Ministry And Leadership

Tonight we continue with our studies in essential aspects of THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST. And our subject is MINISTRY AND LEADERSHIP. But I want to discuss this subject of ministry and leadership in the context of "unity". Unity is one of the marks of the Church. Christopher Hobbs referred to it in the first of the studies in this series 4 weeks ago. Unity among Christians is converting - it convinces people of the truth of the Gospel. Jesus prayed for his disciples to be united so that the world would know about himself and his Father. And isn't that true? How do people become Christians - what is the trigger that the Holy Spirit uses to draw them to Jesus Christ? For some people the gospel answers fundamental problems about the meaning of life. Perhaps there's someone like that here tonight. And you are asking questions like "what happens when I die?" or "who am I anyhow?" Many people come to Christ because he is the answer to those great questions about the meaning of life. But there are others who are very conscious of guilt and sin. Who is like that tonight? For some time the Holy Spirit has been convicting you. It may be some relationship that is wrong. It may be the way you have positively disobeyed God in some other area of your life and you know you are in a mess as a result. The goodnews of the Gospel is that there is forgiveness at the Cross of Christ for every sin. You simply admit your guilt. You thank Christ that he has accepted the punishment you deserve. And you receive his Holy Spirit for new life and strength. And you can do that right away. All of us need to get to that position sooner or later because we all have sinned and fallen short of God's standards. But some people initially are unaware of their need of forgiveness. What attracts them to Christ is neither a desire for meaning; nor a consciousness of guilt. What attracts them is the warmth of Christian fellowship. They meet other Christians in Church, in a Bible study group or wherever. And the unity that there is among those folk has drawing power. It is the first trigger the Holy Spirit uses to bring those men and women to Christ as Lord and Saviour. That is why unity is so important. That is why it is important at this church that we are united and that we go out of our way to help visitors and newcomes be united with the fellowship. So tonight I want us to focus on ministry and leadership in the context of unity. And I want us to look at Ephesians 4, verses 1 to 16. And I am going to be referring to ENDS AND MEANS - there's going to be PART ONE and PART TWO. Finally, I shall talk about what RESULTS. First, then, END AND MEANS - PART ONE Paul's letter to the Ephesians is the great letter about unity in the New Testament. Here in chapter 4 we are told that there are two great unities. And the first unity is "the unity of the Spirit". And that, says Paul, is to be one end or one goal for the Christian. Verse 3:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Notice that this is a unity that you have to be eager "to keep". This is a unity that is there already in the Christian fellowship but you can be in danger of losing it. But if unity is the end, what is the means to this end? Answer: you avoid certain attitudes. Paul explains. To live as he is going to recommend is nothing other than living ...

a life worthy of the calling you have received (v 1).

Are you a Christian? Then, what follows is what it means to live a Christian life! It is no good saying that you live a Christian life because you don't sleep with your boyfriend or girlfriend; or (if you are tempted that way) because you don't engage in homosexual relationships if at the same time you don't do what Paul tells you to do here. You see, the same Paul who condemns sexual immorality in the second half of Ephesians chapter 4 says in the first half of chapter 4 in verse 2:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

That, too, is part of what it means to "live a life worthy of the calling you have received". So here is the first "means" to achieving the end of "the unity of the Spirit" - you must develop certain character traits. You are to be humble. Literally the word means "lowliness of mind". It means recognizing the value of other people and realising that the world doesn't necessarily revolve around you. The Greeks despised humility. But Jesus "humbled himself". You are also to be "gentle". Some translate this word as "meekness". But this is not "weakness". Aristotle defined it as "the mean between being too angry and never being angry at all." Someone else defined it as not asserting personal rights. Being firmly gentle is essential for unity. Then there is being "patient, bearing with one another". Patience here is being long-suffering to irritating or aggravating people. "Bearing with one another" means that you must tolerate some things you don't like in people. That is the way of "love". Do you remember how Paul defined love in 1 Corinthians 13.4-5?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. {5} It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Are you humble and gentle? Are you patient and bearing with one another in love? That is the first way or the first means to "keep the unity of the Spirit". But the second means to "keep the unity of the Spirit" is not through a quality of character but through thinking. You don't only have to avoid pride and an instinct to be over critical. You also need to think and reflect. You need to remember, verses 4-6:

There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- {5} one Lord, one faith, one baptism; {6} one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

It is as though Paul is saying that "unity" is right at the heart of the faith because unity is a mark of the fundamentals of the faith. You must think about that. And the first thing to think about is that there is "one body". The body is a synonym for "the church". It reminds us that the Church is not a building, it is people. And "the body" suggests a note of caring. In the next chapter Paul says:

After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it (5.29).

So we need to realize that if we are Christians we are joined together as are the parts of the human body and we must care for one another. Do you ever think of that? Driving down the A1 yesterday afternoon there was a cat on the roadside. It had literally been dismembered. It was run over. Paul seems to be saying that when you are not humble and gentle; when you are not patient and bearing with one another in love, the body is "dismembered". And as in the world of nature, it is not a pretty sight! But it is not just one body (the church) and one Spirit; there is "one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all." Do you think about those fundamental spiritual realities? Thinking about them is the second means to keeping "the unity of the Spirit". And Paul says you have to "make every effort" to do that? So much then for "the unity of the Spirit". Let's move on to our second END AND MEANS. This is PART TWO. What is the second "end" or "goal"? Verse 13:

the unity in the faith.

So the second end is the second "unity" of this chapter. And Paul implies that this is something we do not have fully when we are converted. This is something to "reach" for ...

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 (v 13).

This side of heaven there will always be more for us to learn. But clearly the assumption is that there can be sufficient doctrinal unity now. Paul uses a picture. He pictures an infant - or a baby - on the one hand and a mature adult on the other hand. And he says that the unity in the faith that he is asking for is of a piece with the faith of mature Christians. And at its heart is "the knowledge of the Son of God". It is knowing Christ more and more and knowing more about him. But sadly, he implies, some Christians don't grow in their understanding. They are like stunted infants. What is the remedy for that? What is the means to the goal or end of this "unity in the faith"? Answer, "the grace of Christ" - and "grace" is from the same root word as "gifts". Verse 7:

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

God has a wonderful way of generating Christian unity. It is not by organisation - though sometimes that is, of course, necessary. No! God creates unity by his "gifts". No one has all the gifts and everyone has at least one gift. So we all need one another. That forces us together. And immediately Paul goes into specifics about these gifts - verse 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.

There are four important lessons here. First, you must not identify "gifts" with just one set of gifts. Some speak of the nine gifts of the Spirit; others concentrate on three - tongues, prophecy and healing. But there are "varieties of gifts" (1 Cor 12.4). The New Testament has five lists with at least 20 different gifts and some are very ordinary like "serving" or "showing mercy". Each list is so different to the others. The gifts are potentially very wide ranging and depend on God's sovereign choice. Here the gifts are a list of leadership gifts in the Church. So that is the first lesson - gifts must not be limited to one sort of gifts - they are of all sorts. Secondly, these leadership gifts here are all "word" gifts. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers all spoke, or speak, God's word. Leadership is to be by the Word of God. Romans 10.17:

faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

How important that is. There will be no unity in the faith if there is ignorance of God's word and people are not taught God's word. Thirdly, apostles and prophets were foundation gifts for the church. I haven't time to go into detail: I hope to say more about this at the next informal service on June 8 when my subject is "preaching". But in Ephesians 2.20 Paul says that the church is ...

... built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

As the foundation, those apostles and prophets do not have successors. Rather we find their words and teaching in the New Testament. There may be subsidiary apostolic and prophetic gifts, but the foundations are unique and cannot be altered. But what about evangelists? Are these for today? Yes, they are clearly for today as are pastors and teachers. And how the church needs evangelists, pastors and teachers. Of course, all of us should witness to Christ and exercise pastoral care and teach biblical truth as we can. But the Church always needs people with special word gifts in leadership. "And what precisely for?" you ask. The answer is in verse 12 - and this is the fourth lesson from these verses. Special gifts in leadership are:

to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

These gifted people are not to do all the evangelism, or all the pastoral work or all the teaching. It is "to prepare God's people for works of service." It is to equip others to be involved in ministry - home group leadership, other small group leadership, individual caring, practical work and so on. Ministry is the ministry of everyone. There is a priesthood of all believers. Yes, there has to be the ministry of leadership in the Church. But no - the leaders are not the only ministers. John Stott tells of when he first visited St Paul's Church, Darien, in the USA. On their service sheet it had the name of the Rector, then the names of the associate rector and the assistant to the rector. Next came the following line, "Ministers: the entire congregation." Every one has some sort of ministry in the Church. And the task of the ministers of the word is to help others fulfil their various different ministries. Well, what are THE RESULTS? - that is my final heading tonight. What happens when there is ministry and faithful leadership in the Church? This time there are four results. First, there is the Christian maturity we have talked about - verse 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.

Don't you need that today? Too many people seem to hop from one theological fad to the next "tossed back and forth" and "blown about". And Paul says that the people who cause the trouble exercise "cunning and craftiness ... in their deceitful scheming." Paul never suggests that unity means you don't face the truth and you are not blunt when necessary. These people Paul is referring to were clearly persuasive. They no doubt talked Christian language. People who were not well taught were going along with them. So how vital you are taught the truth - the truth as it is in Jesus and as his apostles taught it. And you only get that apostolic teaching in one place - the bible. That is why the bible is so vital. And that is why evangelists, pastors and teachers have to teach the bible. That, then, is the first result of faithful teaching from ministers of the word who teach the truth - Christian maturity and congregations who are spiritually not like infants but mature adults. The second result is, verse 15, "speaking the truth in love". That is so important. You have to be firm when you contradict false teaching. But it must be in love. Now all of us no doubt err on one side or the other. Some of you are so loving (or think you are), you never speak up for the truth. Some of you are so committed to the truth (or think you are) that you are unloving. Good teaching helps you "speak the truth in love". The third result is, verse 15b, "in all things growing up into him who is the Head, that is Christ". That is personal Christian growth as you trust Christ more and realize that he is the king on the throne. The fourth result is verse 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.

That is Church growth. Church or "bodily" growth occurs as each part does its work. The chain is as strong as its weakest link. Every part is vital - the music ministry, sidesmen, the creche helpers - what every one does for the Lord - and that includes giving as we are reminded this "Gift Week". Nearly 25 years ago soo after I arrived, John Stott was invtied to preach in this Church. When he got into the pulpit the PA broke down. He may be one of the greatest preachers in the world, but few could hear what he had to say. That day convinced me that every ministry is essential for the gospel. I must conclude Paul teaches that God desires as an end for each one of us to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit - through humility and gentleness, patience and bearing with one another in love; but also through reflecting on the one body and the unity in the Godhead and God's working. But God also desires unity in the faith. How necessary that is today when there is so much confusion. And essential for that are leaders who are faithful to God's word and "equip" others for their ministries. What ministry is God calling you to fulfil?

Back to top