Equip is one of my favourite leadership words. I like it so much, because it gets to the heart of what leaders are called to do – to help and build up people. So much of leadership is about bringing out the best in others. Helping women and men reach their potential, so they too can lead others in a similar way. That’s why, when we began our first annual leadership day at The Belfrey in 2017, we simply called it this word: Equip.

The great leader of the first century church, St Paul, knew that equipping was central to leadership. So when he lists five key leaders in the church, he doesn’t say that their job is to do all the work. Rather he says that Christ gives such leaders ‘to equip his people for works of service, so that people may be built up’ (Ephesians 4:12). Their role is an enabling one. It’s about training. Instructing. Encouraging. Supporting. Resourcing.

A young woman recently contacted me to thank me and our church for helping her reassess her difficult past and look to the future with real hope. She especially mentioned how a number of people, especially women had helped her, through mentoring and practical care and how she now no longer had to be shaped by her background but could go into the future with confidence and courage. I was stirred by her story, and realised that she was describing Ephesians 4:12 – someone being equipped!

Missiologist Alan Hirsch is an expert in the meaning behind Ephesians 4. He’s devoted much time and energy into researching and writing on this inspirational text, believing it holds many keys to understanding calling, leadership and organisation. In his latest book, 5Q, he says this about St Paul’s use of the word equip (Greek: katartizo) in Ephesians 4:

katartizo can equally be translated as “mend what has been broken or rent” (as in nets and even broken bones), to “perfectly join together,” “put in order,” “adjust,” “strengthen,” “perfect  or complete,” and “make one what one ought to be.”’

Hirsch then offers nine fresh ways to apply the word:

  • equipping
  • perfecting
  • mending
  • perfectly joining together
  • putting in order
  • ethical strengthening
  • completing
  • fulfilling
  • healing

This is what leaders are supposed to do. This is what it means to equip.

That’s why we need all kind of leaders (especially the five mentioned in Ephesians 4) in order for people and communities to be built up and reach their full potential. We need gifted and called men and women of character, who see leadership as about serving. That doesn’t mean they shirk leadership responsibility and avoid making the tough decisions. It doesn’t mean they lay down their duty to be people of vision, to oversee and to be first among equals. It simply means that it’s not about them. It’s about others. It’s about knowing you’re called to equip people.

If you’re influencing anyone in life, you’re leading them. If you’re leading people, you job is to equip them. So how’s your equipping going?

The next Equip leadership day will be held in St Michael le Belfrey Church in York on Monday 16th April 2018 (10am-4pm). This year’s keynote speaker is Arianna Walker, who heads up Mercy UK. This free leadership day also includes practical seminars from other seasoned leaders. For more details visit: belfrey.org/equip