I do not know a pastor that would not desire for their church to grow. In fact, they expect it. If the church is comprised of Christians, and I hope it is, then the pastor should expect to see growth in their church. The only problem is that sometimes, we have the wrong concept of growth.
The type of growth that I am talking about is not counted on an attendance sheet. It is spiritual growth. The type that the Apostle Paul refers to in Ephesians 4. The type that happens as a result of the body of Christ being what God designed it to be.
"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Trace the flow of Paul's argument. As those that have been given leadership gifts equip the people of the church, they get involved in the life of ministry and that in turn builds up the body of Christ. Or let's look at it from the reverse. Growth happens when people serve. People serve when people are equipped. It all hinges on this concept of equipping.
If we were to dig deeper, we would discover that to equip has two aspects to its understanding. It means to mend or restore as well as having a nuance of training or preparing. The ministry of those in leadership is to provide any or all things that might be necessary for someone else to perform an action. It might mean they help mend areas of their life that need mending. It might mean they help teach and train people for specific ministries by assisting them to discover their unique abilities. The shepherds do this so that people will be ready to accomplish the ministry.
This is an important thought. Ministry is in the hands of people. It is not something that is done by the professionals or the spiritually elite (as if those things exist). It is ordinary people who are equipped. The result is that the body of Christ is built up. The church grows.
Now, the bulk of the time in my sermon was spent on verses 13-16, where Paul articulates a picture of what the fully equipped person looks like. I broke it down into six evidences.
- Spiritual Unity (vs. 13a)
- Spiritual Maturity (vs. 13b)
- Doctrinal Integrity (vs. 14)
- Authentic Testimony (vs. 15a)
- Proper Humility (vs. 15b-16a)
- Personal Responsibility (vs. 16b)
If you want to see how I articulated each one, you can check out my notes or listen to it HERE.