One of the main tasks of the leadership of any local church is that of equipping the saints for the work of ministering to others. The apostle Paul declared this in Ephesians 4:11-12: “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastor-teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” The Greek word Paul uses for equipping is katartizo, which means, “to furnish completely; complete; prepare” (George Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd edition, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1968, p. 238). Therefore, it is the responsibility of the leadership of the church to prepare or complete the ministry skills of the congregation for their various duties of service and ministry. Katartizo is also used in Matthew 4:21 and translated “mending,” referring to James and John “mending” their nets for fishing. In order for their fishing to be most effective, they needed to “equip” their nets for optimum fish-catching. Likewise, in order for the local church to perform the most effective ministry possible, they must “equip” the believers for this task.
The two major avenues for the full maturing of the church are through preaching/teaching and shepherding. Preaching and teaching are the purest and most effective form for this maturing because it is the direct proclamation of the Word of God that matures the saints. That is why Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 4:14-15, “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head, even Christ.” God has declared that it is the preaching of the Word that brings men and women to faith in Christ and it is that same preaching/teaching which matures them in the faith (see Romans 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24; 1 Peter 1:22–2:1-3).
Shepherding is also crucial because it allows the leadership to speak directly with any individual member of the Body of Christ and give them clear and distinct spiritual counsel. Whatever has been taught from the pulpit can be directly applied to any individual who has need. This is no doubt why Paul links the two equipping means together with the title, “Pastor-Teacher” in Ephesians 4:11. The “Pastor” of Pastor-Teacher is the distinct shepherding role he must fulfill, and the “Teacher” function of “Pastor-Teacher” is the impartation of that truth into their lives through preaching.
Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:1-5 both give the command to “shepherd the flock.” Shepherding might be the more elastic term among preaching/teaching and shepherding, but it is nonetheless paramount for the elders of the church. It is true that shepherding is an aspect of the teaching role, but shepherding primarily relates to meeting individually and regularly with the flock. This could include a number of different phases of ministry, but certainly includes speaking directly with the flock about their daily needs. It will also assuredly mean that the elders must warn/instruct/counsel believers of their sinful thoughts and actions, so that they will be more fully conformed to the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Paul speaks of this ministry of shepherding/admonishing in a number of key passages (see Romans 15:14; 1 Corinthians 4:14; Ephesians 6: 4; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).
All of the aforementioned relates to the church leadership’s role in equipping the saints for the work of ministry. The elders of The Bible Church of Little Rock therefore, commit to equipping the saints in a way that maximizes ministry to the glory of God. This includes assigning every member-family of The Bible Church of Little Rock to an elder, who then is tasked with the responsibility to shepherd them personally. When they are taught God’s Word from the pulpit, they can receive immediate shepherding from their assigned elder, should any need arise. If a spiritual crisis occurs, they can meet with their elder for direct counsel. Every member-family is also encouraged strongly to be actively involved in a Care Group, which gives them fellowship and interaction with other member-families. These member-families can also be involved in Sunday morning Equipping Hour classes, which further give opportunity to learn and grow in God’s Word. In addition, there are a number of other classes (men’s ministry and women’s ministry classes, retreats, and conferences for example) where the body can continue to gain much needed input regarding any needs they might have.
All in all, The Bible Church of Little Rock exists for the purpose of equipping its members in every aspect of ministry, as Paul says, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).