by Bob Kelleman at The Resurgence blog
Sister Ellen Barney is the first lady (i.e. senior pastor’s wife) of a predominantly African-American megachurch near Baltimore, Maryland. For over a decade she has equipped over 1,000 women in her Life Encouragers and Disciplers ministry.
They do it up big! Their graduation ceremonies are better than many colleges. I remember the first time Sister Ellen invited me to be their commencement speaker. As she introduced me, she looked over the crowd of over 50 graduates, looked at me, and said, “These are your grandbabies, Dr. Kellemen! You trained me, and I trained them!” Now, years later, as Sister Ellen has trained trainers who train others, she tells me, “Dr. Kellemen, these are your great-great-grandbabies!”
The Ministry Mindset Shift That Changes Everything
Do you want to be a spiritual grandparent, someone who disciples disciple makers? It requires a ministry mindset shift implanted by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:11–16.
“And he gave . . . the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11–12
Christ’s grand plan for his church is for pastors/teachers to focus on equipping every member to do the work of the ministry. In the context of Ephesians 4:11–16, that work is nothing less than making disciple makers through the personal ministry of the Word.
When leaders and members fulfill their purposes together the body of Christ builds itself up in two specific, cohesive ways: doctrinal unity and spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:12–13). When a congregation knows the truth not just academically, but personally, their love abounds in knowledge and depth of insight (Philippians 1:9–11).
Speaking the Truth in Love
We often miss the vital real-life, how-to application of the every-member-making-disciples idea that Paul embeds inEphesians 4. How does the church come to unity and maturity? Exactly what are pastors equipping people to do? Specifically how do members do the work of the ministry?
Paul answers: by “speaking the truth in love,” we grow up in Christ (Ephesians 4:15). Every word in this passage funnels toward this remarkable phrase “speaking the truth in love.”
Christ’s grand plan for his church is for every member to be a disciple maker by speaking and living gospel truth to one another in love.
Paul selects an unusual Greek word, alētheuontes, that we often translate as “speaking the truth.” Actually, we should translate it both as speaking and living the truth. We might even coin the phrase “truthing.”
Paul likely had Psalm 15 in mind where the psalmist asks the Lord, “Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” He answers (emphasis, mine): “He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart” (Psalm 15:2). Who can serve in God’s sanctuary, the church—the one who embodies the truth in relationships.
The word for “truthing” that Paul uses means transparent, truthfulness, genuine, authentic, reliable, sincere. It describes the person who ministers from a heart of integrity and Christ-like, grace-oriented love. It paints a picture of the person whose relational style is transparent and trustworthy.
The tense and context indicate that the body of Christ should continually, actively, and collectively be embodying truth in love as it walks together in intimate, vulnerable connection. In one word, Paul combines content, character, and competence shared in community (cf. Romans 15:14).
While the word means more than speaking, it does not mean less than speaking. While it means more than sheer factual content, it does not mean less than the gospel fully applied.
Paul uses the identical word in Galatians 4:16. There he is clearly speaking of preaching, teaching, and communicating the truth of the gospel of Christ’s grace (salvation) applied to daily growth in Christ (progressive sanctification).
Every Christian Makes Disciples
Combine Galatians 4:16 with Ephesians 4:16, both in context, and we find an amazing description of gospel-centered biblical counseling, the personal ministry of the Word. Speaking the truth in love involves communicating gospel truth about grace-focused sanctification in word, thought, and action through one-another relationships that have integrity, genuineness, authenticity, transparency, and reliability, done in love to promote the unity and maturity of the body of Christ for the ultimate purpose of displaying the glory of Christ’s grace.
The normal agenda and priority of every Christian is to make disciple makers. Christ’s training strategy for disciple-making involves pastors and teachers equipping every member to embody the truth in love through the personal ministry of the Word (biblical counseling).
What happens when leaders focus their calling on equipping God’s people to make disciple makers through the personal ministry of the Word by speaking and living the truth in love? Paul shows us in Ephesians 4:16: the body in robust health grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work. In other words, we birth spiritual grandbabies.
This post was adapted from material in Dr. Kellemen’s book, Equipping Counselors for Your Church.