to spiritual maturity. Maturity cannot be attained by attending ad hoc Christian conferences or undergoing numerous training courses. It doesn’t work that way! In fact, one of the sure signs of maturity is the demonstration of love, as Paul mentioned: “As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” The mark of discipleship is love, not head knowledge or even having an abundance of spiritual gifts.
1. This passage is not meant for you to judge the leadership in your church. It is to help you evaluate your prime motivation in Christian service and ensure Jesus is always the centre of all you do in serving a church
2. If you are a church leader, it’s time to reflect on the prime go in helping others go in Christ and whether your emphasis, your work of building up others are consistent with truly biblical objective to produce matured disciples in life and character and not simply knowledge-filled or talented individuals.