Seven Points Of Equipping
There is, of course, a scriptural foundation for this equipping. We are told to go everywhere and teach everyone (Mark 16:15). While it is a well known and often preached principle, if left alone, it can lead to frustrated believers. Members of the body of Christ that are not given the tools to evangelize, neither are taught in the use of those tools, will only become frustrated when they hear preaching about reaching the lost but don’t know how to do it. In Luke’s account of the Great Commission, in Luke 24:45-49, Jesus begins the command by opening their understanding, so that they might understand the scriptures. It was necessary for the first disciples, and remains necessary for disciples today.
For many church members, it seems that witnessing is an optional kind of thing, for those that are “super spiritual” perhaps. Yet, scripturally, it’s a different story. Therefore, equipping must start with the understanding of the biblical viewpoint on the Holy Spirit baptism. It really is a life-changing power! It can move us from the walled-in and selfish attitude we held while still carnal, to one of love and compassion stemming from a loving Saviour abiding in us. Yes, we are mandated to go and reach the world, but there is a good and eternal reason for this commission. This leads us to the second part of equipping.
The motive behind all of this is really the “why” of personal ministry. We do what we do because we care! The lunatic of Mark 5 experienced a miraculous deliverance at the hands of Jesus. His love, thankfulness, and appreciation for Jesus moved him to ask if he could continue with the Lord in His travels. Jesus’ answer in Mark 5:19 serves as a reminder that we should share our experiences with those around us. “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.” Receiving the Holy Spirit means receiving the love and compassion of Jesus Christ! We should be moved with this compassion. The desire to tell others should become an automatic part of the Holy Ghost experience. If it is not there, something deep is lacking within the life of the believer.
Blaspheming the Holy Ghost is an often-debated subject of theology. What it really means has been misconstrued through the ages. The passage in Matthew 12, however, sheds light on this. To speak against the Son of man is one thing. To live as though the Holy Ghost has no direct influence on one’s life, however, is quite another! Perhaps “speaking against the Holy Ghost” is not something we say after all. Perhaps it really is in the way that we live our lives. Verse 33 makes it even more clear, “Either make the tree good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.” In other words, claiming that we are “filled” with the Holy Ghost, yet doing virtually nothing because of this infilling, is nothing less than gross hypocrisy! We must either make the tree good, allowing the Lord to have His way in our lives, or else we should simply admit that the tree is corrupt. His Spirit should be the source of power behind all that we do in the Kingdom. To deny this power is to deny the presence of the Holy Ghost, thereby blaspheming everything that should be held sacred.
Jesus told His disciples in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Jesus, God in the flesh, the author of all of the commandments of the Old Testament, tells His disciples about a “new commandment.” His love should be active in us and through us to reach out to others. It speaks about a real surrender to the will of God! That is the source of our personal ministry and the motive behind it.
In John 14:12, we read the well known passage, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” This simply means that after Jesus ascended into heaven, the Church would be endued with a divine power—Jesus’ own power—the power of His Spirit in us and working through us! And the works that we do will actually be His own works as He acts through His Church, His body on the earth.
While motive is the “why” of personal ministry, the next two parts, means and method, serve as the ”how” of personal ministry. While we must start with the Mandate and Motive for personal evangelism in a local assembly, we must move on to the Means. The means refers to the fact that personal ministry is a real possibility in the lives of every believer. In other words, we have the means by which equipping and ministry can take place. It should be a reality in every believer’s life, and in every local church, but too often, it is relegated to a certain few that seem to carry the entire load of evangelism on their shoulders. Equipping every member should become the goal of every senior church leader. The reality, however, must not be ignored. Thinking that each saint in a local church will happily and willingly take the tools that we are using in equipping and use them for the glory of God can be a disappointing dream if not tempered by the realization that not everyone will participate in nor be dedicated to the will of God. We should not become frustrated or diverted from the true task, however. While it is true that not every member will receive the equipment, we should still continue to strive toward equipping everyone. Some will receive what we have to offer, and they will become instrumental in the future growth of the Church. That is a fact! We will focus more on that principle in the next chapter, The Nucleus.
The means of personal evangelism has to start with it being promoted by those in authority. It must be promoted until it becomes a reality. In John 4:35, Jesus exhorts the disciples to look at the fields as being already ready for harvest. There is really nothing to wait for; the harvest is ripe and ready for the sickle. This has to become part of our thinking, however. While it is imperative that we know about the mandate, and it is certain that we must have the right motive for participating in it, we must also realize that the time for the harvest is now. The means by which we can apply ourselves to the task are already available to us. Pastors should clearly present the fact that the tools of revival and harvest are available to every believer, and that the training in the use of these tools is there, too. Teaching, training, and the support necessary in personal evangelism should be clearly delineated. In other words, if we see the mandate, and we feel the burden, we should be able to see that with the help of the local church, we can personally participate in this great and worthy task.
Jesus promised in John 15:4-5, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” What a great and simple truth is revealed there. Abiding in Him means that we will be fruitful! The means of harvest speaks of the ways by which pastors and other leaders can help saints to more deeply abide in the True Vine than ever before. It is God’s will that we bring forth much fruit, and that this fruit remain. In fact, everything that we do in the local church should have a direct bearing on this principle. Everything that we say, preach, or teach should somehow be connected to the objective of church members becoming more strongly tied to the Lord. This will, after all, bring revival and true apostolic harvest. Anything that does not contribute toward this goal should be become suspect in our eyes, and we should determine its overall use to the cause. Some programs might even have to be discarded once they are seen as truly unfruitful.
This fourth aspect should not be made out to be more complicated than it is really is. Personal evangelism simply refers to one person ministering to another. This may actually be a married couple in the Church or a family reaching out to another couple or family. But it should not be thought of as one leader ministering to a group. That is another part of evangelism and edification. In this lesson we are looking at the key of equipping every individual member of the body to be effective in his or her personal responsibility of evangelism. Therefore, the main method will continue to be that of effectively witnessing and teaching home bible studies. It should be our goal that all members be well trained in this method.
Firstly, saints should be encouraged to actively share their personal testimony. It always helps a new convert to have a more experienced member helping him or her in this initial phase of what we call witnessing to others. Church members should also be helped to understand the potential impact of sharing their spiritual experiences. Often, people have much more to share than they realize! After the initial contacts and friendships are made, and testimonies shared, the next step should be what we read about in Acts 2:46, “…breaking bread from house to house.”
Home bible studies should be made easily available and easy to teach. The studies should be offered in different formats, from very simple and easy to be taught by everyone, to more complex and in-depth studies. Some studies should be designed to be quick, not demanding much time from the new contact. Others should be available that are designed to span several weeks in length. A major part of equipping means putting appropriate and useful tools in the hands of the church membership. Having a bible study in hand and knowing how to teach someone the study goes a long way in helping a saint to become a minister.
No member should be intimidated by the “difficulty” of such a bible study. It is nothing more, really, than a method by which one can share his testimony through an exposition of the scriptures. In other words, it is simply saying that what we have experienced has a scriptural basis. Such a study can be as simple as a list of verses kept in the believer’s bible, or, it could be a well-written and comprehensive study printed and reproduced. Whatever its form, the bible study should be used as a method by every believer, not just a few. From the onset in Acts 2, this Church found that personal evangelism meant going everywhere and telling everybody. While we continue to encourage new converts to grow in their worship and in their personal prayer life, we must not neglect to equip them in the area of personal evangelism through the teaching of the Word of God to others.
Another aspect of the method deals with the necessary record keeping and follow-up that are necessary in true apostolic accountability. Who is teaching? Who has been “qualified” (by training) to teach? What are the results of the studies? Which studies have been effective? What can be done to follow up the studies to bring the new contacts to their next step in Christian living? Careful analysis of these and other subjects is of paramount importance to every pastor and leader in the local church. This, after all, is the key that we are talking about in this lesson. We must remember that we are chosen by Jesus to be fruitful, and that it is His will that our fruit remain. Continuous follow-up regarding the spiritual growth of new contacts and new converts is imperative in a local assembly.
While Luke 24’s account of the Great Commission tells us to preach repentance and remission of sins in His name, and Mark 16’s version tells to go everywhere and preach the gospel, Jesus uses a special word in Matthew 28’s account. In verse 19, Jesus says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” The word “teach” there is the Greek word “matheteuo,” meaning to make disciples. In other words, there is a formula here for building the Church: because of the power of the Lord working through us, we are to go and disciple others, bringing them to the spiritual maturity necessary to be fruitful in personal evangelism themselves.
Paul said in Ephesians 4:16, “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” There is the ministry in one verse! Notice the key words there: the whole body-every joint-every part-maketh increase. When each part is trained and qualified to do its share, there is nothing to stop the increase of the body! Personal evangelism by the saints is not just a ministry in a local church. It is the ministry of the local church! Helping souls to find the Lord and then inspiring and nurturing them to grow in His grace is what the Church has been called to do. And that is exactly why equipping is one of the principles of revival. Senior leaders, the ones charged with doing the equipping, must never foster the sentiment that evangelism is less than what it really is. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers exist to fully furnish the saints with what is necessary to grow the Body of Christ on the earth. Once again, we do not want to simply preach and teach the saints the necessity of this kind of ministry; we are aiming to equip them properly for the task. Rather than being frustrated with their seeming inability to accomplish the greatest task of all, they can happily become ministers of the new testament of Jesus Christ.
Saints should be shown that not only would their ministry benefit new converts, but that they, too, will be blessed by this increase in the body. As they teach and minister, they will feel spiritually fulfilled as never before. They will be fulfilled as they grow in proportion to the way in which they participate with God in this great harvest. Just as water from a well is drawn out and quickly replaced by new water from deep within the earth, so it is with every member that gives out of the Spirit. He will in turn be given more! This is the ministry of the Church and it must be viewed as such. All of the singing, the preaching, and the visits to the sick and oppressed have their place in all of this, but the real ministry is each believer doing his or her share in harvesting, in real personal evangelism.
The Apostle Peter put it simply in his first epistle, chapter 4, verse 10: “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Church leaders are responsible for helping the saints to “receive the gift” and also in ensuring that they are able to “minister the same one to another.” The membership should see this kind of personal evangelism as an integral part of local church ministry. Once again, they should see the importance of helping people to take the next step.
This is also an ongoing ministry—it should never stop. The principle of personal ministry never changes. It is also an irreplaceable ministry. In other words, there is nothing to substitute for it. If we don’t participate, who will? It should, lastly, be viewed as a guaranteed successful ministry. It works. It always has, and it always will!
Another aspect concerning equipping for personal evangelism in the local church is that it multiplies the local assembly. And the sooner that senior leaders begin equipping saints, the sooner they begin to see that multiplication takes place. Too often it seems, church members feel as though they are the last that will be saved. In actual fact, the Bible tells us that each one is saved as part of an overall plan to win others. Jesus always intended that there be a multiplication of ministry taking place at every level of Christian leadership. Those that we equip should become equippers too. Paul wrote about this in 1 Timothy 1:15-16, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” Equipping, therefore, is a two-edged sword. We must first of all receive by the grace of God, and then by faith put that which we have received into action. Every Christian should come to the realization that he is one link in a long chain of saving grace toward the lost world.
We must not become satisfied with anything less than growth in quality and in quantity. Quality should precede quantity if the growth is to be sustainable. In fact, there is only real quantity when there is first real quality. As we have already seen from Jesus’ teaching in John 15, to be in the vine and nourished by the Lord means being fruitful. And, without Him, that is, outside of the vine, we are unable to produce true fruit. The “work of the ministry” is the work of personal evangelism, and it is to be performed by every saint after being equipped in the local church. Church leaders are first of all to be equippers!
Finally, personal evangelism should and will become a mentality of a growing and vibrant local assembly. It becomes part of who we are, what we think, what we do, and it defines our active participation with the Lord in His harvest. The local assembly, when filled by “personal evangelists,” adopts and maintains an attitude of personal responsibility in the Great Commission. It becomes a happy place where believers are fulfilled, where they are part of something that really makes a difference in the community around them.
Pastors should ask themselves concerning their local assemblies, “Is my church really involved in God’s program, or are we simply doing what other churches are doing?” We must not blindly adopt methods and programs that others seem to find useful or acceptable. What we do should be based upon the principle of equipping the saints for the work of ministering. Churches and church membership, whether on a national, regional or local level need to know without a doubt that they are part of a spiritual movement that will help them to become what God has always wanted them to become.
Few can argue the fact that there is a definite kind of spiritual “atmosphere” in a revival-minded church. The excitement generated by new souls being added regularly contributes to the level of faith. There is a certain expectation for something special in every meeting. Every local (or even national) church acquires its own kind of personality after a while. It may be like the one just described: vibrant, alive, and full of anticipation for great moves of the Spirit. Or, it may be just the opposite: one where little is expected because little has been experienced in the past! Church leaders have to take the responsibility for this. Some saints barely make it to every meeting, almost dreading the outcome of the services, and participating only because they feel that it is somehow mandatory to be present in order to be saved! Other members of revival assemblies come with high hopes and abundant faith, expecting great things from a great God! Both national leadership and local church leadership would do well to ask themselves, “What is the personality of this organization?” By equipping the saints for useful service, we begin to set the stage for a very positive church mentality.
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