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Equipping Ain’t Equipping

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What the Five Kingdom Leaders Do

The famous phrase from Paul’s discussion of kingdom leadership, “equipping the saints,” ain’t about equipping. At least, not so much. The idea that local church pastors teach people to do stuff so they aren’t doing it all – well, that is so far removed from what Paul discusses that we need to start all over to think about Ephesians 4.

The King’s Authorized says, “perfecting the saints.” Several other historic translations follow this path toward a one-word translation of the term.

The “equipping” translation is more recent, and many followed that trend. The newer conversational Gospel or paraphrases, including the contemporary language translations, moved toward “training or preparing.”

First of all, the word cannot be translated with one word, and that is why the idea of perfecting, equipping, preparing, and training seems improper. If you are attempting to provide a word-for-word translation, you have to make choices from the options by considering the context or what Holy Spirit is revealing of God’s thinking through the author.

Secondly, the use of the term in this context is often considered applicable to the “body of Christ” metaphor in the following verses. Because Paul speaks of a body as a metaphoric picture of the ekklesia, the translation tends to reach for the possible meanings that answer to “leaders” and “body.”

Thirdly, the term is one of those multi-use words that carry a primary or root meaning into working definitions involving all kinds of applications. The uses range from military to fishing net repair, resetting a broken bone to bringing order to a system.

Fourthly, the term is used but once in the new covenant portion of the Bible. So, the comparisons of its use – as it appears in Ephesians 4 – come from related words and root word analysis.

Holy Spirit Says

We want to know what Holy Spirit says through Paul. We want to understand how this unique word, chosen by inspiration, communicates a spiritual reality. We want to know this well since it speaks to the very reason kingdom leaders were bestowed upon the kingdom of God. We want to know how to produce the result Jesus desires. We want to know the definition of success for kingdom leadership.

The word is katarismon. The kingdom leaders do something that produces this condition. The holy ones (saints) receive this activity. The kingdom leaders do this, so the saints serve. The kingdom leaders do this, so Christ’s body receives strength and functionality as an integrated spiritual system composed of holy people.

Paul does provide some measurements of success. These measurements also provide us with insights as to the meaning of the activity that produces them. So, among the available applications of this word, we can also add the activities leaders do that produce these results.

The activity described by katartizmo, the verb form of this word, as I’ve noted, has a variety of applications:

  • mending fishing nets speaks to the repair of an order or a system or patterned strategy that, when whole and adequately aligned by repair, serves its most elementary purpose;
  • praise reaches its highest power in the children shouting as Jesus rides into the Temple area on a colt, and the implication of this usage is that of perfecting or reaching ultimate preparedness or fully charged with its highest potential (hence the older “perfecting the saints” one-word translation);
  • providing warriors or workers with the equipment they need to be more effective and efficient at the task or assignment, or military orders they have been given by their leaders (hence the favored “equipping the saints,” one-word translation);
  • restoring a believer overtaken in a fault speaks of position or placement lost, standing regained, a spiritual condition of wholeness restored;
  • integration of the parts into a whole with a sense of knitted together through proper spiritual connection accomplished by following a schematic or design that puts people where they are supposed or destined to be with the capacities to function or operate in that point in a living, life-giving, spiritual matrix;
  • fill what is empty, supply what is lacking, complete what is not finished, bring to ultimate or highest individually to produce a fullness for the whole matrix composed of the individual parts properly ordered and operational;
  • position broken bones, two or multiple parts moved back into place, so they mend back to the proper alignment;
  • prepare and position warriors on a battlefield strategically, according to a battle plan;
  • make the whole orchestra produce the one sound by tuning and playing individual instruments by a musical score directed by and interpreted by a conductor;
  • simply make something what it is supposed to be, so it does what it is supposed to do.

Prepare and Position

If we combine all these elements in the context of kingdom leaders doing something to produce this result, measured by the body of Christ being and doing what Paul describes, the activity encapsulated by the term katarismon must have two translated elements: prepare and position.

So, I propose that we translate this word, in this context, describing the measurable result Paul describes with those two words:

Jesus bestowed five kingdom leaders upon the kingdom of God to prepare and position the citizens to be and do what makes the building, body, and bride of Christ fully integrated, operational in all its systems, to produce the ultimate of what the Capstone, Head, and Groom has designed His ekklesia to be and do.

Once we reach this conclusion about the result and the designed process, we fit it carefully into the Great Commission call for individual and cultural training and obedience to the King. Then, we fit it into the discipling process with a fathering spirit to represent and partner with the Father. Then, we consider the kingdom culture’s relational dynamics for marriage and family, culture and economy within the kingdom of God, and the ultimate influence of the kingdom Ecclesia in the existing culture.

Once we do, we discover that individual kingdom citizens, fully submitted to the King, enter an intentional relationship with kingdom leaders designed and empowered by God to prepare and position each of them as part of a spiritual matrix or Oikos.

Then, we guard that matrix against division, contrary systems, anything that creates a distraction from the Capstone, Head, and Groom, and apply the discipline that increases what God created each person to be and called each person to do. In other words, kingdom leaders are responsible for providing the strength of will to those they father spiritually to endure the processes that produce their ultimate integration and function in something bigger than them.

This is the definition of submission. To receive the katartismon, each saint intentionally submits to the process provided by Jesus, available through human leaders functioning in five specific ways, transforming the person’s priorities to fit the more significant concerns of the King of the kingdom.

Without submission, none of this happens. To the extent the individual submits to the process to gain the strength to endure its pathos, that individual saint matures. The process of preparation and positioning begins with the leaders knowing what the position of the saint will be, so the preparation for that position can be applied.

Don Lynch

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