Every Member a Minister by Rick Burdette
AN “I” EXAM: Restoring Our Vision for Christ’s Mission – Every Member a Minister
Ephesians 4:1-16 (p. 815) May 22, 2016
So the other day I get a call from the Church Research Group of America and one of their first questions is “How many ministers do you have?” And I said, “Around 300.” There was a significant pause and the lady said, “Your payroll must be massive!” I laughed and said, “You didn’t ask me how many staff members we had, you asked me how many ministers we had at Gardenside.” And since the word minister simply means “servant” I believe that every active member at our church is a minister…a servant.
I didn’t give her nearly as hard of a time with the other questions, but that first question was absolutely vital if we are to have revival through an “I” exam where we refocus our vision on Christ’s mission.
We gave everyone here last week a new member’s packet. We have more available today if you’d like one…and I wrote something about membership that came from my heart and my understanding of scripturally how the church functions.
One of the most debated issues in modern Christianity: Why should I be a member of any local church? Where does Scripture talk about Church membership? Well, let me share with you that according to Scripture, Acts 2:47 that God adds us to the church…”And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” When you repent of your sins, turn to God in obedience, and are baptized into Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)…God adds you to His family….you don’t join…it’s automatic. When you are born again and God becomes your “Father,” you instantly have brothers and sisters…the family of God…His Church. So in one sense, saying you don’t need the church is like saying, I’m part of a family, but I really don’t want to have anything to do with the people who make it up. God designed His family so we need each other, and even if we disagree or get our feelings hurt sometimes…we’re still brothers and sisters.
The scriptures compare Church membership with parts that make up the human body:
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all it’s many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:12…He goes on to say, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (1 Corinthians 12:21) God put His body together… and you might ask, why? His answer, “So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, so every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part
rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it.”
(1 Corinthians 12:25-26)
You see, every single one of us have a rebellious and independent nature (a sinful nature). It’s something we inherited from Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden. And we don’t want to be dependent on anyone. When we become Christians it’s that nature that’s crucified in Christ (Galatians 2:20). Church membership places me in the position where Christ is my head, and I am part of His body. That means I’m dependent upon Jesus and my brothers and sisters…as my brothers and sisters are dependent upon me. If we’ve never crucified that independent spirit we will never understand God’s design for His body, the Church, and why being a member of it is so essential to fulfilling His mission. Can you go to heaven and not be part of God’s family? I don’t know, can you be a student and not go to any school or have any teachers? Can you be a soldier, but not part of any army? Can you be an arm amputated from the body and still function? Can you be part of a family, but have no relationship with your brothers and sisters?
So, If you are one of God’s children who have been obedient to His call to repentance, If you’ve been baptized into Christ and received forgiveness for your sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, congratulations on being added to the Church….we pray that Gardenside Christian will be a family you want to join and share your life and ministry with as a member of His body. You can do this at anytime, but during invitation time on Sunday mornings is very appropriate.
Being added to the Church…Big “C,” is something God does when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior and when we are baptized into Him for the forgiveness of our sin and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…It’s what happened in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost…and it then continued daily in the early church as family, friends and neighbors were impacted by these 3,000 plus.
But aligning yourself with a local body of believers, whether its Corinth, Ephesus, Southland or Gardenside…is a choice. It’s why the writer to the Hebrews says:
HEBREWS 10:23-26 (p. 843)
The local Church is where we assemble…we worship Jesus…celebrate His resurrection, remember His sacrifice..and we use our gifts and abilities to fulfill His mission…and help others find their place in doing so…we spur people on…we encourage…and we are encouraged by others…It becomes our habit…our lifestyle…and we don’t give up…we help others not give up…because the day of Jesus’ return for us is approaching.
We are ending this series on May 29th, next week. It’s a fifth Sunday and we will have one service together as ONE church at 11:11am. We hope many who have thought about making decisions to be baptized or join this local body of Christ will do so on that day…and we are going to ask every current member to sign the same covenant that our new members do…why a covenant, because we believe this covenant allows us to unashamedly and publicly acknowledge we believe in the scriptural and spiritual principles in it…commitment to each other and the body of Christ is something we take seriously. The covenant says:
I openly confess that the Holy Spirit led me to repent of my sins, believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I was immersed into Christ through baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son, and The Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of my sins, and to receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. Because I have been wonderfully saved by His grace through faith I joyfully enter into a covenant relationship with others who have done the same at Gardenside Christian Church.
*submit to the authority of Scripture as the guide for my decisions and life. (2 Tim. 3:16, Heb. 4:12)
*pursue a relationship with Jesus through regular Bible study, prayer, fellowship and commit to teaching my children the same. (Acts 2:42-47, Eph. 6:4)
*repent quickly of sin and submit myself to the accountability of others who will guide me to restoration. (Acts 3:19, James 5:16)
*seek holiness in my daily walk with Christ as an act of worship. (Rom. 12:1)
*actively participate in the life of this church by attending weekly services, joining it’s community as a Family, and serving both within and outside of Gardenside Christian Church. (Acts 2:42-47)
*love my brothers and sisters in Christ and consider their interests of greater value than my own. (Phil. 2:3-4)
*pray for the ministers, leaders, members, mission and ministries of Gardenside Christian Church. (1 Tim. 2:1-3)
*encourage other believers on to love and good deeds, and I will refrain from any words or actions that cause disunity or division in the body of Christ. (Heb. 10:24-25, Eph. 4:29-32)
*be a good steward of the resources God has given me. I believe in cheerful generosity and that will lead me to tithe and sacrifice for Kingdom growth, locally and globally. (2 Cor. 9:6-11)
*pray for opportunities to share the gospel in fulfillment of Jesus’ Great Commission, and take advantage of those opportunities when they are available. I will live life with a gospel intentionality. (Matt. 28:18-20)
*use the gifts given to me by the Holy Spirit to edify and build up God’s Kingdom, and others at Gardenside Christian Church. (Eph. 4:7-16)
*submit to and honor the leadership which God has entrusted to care for His flock. (Rom. 13:1, Titus 3:1-2)
*take seriously the responsibility of Christian freedom. I will not use my opinions and preferences so they become a stumbling block to others. (1 Cor. 8:9)
If we move from this family of believers we will do so having resolved any conflicts and will unite as quickly as possible with another Church who helps us continue to love Jesus, and others.
Jesus said, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mk. 8:38)
This covenant is a declaration that we are bound unashamedly together in Christ and His Word.
Our text in Ephesians begins: “As a prisoner for the Lord, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
It’s important that every committed believer…every minister here at Gardenside:
I. UNDERSTAND OUR LIFE’S CALLING
Christianity isn’t a religion…it’s a relationship with Jesus that affects all our other relationships.
The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
When the Holy Spirit calls us to follow Jesus, it’s a call to die to self and be resurrected in Christ Jesus…our lives are no longer our own…they are under His ownership…His Lordship…may we never forget our calling…and may God help us reexamine it if we never understood this truth…
When Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Lk. 9:23)
This is our calling…it’s a lifelong calling, and I’m afraid many believe it’s a one time event where after it occurs Jesus then has nothing to do with their everyday decisions. Many want a Savior…but reject the idea that He then becomes Lord…This is possibly the greatest lie of Satan…because we fail to understand why Jesus calls us as His people…as His Church.
1. It’s so we can be “ONE.”
EPHESIANS 4:2-6 (p. 815)
[If I take this piece of thread and ask you to break it…do you think you’d have any problem doing it…No? Me either…but if I take 2 or 3 or 3,000 pieces of thread and wrap them together do you think you’d have trouble breaking it? Yeah? Me too.]
These verses are about what brings us together in humility, gentleness and love…It’s a spiritual bond. Our strength is together in Christ…We have a hope for the future and right now…we share His Lordship, we have a unified faith, our baptism unites us in His death, burial and resurrection. We are born again with God as our “Abba,” Father. He wraps us together as cords that cannot be broken.
So Satan tries to convince us we are threads that don’t need other threads…and he tries to divide us so we can be broken over things that don’t really matter a “Hill of Beans.”
2. Jesus give gifts to His people, the Church.
EPHESIANS 4:7-13 (p. 815)
Our salvation comes because we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…we are “adopted sons and daughters” because of this wonderful, beautiful, mystical union that occurs when we are baptized with Christ, just like on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
But the Holy Spirit is given for a purpose. Jesus apportions His grace…He enables us to serve others through His plan. We aren’t saved to rest on our blessed assurance…we are saved to serve. He makes us all “ministers.” In fact, listen to
EPHESIANS 2:4-10 (p. 814)
His purpose for ascending and descending was to rescue those captive to sin…me and you. And He gave me and you gifts so that the body of Christ, His church, would grow and grow up…until we attain maturity…the measure of that fullness and maturity, Jesus.
Let me end today by sharing this challenge:
II. THIS IS THE ONLY WAY YOU AND I CAN HAVE STABILITY IN AN UNSTABLE WORLD
EPHESIANS 4:14-16 (p. 815)
There are only two ways you and I can live our lives…for ourselves or for God. Yes, it’s really that simple…one lifestyle gives us a rock solid foundation. One lifestyle keeps us trying to find satisfaction in an ever changing sandy one. Where waves crash in from all sides. One lifestyle has the unchanging Word of God as its guide…one has us depending on our own schemes, and the advice of others…some who don’t have our best interests at heart…One lifestyle gives us a forever family…one gives us the friends from the bar, the team, the hope that the other person will make us feel valuable.
The truth is life here and now isn’t heaven! There will be storms and there will be difficulties and the foundation we built our lives on will determine our stability…If we build on things of this world we’ll be tossed around like a ship on the ocean in a storm…but if we build our lives on Jesus, and His Word we have a rock solid base…we are connected to Him and supported by others who do the same. “From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does it’s work.” (Eph. 4:16)
Jesus ended the greatest sermon ever preached with these words:
MATTHEW 7:24-27 (p. 679)
Why is it important for every member of Christ’s church to be a minister? Because its God’s plan for an abundant life…a stable life…If our lives are a house…Then Jesus is the foundation…rock solid, never wavering…and each of us are the 2×4’s, the joists, the nails, the bricks and mortar that connect the house together…without each part doing it’s work, the house is in trouble…and so is our life.