In this Ephesians 4, Paul’s emphasis is spiritual growth. What is God’s pattern for building and strengthening the church? His plan goes like this: Church leaders equip saints to do the work of ministry. Notice that I did not say church leaders do the work of ministry.
If you happen to be reading from the King James Bible, you might assume that evangelists and pastors not only equip the saints but also do the work of ministry and single-handedly edify Christ’s body. The KJV says, “He gave some pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints [comma] for the work of the ministry [comma] for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:11, 12 KJV).
Paul, however, is not listing the responsibilities of church leaders. Instead, he’s showing the progression that leads to the building up of Christ’s body. It begins with evangelists and pastors, but the responsibilities do not end with them. The job of church leaders is to equip the saints (Eph 4:12). The saints, in turn, do the work of ministry, which leads to the building up of the body of Christ.
People who grow up in small churches with only one pastor or elder seem to have the misguided view that we can divide everyone in the church into two categories—the gifted and the ungifted, the pastor and everyone else. Very little was said about spiritual gifts. As far as most of us were concerned, pastors were the sole beneficiaries of spiritual gifts.
It didn’t help that “church” in our minds was limited to a couple of hours on Sunday morning. The preacher was the only one who even had an opportunity to display his gift. When worship was over, everyone went home until the next Sunday. We hear very few sermons about spiritual gifts from the pulpit, but we also never put ourselves into positions where we could use our spiritual gifts. In short, we thought pastors were solely responsible for building up the church, and they had one sermon a week to get it done. That’s not God’s intention for the church, as we see here in Ephesians.
God has called evangelists and pastors to carry out the Great Commission. In Matthew 28, Jesus told his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). We might say that is the role primarily of evangelists. The pastor-teacher takes over in what Jesus said next: “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:20). The evangelist works to bring people to an initial understanding of the gospel while pastors work to teach everything beyond that.