Why is it necessary for the body of Christ to work together to accomplish the church’s mission? – Part 1

Recently, I started watching a new show on Netflix entitled: Manhunt. The show chronicles the last few years that the FBI tracked and ultimately apprehended the UNA Bomber. If you remember, the UNA Bomber alluded the FBI for close to 20 years as he carried out a serial mail bombing campaign. The turning point in the case was when Ted’s brother turned in a tip to the FBI after the UNA Bomber’s Manifesto was published. He believed the language in the Manifesto sounded similar to that of his brother’s. That tip and the letters they provided that Ted wrote them gave the rookie agent Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald the material needed to link Ted K. to the UNA Bomber. A link he formed through linguistic analysis.

While the show primarily follows “Fitz” and his journey to catch the UNA Bomber, what you discover is that he didn’t do it alone. He wasn’t a one man show. He was just one of hundreds of agents assigned to a task force that worked together to bring Ted to justice.

In a similar way the body of Christ — the church — is made up of many different people. In order for the church to accomplish its mission to make disciples, all its parts must work together, just like all the parts of the FBI task force had to work together to bring the UNA Bomber to justice. Why is that?

Why is it necessary for the body of Christ to work together to accomplish the church’s mission?

In order to answer that question, the first thing we need to understand is that:

(1) All Christians are Members of the Body of Christ (vs. 12-20; 27)

Paul writing to the church in Corinth says in chapter 12 starting in verse 12,

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Co 12:12–13)

Skip down to verse 27,

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Co 12:27)

So by the very nature of our salvation, we are all members of the body of Christ. We may be from vastly different backgrounds, but in Christ we form one body.

The body comprises both the universal and local church.

The universal church is basically all those who have professed Jesus as their Lord and Savior in the world.

The local church is comprised of those who are a part of the universal church, but they form a local expression of the universal church as they gather together in covenant community with one another for the purpose of worshipping God and making disciples.

The local church to which Paul is writing in chapter 12.

We know that is the community to which he writes because his letter is directed to a particular church. The Corinthian church, which is a local church. In verse 14, he continues when he says,

“…the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1 Co 12:14–20)

The local church is a body.

The body metaphor Paul uses is genius because it’s something to which we all can relate. Almost every task we do — whether it is eating, drinking, dressing ourselves, playing a sport, driving the car or tractor, whatever it may be — our entire body is active and working together to accomplish that task. You see, it takes more than a foot to drive a car. Our legs, trunk, harms, eyes, brain and more all have to be engaged in the act as well. Just as our body parts form one body and are all needed to accomplish our daily tasks, the many different parts of the universal church form a local church that must work together to accomplish it’s God given tasks.

There is no such thing as an isolated disciple of Jesus.

You see, the church, the local church, has many members, which means we can’t form a church on our own, nor can we be a church unto ourselves. We need one another.

When I was in high school, I played soccer for the school I attended. Talent wise the team was really split. There were about half of us who really wanted to play soccer and half who were required by the football coach to play a spring sport to keep in shape for football.

I don’t want to dog on those guys too much. I mean they were just doing what the football coach required. But, as you could probably imagine, the football players who didn’t care anything about soccer, but just played because they had to, weren’t very good. But even though those guys weren’t very good, even though those guys often let us down, we needed them. We wouldn’t have been a team without them. Even if half of us were all-stars when it came to dribbling and scoring, there is no way we would have won a game because there would be no defense, no goalie, no one to pass the ball to when we were trapped by the other team.

Just as we needed the rest of the players on the soccer team, no matter how good or bad they were, we need the body of Christ. We need one another. You see, there is no such thing as an isolated disciple of Jesus.

Now, that doesn’t mean that people don’t isolate themselves from the body of Christ. They most certainly do. There are a lot of people out there who think all they need is Jesus and their Bible, and maybe a podcast or two. But we need more than that. We need each other. And that’s what Paul is really hammering home here.

Why do we need each other?

Well, we need each other because we all have been given different gifts. Starting in verse 28 Paul mentions these gifts,

“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Co 12:28–30)

Now, we don’t have the time to go through each of these gifts, but what I want you to see is that no one person possesses all these gifts, which means that we all have a part to play. We must play that part in the context of the local church with others who compliment our gifts.

The reason we all have different gifts is because that’s the way God has designed it.

Look at verse 18 again. Paul says,

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” (1 Co 12:18)

In His infinite wisdom and providence God designed us to depend on one another. I believe this design not only originates in the mind of God but in God Himself. Just recently we have been studying the Trinity on Wednesday nights. Throughout that study we have learned that the Father, Son, and Spirit have existed in an eternal interdependent relationship with one another. Within in that interdependent relationship, each member of the Trinity — though all are God — have different roles that they fulfill. Those roles compliment the other members.

In some sense, the local church is similar in that design, which means that you could say that the local church is an earthly expression of the interdependent nature of the Trinity. So just as the Trinity depends on one another to fulfill different roles, those in the church depend on one another to fulfill different roles as well.

The local church, then, exists as an interdependent body because God has designed it that way.

A design that seems to mimic the very nature of God Himself.

God has not only designed the local church, He also builds the local church.

In His providence, God takes members of the universal church and specifically places them in a local church based on the gifts He has given them. I don’t know if you have ever thought about it, but that means you aren’t at the church you are at by accident. God led you to and placed you in that specific church at this specific time. He placed you there because your gifts compliment others in your church. In other words, He has given you to your church because you are needed. When you aren’t there. When you don’t play your part, it is felt. Look at verses 21 and 22,

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,” (1 Co 12:21–22)

In the immediate context of the Corinthian church, Paul is seeking to unify. But as you can see, he also tells us that we all must play our part. Each one of us, then, are indispensable to one another and to the mission that God has given us.

Question for Reflection

  • Do you believe you are God’s gift to your church and the church does not operate properly without you?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: Why is it necessary for the body of Christ to work together to accomplish the church’s mission?

In What Type of Community Must the Church Live? – Part 1

The community represented in Acts 2 reminds me of an illustration I recently read in a book. The author spoke about the giant Redwoods just outside of San Francisco in the Armstrong Redwood National State Reserve. These Redwoods extend skyward over a football field in length. They have stood for centuries despite heavy storms coming through the region. The way they have been able to face storm after storm after storm without toppling over has to do with their root system. When you read about their roots, you learn that they are only about 12 feet under the surface. While 12 foot is not shallow, it doesn’t seem deep enough to hold a tree 100 or more yards in height in the ground against fierce winds. On it’s own it probably wouldn’t. But the giant Redwoods aren’t standing on their own. If you were to scrap back the earth, you would see an intertwined network of roots. The Redwoods are able to stand because they live in community with one another. In other words, they depend on one another for strength. What they couldn’t do on their own, they are able to do in community.  So that’s how they have been able to stand for 100’s of years despite the storms Mother Nature throws at them.

Likewise, the only way we are going to be able to endure the storms of life and thrive as God has intended us to is by living in authentic and interdependent community with one another. In other words, our spiritual roots must not just extend deep but also wide. We must be connected with and depend on our fellow believers around us. If not, we aren’t going to stand when the storms of life come at us. Instead we will fall. We need one another. We need to live in authentic and interdependent community with one another.

What does that look like live in authentic and interdependent community?

I. What does it look like for us to live in authentic community? (vs. 42)

Authentic is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. You have authentic clothes, shoes, bags, drinks, coffee, stores, etc. It seems that everything and everyone wants to be authentic. But have you ever thought about what it actually means to be authentic? When you look that word up in the dictionary, you’ll find that one of the definitions is genuine, which is  how I’m using authentic here. As Jesus’ disciples, we are to be genuine.

A. What does it look like for us to be genuine?

In Acts 2:42, we read,

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

This verse tells us what it means for us to be authentic. Looking at it in more depth, the first thing we encounter is the idea of devotion. Devoting ourselves to something means we approach that activity with an intense effort over a sustained period of time.  We are told in verse 42 that the early church in Jerusalem were devoted to several things.

B. To what were they devoted?

They were devoted:

  • To the Apostles teaching
  • Fellowshipping with one another
  • The Lord’s Supper
  • Dining together
  • As well as praying together.

These were things, the activities they were devoted to. Their devotion to these things allowed them to carry out the mission Jesus gave them — to make disciples. That tells us, then, that making disciples requires more than telling others the good news about Jesus, or urging the pastor to do that. I mean, certainly we need to tell others about Jesus, and we need to encourage our pastor to do the same. Paul does tells us in Romans that others aren’t going to believe unless they hear, and they aren’t going to hear unless someone tells them. So we we must be about the business of speaking the gospel.

But speaking the gospel is only step one in the disciple making process. There are other things that we need to do in order to make disciples. We see what those are in this verse. But here is the thing, we can’t do those things unless we are in community with one another. Not just community that leads to business connections, social activities, or cultural approval. No, I’m talking about real authentic community where we are genuinely sharing our lives with one another and we are devoted to one thing — accomplishing Jesus’ mission.

So those who are authentic disciples are not just in it for themselves. They genuinely care about the lives of those around them. They genuinely want to see others built up in the faith. They genuinely want to use their God-given gifts to minister to one another. There is not an ulterior motive.

So when you think about your church involvement: Is it authentic? Is it genuine? Are you here because you are devoted to your growth, the growth of others, and furthering Jesus’ kingdom? Or are you here for another reason? If we are going to grow as a church and impact Jesus’ kingdom, then we have to be here for the right reason. We have to be authentic disciples, who are devoted to one another.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you are a disciple that’s devoted to others in your church?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon In what type of community must the church live?

church steeple

What’s the Pastor and Church’s Goal and Purpose in the Work of Ministry? – Part 3

Some of my readers may know that I attended the University of Georgia for my undergraduate studies. When I entered the University, I hadn’t declared a major. Eventually, I landed on Biology. Why I landed on Biology as my major I don’t know. I’ve never worked in my degree field and the classes I had to take were much more difficult than those in other majors. But that is where I landed.

Even though I was a Biology major, I had to take a number of classes in other disciplines. English Literature, Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, and Spanish to name a few. While I wished I didn’t have to take those classes when I was in college, thinking back I now see that there was a method to the University’s madness. There was a sort of unity in the diversity. The subjects they selected were designed to work together to make me a well-rounded student. Teaching me skills I didn’t have and helping me hone the ones I did possess.

The church works in a similar way. While there’s not a diversified list of classes we have to take, there is a diversity of gifts that exist within the church. Within that diversity, there should be a unity. In our unity we should be working towards one goal. What is that goal?

What is the purpose and goal of ministry in the church?

At the end of verse 12, we learn that the purpose and goal of ministry is to build up the body of Christ.

Think of the body of Christ as a building, not the church building, because the church isn’t a building, it’s the people. But for the sake of illustration, think of the church as a building.

In order for a building to become a home for someone to live in, many different things have to take place. The foundation has to be poured. Walls need to be erected. A roof has to be put on. Plumbing and electricity has to be installed. Storage and furniture have to be placed within, among other things. All that has to take place in order for a building to become a home, at least in a first world country like the United States.

None of that stuff takes place on its own, nor does one person do it. A lot of work goes into building a home by a bunch of different people, who are all gifted in different ways.Concrete workers, framers, and roofers; electricians and plumbers; cabinet and furniture makers. As well as painters, people to lay the floor, and those who design the interior. All these people and more have to contribute their part in order for a building to become a home.

Something similar has to happen in the church. The saints, equipped by a pastor, must all, and I stress the idea of all, all must use their gifts to build up the body of Christ. So we must all be actively engaged in the area of ministry with which Jesus has called us.

Now, we all have a good idea of what a home looks like. But What should the church look like? In other words,

How do we know when the building has been built?

Look at the text starting in verse 13,

“until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Eph 4:13–14)

Now, there is a lot here, so let’s break it down into it’s component parts just like you would a building project.

First, we see that we are working towards:

(1) A unified understanding of the faith and a deep intimate knowledge of the Son of God

What this means is that,

We should all have a likeminded understanding of the core convictions of the Christian faith. 

The core convictions of the Christian faith would represent things like:

  • What is the Gospel?
  • Who is God?
  • Who is man?
  • What is Scripture?
  • What does Baptism and the Lord’s Supper represent?
  • How we are live as followers of Jesus?
  • Among other things.
  • These are the core convictions of the Christian faith.
  • We should all be helping one another gain a competent knowledge and understanding of these things.

Along with that,

We are also to help others gain a deep intimate knowledge the Son of God. 

The knowledge Paul has in mind is not just head knowledge. It is not just something we can gain from a book. Instead, it is knowledge we must gain from one another as we live in community together. This is why I believe Paul begins this chapter stressing unity. We must be unified with one another so we might enter into one another’s lives and see, hear, and experience the Son of God actively working. When that happens, our knowledge of the Son of God will be deepened. It will become more than book knowledge. It will become an intimate knowledge.

Chuck is a man in my congregation, and I asked Chuck before sharing. I have known Chuck for 6.5 years. The whole time I’ve been at Sycamore. We have gathered together in our Friday morning men’s group for the last 6 years.

When we first started getting together, Chuck wasn’t the easiest person to get along with. It was hard to have a discussion with him. He would get defensive and even angry at times. But over the years as our group has pressed into him, speaking the truth in love as Paul tells us to do in verse 15, and praying for him, using our gifts to minister to him, Jesus has changed Chuck. So much so that I now look forward to getting together with him. I find our discussions to be a time of encouragement, blessing, and learning.

But here is the thing, if I wasn’t actively using my gifts, if I wasn’t getting together with him week in and week out, if I wasn’t speaking the truth in love, then I wouldn’t have seen this brother change. My sanctifying knowledge of Jesus wouldn’t have been deepened. It would have remained theoretical instead of becoming concrete.

So what Paul wants us to see and what I want you to see is that we not only need to be unified with one another, but we must also enter into one another’s lives actively using the gifts we have been given by the conquering King. If we do that, we will not only be unified in our understanding of the faith, but we will have a deep intimate knowledge of the Son of God which will serve to sustain and drive our ministry to one another even deeper.

So that is the first thing we are working towards in our building project, a unified understanding of the faith and a deep intimate knowledge of the Son of God.

Next, we see that we are working toward:

(2) A church that resembles Christ in its thoughts, actions, and knowledge

Paul says in the middle of verse 13,

“to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (Eph 4:13b).

A mature man is someone who is full-grown. We know someone is full grown when they meet certain standards, a certain measurement.

As our kids grow, we have to periodically take them to do the doctor for what is called a “wellness checkup”. At that checkup, our kids get the shots they need. The doctor asks us a bunch a questions about how they are doing and what they are eating. As well as she measures their height and weight. Our doctor uses all those measurements to tell us if our kids are maturing properly, and to instruct us as to what we are to be doing as parents to help them reach that goal of maturity.

Paul is telling us something similar here. On the one hand, he is telling us that we should all be working towards maturity. We shouldn’t be stagnant Christians. We should all be maturing in our faith.

But on top of that, Paul is also telling us that we should all be employing our gifts to help one another grow in the faith, just like parents help their kids grow into mature adults.

Just like our doctor has a standard of measurement against which she compares our kids, the church has a standard of measurement. That standard is Christ. I know it’s a tall order, but our job as the church is to help one another become like Christ in our thoughts, actions, and knowledge. So that is the second thing we are to do.

Now, we are almost done in our building project, but we have one last item to tackle. While you might view the last two points as the walls to the building, you can think of this last one as the roof. I say that because the other two hold this one up. We know that because Paul uses the connector “so that”. In this case, “so that” tells us the result of the last two. So let’s look at the result. Paul says in verse 14,

“so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Eph 4:14).

So the result is that:

(3) We should be a church that is able to discern and combat false doctrine.

The way we get there is by building each other up in an understanding of the basics of the faith and a deep intimate knowledge of the Son of God. As well as by being a church that is given to being like Christ in our thoughts, actions, and knowledge, and helping others do the same. Again, the only way to do that is if:

  • We are unified.
  • We are gathering together in community on a regular basis.
  • We are using our God-given gifts.
  • We are speaking the truth in love to one another.

If that is our focus, then we will build one another up in the faith to mature manhood. We won’t be a church that is tossed to and fro. A church that is easily deceived by false teachers.

But on the other hand, if we aren’t doing those things, then we aren’t going to reach mature manhood. Instead, we are going to remain children who are easily deceived and led astray.

So to get back to the question this series is seeking to answer:

What is the Pastor and Church’s goal and purpose in the work of ministry?

It is to use our God-Given gifts and connection to one another to build one another up in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, as well as it is to help one another think, live, and know as Christ does, so that we will not be deceived and led astray.

That can’t happen if you only attend your church every now and again. That can’t happen if you aren’t involved. That can’t happen if you just come and sit in the pew and walk out the door. Sure you might learn something about God. You might grow a little bit in your faith. But you aren’t going to grow in the way God wants you to grow, nor are those around you going to grow in the way God’s wants them to grow.
You aren’t going to be protected from false teaching, nor are those around you going to be protected from false teaching.

So if you haven’t been involved, if you aren’t using your God given gifts, if you aren’t connecting with others in the church on a regular basis, if you aren’t sharing with others the work God is doing in your life, if you aren’t doing those things, then it’s time you start.

There are a number of ways for you to get more involved in the church.

Most churches have a Sunday school program. That’s usually an easy way to get involved because it only requires you to arrive at church an hour earlier than you normally would.

My church gathers on Wednesday nights for Bible study, prayer and fellowship. Your church may do something similar. I encourage you to explore the options your church has for corporate Bible study.

Friday mornings a few men in my church meet for breakfast and Bible study at a local IHOP. The point is for men to connect over the word. Explore the options your church has and get involved.

Other than attending church sponsored studies, you can get involved in people’s lives and serve one another by simple:

  • Inviting them to your house.
  • Going to lunch with them.
  • Grabbing coffee.
  • Etc.

Ministering to one another involves more than just fulfilling a role or performing a duty at the church. It involves us actually getting involved in the lives of others and sharing with them what we are learning from God.

Conclusion

So if you aren’t involved, I challenge you to get involved. To use your gifts in such a way that others are built up in the faith.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you involved in the life of your church?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: What’s the Pastor and Church’s Goal and Purpose in the Work of Ministry?