Committed to the Local Church – Part 2Written by admin on Sep 03, 2013 in - No Comments
This morning I am going to do something a little bit different. Instead of my normal practice of working through a single passage verse by verse and explaining the meaning of that passage and how we are instructed by it today, I am going to use a variety of passages and verses to drive home a single point. And the point I want to make this morning, the one thing I want you take away from this sermon, is this:
Every believer has been gifted by God to serve in the church and, therefore, has the responsibility to use their gift to fulfill the mission of the church.
Let me say that again:
Every believer has been gifted by God to serve in the church and, therefore, has the responsibility to use their gift to fulfill the mission of the church.
That is what I want you to take away from my sermon today. But that does not mean that if you are nodding in agreement with that statement that you are free to tune me out and think about the game last night. I really want to engage us all with this idea and I want us all to leave here having been encouraged and challenged to serve this church in a manner that contributes to the fulfillment of our God-given mission to Make Disciples.
The reason a sermon like this is necessary is because we have to fight against the idea that the only people who have the responsibility to make disciples are pastors and missionaries. It would be easy to assume, if we look at the church through the lens of running a business or through the lens of America’s service based economy, that since we pay pastors and missionaries they should be the ones doing this work for the church. But that is reading the Bible through the lens of our own familiar ideals and notions that seem normal to us. And we can’t do that.
Missionaries are not mercenaries and pastors are not professionals. The church doesn’t pay them to do the work others don’t want to do. Instead we are all missionaries and we are all ministers and we are all working to fulfill the church’s mission to Make Disciples.
The reality of the matter is that if a church relies on the pastor alone to carry out the ministry of the church, there will be a whole lot of things that are not attended to as they should be. Partly because the pastor will not have the time to do everything that needs to get done, and secondly, he will not be gifted by God in every area of ministry a church needs to attend to.
So, my point is that we can continue chugging along just fine with me preparing sermons each week, keeping things organized, and visiting you all now and then. Or we can shift into high gear with regard to the ministry of this church, and then all the ministries of our church will receive the proper attention they are due.
Now there is a little bit of “preaching to the choir” going on this morning. I talked about that last week with a couple of people. Because I know that most of you don’t really believe that you have no responsibility as a member of this church to participate in our mission to make disciples. I know most of you do not think that way at all. But often times, we need sermons like this to jar us a little bit and wake us up and kick us into high gear. And that is what I hope to accomplish this morning. We have a lot of exciting things going on, a lot of new things starting. And I believe we have an opportunity before us to really get some steam behind our efforts to Make Disciples in this community and around the world. And so I want to encourage you and motivate you this morning to get involved in the mission.
But, I don’t want you to take me at my word on this. I never want you to do that. I can stand up here and say a whole lot of things that sound really good and very true. But please don’t ever believe me until I show you what the Bible has to say about it. So that is what we will do now.
We Are Parts of a Body
Look with me in the book of Romans. Romans 12:4–5.
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. (Romans 12:4–5 ESV)
Paul often uses the metaphor of the body as a picture of the church. Here he has in mind a local church. He is writing a letter to the church in Rome. And what he is saying here is this: “Just as our bodies are made up of many different parts—arms, legs, fingers, toes, hands, feet, ears, eyes, mouths, etc…—the church, the local church, is comprised of many different parts as well. And those parts are the individual church members. And in the same way that the different parts of our physical bodies have different functions—our eyes are used to see, our fingers are used to grab things, our legs are used to walk—individual members of a church—you and me and the person sitting next to you—have different roles in the life and ministry of the church. But although we have different roles, we all are parts of the same body.”
Now, what are the implications of this? Well first of all every part of a body has a role to play and every part of the body is important. And if a part of the body (i.e. one of the members of this church) is not doing its part, the whole body suffers. The whole church suffers. For example, if one of my hands decides to take a break on a day when I am trying to type out a sermon, that is going to really slow me down. I can get the sermon written, but it is going to take me longer and I am going to be frustrated, and I won’t have time to attend to other things I need to do that day.
And the same is true with the members of a church. If one of the members who is particularly gifted at serving the church in a special way decides that he or she is not going to participate, then the ministry and life of the church is going to be hindered. The church will struggle in its mission to make disciples. And though the mission may move forward, it will do so more slowly and with more difficulty and frustration.
You see, the fact is that as members of the body of Christ, we have all been given various gifts that are meant to be used to both build up the body of Christ and to grow the body of Christ through disciple making. Look with me now at verses 6–8 of Romans 12.
We Have Various Gifts
6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6–8 ESV)
Now this is not an exhaustive list of all the ways God gifts his children to serve in the body of Christ. But it does give us the idea that there are varieties of gifts. Verse 6 begins by saying we each have different gifts and that we should use those gifts.
This is spelled out even more clearly in 1 Corinthians 12:4–7. Look with me there. Just one book further back in your Bible. Notice the two contrasting words, “varieties” and “same”, as I read this passage.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4–7 ESV)
What we see in this passage is diversity and unity within the body of Christ. There is a great variety of gifts and roles to play among the individual members of a church, but we are all part of the same body, given gifts by the same Spirit, united together by the same Lord Jesus, and given power by the same God to perform our task well. Unity in diversity. In the same way that there is diversity in the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—all having different roles in redemptive history, and yet together being One God, the Apostle Paul wants us to understand that we, though distinct parts of a whole, are united together as one church.
You need the church and the church needs you. Without the church your gift serves no purpose, and without your gift the church is weakened.
A little while ago I talked about how I would be hindered in my sermon writing if one of my hands decided to take a day off. Well what if I did not have hands at all? What would I do? Well I could try to use my feet. And you know what, I could probably learn to get the sermon typed up that way too. It would be difficult, I would not be efficient, but I could get it done. I would be using my feet for something they were not designed by God to do, but I could get it done. It would be like when I can’t find my hammer and I have to bang a nail into something with a screwdriver. I can get the job done, but I am using the wrong tool.
Often times that is what happens in the church. We have a job that calls for a hammer, but the hammer is not willing to participate so we have to use a screwdriver. The screwdriver is ready and willing, but he or she is not designed or gifted for the task we need taken care of. And the sad part is that often a church finds itself in this situation, having to use a screwdriver to do a hammer’s job, not because we don’t have any hammers, but because the hammers are not willing to be used in the way they were designed for. It is normally not that the church is lacking the people they need to fulfill the ministry God has called us to, it is that the people with the gifts we need are sitting on the sidelines while screwdrivers are being used to hammer nails. The job gets done, albeit slowly and not as well as it could have been done. And in the process the screwdriver gets all beat up and feels like a failure. And while the screwdriver was busy being a hammer, no one has been attending to the screws that needed to be dealt with. In other words, when a screwdriver has to act like a hammer, it is a big mess.
Brothers and sisters, God brought you to this church and brought this church to you. Don’t see that as a mere coincidence. There are no coincidences in a world God is ruling over and in control of. You are part of this church because God wants you to be a part of this church at this point in time. And you have a role to play. And I want to encourage you this morning to play your part for the good of this church.
We Have a Responsibility to Use Our Gifts
Look with me again at verse 7 in 1 Corinthians 12.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:7 ESV)
Two things I want you to notice about this verse. First of all, Paul says, “To each” or “To each one” a spiritual gift is given. So never believe that you don’t have a role to play or that you have nothing to offer. This verse and others like it refute that notion. “Each” of us have been gifted by God in some unique way. That is the first thing we see in this verse.
The second thing we see in this verse is that our gifts are “for the common good” of the church. The gift you have been given by God is for the building up of the church and its members and to help fulfill the mission to make disciples. You have not been gifted by God for your own benefit. You have been gifted for the benefit of others. And if you withhold your gift from the rest of us, you are withholding a blessing that God intended for all of us to enjoy and benefit from.
The Apostle Peter has something to say about this as well. Look with me in 1 Peter 4 at verse 10. First Peter is toward the back of your Bible, after the books of Hebrews and James, but before 1–3 John and Revelation. 1 Peter 4:10.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace (1 Peter 4:10 ESV)
Again, notice Peter says again that we have “each” received a gift. And notice that he says very clearly that we are to use that gift “to serve one another.” But he also says something else here. He says we are to be “good stewards of God’s varied grace.” What does he mean by that?
Well, at the time of your conversion, God gave you a gift. A gift that was meant for building up and serving the church. This is a spiritual gift to be used for spiritual purposes. And because it is a gift from God given for a specific purpose (i.e. to serve one another), we have a responsibility with regard to that gift. God has given it to us and he has trusted us to use it as he intends. In other words, these gifts are not ours, they are God’s. And we are just administrators or managers or stewards of what belongs to him. And one day we will have to give an account for how we have used the gifts God has given us. We have the responsibility to be good stewards of the gifts that God has given us. We must manage them well and use them well as we serve one another and carry out the church’s mission to make disciples.
So where last week I talked about the importance of being present, the importance of being committed in your attendance when we open the doors of this church, this week I am ratcheting that up a notch. Not only do we need you to be present, but we need you serving this church in the unique way in which God has gifted you to serve it. And not only do we need you to do that, God expects you to do that. He has given you that responsibility. He has gifted you and it is your responsibility to use that gift in the way God intends.
So brothers and sisters, we are all parts of a body. We have been brought together by God and united into one body with many parts or members. And as a part of that body you have a unique role to play. God has gifted you in a certain way to serve this church in a unique way that no one else here is capable of. I am gifted to do certain things and will never be able to do what God has gifted you to do as well as you can. When I am doing what I am not gifted to do or you are doing what you are not gifted to do, it is like a screwdriver trying to drive a nail.
So we need everyone sharing their gifts with this church if we are going to fulfill our mission to make disciples. I would not be a good pastor if I just tried to do everything on my own. That is not biblical or prudent. My belief is that everyone of us are called to be a part of the mission of this church. Again, you are not here by accident or coincidence. And not only are we called to be a part of that mission, God has gifted you in a unique way for the mission. Don’t rely on me to do things God has not equipped me to do. Don’t rely on others to do things God has not equipped them to do. We all need to be doing our part if we want to be good stewards of what God has graciously given to us.
So I want to end by encouraging you to find your place in this church. We have a lot of exciting things starting this month. We have new activities for children starting, we have a ladies Bible study getting started next week, we will now have two different services on Wednesday night, and all of these things require people—God’s people who are gifted by him to serve one another. None of these things simply happen by themselves. It takes prayer, work, coordination, planning, and doing. And we could use some help in some of these areas right now. I have already had to ask a few people to do more than they should have to.
But I am confident that the people we need to pull off all of these ministries are sitting right here in these pews every week. God has not lead us to these ministries without providing the people we need to do them. I am certain of that. But we need everyone pitching in. We need everyone participating. At a minimum we need your presence and your prayers. But hopefully we can also have your participation.
As you leave here today, and as you lay down tonight, ask yourself if you are being a good steward of the gifts that God has given you? Are you being a good steward of the gifts God has given you to serve the church and help the church fulfill its mission to make disciples. That is really what these three sermons have been all about. I wanted us to clearly understand our mission and make sure that we are committed to it. Committed to it both as a church and as individual members of the church. It is my prayer that we would all recommit ourselves to this church and to its mission today.
And as a symbol of that, I would like for us to all stand and recite together the church covenant which is a part of the founding documents of this church. We are fortunate that our founding members put together documents as well written and thought out as this one. You will find a copy in your bulletin. Please stand with me and we will all recite it together.
Having been led by the Spirit of God to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord by faith, and having publicly confessed by baptism in the name of God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, we freely and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ.
We pledge, therefore, by the aid of God’s Spirit to live together in Christian love, to work for the advancement of God’s Kingdom through this church in knowledge, holiness, and mutual care, to support its ministry by a faithful stewardship of life, talents, time and possessions, and to sustain its worship, ordinances, doctrines and disciplines.
We also pledge to maintain family and private worship, to rear our children in the nurture and spirit of the Lord, to seek the salvation of all members of our families and of our acquaintances, and to strive for maturity in ourselves and in our fellow Christians.
We further pledge to follow Christian principles of morality in our daily living, to be ethical in our dealings and faithful in our commitments, to promote the unity of fellowship by proper attitudes and careful speech, and to be zealous in our efforts toward the advancement of the Kingdom of God here and throughout the world.
We moreover pledge that when we remove from this congregation, we will as soon as possible, unite with some other church, where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.