Church leader? Your job is not to do the ministry for the church, but to equip the church to be gospel ministers.
Habakkuk 2:14 speaks of a day when “The knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” That is a saturation point–a time in which everywhere you go, the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will saturate everyone and everything. You will not be able to avoid to truths of God.
The Apostle Paul says in Colossians 1:27 that Christ in us is the hope of glory and in Ephesians 1:23 that the church is Christ’s body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. The church is God’s plan for saturation. Christ in us and Christ through us, every day and everywhere, so that through us Christ might be preeminent in everything (Col. 1:18). I call this gospel saturation, in which every man, woman and child has a daily encounter with Jesus in word and deed through his people, the church.
This is why we have been saved. This is why we exist.
But this won’t happen if we continue to see church as a building or a weekly event we attend. Buildings don’t saturate a place. They take up space. They also can’t move and fill other places. Events won’t saturate the world with God’s glory either. They may be led by or participated in by glory-bearing, Jesus-filled people, but the event cannot travel and fill space. People do.
Church is not a building. Church is not an event. The church is the people of God set apart for the mission of God – filled with his power and presence so that his purposes are accomplished every day everywhere – in the workplace, at school, in cafes and pubs, around dinner takes and on the soccer field.
Do you believe that? Do you believe you are the church? Do you believe the church is actively on mission every day in the stuff of life for the glory of God? We must commit to equipping everyday people for the everyday mission of gospel saturation.
If you are a leader in the church, do you see your job is not to do the ministry for the church, but to equip the church for ministry in the everyday stuff of life (Eph. 4:11-12)?
This is where it begins.
First, leaders need to reconsider their calling. Shift from being a minister of the gospel to being an equipper of gospel ministers. This doesn’t mean you cease from gospel ministry, but it does mean equipping others is a significant part of your ministry.
Second, help people see they are designed uniquely by God and put in the place they live on purpose by God. Too often we create programmatic boxes for people to fit into instead of helping them engage uniquely in ministry where God has already placed them. In doing so, we often pull people out of the mission field and unnaturally try to squeeze them into our ministry molds. I recently spoke with a woman who thanked me for affirming the truth of her unique design and calling. Her passion and skills are in the fashion industry, and her place in life is with a unique class of people who likely will never enter a church building. She started a fashion business as a ministry that has a natural open door for mission.
Third, publicly affirm and commission people in your gatherings for mission outside of the building or weekly event. I was speaking to a local businessman about his work in our city. “It’s clear the church doesn’t affirm business as mission because the only people it publicly commissions are full-time pastors,” he replied. He shared how he had observed seminary graduates publicly affirmed and commissioned for ministry, but never business people. At the church I lead now, we are commissioning all people for ministry. During our Sunday gatherings, we’ve begun to highlight and pray over a group of people on mission in everyday life. In addition, when we baptize people at our church, we state that their baptism is also their commission to the mission Jesus gave us.
Fourth, consider how your language affirms your convictions. When I visit other churches or meet with other pastors, I regularly hear their language affirm that people “go to church.” I regularly remind our people that they don’t “go to church” but they “are the church.” I communicate publicly that it is my job, and the job of our staff, to equip them to go “be the church” on Jesus’ mission wherever he is sending them. So often we send people mixed messages by saying things like, “It’s good to be in the house of the Lord” or “I’m so glad you decided to come to church today.” But the Scriptures teach that God’s people are the house of the Lord. We are his temple. Are you affirming this truth with your language?
And finally, make sure you regularly reaffirm God’s people as the priesthood. I still see a strong clergy/laity distinction in so many churches. We call people to the mission and yet prevent them from doing the ministry. For example, Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded–which includes making disciples and baptizing them. However, I still see churches affirm that only the pastor can baptize. We call people to make disciples, which according to Jesus includes baptizing, but, we don’t let people baptize. I have watched many people get into the water with their friends or relatives in obedience to Jesus’ command. One woman told me she had never baptized anyone, although she had led people to faith in Jesus before. This was the first time in her life she was free to obey Jesus’ command in this way.
Ask yourself, what ministry are you taking away from the people you lead? What have you prevented them from participating in? I have policy that I try to work by: Don’t continue to do for people what they could do themselves if they were equipped and trained. Baptism is one example, but there are many others.
Remember, the church is not a building or an event. The church is God’s people saved by God’s power who are filled with God’s presence for God’s purposes in the world.
Gospel saturation doesn’t happen in a building.
It won’t get accomplished through an event.
Gospel saturation happens in you and then gospel saturation happens through you…until all the earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.