Have you ever felt ill-equipped for something? My daughter is preparing for a once-in-a-lifetime trip with some friends. Part of her adventure will include hiking in Nepal, and the friend who invited her, gave a mandatory assignment— a book to read called Trekking in the Everest Region. Having gone on only one other fairly significant hiking trip, and nothing like Everest, and after reading part way through the book, she remarked at how very grateful she is and how much more equipped she feels with the knowledge she’s been given.
I was reminded of how so many of today’s Christians feel ill-equipped, and I think it’s partly the church’s fault. Yes, we, as individuals, are responsible, too, to read the Book and equip ourselves with knowledge, especially if we live in a country in which we are free to own a Bible and freely worship. But the purpose of Christ’s gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers is to equip “the saints for the work of the ministry and for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11, 12). (Some translations use the word perfecting rather than equipping, but the sense of the Greek word is to make a person complete or adequate for what is required. 2 Timothy 3:17 uses the same root word when it says, “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works”.)
I have often heard Christians say, “Why haven’t I ever heard that taught before?” or “I didn’t know that was in the Bible.” A few people have even said, “You’ve helped me understand more in a short of amount of time than all the years I’ve been in church.” On one such occasion we were discussing the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man— not a simple subject and one I don’t fully understand myself. So hearing a number of pastors and teachers over the years say, “People just don’t want to hear the Word of God anymore,” —a comment invariably made when attendance begins to dwindle, hearing it is discouraging, because blame is being laid squarely on the people. While I think the assertion may be true to some degree, when I consider people I’ve talked with and some of the churches whose leaders are breaking away from three-points-and-a-prayer sermons and doing more teaching than preaching, as well as practicing and encouraging discipleship as part of the Great Commission, rather than primarily encouraging church attendees to be a witness and invite people to church to hear the gospel and get saved— when I consider these things, I have observed people who do want to hear the Word of God and become better equipped, effective and more confident to walk and journey through life.
If you’ve been feeling ill-equipped, don’t wait for someone to equip you. Read the Book. And if you have questions or there’s something you don’t understand, ask the Holy Spirit and find someone who has already been there, like my daughter’s friend.