Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: The Challenge of Equipping the Saints

Why is it so hard to Equip the Saints for the Work of Ministry?

(It was challenging even before the global pandemic.)
The Problem:
  1. Way too few get involved
  2. Sporadic involvement of those who do give it a try
  3. An unbalanced focus on “bright and shiny” things (flamboyant, thrilling, awe-inspiring, etc.) a common hazard

A Likely Reason: We may not be taking the same journey as disciples of Jesus

The following metaphor is an attempt to visualize the impact of the different theological assumptions about God, His Kingdom, and the nature of the salvation work he did in Jesus for us which we bring with us into the arena of “equipping the saints.’

People Traveling By plane assume that the Father bought them a ticket out of this awful place. They board the plane and fly high over this world on their way to Heaven.

They also assume that they have no responsibilities except to stay seated, follow inflight instructions, and enjoy the ride.

People Traveling By train assume that the Father booked them a seat on a transcontinental railroad. Their journey takes them safely through all the highs and lows of the country outside our windows.

They assume that they have limited responsibilities except to navigate different stops and equipment changes along the way to ensure they stay on the right train and don’t go astray. It is dangerous out there and every follower of God needs to be vigilant and careful. They might also occasionally help others board the train if they have the opportunity.

People Traveling By automobile realize that the Father, the Sovereign Creator, runs a transportation and shipping company. Their vocation in life is to work as drivers in the family business. Their job is to deliver the cargo of his grace and power until the earth is covered with his glory and presence.

These people understand that they have significant responsibility in this enterprise. As they work collaboratively with dispatch to go where they are sent, they maintain their vehicle on the road and deliver the cargo with superior customer service. They recognize that in many ways, they are the customer-facing part of the Father’s business.

How the mode of transportation can be a problem when trying to equip the saints.

To People Traveling By plane, the activities around equipping the Saints and the power of the Holy Spirit are an in-flight entertainment choice. It can be exciting, but it can be turned off when you want to take a nap or find that it’s not as fun as it used to be anymore.

To People Traveling By Train, Equipping the Saints and the power of God have two useful applications on the “train bound for heaven.” On the one hand, it can be helpful in keeping other passengers safe on the journey, and on the other hand, it can be useful at times in getting other people to board the train to make the journey with you. However, the stress and fatigue of the long journey tempt many to spend more and more time hunkered down in their seat reading a good book, or binge-watching Netflix waiting for the trip to be over.

Traveling By Automobile Needs Some Explanation – People who thought they were boarding planes and trains need to be re-educated, so they understand that they are not merely passengers, but they are, in fact, drivers. They do not just “have a ticket to ride,” they have a job to do.

As new people join the family, they need to be oriented from the beginning to understand what the family business objectives are (the Edenic mandate fulfilled in the new heaven and new earth), who they are what are their roles and responsibilities (as image-bearers), and how to do their part (equipped as disciples of Jesus to facilitate “on earth as in heaven” stuff).

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