A Word of Warning to Church Leaders

By Mark D. Roberts

November 5, 2018

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

Ephesians 4:11-12


Today’s Life for Leaders devotion has a specific audience: church leaders. Now, if you’re not a pastor or church staff member, you might be inclined to skip this devotion. You’re welcome to do so, of course. But I expect you might find this one to be helpful to you.

A kid learning to rollerblade.Today’s word of warning is based on what we saw in last Thursday’s devotion. As you may recall, we noted that Christ’s gifts as portrayed in Ephesians 4:11 are not what we might expect. We’re used to thinking of gifts as particular talents or capabilities inspired by the Holy Spirit, as in 1 Corinthians 12-14, for example. But in our passage from Ephesians, the gifts Christ gives are not of this sort. Rather, they are gifts of people, people who serve in particular leadership roles in the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers. In light of this surprising notion of gifting, I encouraged you to think of your pastor and other church leaders as gifts from Christ to the church.

Now, I’m sure that there are many pastors who could use the encouragement of knowing that they are God’s gifts to their congregations. Pastors can easily feel unappreciated by the people they’re serving. It might help them to see themselves not in terms of the latest complaint they heard about their preaching, but rather as precious divine gifts.

Yet, at the same time, I’m aware that sometimes church leaders, especially senior pastors, especially “successful” senior pastors, can have over-inflated egos. These folk might very well take the “God’s gift to the church” label as one more declaration of their own awesomeness, or as one more reason to lord their leadership over their congregations. Anyone who would dare to disagree with the pastor might hear, “How can you contradict me? I am God’s gift to this church!”

So, let me offer a word of warning to pastors who might take Ephesians 4:11 the wrong way. First, nothing in this passage says your vision, your ideas, or your strategies are always right. God has raised you up as a leader not to be the inerrant revealer of God’s will for your church, but so that you might teach your church to discern God’s will as the body of Christ.

Second, if you are Christ’s gift to your church, that does make you special in a way. But, remember that you are Christ’s gift. This suggests that you belong to Christ, that he is sovereign over you and your ministry. You serve at the pleasure of Christ and will serve well when you recognize that you are first and foremost a servant, both to Christ and to his church.

Something to Think About:

If you are a church leader, how do you respond to the notion that you are a gift from Christ to the church?

If you are a church member, how do you respond to this view of your pastor(s) and church staff?

Something to Do:

If you are a church leader, ask the Lord to show you how you can be a faithful steward of the “gifting” Christ has given to the church where you serve?


Gracious God, thank you for the church, which is the body of Christ.

Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for giving gifts of people to your church, people to preach and teach, people to disciple and pray, people to lead and empower. May those who are church leaders understand themselves and their work in light of this truth.

Keep us all, Lord, from being puffed up in ourselves. May we be your servants, those whom you have called to “wash the feet” of others. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Gifted Communities (1 Corinthians 12:1–14:40)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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