Introduction: This morning I’m beginning a new seven week preaching series I’ve decided to call the Building Blocks of Ministry. I want to give you a little background as to why I chose this topic for our church. A while ago I was thinking about how to grow a church. Someone told me a good number of years ago that healthy things grow and so if we’re leading a healthy church, we should it expect it to grow too. I have to confess that I really don’t know that much about growing a church though I’ve been in full-time Christian work for 31 years. In my former pastorate, we saw about a 5-10% increase in attendance for most years but I really couldn’t explain why. We just did the things that we believed churches should be doing and we grew. But if other pastors were to ask me to share the seven things a church has to do to grow in number, I’m not sure that my answers would have satisfied them. Then a couple of weeks ago, the Lord began to lead me through a different thought process about how to broaden the impact of a church (our church) so that people are being introduced to Christ on a regular basis and joining us in worship. It occurred to me in a God-moment that an organization will only grow in proportion to the number of people who passionately own its vision and purpose. As more people buy-in to it, the impact always increases. When that thought hit me, I laughed because I knew it was right. Think about it. If only two people own a ministry, and they work as hard as they can, they still will only see as much fruit as the two of them can produce. But if you can find several others who share that same vision and put the ministry in their hands, the potential to impact people increases dramatically. I learned this when I was on staff with Student Venture (the high school ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ) and was challenged by a fellow staff member to allow the students to lead and make decisions regarding our weekly meeting that normally fell on me. Though I was convinced everything would fall apart (there was no way they could do it as good as me), I begrudgingly agreed to give it a try. I couldn’t believe the results! Our weekly meeting doubled within a month from 75 students to 150. At times, we’d have over 200 coming out on Monday nights. New students were attending every week and I was hearing stories about how this kid met Christ for the first time or how another student decided to fully invest in his or her relationship with God. Our national office caught wind of what was happening and called to find out the secret to our growth. I said that we decided to put the ministry in the hands of the students and they were happy to run with it.
In recent days, the Lord has led me to a passage in Ephesians chapter four that basically affirms this is the right way to do it. Let me read it for you — EPHESIANS 4:11-13 — And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 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. Now, let’s take a closer look at these verses and see what we can learn about ministry as far as the shepherds of the church, the people of the church and the end-goal of the church are concerned.
The Shepherds of the Church (4:11-12 — And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints – Paul mentions apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers as gifted people that God gives to the church. Here’s a brief description of each. (1) Apostles – The word means “one sent forth” and likely refers to the twelve apostles of Christ (remember that Matthias replaced Judas) as well as Paul, James, the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19) and possibly one or two others. In order to be an apostle, these individuals had to meet certain qualifications according to the Apostle Peter– Acts 1:21-22 – Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection. These witnesses were commissioned by the Lord to proclaim the kingdom of God, first locally, and then worldwide by sharing the gospel message as well as the teachings of our Lord; (2) Prophets – a prophet was a person who “stood in the counsel of God,” who heard His word and spoke it faithfully to His people. He was a spokesman for God so that he could say, “Thus saith the Lord,” and the people would receive his message as if it came directly from the mouth of God Himself. Some of the prophets were Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Hosea. There were also several others. An important thing to remember about these first two groups, apostles and prophets, is this: NEITHER HAVE ANY SUCCESSORS. THEY ARE THE END OF THE LINE. THERE ARE NO MORE APOSTLES OR PROPHETS IN THE SENSE THAT THEY’RE MENTIONED HERE. (3) Evangelists – This word is used to describe people like Philip and Timothy in the New Testament. While every Christian is called to share the Gospel with others, evangelists are usually particularly effective in explaining it so that others understand and accept it as the truth; (4) Pastors – These are the shepherds who tend to God’s flock (His people) by leading and teaching them. They are also called elders and overseers; (5) Teachers – These are people who through faithful study of the Bible are able to impart its truth to God’s people in relevant ways that make a difference in their lives. The difference between a pastor and a teacher is this: While all pastors should be able to teach, not all teachers are expected to be able to pastor.
What did God expect from the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers? They were called by God to get everyone else in the body of Christ prepared for ministry. Wait a minute! Did you catch that? It turns out that people like me aren’t the only ministers in the local church. We’re all expected to join in the ministry. The word for ministry actually means “service.” The idea is that every believer is in the service of the Lord. No where in the Bible does God command us to leave “the ministry” up to the professionals. The truth is that we can shoulder our part of it, but not all of it. This means that if you are serving the Lord, you are every bit the “minister” that anyone else in this church is. Illustration: I was a teenager when I sensed God calling me to full-time Christian work. Though, it took me a while to understand what He had in mind, when I did, I started telling the people closest to me that I wanted to be a preacher. While my family wasn’t necessarily what I would call ‘spiritual,’ they were pretty excited about it. They began telling their friends and soon the word got out. After that, on a fairly regular basis, I would have someone say, “Hey, I hear you want to be a minister.” In my denomination we didn’t call people pastors, but ministers. And, typically, I would say in response, “Yeah, Go figure! Me of all people.” I’m not going to lie to you. I kind of liked the idea way back then of being introduced someday as Kerry Bauman, Minister of the Lord. Well, that was a long time ago. I have served the Lord as a youth pastor for fourteen years and in my current role for seventeen years. However, today, most people don’t introduce me as their minister, but as their pastor. And while I’m fully engaged in ministry, you the church are the ministers, so feel free to use the title all you want!
The People of the Church (4:12 — to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, – Your responsibility is to join in the ministry for the purpose of helping the body of Christ to grow as Christ-followers. Service can take a lot of different forms here at River Ridge. Some of you have stepped up to serve in our RIVER RIDGE KIDS ministry and use your gifts to point these young ones to Christ. Others are ministering on our COMMUNICATION TEAM that designs pretty much every publication, sign and mailer that we produce. They also oversee our website, facebook page, Instagram account and slides on Sunday mornings. Then there’s our WORSHIP TEAM. For those who have musical gifts (voice or instrumental) or technical aptitudes for sound, lighting and video, there’s a place for you to serve. Our MEN’S AND WOMEN’S MINISTRIES are constantly planning meaningful events and studies that help us to connect and grow in our faith. There’s also our FINANCIAL TEAM that oversees budget and our expenses so that we stay on track and are accountable for how we use God’s resources. Did you know that we also have an INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (I.T.) TEAM? These people supervise our database, our River Ridge app and the computers we use so that together they form a well-oiled machine! Our SMALL GROUPS TEAM is in charge of our connection groups and every other adult Bible Study including the League for our post-high school to 29 year-old group. We have a SERVANT TEAM that oversees parking, communion, ushers and greeters, the benevolence fund and our meal train ministry. Most of us enjoy what the HOSPITALITY TEAM does for us every Sunday morning as they provide a good food, warm beverages and a great environment for meeting new people. Our SECURITY TEAM is constantly thinking about our safety and what to do in case of an emergency. Our STUDENT MINISTRY TEAM leads both Unite and Ignite with the goal of introducing teens to Christ and discipling them in their faith. The PRAYER TEAM’S goal is to mobilize as many of us as possible to pray for our church, surrounding communities and country as possible. And then there’s our NEXT STEPS TEAM that warmly greets visitors every Sunday morning and answers any questions that will make their visit more enjoyable.
You can see that there are of ministries that you can serve in. But if not of those appeal to you, there’s one more that might be the most important of all. It’s our OUTREACH TEAM. We know that our church cannot be so consumed with our ministries to the body that we fail to have a foot-print in the communities we serve in Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. So, the job of this group is to equip people to reach out to their friends, neighbors, co-workers and families by building bridges of love that will gain us a hearing for Christ. This is our goal when we work concessions at the football games, host a booth for children at the Twin Lakes Business in the Park event or participate in a community spring clean up day for Silver Lake.
Someone just came to me yesterday and asked if I knew of a gym that he could use to put together a basketball outreach. His goal is to provide a platform for Christians to invite their unbelieving friends for some exercise and good fun while they model what following Christ looks like in competitive sports. I think it can be a very effective way to reach people who might step foot in this or any church right now. I hope you understand that there simply is no limit to what we can do when it comes to outreach as long as someone is willing to own it.
The End-Goal of the Church (4:13 — 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) – We are to labor together in order that God’s people might be built up by being brought to unity and maturity.
· Unity – (the unity of the faith and the knowledge of God) – In case you’re confused, here’s what Paul is saying. God wants believers, as we minister to one another, to experience everything that salvation in Jesus is meant to bring to us. It is all part of His plan to bring us into a close-knit fellowship with each other and help us to have a greater understanding of who He is and His plan for our lives.
· Maturity – (to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ) — The Bible tells us that the goal of every believer should be to grow into a mature follower of Jesus Christ. The better we know Him the more we will resemble Him. The more we resemble Him, the more unified we will be.
Applications: So, if we want to have the broadest impact we can possibly have and touch the most lives for Christ, each of us is going to have to own our part in the ministry. Here are three questions we should all ask ourselves.
· Where am I serving? Perhaps you can’t serve weekly because of your current season of life. But could you participate in an outreach that will further establish our presence in your neighborhood or town? Perhaps you would consider hosting a front yard barbecue this summer just as a way to meet your neighbors. We’ll give you money to buy the food. All you have to do is invite your neighbors over and start getting to know their life stories and pray for opportunities to share God’s love and pique their interest in Christ.
· Who am I serving? Ultimately, we’re all serving Christ. We get that. But we’re doing so by ministering to people and helping them to take their next step toward Him. Next month, we’re going to host a ministry fair on March 22nd to help you figure out who you would like to minister to. One more thing: If you are one of those people who has little children that take up most of your time and energy, we all understand. But please consider that one of the best things you can do for you kids if you want them to become ministers someday, is to model it for them now.
· Why am I serving? You and I exist for the glory of God. That’s why He has us here! And one of the best ways we can do that is to invest our resources in serving the same people whom Christ came to serve. Remember? The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.
Conclusion: Pastor Miles McPherson, tells a story about someone who stepped up as a minister in his book “God in the Mirror.” He writes: I walked out of my office one morning, and a guy I had never met was just getting off the elevator. He was about six foot four, at least 250 pounds, and he wore cut-off jeans and a sweatshirt. His body was all tatted up …. We talked down the hall together, and he told me he was going to his first ministry meeting, and he was really nervous. [I asked], “Nervous? How come you’re nervous?” “Pastor, you always encourage us to do something, so I figured I got to do something. I want to serve the Lord.” Since our church has over a hundred outreach ministries, I asked him, “What’s the ministry you’re joining?” “The knitting ministry,” he said. He added, “Well, actually, I don’t knit, I crochet.” Here’s this huge guy who looks like he could be an NFL tackle, and he’s nervous about joining a ministry that makes blankets and hats for hospitalized children. Curious, I asked him where he learned how to crochet. “I was in the Hell’s Angels for 12 years,” he told me. “I learned to crochet in prison. I know it’s the one thing I can do for the Lord.” Just then the lady who heads up the knitting ministry walked toward us, said a quick hi to me, then asked the former Hell’s Angels, “Are you Jim?” She gave him a big grin and took his hand. I watched them go down the hall together. It may not seem like a unique ability to crochet, but when you package that with his life, the ripple effect can push countless others out of their comfort zone to step up and stand out the way God designed them to. Miles McPherson, God in the Mirror (Baker Books, 2013), pp. 51-51