In the days following the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Jan. 18-25, Christian Post Guest Columnist, Thom S. Rainer, discussed the vitally important topic of church unity in an editorial “The Perfectly Unified Church.” As president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Rainer commented that this elusive quality of unity can be achieved in the Church through equipping or training members of local congregations to do the work of the ministry, not just the pastor.
Rainer spoke of Eric Geiger, vice president of the Church Resources Division at LifeWay, whose presentation on church unity actually focused on “training and equipping the saints to do the work of ministry.” Geiger pointed out that if pastors equip or train others to do ministry, there will be unity in the church, emphasizing the passage from Ephesians 4:11-13:
"And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God's Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ's fullness"
The role of those with “five-fold gift ministries” seems to be clear in the passage. As pastors are more involved in training others to do ministry, there will be greater unity in the church, as the Church is built up and the Body of Christ is unified in the faith.
Rainer mentions some of the research conducted in local congregations on the issue of unity, uncovering some sobering statistics: “Almost all pastors we surveyed affirmed their critical role in training others to do ministry. But almost three fourths of these pastors had no plans to do so. For most pastors, the reasons behind this gap were simple: they either didn't know how to take the next steps, or they didn't feel like they had the time to do so.”
Dr. Rainer stressed that LifeWay has begun to make this issue a major priority. “We saw a great opportunity to provide almost unlimited training in this digital age that could not be done in earlier years. So we created something that will be convenient for the church leaders and those being equipped at an affordable cost for all churches.”
Described as “a revolutionary, new church leader development platform for pastors, staff, and lay leaders that is unprecedented in scope of content, customization, and simplicity,” Ministry Grid offers a web-based video training service features more than 1,000 video courses on a wide range of topics, including “Church unity.” The project is scheduled for release in May, 2013.
With regard to unity among Christians, Apostle Eric L. Warren, founder of Equip U Ministries, Reynoldsburg, OH, echoes similar sentiments regarding the “equipping” of believers for the work of the ministry and discusses the same passage from Ephesians 4 and notes verse 11 where he points out that “The individuals who are called to five-fold ministry are to be received as gifts by the Body of Christ. Those gifts are to be of benefit and service to those they have been called to serve.” In verse 12 he further clarifies the purpose of the gifts: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”
This verse reveals the three primary benefits of these gifts to the Church:
- to “perfect the saints,” which as the Greek word katartismos suggests, id to arrange or set in order after a rupture or break; to restore and equip for service.
- “For the work of the ministry” or to prepare the saints to work and not merely be spectators,
- “For the edifying or building up of the body of Christ” for the strengthening of the saints, even as one builds a house by insuring that it has a strong foundation.
Verse 13 sets the time frame and the ultimate outcome of each of these graces. They will be in the earth until we all come into...
- “The unity of the faith,” not a particular denominational faith, but the uniting faith of Jesus Christ
- And of the intimate “knowledge of the Son of God,” not the political games of religious denominations, but deep and thorough knowledge of the Son of God!
- Unto a “perfect man - fully mature,” no longer a child
- Unto the “measure - the rule or standard”
- Of the “stature - the maturity”
- Of the fullness – “the complete contents” - as in the fullness of God as expressed through The Seven Spirits of God, according to Isaiah 11:2
- “Of Christ!”
Apostle Warren concludes, “Those who have been called to the Ministry of Jesus Christ have an incredible assignment. They have been commissioned into the lifestyle and assignment of being a Gift to the Body and should be received as such. They are to serve with the ultimate goal of bringing the Body of Christ to perfection.”
The comments coming from Dr. Rainer and Apostle Warren indicate that Unity among Christians is still a topic to pray about in the days, weeks and months beyond “The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,” held annually from January 18-25. Click here to read about the theme and other activities associated with this year’s “Week of Prayer for the Christian Unity.”