Serving the Church

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In our series on following Christ, we’ve come to the second aspect of playing our part in the growth of the church, which is serving the church.


On Tuesday the next President of the USA will be elected to serve that whole nation. If you’re a Christian you’ve been elected or chosen by God to serve him and his church. You see it’s important to note what Paul has already said in Ephesians 1-3 because of the ‘then’ or ‘therefore’ in v1 of chapter 4. Look back to Ephesians 2:1-3. As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins… and by nature objects of wrath... But [v4&5] because of God’s great love for us, he, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions – it is by grace we have been saved. And that’s true of all of us here tonight who are trusting in Christ as our Saviour and Lord. Paul goes on in v8&9: It is by grace you have been saved, through faith in Christ – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast.

We are not saved by good works but by grace (by God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense) through faith in Christ. We are not saved by good works. But we are saved for good works. V10:

We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (v10)

So if you’re a believer here tonight – please understand this - you are God’s workmanship [so don’t think you have little worth or value], you were created in Christ Jesus to do good works, good works which God prepared in advance for you to do. And those good works will include serving the church to help build it up, grow and mature. You see every disciple of Christ has both a mission in the world and a ministry in the church. Ephesians 4v7:

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. (Ephesians 4v7)

When we become Christians we also become part of Christ’s church and it’s important then to be part of a local church – for your own growth and for the growth in every way of that body of Christ. Yes, God gives the growth as each part of the body does its work. Look at Eph 4v16:

From him [from Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4v16)

Do you want to grow as a Christian? Do you want to play your part in helping the church to grow under God? Do we as a church want to grow? Well let’s look at what that means in practice. First (v1) Paul urges us to


What is the calling we have received? Ephesians 1v4:

God chose us in him [in Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight…[v12] for the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1v4)

In Christ (1v7) “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” and believers, whether Jew or Gentile, whether from different nationalities or different backgrounds are one in Christ. “For Christ [2v14] is our peace. He has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” Consequently (2v19), “you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

So, here at JPC, all who trust in Christ are one in Christ. Whether internationals or locals, whether student or non student, whether from the North or the South, whether black or white, whether Newcastle or Sunderland supporters, whether rich or poor. We are fellow citizens with God’s people and all members of God’s household. And we are to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. And as we’ve just seen it’s a high calling. To live for God’s praise and glory. To be holy. To be a witness to him as the body of Christ. To work together with each part doing its work. To maintain the unity we have. Christ has brought about that peace and we’re to keep it. How? By Godly living in the power of the Spirit. Ephesians 4v2:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4v2)

Be completely humble. That’s so important for unity and in service. Leonard Bernstein was one of America’s greatest composers and conductors. His musical West Side Story brought him world wide acclaim. Bernstein was once asked what’s the hardest instrument to play. He replied without hesitation: “Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violins, but to find one who plays second fiddle with as much enthusiasm, is a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.”

This all takes effort doesn’t it? Look at v3. We are to make “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” and “unity in the faith” (v13) - for there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all - for we are not to maintain unity at the expense of truth. But true unity, the unity of the Spirit, is important if the church is to grow both numerically and in maturity. I thank God for the unity there is here at JPC. It’s been one factor in the growth of this church and we must make every effort to keep it if we’re to continue to grow and plant more churches. But (v7) diversity is also important if the church is to grow. So secondly


Contrast verses 6&7. Paul turns from all of us in v6 to each of us in v7 - from the unity to the diversity of the church and to the fact that Christian unity is enriched by the diversity of our Christ given gifts. Yes we’re to keep and maintain the unity of the Spirit. But there is diversity in unity. We don't all have the same gifts and tasks. To make each dependent on others in the body of Christ and for growth, God has ordained not uniformity, but rather a variety of gifts for members of the body.

Note "To each one of us". To every single one of us who are members of the body of Christ is given a different gift or gifts to serve others. Note also the word grace. "To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it." Paul uses the word grace here in the sense of his use of it in Ephesians 3. There in verses 2&7-8 and here in v7 it is literally the "privilege of a special calling in the service of God". Saving grace is given to all who believe and trust in Christ. But this is service grace - the grace which equips God's people to serve - and that is given in differing degrees according to the measure of Christ's gift. In his wisdom the Lord portions out different kinds of gifts to different members. And the word grace implies that there should be no boasting about our different gifts, for none of us have anything other than what we’ve received unmerited from Christ.

So it’s clear that no-one has all the gifts – not David – not anyone - and that no member of the body is without some spiritual task and spiritual gift for it. No member of the body should be unemployed in serving the church. Lord Kitchener’s famous recruitment poster from WW1 said, ‘Your country needs you!’ Well your (or Christ’s) church needs you! 1 Peter 4:10-11:

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

None of us are strong in every area. No church leader is strong in every area. Some are gifted as preachers but not gifted as counsellors. Some are strong leaders but not so good at details. Some are good at building relations yet not strong as managers. And that’s actually good. If you were good at everything, you wouldn’t need the rest of the Body of Christ. This church needs every member involved in ministry—not just the leaders. Paul reminds us that bodies don’t function well unless they work together.

Did you know that we are really all charismatics in the body of Christ? Some of you are looking worried! Well the word 'charismatic' actually comes from the Greek word 'charismata' which simply means gift. And the word 'charis' means grace. So here Paul states that all Christians have been gifted by the grace of God. So according to the New Testament the whole church is a charismatic community. It is the body of Christ, every single member of which has a gift or charisma to exercise or function to perform.

The unity of the church is due to ‘charis’, God's grace having reconciled us to himself, but the diversity of the church is due to charismata, God's gifts distributed to church members. But perhaps you're unsure what your gift is or how you can serve and use your gift here at JPC for the benefit of all. Well to help you we have at JPC something called ‘My Shape for Ministry’ which is part of our ‘Prepared to Serve’ course, so do contact me if you’re interested.

You can also try out serving in a particular ministry. You could begin with the sidesmen’s ministry, which is vital to the work here on a Sunday. Please don’t think there’s nothing for you to do. Contrary to what you might think every ministry at a larger church is always in need of more servants. And if you don’t use your gift or gifts with love then the rest of us are missing out. There are always people needed in the crèches, in the choirs and candle teams for Carols by Candlelight, in the Mother and Toddler groups, in the welcome teams, in the Scouts – currently there are 59 Scouts so the need is pressing, and in the PA and TV ministry. And I mention the vital ministry of the PA and video team partly because they have the power to switch me off! So maybe many of you will now be attracted to those ministries! And how we need more folks serving this church in technology – in developing our first ‘app’, for example, to work not with just Apple and Android but now with Windows 8. These more background ministries are so important. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul gives them greater honour.

The giver of the gifts is the ascended, victorious and exalted Christ who is filling the universe and ruling the church (v8-10). Five gifts are now mentioned (v11). "He gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers…" He gives people who proclaim the Word of God and lead, to build up the whole body into his fullness. All of those five gifts have something to do with the ministry of teaching. For it is primarily teaching which builds up the church. Today we might not have apostles or prophets in the original sense - for apostles were those personally chosen by, and eyewitnesses of, the risen Lord and prophets were those who were a vehicle of God's direct revelation. But today there are evangelists to preach the gospel and there are those who are pastors and teachers who tend the flock and expound the Word, those who are gifted for the day to day building up of the church. More evangelists and pastor teachers are desperately needed. Today, the need in the worldwide church is great. And if we’re going to plant more churches then we’ll need more pastor teachers and evangelists. Is God calling and gifting some of you for those roles? Is God calling some of the men here tonight to be the clergy of the future? Well, we’re not getting any younger! We’re trying to establish training here for those who are called by God.

And V12 states very clearly why Christ gave these particular teaching related gifts to his church:

…to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up… (v12)

Firstly to prepare or to equip God's people for works of service and secondly what is done for God's people and by God's people is for building up the body of Christ. So, church leaders are not to monopolise ministry. No, they are to multiply ministries. How? By helping and encouraging all God's people to discover, develop and exercise their gifts humbly so that the body of Christ may be built up. That’s the aim of the ‘Prepared to Serve’ course, which 14 people have just taken, and the Moore Course. Look out for the next one of each of those. The 5 gifts which we've looked at so far are not the only gifts. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12v4 says that "there are varieties of gifts". In the 5 lists of gifts in the NT 20 distinct gifts are mentioned, such as mercy, administration, faith, encouragement, giving etc. And even those lists are probably not exhaustive. We are all to use our God given gifts, which are all service gifts, not for our own selfish use which could be divisive but to build up the body here and we ought to be able to find support and training in those works of service from those who lead.

You see I wonder what our model of the church is? Is it a pyramid model or a bus model where everything is concentrated in the hands of one man? Well the New Testament model of the church is not a pyramid or a bus but rather a body, every member of which has a different function or ministry. One church in the USA had on its bulletin the names of the Pastor, the Associate Pastor and of the Assistant to the Pastor. Next came the line: 'Ministers: the entire congregation'. The way the whole body grows is for all its members to use their God given gifts to serve others. So thirdly


Look at v12&13:

…so that the body of Christ may be built up 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". (v12-13)

The word "until" suggests that the building up of the body of Christ will not happen overnight. Rather, it will be a lengthy process, involving much hard work and prayer. The church needs committed, gifted, teachable, humble servants. Those who are willing to teach the truth, lead and serve over the long term. Then the church under God will grow in unity in the faith and in maturity. And if we're growing in unity and maturity, in the knowledge of and the fullness of Christ, then we will no longer be infants or immature Christians (v14-15) "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. Instead speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head that is Christ."

So how does the church grow numerically and in unity and maturity? By speaking and living the truth in love. We are to uphold and speak God's truth, which is so critical today when there is so much false teaching and confusion, in love. There is no other route than this to a fully mature Christian unity. If we speak the truth in love we will grow up into Christ from whom the whole body, v16, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Now the emphasis in v16 is on the Head on whom we are to depend, into whom we are to grow up and from whom the whole body grows when each part is working properly. Christ is at work fitting and joining the whole body together. He provides sustenance to it through every contact according to the needs of each single part. He enables the body to make its own growth so that it builds itself up in love. We are to look to, depend on and grow up into him, doing the work he’s given each of us to do. The implication at the end of v16 is that when each part is not doing its work growth and maturity take longer. I must conclude.

Someone once said that the church is full of bones: wish bones – who wish someone else would do the work; jaw bones – who talk a lot but do little else; knuckle bones – who knock what everyone else does; and back bones – who get on and actually do the work. Let’s make sure we play our part in Christ and under his headship, being completely humble.

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