Encounter – Equip – Empower

Encounter – Equip – Empower

Aug 29, 2017

Sabbath Morning Worship

Pastor Nate Crandall

The Connecting Church

Milton, WI


Let me tell you a tale of three churches. The first church is the church of my youth, the Milton Seventh Day Baptist church. This is where I began to encounter Jesus. Sometimes Jesus was hard to find. Oh there were good people who did good things, but the characteristic of that church was cultural Christianity. Our parents did the church thing, so we did the church thing. There was youth fellowship and junior choir and turkey supper and traditions. Most of the people in the church really didn’t understand what a relationship with Christ was all about. During the last of my years as a teenager, the gospel began to slowly invade, and some who had been cultural Christians their whole lives trusted Jesus alone to save them. I myself trusted Christ at a Vacation Bible School at another church.

The second church is the church of my adult life, the Milton Seventh Day Baptist church. The characteristic of this church is that people are being equipped for ministry. The gospel message has been consistently preached in church, in our youth and children’s ministries, in our ministry at Camp Wakonda and other places. The Word was being preached and the church was being built up. When I came to this church about ten years ago, there were adjustments that I had to make. I had to learn what my role in this equipping process was. There was a steep learning curve, but I so enjoyed the emphasis on equipping since the words of Paul in Ephesians 4 about equipping the saints for ministry was a special emphasis of my seminary. Yet as I began to move in sync with this second church I began to notice some things that were missing. Instead of working together in unity, so often the work of the ministry was random, subject to the personal desires and agendas of individuals. I began to spend much of my time refocusing ministry and putting out fires rather than building the ministry. Something was missing.

Let me tell you about the third church, the church of my future, the Milton Seventh Day Baptist church. This church does not yet exist fully, but it will in the future. The Lord has called us, and we will follow. The picture of this church is one where its people live for God’s glory, where they are becoming more like Jesus, they are serving each other in the love of Christ, they are sharing life together in the power of the Spirit, where its people connect others to Jesus and help God change their lives. We don’t yet really know what this looks like, but I do know that if we are to get there, the people of God will need to be empowered to live their lives on mission for Christ. Indeed if we are to walk into the future which our Sovereign Lord has designed for us we will encounter Jesus, be equipped to serve Jesus and be empowered in the mission of Jesus.

About two years ago I was turned on to “Strengths Finder,” which is the result of many years of research conducted by the Gallup Organization. It is first of all a philosophy of human abilities, the core of which understands that the greatest potential for growth that we have as humans is in the area of our strengths. “Strengths Finder” has identified 34 core areas of strengths based on interviews of over 10,000 people using a highly specific methodology. A test that takes under 20 minutes online results in a ranked order of your own personal strengths. You can ask for your top five or have all 34 if you so desire.

What made such an impression on me was how accurate the descriptions were of my areas of strength, the kinds of work I prefer to do, what energizes me, etc. From these strengths I developed three strength statements. These strength statements are meant to be a guide to focus a person’s time and energy so that the main emphasis of the work life, and for me ministry life, is in these areas of strength. Not only, according to the philosophy, will this have the greatest potential for growth, but it will also have the greatest potential for fulfillment.

Here are my strength statements:

I feel strong when…

• I speak God’s truth so that people encounter Him and are changed.

• I envision and lead for change where God’s people are equipped to be who He has

called them to be.

• I empower leaders to do what God has called them to do.

It’s no mistake that Patti asked the speakers for this week to focus on encounter, equip, empower. So these are not only my areas of strength, this is my goal for the message this morning – for you to encounter Jesus, to be equipped for ministry and to be empowered in mission for Jesus.

Do you know what your spiritual strengths are? We most often refer to our spiritual strengths as spiritual gifts. The scripture calls them “graces” or Charismata in the Greek. A grace is a gift of God. These gifts He has implanted in each one of us at our conception. However, they become spiritual gifts or spiritual strengths when those who have been given them are born of the Spirit. So when our spirit comes alive by the grace of God when we first trust in Christ, the Lord gives us gifts of spiritual strength. The sad reality is that the majority of Christ-followers either do not know their spiritual strengths or they are not using them.

Do you know what your natural strengths are? Consider the parable of the talents. The master in the parable gave talents and expected a return on his investment. He expected results, and when the servant with the one talent gave no return on the master’s investment, he was thrown out into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. We each have talents or natural strengths that the Lord has given us to use for His glory. Yet rather than investing them in the work of the Kingdom of God, the temptation is to keep them for ourselves. If we are going to be properly equipped for ministry we must use our graces (spiritual gifts) and talents (natural gifts) for His purposes instead of our own.

This requires that we recognize the difference between our purposes and God’s purposes. How do I know when I am being driven and motivated by my own self-centered desire rather than Christ-centered purpose? James gives us a clue in 3:13-18. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason…”

Paul gives us more clues, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other…the works of the flesh are evident.” (Galatians 5:17-24)

These are a litmus test to reveal to us where our purposes are self-centered or Christ-centered. Once the Lord reveals to us our own heart, then we are ready to follow Him out of that area of darkness and into His light. The light is where Jesus is glorified in us — all we are, all we do, all we say, all our patterns of thought, all our hopes, all our plans – as we are laid open and what comes out is that Jesus is honored and praised, then we know that our purposes line up with His.

You are most fulfilled and encouraged when you are living

according to the design of your master. That is being equipped. But to be empowered is to recognize the purpose and the plans of Jesus in and through His church. It’s not about your gifts. It’s about His mission. You can live your life on your mission, for your gifts and your desires and your hopes and dreams, but in the end you will come out with the same result as Solomon — that this has all been meaningless. On the other hand, you can live your life on His mission and for His purposes. This mission begins and ends with us being transformed into the very image and nature of Christ. We live on mission for Jesus when we encounter Jesus, when we are equipped to serve Jesus and when we are empowered to partner with Jesus in His ongoing mission on earth.


Ephesians 4:4-6

“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Knowing Him as Savior, Lord and Friend, filled with His Spirit on an ongoing basis, submerged in His Grace until every nook and cranny of our life, heart and soul is bathed in it.

As we heard earlier this week, there is only one name given under Heaven by which we must be saved. There is one Lord and Savior. There is only one faith that saves. There is only one baptism that brings us from death to life, only one hope that belongs to our call.

Yet, we so often, daily, hourly, moment by moment, turn our hopes to the things that fade, rust, break, get lost, stolen, destroyed. Our encounter with the Lord must be in the moment. At any moment the Lord will reveal Himself to us, but we must look to encounter Him. We must build into our lives structures that do that. We must allow the Lord to move us into ways of thinking and ways of living that create the attitudes conducive to ongoing encounters with the Lord.

“Love not the things in the world” must be re-evaluated on an ongoing basis. We must build into our lives times for self-evaluation and for Spirit-evaluation. Conference is such a time. Now is the time to open our hearts to what the Spirit is saying to His church. Let me have you ask yourself a few questions:

Is my character submitted to Christ? — meaning I’m not

making excuses for behavior.

Is my pride subdued? — meaning I am ready to admit where

I am weakest.

Are my fears at bay? — meaning I don’t live by fear but rather

am moved by faith.

Are interior issues undermining my life and ministry?

— meaning I am being healed of wounds, losses, disappointments, junk, etc.

Are my ears open to the Spirit’s whisper? — meaning I can

hear His voice.

Is my pace sustainable? — meaning I have space in the margins

of my life.

Are my gifts developing? — meaning I know what they are

and am using them.

Is my heart for God increasing? — meaning I love the things

He loves.


Ephesians 4:7, 11-12

“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift…And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”

The Lord gave Himself to the church. These gifts are His strengths which He has loaned out in order to accomplish His mission. But we must overemphasize that these gifts or strengths are Jesus Himself. It is His working through people that is the key. It is Jesus who builds His church so that the gates of Hell do not prevail against it. Until we realize that, we will be in a holding pattern as we try to build the church and fail miserably as the gates of Hell continue to pummel us.

Jesus’ mission is accomplished through His people. He has divided up the achieving of that mission with five (or four depending) areas of equipping. They are not just equipping to do tasks, but to reveal the nature of Christ. The building up of the body of Christ is all about attaining the understanding of who Jesus is, being transformed to be like Him. This happens on the basis of unity. We’ve each been given a measure of His grace. As we

respond to this grace each believer responds to the grace given to him. We see the progress of growth toward the goal of maturity which is Christ-likeness.

Notice that the Lord has given certain people (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) a leadership role in

this equipping process. This is important for us to understand.

We must, as Christ has done in giving His gifts, allow these leaders to do their role of equipping. This must happen in two ways.

First, recognize the call of these leaders and let them lead. They must be given the authority, within accountability, to do what Jesus has equipped them to do. Burnout is the end of every road where a pastor, for example, is not given the freedom and authority to care for and to lead the flock. Because of past fears of abuse that have never been fully healed, many pastors do not have the freedom to lead into the green pastures which the church desperately needs for increasing in health and life.

This also includes not doing those things which a leader is not called to do. The management of the church infrastructure is not something that I have been called to do. This past year our church made a conscious decision to pilot a new structure where those called to lead in ministry were not asked to make decisions about the buildings and the finances and the computers. Previously they were structurally part of this decision tree, and it was sucking the life out of them. When we made this move to try this different structure for a year, the response I got from these leaders was, “Thank you!” I myself cannot tell you how freeing it has been. Those who have been called and equipped to do this sort of thing are happy. The ministry leaders are happy. I’m happy. Jesus is happy. We are all clapping along.

Second, God’s family, the church, cannot be equipped properly unless all these gifts are in operation. Traditionally, the ministry of the prophet has worked against the ministry of the teacher and vice versa. Yet, Biblically it was when the prophets and the teachers were in unity in the church at Antioch that the ministry of the apostle Paul was given a platform to operate on a powerful level. We must begin to recognize more than just the pastor in this role of equipping God’s people for ministry.

An apostle, Paul says, lays a foundation upon which the church is able to grow in a healthy way. We must recognize the difference between the role of the apostle and the pastor and not send pastors into those kinds of roles. The apostle either plants new churches or replants existing churches as a general rule. A pastor has not been given the grace by Jesus to do this kind of thing. Let us be careful to recognize a difference.

I use these examples because of the emphasis on church planting which the Lord has been leading our churches to focus on these past few years. Much more needs to be taught and modeled in all of these areas of equipping gifts. But my point remains, these are the gifts that Jesus gave to build up His body and get them ready for areas of service in ministry. Who are we to say we know better than Jesus? Instead, we need to figure these things out and make conscious steps toward a future where we are equipping the church according to the design of Jesus.

As we are equipped to use our spiritual strengths we become fulfilled, satisfied, and content because we are becoming who God has designed us to be. Ultimately that means that we become like Jesus.


Ephesians 4:13

“until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

The power that we have comes from Jesus. When He is working through us and we are not fighting against Him by trying to work in our own abilities, strength, and understanding, then the power of Heaven comes to earth. We are not equipped so that we ourselves can be fulfilled but so that the Kingdom of God may advance on the earth.

The critique of the people of God in this season of world

history is they lack power. Lots of talk, no power. The power that we have in us, which the Lord is waiting to unleash, is to sum all things up in Christ. When the people of God stop trying to work their own agendas, then the power of God working through the equipped people of God will cause encounters with Christ which will radically change our understanding of what it means to follow Christ.

The measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ means among other things that His mission is our mission. He came to seek and to save the lost, but among the other desires that we have, many of them good desires, we have left that out of who we are and what we do. It does no good if you have a doctrine of evangelism in your statement of belief if you are not putting that into action.

To be empowered means that we are accountable for results. The Lord is the one who saves people. We are the ones who bring the message. We cannot ever get an A grade on being His messengers if we are busy with our own mission and then we pick up Jesus’ mission on the weekends. The Great Commission was never meant to be a side job for the church. The Great Commission is our bread and butter because it is why Jesus came to earth. The unity of the faith of a mature church is one that has been empowered to take the gospel and to set people free and is actually doing it. If we are not on mission with Jesus then we are a long way away from the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

How shall we respond?

1. Decide to live your life on mission for Jesus

Stand to repent of your desires and your plans running your life, and your desire is to live on mission for Jesus. Just because you are a believer doesn’t mean that your world view and your thinking have been adjusted to the thoughts of God as revealed in His Word. Just because you are a pastor doesn’t mean that your life is on mission for Jesus instead of on mission for yourself.

2. Understand your spiritual and natural strengths

Make a commitment to the Lord to find and begin to exercise your spiritual and natural strengths. Spiritual strengths are most often discovered by listening to our pastors or spiritual mentors. They can see gifts in us that we are not yet able to see. This was what Paul did for Timothy as he encouraged him to pursue the spiritual strengths that became evident as Paul placed his hands on Timothy and prayed for him. (2 Timothy 1:6)

3. Mobilize people to be empowered for ministry.

It is a challenge for pastors to lead their people into and out of areas of ministry. Some are in areas of ministry that they are not gifted in. Others are gifted for areas of ministry that they are not currently serving in. Although it can be a difficult pastoral challenge, the results of helping people to truly be empowered in ministry are huge.

What would happen if we were to take these steps? I believe that Paul’s words to the Ephesian church are spot on. This is the result when we live our life on mission for Jesus, as we

encounter him, are equipped for ministry, and are empowered for His mission.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all

that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

— Ephesians 3:20-21

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