What are we doing here? Why do we go through these services week after week? Why do we get up in the morning? Study for Sunday School? Get dressed? Sit in the pews? Do you ever find yourself asking such questions? What conclusions do you come to?
How does the church grow? How will God grow our church? There have been a number of possibilities presented in recent years as to how we can grow our church. First, in recent years, the booming method is known as the Seeker-Sensitive Movement. The leading figure in this movement is Pastor Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life." But it is in a similar book that he makes his argument for the Seeker-Sensitive Movement. In, "The Purpose Driven Church," Warren argues that the Church must be "seeker-sensitive." That is, it is the church’s responsibility to look attractive and be shaped in a way that possible seekers might become interested and join the church and be saved.
The problem with this is that it isn’t biblical. Furthermore, it is a shame that Warren finds it necessary to spend a chapter on emphasizing the trimming of our bushes, the mowing of our church lawn, and making sure that the paint on the outside of our church isn’t chipped. Warren sets the church up to be the key place for evangelism, not discipleship.
Secondly, there’s the Emerging Church, of which I am writing my thesis on. Some of the leaders in this movement include Brian McLaren and Rob Bell. They argue that since the culture is becoming more postmodern, then the Church needs to catch up. Therefore, whether they want to admit it or not, they have rejected orthodox doctrine and replaced it with postmodern theology. Everything floats in murkiness as a result. No substance. No gospel. Only the social gospel. The major problem, outside of it’s theology, is that anytime we let our analysis of culture define our theology, we tread on dangerous ground. The gospel transcends all cultures.
Thirdly, there is the Market-Driven Church. Perhaps the best known leader in this movement is Bill Hybols. This movement provides a product and is run like a business. Pastors become CEO’s rather than ministers of the gospel. The church might grow, but it’s depth is lacking.
Fourthly, there is, what I would like to call, the Itching Ears Movement. The leading figure is the pastor of the nations largest church: Joel Osteen. Osteen promises health, wealth, and happiness to all of God’s children as long as you have a positive attitude. Osteen is destroying the Church and people are having their ears tickled and he makes them feel good about it.
Finally, there is the Entertainment model so prevalent in youth ministry. The idea is to keep the congregation trained with videos, dramas, music, etc. The pastor/youth pastor becomes a motivational teacher rather than the one in charge of theological doctrine.
I believe all of these methods are flawed. Most of them, at best, are heretical and should be avoided. I applaud Rick Warren, but even his method falls short of what Scripture commands. We want to answer today, how do God build His church? So if you will, please turn to Ephesians 4:12.
To begin, we must look at the background of this verse. Here, Paul lays out the various spiritual gifts and offices in the local church. This is not an exhaustive list. Nor do we have time to deal with some of the issues that are raised here. But some of these offices within the church include apostles (which we believe no longer exists), prophets evangelists, and pastor-teachers.
Most translations see the pastor-teacher role as two separate roles. But the grammar of the text suggests that the pastor of the flock is the primary teacher of the flock. Verse 12 further collaborates this argument. Therefore, the primary role of the pastor is teacher. They are two sides of the same coin.
Paul is saying, God gave us these offices and gifts to accomplish three things in the church. It is the responsibility of these offices to accomplish these three things with the congregation.
First, WE MUST BE A CONGREGATION BEING EQUIPPED.
It is the church’s responsibility to stand on the gospel and equip the saints with the tools necessary for ministry. This involves training, understanding the basics of the faith, knowing how to defend the gospel, proclaim the gospel, lead others to Christ, etc.
The church stands, not just as a place of worship, but as a place of training. You better not be here because your trying to convince yourself you’re a good Christian and intend on walking out of here as if nothing happened! You had better be here because you are being equipped, trained, and prepared for the mission field God has given you.
But how are we going to be equipped?
First by Feasting on the Word of God. No longer are we to see the Bible as a therapy manual, a self-help book, or a motivational word. We must be willing to struggle with the text, be challenged by the text, and walk by the text. God’s Word must be the root of everything that we do.
But let’s be honest. We all have heard this before, and we have all tried to obey this calling. But, we simply don’t have the time to do it. We oftentimes find ourselves say, "we pay pastors and theologians to know the Bible. To put it plainly, we have become lazy Christians. As long as we give our tithe on Sunday morning, we feel like we’ve don our duty.
Let me ask you, can any of you explain to your own children why you’re a Christian? Can any of you tell me the basic outline of the Bible? Can any of you help the widow, the divorcee, the drug addict, the girl who feels alone, the abused child, the lost neighbor, or anyone else with the Words of Scripture?
Here are three questions to ask in order to know if you are being equipped or are equipped:
First, do you have forget to bring your Bible to church?
Second, does your Bible collect dust during the week?
Thirdly, do you have your Bible open right now?
The Second way we are equipped is by Hungering for God’s guidance and Mercy in Prayer. Deacons where originally created in the early church so that the apostles can focus on two things: God’s Word and prayer. Are you a person of prayer? Prayer is more than just about asking to get from God. It is seeking His will, submitting ourselves to His plan, and vowing to apply His wisdom to the mission He has given us.
Here are three questions to ask in order to know if you are being equipped through prayer:
First, do you have one whenever things are going well?
Second, do you seek God and complain to Him?
Third, does prayer characterize your Christian life or is part of going through the motions?
The Third way we are equipped is by Serving God Now. Stop saying "whenever I..." Whenever I pay off the house. Whenever I retire. Whenever I get more money. Whenever the kids are out of the house. Whenever I have more time. Whenever...
Start serving God now. Whenever we awaken to the task God has given us today, we will begin to equipped yesterday. There is no greater fear than not being prepared. Begin to serve Him today, and He will equip you with the tools necessary.
Folks, it is my primary responsibility to make sure that everyone in this congregation is fully equipped for the service God has called them too. They are fully equipped to reach their neighbor, their friend, their loved ones. If I fail at that calling, then I have failed as a pastor and servant of God.
The second thing we see in this text is that WE MUST BE A CONGREGATING READY TO EMPLOY.
The purpose of the equipping is so that we can be employed, i.e., serve God. Works of ministry (eJrgon diakoniaV), in this text, literally means "work of service. The word ministry or "service" comes from the root word for "deacon," who is a servant in the church. The idea here is that the members of the congregation must be trained for the purpose of ministry. That is primary responsibility of those mentioned in verse 11.
APP - Are you fulfilling the role of ministry? Are you serving God where He has you? I’d hate to surprise you but the primary ministers in this congregation do not stand behind the pulpit, but sit behind the pews.
ILL - In any youth groups, who are the best youth pastors? The Youth. They have access to the schools that pastors don’t. Likewise, you are on the front lines w/ the lost, the unsure, seekers, & the hurting. Just think about how many people this congregation can reach in a week if every member begins to serve in ministry for the sake of the gospel! Talk about church growth!!
Are you serving? Your Church? Your Community? Your Family? Your Vocation? Your Relationships? Are you giving all that you have for the sake of the kingdom, or are you trying to blend in with the rest of the world? The church will only be as good as the servants that join it.
The final thing we see in this text is that WE MUST BE A CONGREGATION BEING EDIFIED.
ILL - Paul uses the illustration of building a house. Only, he seems to be emphasizing building the internal part of the house here. Every Sunday we will meet to be most concerned with the pews that are few, and then spend the rest of the week concerned with the pews that are empty! Whenever the church meets to worship God and be trained for battle, we will be edified in the Spirit to fight the flesh and win the hearts and souls of the lost for the Lord. Then, we will constantly be built up.
There are two ways God will build us up that I want us to look at briefly:
First, by adding to our numbers those who were lost
Second, by encouraging one another to continue the fight, to win our culture, and give all that we have to Christ.
In conclusion, I want us to look at what we have discussed. How does God grow His church? Two primary ways:
First, the church grows whenever the members of the local church become equipped with a godly life and a godly message, rooted deeply into the truth, and go out into their world and fulfill the ministry of the Great Commission. Others, then, are brought in in order to be equipped for service.
Secondly, the church grows whenever God grows it. Here we are confronted with the complete unapologetic sovereignty of God. What a burden off our backs. Our responsibility is to be faithful to the task God has given us, and let God do the rest.
The mantra of this church whenever we meet here every week will be, "We have come to be Equipped in order to be Employed, in order to be Edified." Let us fulfill that task. When we leave here today, can we say that we have been equipped so that tomorrow we might be employed so that we will continue to be edified.