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25 | A failure to equip?


A failure to equip? A podcast of OpenTheWord.org

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It took several days, but I finally found a book I read several years back entitled Born for Battle.

You won’t believe what was said about one of the most critical events in the last century whose success hung by a thread.

Hi my name is Dean Smith and in this podcast entitled A Failure to Equip, I want to talk about a major shift that needs to take place in the church and its strange connection to square dancing.

Yes, I am talking about the “dosado, allemande right” square dancing.

Born for Battle was written by Australian, Arthur Matthews. Arthur who died in 1978 was born to missionary parents in China and like his parents Arthur ended up on the mission field working for Overseas Missionary Fellowship and was actually under house arrest for several years when the communists took over China under infamous mass murderer Mao Zedong.

On page 55 of his book, in a chapter entitled “Weapons and the Will”, Mathews quotes from S. L. A.  Marshall’s book Men Against Fire where Marshall discussed what happened on D-Day, perhaps the greatest invasion in world history. As the allied soldiers stormed the shores of Europe and took the fight to Nazi Germany. Marshall described what happened that first day among the American units:

He wrote:

“Only five infantry companies [on Omaha Beach Head, June 6, 1944] were tactically effective. In these companies one fifth of the men fired their weapons in the day-long advance from the water’s edge to the first row of villages – a total of not more than 450 men firing consistently.”

S. L. A Marshall, Men Against Fire

When American troops hit the beach on D-Day, 80% of the men did not fire a single bullet. That’s right 80% did not fire their guns.

The author goes on to say of the thousands of Americans who landed on D-Day only 450 men consistently engaged the enemy.

If these were the stats for the best and most aggressive American units, what was happening with those companies that were doing nothing?

Once this report was released there was an immediate backlash with military leaders trying to debunk these claims.

Of course, there are many reasons why this happened: lack of training, fear, plans falling apart, key leaders being killed or injured, unexpected resistance but in the end these alarming statistics ultimately spoke of the army leadership’s failure to prepare and train their men for battle and these military leaders immediately recognized this.

But whether they liked it or not, only 20% of the men under their command were actively engaging the enemy on D-Day.

Unfortunately this story reminds me of the state of the church. What percentage of people in any congregation are actually involved in ministry? I am not just talking about paid staff, but volunteers as well.

In fact, the stats are similar in the church. Authors Scott Thumma and Warren Bird wrote a book entitled The other 80%: Turning church spectators into participants.

In their book, they discuss how only 20% of the people in a typical church congregation are doing 80% of the ministry. The purpose of their book was to show how leaders can and must engage the remaining 80%.

If these two authors are right, the church has a very similar problem to what was witnessed on D-Day.

Why is this?

A few weeks back I was watching a Bible teaching video by Jason Mayfield, a YouTube bible teacher who was doing a series on the Book of Ephesians.

In one video, he broke from his regular format and interviewed Jamie Englehart founder of Connect International Ministries and a man who Jason considered to be his apostle.

Now I won’t cover it in this podcast, but like Jason, I believe the apostolic and prophetic ministry are as valid today as they were 2000 years ago.

In his interview, Englehart briefly addressed the role of the five fold ministry in the church. Found in Ephesians 4:11, the five fold ministry refers, to Apostles, Prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists.

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

Ephesians 4:11-12 NKJV

So what is the role of these key leaders in the church?

What are the five-fold ministry supposed to be doing?

Now most of us would say they are supposed to build and lead the church and the church referred to here is the full Body of Christ, not a local assembly.

But Englehart believes for years the church has been doing it wrong and in part this explains why 80% of church congregations are lying on the beach and doing nothing.

God wants every believer involved in the ministry. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit has given every Christian a spiritual gift and similarly I believe God has a call, purpose and plan for every Christian.

In this passage in Ephesians, Paul says the role of five-fold ministry is to patch people up emotionally and spiritually, equip them and then send them out into ministry.

But according to Englehart, leaders often make one key mistake.

Typically, pastors, apostles, prophets teachers have interpreted this verse to mean that we are equipping people to help in the pastor’s or the apostle’s ministry. Helping the church keep functioning, filling such positions as Sunday school teachers, ushers, youth leaders, parking lot attendants and the list is endless.

They define the work of the ministry as filling the various needs of the local church.

But this is not what Paul is saying. He is saying that the five-fold ministry is intended to equip people to do the work of their ministry, not the pastor’s ministry or the apostle’s ministry or the evangelist’s ministry.

They are there to equip the congregation so that they can do what they have been called to do.

But often pastors are looking at members of the congregation as being the next great usher or great Sunday school teacher.

Yet this is not what the five-fold ministry is called to do.

They are called to equip people to do the work that God has called them to do, not what the pastor needs.

Sometimes what God has called them to do is to be a Sunday School teacher, but more often than not it involves something outside the church, building the Kingdom of God.

A few weeks ago, I met a man who is a “dosado” square dance caller and in fact, he is the only square dance caller in the region where I live. In addition, he and his wife also teach people to square dance through regularly scheduled classes.

Now believe it or not, square dancing is on the upswing and it’s growing.

As the only square dance caller he is in constant demand, more than he can fulfill. But he and his wife are also believers, and he told me that when he calls square dances he often includes gospel songs in his repertoire.

This man and his wife are in a position of influence, potentially impacting hundreds of people. I believe God looks upon this as a potential ministry. Not only that I believe God wants to anoint them and expand their ministry and outreach.

God even wants them to be better square dance callers and square dance teachers, so they can have a growing spiritual influence in people’s lives.

But most church leaders would not really involve themselves in helping a square dance caller to achieve this because it is not really contributing to the local church ministry.

But if God has raised them up to do this, then the pastor should be equipping them, helping them in this ministry as he is commanded to in Ephesians 4 verses 11 and 12.

Now here is a bit more information about this situation, the square dance caller and his wife attend a church in a small rural town, but the square dancing classes take place in a nearby large city.

Why is this significant?

Because I heard later from others that the pastor of the small town church where they attend has publicly stated he considers the square dance caller and his wife as having a valid outreach ministry and has even publicly acknowledged them from the pulpit.

But this square dancing duo are impacting people in the nearby city and the small town church is not likely to see any direct benefit to that ministry.

Yet the pastor is still supporting them, because he has a Kingdom of God perspective, not building my local church mentality.

Maybe God wants this pastor to mentor the most anointed square dance caller in Canada, and perhaps even the world, so that they become people of spiritual influence in the square dancing world.

You probably don’t know this, but there are square dancers in Japan, yes Japan where they even have national competitions. You could conceivably take the gospel to the whole world through square dancing. The opportunities are huge.

You see, God has a plan and calling for every member in a congregation, but 80% of them are doing nothing but laying on a beach watching a handful of people do all the fighting. And part of that is because pastors want to shoe horn them into a role in the Church, when in fact they have a different calling and ministry that God want them to do.

Over the years, I have come across frustrated people who believe they have a call and purpose for their life, but can see no way of fulfilling it in the church and they stagnate, lie on the beach doing nothing. Pastors struggle because they are not sure how to fit these people and their calling into the vision of the church.

But if we are reading Ephesians 4 right, God wants the five fold ministry to equip these people to fulfill their calling and purpose.  

That equipping could come in several ways. Simply by acknowledging the work they are involved in, praying over them and additionally providing assistance and encouragement in that ministry.

We need to start equipping our congregation people to be leaders. We need to start equipping them and supporting them in the work of the ministry that God has called them to do, even if it doesn’t involve the local church.

If you are one of the 80% sitting in a church doing nothing, God has a call, plan and purpose for you. Let’s start with what you are passionate about. Ask the Holy Spirit what God wants you to do?

God wants you to be a leader and a person of influence in this world.

If you are a pastor start acknowledging and equipping people to fulfill their ministry and calling, even if it doesn’t translate into directly helping your local church.

It’s time to build the Kingdom of God.

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