All the way back to my 9th grade year in public high school, I remember learning about "vestigial organs" in biology class. (For all of you whose eyes just glazed over because I referenced high school biology, stick with me for a minute.) Basically, vestigial organs are often understood to be organs we still have but don't need. Those who hold to an evolutionary development of humanity would say that perhaps these organs at one time played a key role in our functioning, but over the course of evolutionary development have become unnecessary.
Wikipedia says that "Vestigiality refers to genetically determined structures or attributes that have apparently lost most or all of their ancestral function in a given species, but have been retained during the process of evolution." The same webpage goes on to say that "Vestigiality, biologically speaking, refers to organisms retaining organs, which have seemingly lost the entirety of the original function."
Now, I'm not advocating for a naturalistic, evolutionary approach to human origins. Nor am I ignoring the controversy that can accompany the discussion of vestigial organs. (I'll leave those topics to well trained Christian scientists for now!) What I want to do in this post is take this understanding of vestigial organs and apply it to the church as the body of Christ. Here's my question: Is adult equipping a "vestigial organ" in the body of Christ? Let me get even little more specific. Was intentional, structured, relatively-comprehensive biblical and theological training necessary at one time, but as time has gone on this sort of equipping is no longer necessary?
My answer is a firm "no." Biblical and theological equipping that is both intentional and structured is as necessary today as it was 2000 years ago. Here are just two reasons I believe this.
Biblical and Theological Health is Not an Isolated Organ of the Church but Part of Its Very Lifeblood.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we get the sense that following God is something that must be LEARNED. And a large part of this instruction includes learning who God is, who we are, and how we live rightly under Him. A large part of this instruction includes understanding how God has revealed Himself to us in the Bible, and what the story of the Bible means for us today. All of these things are biblical and theological categories that we cannot neglect. All of these things infuse life and purpose and health into God's people, the church. Biblical and theological health is not something we neglect, and then never miss. Neglecting this equipping ministry of the church will eventually lead to atrophied muscles, amputated limbs, and suffocated airways.
The Need for this Sort of Intentional Equipping Hasn't Gone Away
In a culture that is increasingly biblically illiterate and theologically unaware, we shouldn't take our foot off the gas pedal of pursuing biblical and theological health, and building this sort of health into local churches. Yes, the forms this equipping take may change. But the content should stay focused on catechizing followers of Jesus Christ in biblical and theological truth, for the purpose of character transformation and engaging in Christ's mission.
I'm grateful for how Brookside Church values these adult equipping environments by creating space for and encouraging the Brookside Institute (along with everything else it's doing to cultivate biblical and theological health!). I can point to ways adult equipping adds value to the larger church, and I love how the Institute benefits from being located within a larger, healthy church body that adds value in turn to the Institute. Perhaps a fitting way to end is by looking back to what Paul says in Ephesians 4:11-16 about the many "supporting ligaments" (biblical and theological equipping environments are one of these!) that join and hold the body of Christ together as it grows:
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Interested in More on This?
Check out some of these previous posts on this site that further reinforce the place and value of biblical and theological equipping in the local church:
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.