Most the folks who have angst about supporting equippers have been stuck with the wrong equippers. They’ve encountered the charlatans, the big shot, the power hungry, greedy, selfish, know-it-all, wannabes. Some who have encountered the genuine article didn’t even recognize them as such. Their religious training had taught them that whoever is in the pulpit on Sunday is equipping them for ministry, whether or not real equipping was taking place. This blog is the third in a four-part series by Loren Rosser and posted here by permission.
I work with an interesting man named Charlie (not his real name). There was an opossum that was continually coming around Charlie’s house so he began feeding it. The opossum became a regular visitor so Charlie named him Jasper and built a really cool cage for him. He’d feed him fruit every day, gave him a play area, and even taught him to use a litter box. Every so often Charlie would let Jasper go outside to be with his opossum buddies. Jasper would typically disappear for a day or two and then return. Well, one day Charlie released Jasper to go on one of his excursions and he was gone longer than usual. When he finally returned to his cage he wasn’t acting like himself. He was constantly hissing at Charlie, he was crapping all over the place, and he was shredding everything. Charlie couldn’t figure out what on Earth was wrong with Jasper. Two days later the real Jasper showed up on his porch.
I think most the folks who have angst about supporting equippers have been stuck with “the wrong Jasper.” They’ve encountered the charlatans; the big shot, power hungry, greedy, selfish, know-it-all, wannabes. Some who have encountered the genuine article didn’t even recognize them as such because all of their religious training had taught them to look for a completely different animal. Thus the reason the charlatans keep showing up.
So first, let’s look at what an equipper is not. (Although I’ll be referring to them in the masculine, they can be women as well.) An equipper is not somebody who is going to use you to build his ministry or try to organize you into a “church.” He is not going to try to get you on board with his vision. He’s not going to be looking to control or manage you. He’s not going to be attempting to place himself above you nor will he allow you to place him over you. He’s not going to be after your money, your affirmation, or your recognition. Basically, an equipper is free from pursuing the three “C’s” that Wayne Jacobsen discussed in his book Finding Church: cash, credit (recognition), and control.
The heart of an equipper is entirely set on seeing Christ formed in you, period. Want to see what an equipper looks like? I know of somebody who is a pretty good example. His name is Jesus. I’m sure you’re familiar with Him. How big a congregation did Jesus have? How much money did he raise to build that dynamic facility? How much money was He seeking from those around Him? Think about it. What did Jesus spend His time doing? He walked around connecting with people and pouring into their lives everywhere He went. There were those He briefly encountered and greatly impacted and there were those with whom He had close relationships that He spent a great deal of time investing in. This is the very example the apostles followed, including Paul. It is we who have attached our institutional religious baggage onto these men and completely missed the simplicity in which they lived. Paul didn’t run around planting churches. He lived planting Christ in people’s lives. Where Christ is, there is the church (His people). It’s that simple.
But here’s the part many who aspire to be equippers really don’t like to talk about. One doesn’t get free from the hunger for cash, credit, and control just by waking up one morning and deciding not to pursue those things. The fact of the matter is we’re freed from those things through suffering. I remember years ago an older woman telling me: “Apostles aren’t born, they’re made.” I think that goes for prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers as well. One may have the gifts necessary to be an equipper, but that’s not enough. The problem is many think it is and choose the easy road that requires no death to self. This is the reason why the church has been so damaged by people claiming to be equippers. They are full of themselves but know how to talk “Jesus talk.”
There is a mystery that occurs in suffering. It doesn’t make sense to the natural mind, but somehow we gain Christ. And I’m not even talking about God throwing you in the fire to teach you a thing or two. I’m also not talking about suffering that you’re able in any way to maintain any form of polished composure or dismount from with the grace of an Olympic gymnast. I’m talking about real, raw, brutal, “Where the hell are you God?” suffering that you exit from with all the grace of a fat man landing a belly flop on a hard wood floor. Those who’ve endured such suffering know exactly what I’m talking about. They stand up afterwards and say, “What was that all about?” It was so ugly, so painful, so messy, they couldn’t see what good could possibly come from it. This is the kind of suffering the true equippers have been through. Yet, somehow, because of what they gained in Christ while they were flopping around in agony like fish dying on the seashore, they now impart life. What they didn’t realize was when they were being crucified, so to speak, they died to the selfish desires of the flesh. They died to the three “C’s.” The Pharisee in them also died while they were meeting themselves in the fire. And when they emerged from their personal grave Christ was formed in them because it was He who became their resurrection.
This is why when Paul defends his ministry as an apostle he points directly to his suffering. The path to becoming a genuine equipper is not one for which people are lining up. There aren’t a whole lot of tickets sold for the bus trip to hell and back. But this is the required route for preparation. This is how Jesus prepares a people who He knows He can trust with His bride. Those others are imposters, placing their filthy hands all over her. These genuine equippers have been broken and He trusts them with what is of greatest value to Him, His bride, because they have His heart and therefore shutter at the very thought of the slightest hint impropriety towards her.
I’ve heard of people making comments like, “Why should I give anything to that equipper just for meeting with us for a few hours? I didn’t pay sister-so-and so for having lunch with me.” It obviously doesn’t occur to them that the immense blessing they received in that short time spent with the equipper didn’t just spring forth on the spot. It came from a well that was painfully dug deep inside the equipper through years of suffering. They went into the pit to get that message for you. They paid a high price to help Christ be formed in you. And we’re squabbling over giving them a few bucks to help them continue doing what they’re doing?
I had an experience at work today that illustrated this quite well. A guy at work who is an accomplished musician wants to create a video of himself playing his guitar. I’ve seen that this guy has real talent and since I’d love to see his music bless others, I told him I’d create one for him for free. He immediately saw the value in what I’d be doing for him because I’m not just a chump with a video camera, but have years of professional video experience having even won a few awards for my work. He began gladly offering to pay me. It’s so sad that in the temporal we can see the value in what somebody is doing for us but when it comes to the eternal we’re either blind to it, selfish, or we just plain don’t view the eternal as being worth more than the temporal.
Loren Rosser co-hosts the Untangled podcast and has written numerous articles and produced several videos including the award winning Church Outside the Walls series. He has worked in network television for over 17 years and holds a BA in social science from Ashford University in Clinton, IA. http://untangled.podomatic.com/ http://loreends.blogspot.com/ http://familyroommedia.com/
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