If the Church is really people and not a building location it will focus on equipping and empowering people for mission instead of continually providing ministries that are focused on meeting the needs of believers.
Undoubtedly there is an element of meeting needs that is strategic for evangelism that creates inroads into a community. However, meeting needs has now become a way to attract believers instead of making disciples. God didn’t birth the church to meet the needs of believers; He created the church to equip believers for the work of the ministry.
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-12
The word “work” which is not the most popular word in church world today; is defined as that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, business and employment. Notice that the responsibility of doing the work starts with one individual person being equipped for their undertaking. Another observation we see revealed in the original language is the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity of the Holy Spirit that is involved in mission but lacking in traditional, cookie cutter, ministry. Words associated with the word “work” in this verse are business, enterprise, undertaking and employment.
To undertake something is to take upon oneself. Doing the work then requires someone taking it upon himself or herself to do something they’ve been equipped and empowered to do.
What does this look like? Several years ago a friend of mine in the church I was on staff at asked me what our church’s heart was for the homeless. At that time the church didn’t have a “homeless ministry” so I asked him what was his heart for the homeless. He went on to tell me his heart, vision and what he and his wife were currently doing to feed the homeless. Afterwards I told him that our church’s heart was his heart and they we would equip and empower him to do what was in his heart. Today their team feeds over 300 people once a month. My point is that if our church had tried to start this ministry without this individual it would have failed miserably, but because he was willing to take personal responsibility for undertaking his mission, the church has an expression of ministry to the homeless and not a programed based homeless ministry.
Here’s the thought I want to leave you with. When we birth mission we are equipping and empowering the church (people) to dream, to run with vision, and to express their talents and skills for the ministry that God is calling them personally to do. When we birth ministry to meet needs we create a vacuum that sucks believers away from mission and gets the church focusing inward instead of outward where ministry is most effective.