Body Life

The late Ray Stedman was in Birmingham several years ago and I had opportunity to speak to him a few minutes.

Stedman wrote "Body Life" in 1972, and he told me he was surprised this little book had been translated and distributed all over the world. In it Stedman related how he tried to administer a church uniquely--he led spiritual gift discovery and asked church members to use their gifts in ministry. Often our tact is entirely different. We decide what ministries we need, or our denomination decides for us, and then we go about persuading Christians to populate them. Inevitably we generate unhappy campers.

The biblical doctrine of spiritual gifts is refreshing and liberating. It declares every believer is a vital part of the body of Christ, the church, and has a function to perform. This doctrine does away with church being a spectator sport in which the majority do little or nothing. Someone likened the church to a football game: 22 men on the field desperately in need of rest, and 22,000 in the arena desperately in need of exercise!

Part of our misunderstanding is based on the "heretical comma" in Ephesians 4:12. There Paul wrote about the work of the pastor in apparently three respects. The comma after "saints" makes the verse seem to divide naturally into these three functions: the pastor is to mature the saints, do the work of ministry and build up the body of Christ, the church. But the punctuation was added by the translators since New Testament Greek had no punctuation. Here it does a disservice. When the comma is removed after "saints," it's clear that Paul exhorted pastors to mature the saints so they--the saints--can do the work of ministry. Then the body of Christ, the church, will be strengthened.

We perpetuate this misperception when we call the pastor "the minister," as though there is only one. Some churches have addressed this in their newsletters or websites by writing under the heading, "ministers," the phrase "all members," and then listing as "equipping ministers" the pastor, music minister and others.

Wise pastors see their role as teaching gift discovery, and encouraging Christians to step out in faith and use their gifts in service.

Motivational speaker and pastor John Maxwell often teaches pastors this concept in his seminars. He insists one simple thing pastors might do is take laypeople with them when they do ministry, giving laypeople opportunity to see it done and perhaps realize they can do it, too. Then the pastor steps aside and actually gives church members opportunity to try (or fly!) on their own.

The doctrine of spiritual giftedness could start a revolution in modern-day churches.