The modern approach to Scripture starts with what we want and fits Scripture to it so that God appears to say what we are doing pleases Him. One of the best examples of this dysfunction comes from the often quoted “equipping the saints.”
Kingdom Leadership Dynamics for the Ecclesia
Paul opens our eyes to God’s leadership strategy in Ephesians 4. Jesus leaves earth, and bestows five different kinds of leaders upon the kingdom Ecclesia that function to prepare and position saints (holy ones) to serve within the Body to make the Body function efficiently and effectively. Paul uses the body metaphor to explain how these leadership dynamics produce the results Jesus wants for His church.
In one particular phrase, Paul uses the Greek word, katartizo, to define how these leadership dynamics operate and what they accomplish when they are doing what He designed them to do. Jesus gave the five dynamics of leadership to “katartizo” the holy ones so they can work the ministry within the Body of Christ.
“Equipping the saints” becomes a fundamental, spiritual health issue for the Ecclesia, and the proper meaning of the term, katartizo, grows in importance for a good understanding of how leadership works in the kingdom.
Like many words, this term has different facets of meaning depending upon the context in which it is used. For example, when the word is used in a medical sense, it can have the meaning of setting a bone so that it will heal properly. When it is used to speak of fishermen working on their nets, it means the nets are being repaired so that fish won’t slip through holes torn in the nets by previous use or strains from daily use. When the word is used to speak of military preparation, it speaks to the position and provision for soldiers, lining up archers with bows and arrows, putting horsemen who can ride on horses would be a way of understanding how the term fits military “equipping.”
Luke 6:40 says, “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” “Fully trained” being katartizo as that term operates in the context of discipling. The meaning of “equipping” can be measured in discipling terms.
Should we use the medical context because Paul discusses the Ecclesia in the metaphor of a body? Should we use the military context since the Ecclesia has a warfare assignment that the gates of hell cannot withstand? Should we use the “perfecting” translation as if the context calls for a “maturing” of individual members of the Body? Or, should be use the discipling context because we are speaking of kingdom leadership dynamics bestowed by Jesus upon His kingdom Ecclesia?
I propose that this term means, “Prepare and position,” in this context, and that this dual meaning best describes what Paul says about kingdom leadership. I see Paul’s point as “leaders position members of the Body to function, preparing them to function at optimum levels in ways consistent to and in coordination with the systems of the spiritual Body, the Ecclesia.
We cannot see the results Paul describes without both concepts; we need to see a discipling leadership method that both “prepares and positions.” The uses of the term all point to both these aspects.
Medically, preparation and positioning is needed for proper function as a part of a living organism, operating within the systems of that body. Militarily, preparation and positioning is needed for proper battle plan execution so each soldier is not only where he needs to be but ready with tools and weapons to do what he is prepared to do. Leadership wise, discipling methods that prepare and position are needed to realize the end results Paul describes, for he speaks of the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, reaching to a mature man.
This leads me to conclude that a great deal of the discussion about “equipping the holy ones” merely forces this important revelation into modern church growth structures and institutional organizational charts, as if teaching people to greet, usher, host, or watch the kids resembles what this Scripture pictures in this passage. Paul could not envision such an inadequate conclusion! Neither did Jesus bestow these five leadership dynamics upon the kingdom in order to get the floor swept, or Sunday morning service moving with efficiency.
Such an approach to Ecclesia is like taking an aspirin for an earthquake. (I think Oswald Chambers said.)
What is Church?
If you begin with the modern definition of “church,” you end up with a picture of “equipping” that Paul would not recognize. Paul would ask, “Nice, but where’s the Ephesians 4 implementation I wrote about in Ephesians 4?” Paul wasn’t imagining nor what Holy Spirit inspiring the apostle to describe church growth methods for modern churchanity. Paul was thinking of the kingdom Ecclesia representing Jesus as a called together into assembly cultural and legislative body capable of making kingdom decisions and enforcing kingdom influence with spiritual power for lasting impact!
Paul saw a game plan for conquest, a blueprint for construction, a training module for champions, and a method of leadership that prepared and positioned body parts to do their jobs well enough that the whole organism would represent the Son of God in society.
Church is “ekklesia.” This does not mean, “Call out.” Another Greek term was used to say, “Call out.” This does not mean, “called out of the world” since it doesn’t mean “called out” at all. Of course, we are called out of the world, but that is not what Jesus or any other Bible author says when the term “ekklesia” is used. So, the metaphor of the Ecclesia as a body, building, or bride, offers us a picture by which to understand Ecclesia, but none of them is Ecclesia because they are metaphors.
People are not really bladders, arms, eyeballs, and lymph nodes. People are not really bricks, windows, shingles, and electrical wiring. People are not really unmarried maidens wearing engagement rings and planning for their wedding day pictures.
Church can be understood from these, and the word Paul uses in Ephesians 4 speaks to the body metaphor in particular. It does not mean only that broken bones need to be set so they will properly heal, however, because there are many other body parts besides those that make up the skeletal system.
Ecclesia is the “called together assembly” that comes from within the kingdom, assembled to for specific assignment, to accomplish specific kingdom economic, cultural, governmental, and military purposes. In that sense, the “preparation and positioning” of the holy ones becomes more clear in any one of the metaphors for church.
The leaders Paul mentions are kingdom leaders and the people they prepare and position are kingdom citizens. The citizens obey and submit to the King’s sent representatives so the process of preparation and positioning can proceed. The leaders have the King’s blueprints for building, the King’s understanding of His body to produce His stature, and the King’s expectations for a prepared and positioned bride. While none of these metaphors “walk on all fours,” each of them helps us understand “prepared and positioned” in a fuller way.
The King Ain’t the One Doing This
The King isn’t doing this becomes the most obvious part of the kingdom leadership dynamics. The King doesn’t disciple anyone. The King doesn’t prepare and position anyone. The King doesn’t provide the leadership directly to the saints because He sends representatives to do that for Him.
Oddly enough, this challenges many modern believers. They confuse what Jesus does personally through His Holy Spirit in believers with what Jesus does corporately through His called together in assembly Ecclesia. What Jesus can do for a person individually and what Jesus wants that believer to do corporately are two very different things.
He has a strategy for preparing that includes discipling, testing, maturing, teaching, training, nurturing, correcting, and restoring. He has a strategy for positioning which includes blueprints, schematics, team building, relational covenant, and oneness.
Kingdom includes every person born into kingdom. A person must be born anew to see the kingdom; a person must be born anew to enter kingdom. Once they are born anew, their enlivened spirit begins to encounter Holy Spirit Who teaches, reveals, leads, convinces, motivates, and testifies within them. Once they are born anew, their kingdom citizenship brings them into contact with the king’s representatives who prepare and position them to function within the kingdom, a reality that Paul uses the “members of His Body” metaphor to explain in Ephesians 4.