The Legacy of Leadership
The Legacy of Leadership (Ephesians 4:11-13)
The ascended Christ leaves a legacy to His church. His benevolent bequest of leadership is for the benefit of His people. The church has not been left orphaned to make its own way in a Christless world. The divine donation of charismatic persons equips the church to meet the challenge of each generation. This God-granted gift is personal, perpetual, and purposive. The gift consists of persons, continues throughout church history, and climaxes in a purposeful conformity of the church to its Head in a new humanity. Such a grand scope of intention is instructive to the laity and inspirational to the ministry. What is its practical significance?
The Legacy of Leaders Regards Christ's Presentation to the Church
The immediate context emphasizes the presentation by a conquering king of gratuitous gifts for his faithful people. The legacy of leaders is a personal donation of Christ Himself. The principal emphasis in the passage is the gracious gift-character of Christ's provision of leadership in the church. In His sovereignty "God appoints" church leaders (see 1 Cor. 12:8), but in His generosity Christ "gives" them. Christ gives the ministry to the church, not vice versa. All of the congregations and their related agencies of all the centuries cannot produce one pastor. We are an impoverished people dependent on God's donation of leadership. With reference to leadership, the church is on the divine dole.
The legacy of leaders is also a donation of persons. Whereas other New Testament lists emphasize impersonal services, the Ephesian emphasis falls on the services of persons. Christ endows men and then gives the men thus endowed to the church. This donation is comprehensive: every minister belongs to every member. Rather than members belonging to their pastors, pastors belong to their members. This renders a good deal of our bragging not only baseless but inappropriate. This donation is communicative. Notice the four categories of gifted persons in Ephesians 4:11. The primary thrust of each is that of proclamation or communication of the gospel. That has priority in the healthy church. The donation is contingent on the needs of the church. The gift of charismatic persons and services are certainly not rigid or fixed in the New Testament. Some charisms may pass away; new ones may be born. Some are provisional (apostles and prophets). Others are permanent (evangelists and teaching-pastors). Some are itinerant and others indigenous. Some are external to the church and some internal. There is a holy freedom in God's creative gifts of church leadership. We must experience it, not try to constrain or control it.
The Legacy of Leaders Reveals Christ's Purpose for the Church
There are three purposes revealed in the gift of charismatic leaders to the church. The first purpose is a general characterization, the perfecting of the saints. The emphasis is upon repairing, restoring, furnishing, equipping, complete outfitting, coadjustment, and coordination. All believers thus characterized are to put on an active demonstration, the work of the ministry. The New Testament ideal abolishes the distinction between clergy and laity. The word used for "ministry" means a service rendered to benefit others. It knows no boundary of sacred or secular. We are men for all services in all seasons. To this there is added a related edification. When pastors actualize their equipping ministry, when members realize their service ministry, the body is built up. Paul mixes metaphors of "body" and "building" to emphasize both the form and the vitality of the church.
The Legacy of Leaders Reflects Christ's Promise to the Church
There remains an ultimate promise and goal in all of this. That goal is the experienced unify of the church. That unity is grounded in a common personal trust and experiential knowledge of the Son of God. That goal is the perfect humanity of the race. The church is at work producing nothing less than God's original intention for human beings. Do you want to know what God wanted when He made Adam? Look at the mature believer in the church, for that goal finally is ultimate maturity which is the conformity of each member to the standard of Christ. God's final intention will not stop short of producing a new humanity of which Christ is Head and we all are the body. How that should hallow every activity of this church with the very atmosphere of the celestial.