If you think about it, every church is made up of 2 types of individuals: co-workers and consumers.
A consumer is a spectator. A co-worker is a participator.
A consumer shows up late to the service.
A co-worker arrives early.
A consumer criticizes everything that doesn’t line up with his or her preferences.
A co-worker appreciates what God is doing in the church.
A consumer comes to sit and get.
A co-worker looks to go and serve.
A consumer tunes to WIIFM: what’s in it for me.
A co-worker tunes to WIIFY: what’s in if for you.
A consumer only takes in.
A co-worker pours out to others.
A consumer sees himself as a cistern of truth.
A co-worker sees himself as a channel of blessing.
For some reason the thought that one could be a follower of Christ and not be active in the ministry is foreign in the scriptures. Today, we will see that God expects you to participate in ministry so that you grow up in Christ and build up the body of Christ. Every person was saved for a purpose and the purpose was never to glorify you.
11 It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s 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. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
God appointed the leadership (11–12)
These four groups are foundational gifts by God to the church. The apostles” were the twelve, and “prophets” were those who preached in association with the apostles. These two groups were the bedrock of the church.
F. F. Bruce, New Testament scholar, says: “the apostles as an order of the ministry of the church, were not perpetuated beyond the apostolic age, but the various functions they discharged did not lapse with their departure, but continued to be performed by others — notably the evangelists and pastors and teachers.”The Bible has replaced the roles of the apostles and prophets, but the other two groups are still present today: evangelists and shepherd/teachers
The evangelist is a gift to the church. He has the unique ability to make the gospel plain and relevant to those who are lost. When you think of evangelists, men like D. L. Moody or Billy Sunday come to mind. The greatest evangelist of our time is Billy Graham.
Did you know that everyone is called to do the work of an evangelist?
2 Tim. 4:5, “but as for you, be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Finally, there are shepherd/teachers. The two words are combined into one single title. In the 4th century, preachers and theologians like Chrysostom and Augustine and even it the present day pastor and author John Macarthur believe these 2 terms describe one office. “shepherd” is another word for pastor and his chief goal is teaching. The greatest job of the shepherd is to feed the sheep. Paul told Peter to make feeding the sheep a top priority — as Christ three times charged peter to do (john 21:15–17).
Did you notice the one characteristic that unites all 4 callings? Teaching. The greatest gift of the leadership of any church is to explain and expound the word of God.
One seminary president mourned over the lack of biblical exposition from our pulpits, saying, “I would get on my knees and crawl across america to find someone who will teach my students to preach the text of the Bible.”There are men who don’t even open their Bible when they preach today. The sacred text has become a diving board at the end of the sermon, which the preacher leaves and never returns to. O’ how the sheep are starving to hear a word from God today. Not a cool illustration from the preacher, not funny stories every week, not creative videos.
The greatest gift a pastor can give to his congregation is the faithful, expositional preaching of the word of God. My promise to you is that we will come to the text and study God’s word every single week.
God anticipated disciple-making (13–14)
There has been some confusion over what this verse means. In older versions of the english Bible, there was a small, but serious inaccuracy that may have contributed to lack of ownership of ministry on the part of the members of the church. The point of contention is a comma.
In the original King Jamess version (which has been changed in more recent editions), Ephesians 4:11–12 said, “and he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, [comma] for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
So the natural translation of office of pastors is that he does 3 things: 1) equip the saints, (2) do the ministry, and (3) edify or build up the body of Christ. The pastors are the ones called by God, so they must do the work of God. But the comma is not in the original greek. English translations added that later.
Look at the passage without the comma. There is 1 task given to the minister and 1 to the church members or laity. The pastor equips the saints, and the members do the work of ministry. But when we search the New Testament, we see the word minister or ministry always referring to every Christian. There never was a distinction between the two groups.
How many are believers of Christ?
How many are disciples of Christ?
How many are saints of Christ?
All of the above are synonymous with each other.
According to the Bible, the saints are believers.
Romans 1:7, “to all who are in rome , loved by God , called as saints.”
1 Cor. 1:1, “Paul , called as an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will , and sosthenes our brother : 2 to God’s church at corinth , to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints , with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord — both their Lord and ours.”
Eph. 1:1, “Paul , an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will : to the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus.”
Phil. 1:1, “Paul and timothy , slaves of Christ Jesus : to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi , including the overseers and deacons.”
Col. 1:1, “Paul , an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will , and Timothy our brother : to the saints in Christ at Colossae , who are faithful brothers . Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”
Why do I make this distinction? We, as the saints or disciples of Christ, are all called to carry out the ministry. So how do the saints do the work of ministry?
This is 2 fold:
- You need to realize that you can do the work of ministry. Whether it is visiting someone who is sick, serving in the preschool, setting up for worship, handing out bulletins on sunday morning, or making a phone call to a member who lost a loved one, you can help.
- You also need to realize that ministry happens even when the pastoral staff isn’t present. Or even when the senior pastor isn’t there.
The greatest ministry happens from 8–5 during the week. How many people do you know that I don’t know? What if we had a goal of sharing the gospel with 2 people over the course of this year and then investing in those 2 people in a discipleship group in 2015. If everyone in discipleship groups did that, we would have 2400 people in D-groups by next year.
The work of ministry is overwhelming. One man cannot do it alone. Our staff cannot do it alone. We have over 3000 members at Brainerd Baptist Church. There is no way a pastoral staff of 10 can handle the workload. No matter how gifted or talented or dedicated the staff is, we cannot minister to all the needs of our church.
What is the goal of disciple-making? Unity. When believers are growing in their faith, doing the work of ministry, becoming mature believers, unity among the church is the outcome.
A 2nd result of equipping the saints is a maturity of the knowledge of the Son of God. This is not knowledge that leads to salvation, but a deep understanding of Christ that is fostered through obedience to God’s word.
The 3rd result of equipping the saints is maturity in character. The goal of the Christian life is to be like Christ. Not to look like Christ physically, but to reflect his perfections. To respond like him, to love like him, to serve like him.
Rom. 8:29, “for those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
How does God mature believers?
With the Bible. When is it a good time to start reading through the Bible? Now. Find a reading plan and start. I would suggest one that has an Old Testament and a New Testament reading each day. Paul paints a tragic picture of what happens when you lack Biblical maturity. You are unstable. You begin to waver and falter in your faith. The Christian who has not been discipled or equipped can be equated to a child who is “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Cunning is the greek work kubia, where we get the word cube which was used for dice-playing. Just like men loaded the dice to manipulate the game to their advantage, men use trickery to manipulate immature believers today. Immature Christians are easily led astray because they cannot articulate their faith. They don’t know how to explain what they believe. The Jehoveh’s witnesses come to your door to plant a seed of doubt. If you doubt that the word may say something different than what you thought the Bible said, then you will doubt what you know, and open the floodgates for false teaching and heresy to infiltrate your life.
When you stray from the Word, you abandon the Lord. You cannot know the God of the Word if you don’t know the Word of God. The greatest tragedy in the church today is not only the lack of evangelism toward the lost in the world. The greatest tragedy is the lack of discipleship among the saved.
We need to be a people of the word. If there is one thing you need to know it is the Bible. Not the latest fashions out of hollywood, or the current trends on wall street, or the sexiest movie stars in people magazine, or the topic of discussion on daily talk shows. We need to get into the word into the word gets into us so that we aren’t led astray. Can you defend your faith? Can you articulate the gospel? Can you refute false teaching?
When you are equipped for the work of ministry, you will mature in your doctrine and you will mature in discernment which will lead to growth.
God expected participation (15–16)
Speaking the truth in love is the opposite of what we just saw. False teachers were using lies to lead people, but that should not be so for believers. The verb speaking the truth means to speak, act, and live truthfully. Skeptical german poet heinrich heine said to Christians, “you show me your redeemed life and I might be inclined to believe in your redeemer.” Truth and love must must be fused together. This is very difficult to do, especially when you are confronting a brother or sister you who is in sin.
Let me give you an example: Susan has a problem with her husband’s drinking habits, and she wavers constantly between truth and love. Sometimes she nags at him and yells at him about it, being truthful, but not loving. Other times, she goes into denial and pretends as though there is no problem at all; it’s her attempt to be loving, but not truthful. But until truth and love come together, he probably won’t really hear her heart.
Mike has a Christian boss whom he suspects is not ethical in keeping his accounts. He cheats here and cheats there to get ahead. This bothers mike because his boss is a deacon at his church. But instead of talking to him about it, he keeps it all locked down inside. He wavers between being lenient and patient to protect his boss’s reputation, and between being confrontational about this apparent sin. Somehow, he needs to be both truthful and loving at the same time.
Verse 15, “we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped.”
The believers grow up together with other believers by the power of Christ. These 2 words, “joined and held” are present passive participles. They are synonymous with each other and reveal how the function of the body is a result of the power of Christ. We don’t hold ourselves together after being equipped for the work of ministry, God does.
The church is a body of many parts. Look at Romans 12:3, “for by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 for as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
The success of the body is dependent upon the participation of every member. When one part suffers, the entire body is affected. Being a joint is not glorious, but its important. No one woke up and said, “thank God for the ligaments in my finger.” but when you hurt one, you are. You only realize how important a part of the body when it’s hurt or missing.
Have you ever suffered from back pain before? It’s not pleasant to deal with. Your entire body is affected when your back hurts. You cant do your job effectively because your full potential is compromised, your kids are affected because you can wrestle with them or shoot hoops. Your wife is affected because you cant help around the house too good. When a part of the body is not working properly, the entire body is affected. This church operates in the same manner. As much as we are doing for the Lord in this community, city, and nation, we could be doing more. We are hindered, not by the amount of people coming, we are hindered by those not serving .
–what could our church be if everyone participated at our church? Children, preschool, and students?
–who could we reach if you served in the inner city, overseas, and everywhere in between?
If Paul judged success in a local church by the amount of people involved in the ministry, how well are our churches doing?
I’ve been in small churches where the pastor does all the work. He cleans the toilets, mops the floors, leads themessages, leads the business meetings, cuts the grass, fixes the plumbing, pays the bills, etc. Success in the church is determined by how many members participate in the ministry. So if the pastor is doing all the work in the church he is failing in a major area, not succeeding.
So what are you waiting for? We need you! The church needs you? Every person has a purpose, what’s yours?