If you’re in need of spiritual encouragement (or for me, more often it is a rebuke!), I’d encourage you to look up some sermons on http://www.sermonaudio.com . Some of my favorite speakers are Dan Olinger (my doctrines teacher from BJ), Greg Mazak (my favorite psychology teacher at BJ), and Greg Huffman (my home church pastor growing up). However, this morning I was listening to this sermon about my role in my church. It was very convicting. In case you don’t have time to listen to the entire sermon, here’s a brief set of ‘notes’ that I took from the sermon.
The sermon came from Ephesians chapter 4.
He starts by explaining the different historical attacks on the church – like the Chinese dictator, Mau Tse-Tung who tried to completely eliminate the church in China. (Btw, there are reports now that there are more Christians in China than in the United States . . . however this is hard to determine since the Christians in China have to be so secretive.) Here in the US, there were attacks on Christians when they started Christian Schools, and then again when the homeschool movement began. But that’s all turned out OK. Now Christians are afraid of things like the gay rights activists and what it will mean for our churches. However, Dr. Olinger seems to think that will all turn out OK, too. In other words, these aren’t the biggest attacks on our church. So what is it?
7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
Christ gave everyone of us gifts when we became Christians - do you know what yours is? (Hint! If you don’t, you need to find out – because that is key to your purpose in the church!!)
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,
ie – the gifts. Why?
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.
So, we are to be using our gifts for the edification of the people in our local churches! So – why do you go to church? (which in and of itself is an unbiblical statement because we ARE the church. . . but I digress . . . ) To get a blessing? Because you don’t want to deal with the “I missed you last week!” calls? To get your kids to Sunday School? (What I have been guilty of!).
I would say that our primary purpose in church is to edify others with our spiritual gifts. So, if I have the gift of mercy, I should be looking to find someone who needs some of my gift and “back up my truck and pour a dumpload of mercy on them”. If we were to take that further – maybe we shouldn’t leave church until we have exercised our spiritual gift on someone who needs it. Think on that for a moment.
Now, how do we find someone who needs our gifts? Well, we have to talk to them! Like more than just “hey, how are you doing?” We have to be diligently searching for someone who has a need for the gift that we have – not that we are the answer to their problems, but that the gift from God that we have is His answer to their edification. Sometimes, though, we are afraid of seeking out help from the people who have been equipped to give it – fellow church members. Why is this?
I think a lot of us our afraid - afraid of what those people might think, or of what they might say . . . to other people.
Leviticus 19:16 says, “You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people. . . “
There’s a joke around town that things can get around a local Christian college here in a matter of a few hours . . . is this really something to joke about though? True, if there’s a new rule or a maybe a rumor of an extra Day of Rest, that’s one thing – but if this habit of spreading the latest news is hindering our ‘approachableness’ (is that a word?), and thus hindering our ability to use our spiritual gifts, is it really a joking matter? Where are our fellow Christians supposed to go for help if they are worried about who all will know about their struggles by the next church service?
Now, many of us wouldn’t take something that personal and share it with others, because we want others to confide in us. But, when we gossip about “little” things – like other’s irritating personality traits or quirks, we are marking ourselves as unapproachable. Others are afraid to talk to us because they think we can’t keep our mouths shut. (Besides - if we’re irritated about the right things – things that are keeping people from being like Christ – then we are supposed to go ‘fix’ it – using our spiritual gifts, we are to edify them to make them more like Christ – not talk about it with other people.)
Thus, the biggest attacker of the church is not liberal politicians, or the gay rights activists, or the ACLU – but rather, WE ARE! Because we can’t ‘zip our lips’ as my K-5 teacher used to say.
So, what would the church look like if everyone was using their spiritual gifts to edify other believers everytime we gathered?
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,
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 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.
We would all be unified - growing more and more like Christ. “To the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” – in other words, growing our body to fit Christ’s head. Chloe’s doctor used to think that she might have some kind of growth in her brain, because for awhile, her head seemed to be too big for her body. Perhaps we should be growing our churches so much with the goal in mind of being so much like Christ, that our body can be ‘fitting’ to His headship over us.
So that’s it – may the Lord help us all to grow in unity by using our gifts to edify our brothers and sisters in Christ – and to eliminate gossip, the attacker on our churches, so that we can be best used to grow our body to be more and more like Christ.