In the last few years I have observed an increasing number of businesses training their employees to respond to requests for help from patrons with the phrase, “It’s my pleasure.” These businesses want their customers to feel like they are not an imposition but a joy. That kind of attitude is implied in the care that church members are called to give each other within the church.
The past two Sundays, we’ve looked at two passages in Ephesians 4, a portion of Scripture that establishes foundational priorities for the local church. Some of the principles Paul teaches in Ephesians about our life in the church are that:
- We all have the Holy Spirit residing with us (1:13-14).
- We have all been (spiritually) gifted for ministry (4:11).
- We have all been and are being equipped for ministry (4:12).
- We have all been called/commanded to do the work of ministry (4:12).
- Our fundamental work of ministry is to preserve the unity that God has given us (4:1-3) by making every believer mature in Christ (v. 13).
One of the implications of these principles is that the spiritual maturity of any local church body is going to be measured and revealed by the level of involvement of the members of the body with one other. We not only need each other, but we have been designed by God to need each other. He has intentionally created us to be dependent on the care we receive from each other. And that means that if the entire body isn’t involved in the care of the church, then the church body won’t grow. That’s what Paul means when he advocates that every member of the church body is to use his/her gifts (1 Cor. 12:14-24), so that the church body will not have division (i.e., demonstrate its God-given unity) and so that all the members will receive “the same care” (v. 25).
For that to be true means that some of us have to rethink our basic presuppositions about ministry and church.
For instance, church is not something done by the leaders and enjoyed by the laity. All believers are to be involved in evangelism. All believers are to be involved in the same kinds of activity of making disciples of Jesus Christ. All believers are to be servants in the church. Ministry is job one for every believer. Ministry is not a task only for the pastor; ministry (the word simply means “service”) is something every believer should do.
Further, we are saved alone (individually), but we are not saved to be alone. We are saved individually, but we live our life in Christ in community — in fellowship with each other. It sounds very un-American to say this, but we need each other. You and I will not thrive spiritually without mutual participation in each other’s lives.
The New Testament affirms this. For instance, Jesus called the disciples to be “with Him” (Mk. 3:14). They were called to live together with Jesus so that they could participate in all life events with Him and observe and be taught by Him. And the Epistles also affirm the brotherhood of believers. Over 200 times the writers use the term “brothers” to indicate that we have a familial relationship. We are not just acquaintances or friends, but we are organically related with spiritually intimate bonds that supersede physical relationships. We have these bonds because we are all adopted sons of God and corporately we are one united bride for Christ.
On occasion we may be tempted to say something like, “why bother with the church? It’s not worth it.” Maybe we are jaded by disappointment of seeing things not turn out according to our sovereign plan too many times. But it is worth the cost of being with one another.
It is worth the cost because Christ died to accomplish it. The Lord of glory poured out His wrath on His unique and perfect Son so that we would be redeemed as one unified bride. Paul repeatedly emphasizes that truth in Ephesians 2:11 – 3:13 — “Be unified and preserve unity and participate together because God has made you one.” Don’t throw that into category of “why bother?” We bother with the church because Christ died to make it so.
That means that we also need to cultivate a mindset for the privilege of ministry.
Some of us are going to have to make a significant shift in our theology. We have not believed that the church body is important or that we are an important component of the church. That mindset is going to need to change for us to change our behavior.
Some of us lack an understanding of what to do — “I don’t know how to function as a serving member of the body of Christ.” We will have to learn how to do ministry and be willing to attempt various kinds of ministries — even things that make us uncomfortable or are difficult.
Some of us lack a Biblical desire — “I don’t want to…” We must call our ungodly motives, “sin” and confess and align our heart in repentance with God’s desires for the church.
Some of us lack courage — “I’m afraid; I’ve been hurt…” We need to trust God to sustain us as we serve and that even if we get hurt again, God will still do good things through those circumstances.
Some of us lack strength — “I’m already overwhelmed with tasks…” Remember 1 Corinthians 15:58. Our toil is not in vain and our God is sufficient to supply what we need (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
It is a privilege to be used by God, no matter the cost. Don’t look so much at the cost as the reality that God is using a clay pot to accomplish His eternal purposes (2 Cor. 4:7). Ministry is a privilege. Always. For all of us.