The Training of the Saints in the Work of Ministry

The primary mission of Reaching Africa’s Unreached (RAU) is to come alongside the work of God in Northwestern Uganda, Southwestern Sudan, and Northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Jesus calls His church to make disciples not just converts.  The article below, by Micah Fries, highlights this mission which has been given to Christ’s church. Along with a Medical Center and Christian Day School our 17 acres allows us to host pastors, evangelists, church planters, and church leaders for short periods of time where intensive study of the fundamentals of faith can take place. Our unique geographical location  also allows us to participate in “the training of the saints in the work of ministry” throughout our tri-country region, not only bringing in people, but by also going out to “equip the saints”.

Please pray for Reaching Africa’s Unreached as we seek to walk out the calling to see churches planted in villages which have no church and among peoples with no witness of Christ. Our prayer and passion is to equip church leaders so that their local churches become strong in the Lord and become  multiplying congregations!


Equip, Don’t Enable

growthOne of my great concerns for the church in America today is the consumer mentality that has become so pervasive. Unfortunately, in my experience, most pastors complain about it a lot but then unintentionally, or even intentionally, propagate that reality in their churches as, rather than equipping our people, we are enabling our people. Ephesians 4:11-13 has an important word to offer to us to that end. Consider these words:

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

While this passage is not unknown to most pastors, I am not sure we have really considered the application of the text. I see four major implications of this text that cannot be missed by those who are leaders in the church.

1. God gives the church leaders. (11)

Leaders are not in their role simply because of giftedness, or desire, though both of those things are important. Leaders exist in their roles, first and foremost, because God has ordained that they be there. Your role as a church leader is a commission; an assignment from the God of the universe. It cannot and should not be approached with lazy, half-hearted effort. Leaders are given, as a personal gift from God. Notice the text. Leaders do not just exist. They do not just exist because God put them there. They exist as God’s gift to the church. The idea here is that church leaders are intended by God to be a good, and gracious gift to the church.

2. Leaders equip the body. (12a)>

It is difficult to overstate this. God does not give us church leaders so that they can simply “do ministry.” This text reminds us that He gives us leaders to equip the body, as a whole, to do ministry. In the American church we have even modified our vocabulary about the vocational expectation of a pastor to indicate that when we assume certain aspects of pastoral leadership that are focused on serving the needs of others we are now known as being “pastoral.” This belies a belief that what it means to be pastoral is to minister to the needs of others. This is unfortunate because, not only is it not faithful to the biblical text, but it is enabling, rather than equipping the church.

While this practice can sound noble, and while the pastor should certainly be a servant, we do a disservice to the people we serve and the kingdom of God, if we as leaders do the ministry that God has called the whole church to do. I want to suggest that while “pastoral ministry” is part of our responsibility as the body of Christ, the unique responsibility of the church leader is not to be extraordinarily good at “doing ministry”, but instead to invest our lives equipping the body to serve.

Not only that, though, the bible is clear that the ministry will not be done well, when we assume that posture, and the church will not grow, when we assume that posture.

Far too often we have developed a form of church that reflects our consumer driven society. “Church” is where people go to receive goods and services, and the pastor’s job is to deliver those goods and services. In this model,  we don’t create disciples, we create customers.

3. The body is built up. (12b-15)

The ability of the church to be built into the image of Jesus is dependent upon the leadership training and handing off ministry. Allow me to say that again. The ability of the church to be built into the image of Jesus is dependent upon the leadership training and handing off ministry. This cannot be stressed enough. The spiritual growth and maturity of the church is incredibly dependent upon the church leadership’s capacity to develop the body to serve in ministry.

Colossians 1:28-29 reminds us, We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me

I know so many pastors and church leaders who are living out this passage, and yet they are frustrated because much of their effort seems to be ineffective. I want to suggest that our effectiveness as a pastor or church leader is extraordinarily connected to our capacity to hand off ministry others.

Notice how Paul says the church will grow, when leaders are developing others and handing ministry off to them. Paul says that the church will grow in unity, knowledge, doctrinal stability, gracious speech & the character of Jesus. Is it surprising, then, to note that much of these described character traits are absent from the church today? Could it be that our insistence on doing what we should be equipping others to do with us is radically inhibiting our churches?

The ability of the church to be built into the image of Jesus is dependent upon the leadership training and handing off ministry. All this is done as Jesus enables it to be so, and it is done to bring him great glory. As we serve passionately, equipping the body for the work of ministry, the body matures into what God intends for them to be. His bride is made perfect (or complete) as they mature, and that maturity does not happen apart from equipping. Notice the progression of the text concerning what Jesus accomplishes in the church, as leaders equip the church instead enable the church.

4. Jesus is glorified. (16)

All this equipping, this “building up of the body” is done as Jesus enables it to be so, and it is done to bring him great glory. As we serve passionately, equipping the body for the work of ministry, the body matures into what God intends for them to be. His bride is made perfect (or complete) as they mature, and that maturity does not happen apart from equipping. Notice the progression of the text concerning what Jesus accomplishes in the church, as leaders equip the church instead enable the church. The text explicitly points out that when church leaders equip the body, this is what would happen in the church:

– Jesus brings the church together (unity in diversity)

– Jesus makes the church grow

– Jesus increases the church’s capacity to love

– Jesus helps every believer to reach their potential

Ultimately, in the end, all of these things serve to make us like Jesus and advance Jesus’ mission. If we want to lead churches to be like Jesus; if we want to lead churches to advance Jesus’ mission, then we must determine to do the hard work of equipping the people. We must hand off ministry. Unfortunately, the reality is that in too many churches this kind of ministry shift would be challenging. Objections are sure to come from lazy church members who are happy as consumers, but I fear that the greatest objections will come from pastors who are fearful of doing the hard work of leading this kind of change, or who feel personally fulfilled when the church is radically reliant on them being Pastor Superman.

Remember this radically important lesson. You church’s mission effectiveness is directly tied to ministry multiplication. Yes, this is hard. It may even be costly, both personally and professionally, but I am confident that the future success of the church is dependent upon it.

More from David Sitton

This is a great followup article to my last post!


Reckless Abandon: The Risk is Right When the Reward is Christ

by David Sitton

The summer siege on Tiananmen Square in 1989 was temporarily halted by one man who dared to face-down a Chinese tank. It’s an image that captured a century-defining moment of reckless defiance against the tyranny of communism.

One lone rebel walked calmly through the frenzied, fleeing mob toward the enemy. He then stood unarmed, directly in the path of the advancing tanks. The lead tank tried to swerve around him, but he repeatedly side-stepped into its path with defiant, yet non-violent hand gestures. Rather than crush the young man, the tank eventually stopped its engine.

The peaceful protester climbed onto the hull of the lead tank, crawled under the tank gun to the driver’s hatch and, on live television, was seen talking to the driver. It is reported that he demanded that the tank commander, “Leave my city. You have no right to kill my people!” 

The captain restarted the engine to carry on with his mission. But the man jumped off the tank and quickly re-established his bold stance, again blocking the forward progress of the tanks.

Moments later, three by-standers ran in to pull the man away, and they all disappeared into the crowd. It is believed that the gutsy young man was a 19-year-old student, who was abruptly arrested by secret police and became one of many that were brutally executed during the military crackdown in Beijing. He was never heard from again.

What are we to think of an incident such as this? Why would he be so reckless, knowing he would surely be executed for such foolhardy insubordination? Evidently, the atrocities of a communistic dictatorship were so oppressive that he was compelled to forfeit his life in an effort to stop it or at least to delay the inevitable, if only for those few moments he could control.

The “tank man” is to be admired. However, such risky heroism is not as rare as you might think. American soldiers overseas and firemen on the home-front often display similar “tank man” recklessness in their vocations. Lives are frequently sacrificed in order to establish a military beachhead or to rescue people from burning buildings. Somehow they muster the courage to endanger their own lives for others, convinced the cause is worth it. They risk their lives with reckless abandon. The dictionary defines the individual words this way:

reckless /ré-kləs/ adj: marked by lack of proper caution:  utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action.

 abandon /ə-bán-dən/ n: to give (oneself) over unrestrainedly.

 reckless abandon /ré-kləs ə-bán-dən/: to give oneself unrestrainedly to the cause of Jesus and the promotion of His kingdom without concern for danger and the consequences of that action.

In mission, then, are we to be recklessly abandoned for Christ and the gospel among the nations? Or should we only go into the world with the gospel where we can safely do so? What do we do when we find that it’s impossible to manage the risks or to minimize the dangers to reasonable levels? Do we go—no matter what? Or do we wait until red carpets are rolled out for us?

It seems as though many in the West believe we should attempt to engage only those people groups that present “reasonable risks” to our missionaries. The not-so-subtle assumption is that missionaries should be routinely evacuated out of danger zones.

Why is it presumed that American missionaries have the “right” to require safe living conditions? Believers in the rest of the world assume that following Christ is naturally hazardous to their health! They live as lambs among wolves, expecting to be mistreated because wolves mistreat lambs (Matt. 10:16-25). Why do we think we should be exempt from what Jesus said would be the normal experience of His followers?

If it is admirable for our military men to die on foreign soil for American freedom and laudable for firemen to risk their lives for citizens in peril, why are missionaries dubbed as irresponsible fools when they choose to remain in hazardous situations with their families, “risking their necks” (Rom. 16:4) for the gospel of Christ?

Here is my rationale for sending missionaries with the gospel into hostile surroundings: Risk assumes the possibility of loss and is always determined by the value of the mission. The gospel is so valuable that no risk is unreasonable. Life is gained by laying it down for the gospel. If I live, I win and get to keep on preaching Christ. If I die, I win bigger by going directly to be with Christ (Phil. 1:22-24) and I get to take a few tribes with me.

I conclude that “losing my life” for the gospel is literally impossible because my years on this earth are worth far less than the value of the eternal gospel. This is what Paul means when he declares: “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).

If this is true, there is no meaningful risk for me as a carrier of the gospel of Christ. If some tribal chief chops my head off, he’s doing me a favor. Think about it. If I get to (not have to) lay down my life in some remote jungle swamp, but God uses my death as an object lesson to turn their eyes to Christ and the gospel gets established among them, that isn’t a bad “risk” for me. I didn’t lose; I won! It was the bargain of a lifetime because Jesus is worth a lot more than my little life.

If we, as gospel ambassadors, are unwilling to suffer even as much as soldiers and firemen, could the reason be that we don’t treasure Christ enough or value the gospel enough to sacrifice significantly for its advancement into unreached regions? Is Jesus simply not worth the risk to many of us? Where is the line, over which, it is no longer worth it to go with the gospel?


David Sitton served as a church planting missionary in some of the remotest regions of Papua New Guinea during the 1970’s and 80’s. The Lord enabled him to make first contact with several previously unreached tribes and the establishing of 34 churches. In 1994, David founded To Every Tribe and, the following year, The Center for Pioneer Church Planting on the south Texas / Mexico border where he lives with his wife Tommi. David serves to train and launch church planting teams to those still without access to the gospel of Christ. David is the author of two books, To Every Tribe With Jesus and Reckless Abandon.

“Reckless Is Right When The Cause Is Christ!”

The vision of Reaching Africa’s Unreached heart  beats in sinc with the vision of  Reckless Abandon: To Every Tribe. David Sitton, President of To Every Tribe, passion is to see every unreached people group with churches worshiping the King of kings and Lord of lords! This is our passion too! It is estimated that Africa currently has around 3,000 unreached people groups. These must be reached with the glorious gospel! Please pray and support To Every Tribe, Reaching Africa’s Unreached, and all who are seeking proclaim and share the gospel of of Christ to the unreached and unengaged peoples  of the world!

The excellent video below was put out by Reckless Abandon: To Every Tribe. Please take the time to watch it asking the Holy Spirit to do a work a grace in your heart through it!

“Reckless Is Right When The Cause Is Christ!” David Sitton