The graciousness of mutual ministry
by John Crotts, Faith Bible Church
By John Crotts Faith Bible Church firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you ever wondered how healthy churches are supposed to function?
Maybe you have never experienced any other kind of church than a place to show up, say a prayer, sing a song, throw money in the plate, hear a nice sermon and then leave about like you came. There is another way for a church to function, where every single member has a vital part to play. The Apostle Paul reveals the Lord’s comprehensive strategy for churches to bring themselves to maturity in Ephesians 4:11-16.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 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. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
The Lord Jesus first gives gifted men to his churches - that would be the church leadership. Their task is to equip the members of the church to minister to one another. As the whole church family serves each other, a stabilizing maturity develops. The church is less susceptible to cunning and craftiness of false teachers.
The major means of ministry given to the church for this equipping and the ministry is the Word of God. But a critical component of the comprehensive strategy is that the Word must be given to others in a particular manner. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph 4:15, emphasis added).
Notice several observations about this text.
The term rather shows that Christians serve each other in a different way than the false teachers. These dangerous people will come with destabilizing crafty contents, and are intentionally trying to lure vulnerable church members away from the truth. Have you considered the fact that there are people working today who claim to be Christians, look like Christians and even use the Bible in their teaching, but are not Christians at all? Instead, they are actively trying to destroy real Christians for their own greedy gains.
To protect the church, true believers verbalize God’s truth to one another. As believers draw near and interact, spiritual needs become apparent. From time to time different Christians need different things. Some need encouragement in a tough time parenting a rebellious teenager. Others need a rebuke because they are willfully sinning at work, while others need wisdom about a job change. Some need comfort at the loss of a friend, and others may need to understand more of what the Bible teaches about the person of Jesus Christ.
The Bible has everything Christians need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3, 4). Christians receive this help as fellow church members communicate God’s truth personally to one another during times of specific need. There is no craftiness or scheming to undermine the other Christian. Instead God’s truth is to be expressed and applied to give strength and support to the one in need.
The big contrast with the false teachers is the motivation of the Bible teaching and sharing. False teachers desire to deceive those they speak to. God’s truth, however, is rightly ministered in love.
Christian truth can be cold and harsh if not accompanied by Christian love. Love seeks the good of the person being addressed.
Love appears as a lofty theme in the letter to the Ephesians. Love motivated God to choose a people for himself before time began (1:4, 5). Love motivated God to raise spiritually dead rebels to life and give them saving faith (2:4, 5). Paul prays for the Ephesian church to be spiritually strong enough to be able to grasp the amazing love of Christ for them (3:17-19). Paul includes love, alongside of humility, gentleness, and patience, as vital ingredients in maintaining Christian unity within the church (4:2, 3). Christian husbands are to love their wives after the self-sacrificial love of Jesus Christ for his church (5:25).
The goal of this truth and love ministry is comprehensive growth in Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect head or ruler of his body (Eph 1:22, 23), but his body must grow to match up to its head. Each part of Christ’s body has a part to play in ministering God’s truth in godly ways to see Christ’s maturity goals for his people accomplished.
Do you think of church more like a sport that you go to watch or a sport that you play in? The Bible is clear that church is a team sport and all of the Christians who are members of that church are members of the team. Each one has a part to play ministering God’s truth in loving ways and building up the rest of the team.
If you are not a member of a church team, find the healthiest one you can and join up. If you are a member on paper, but the coaches never see you on the field, change that right now.
Confess to God and confess to the coaches - church leaders, and get in the game. Your church team is weaker because of your poor efforts.
When you show up for church tomorrow, come with your game face on. Pray for help. Find someone to talk to. Be nice. Ask how you can pray for them. Share something encouraging from the Bible. It is okay to find something from the Bible ahead of time, and then to even use it with a few people.
You might want to pray with that person right then and there. Think about the strong impact upon your church if every teammate came with that kind of game, week after week!