Servant of God,
“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up the body of Christ,”
Being part of a gospel-centered church is no small matter. Our responsibility as Christians is massive. It is massive for leaders (who are gifts from God), and it is massive for the rest of us who are charged with learning, growing and serving (Ephesians 4:1-17). Christians must be equipped to work hard in the kingdom of God. We must be equipped so we can endure the harsh realities of life and so we can help others through their times of trials, trauma and hardship.
Those who teach the truth of God must not be treated like celebrities or “professionals”. They are servants. They are tasked by God to use their gifts and callings to help us grow up spiritually. We ought to respect and appreciate them. None of us should take either leadership or learning to be disciples of Jesus for granted. Leaders teach, train and model and we all learn and grow—whether small or great—in the body of Christ. Leaders are called to equip us to do the work of ministry. Christians are God’s family and God’s workforce. Every believer must endeavor, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to become the person God is calling him or her to be.
This requires intentionality. We must not see church as a place to “go” so we can “get” a spiritual commodity. Church is a people we belong to, and we belong so we can bring God glory and do God’s bidding. Our charge is to penetrate our culture with gospel salt and light. Leaders must have followers who are willing, not just to learn facts, but to practice obedience to Christ in all we do and say. We are to be a people who gather to worship and learn so that we can scatter to love and serve.
Have you ever asked yourself why the American evangelical church is so wimpy and wishy washy? Why are people who call themselves followers of Jesus so eager to disregard biblical teaching on human sexuality? Why are so many so-called Christians so casual about church attendance and sacrificial service in the name of Christ? Why is the church and the ministry of the church such a low priority item to so many who claim to be Christians? Why does the church look so much like the unredeemed world in matters of morality? It is simple, really. The church in America has forsaken the biblical model.
American church life is often like a combination of a low-grade rock concert and shopping trip to the spiritual Wal-Mart, when it should be a beehive, thriving with worship, learning, and sacrificial ministry. Box store Christianity is built around good intentions, but it is not biblical. The rock concert Christianity panders to emotions but is often quite devoid of biblical doctrine. Both are based on the false notion that church is a place to corral unbelievers and sucker punch them with a feel-good gospel. It seems right to a man, but it is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12).
The church is not a place; it’s a people. Christians are all former rebels who have been rescued by the very God we once waged war against (Ephesians 2:1-10). Now, we are joyful servants of that wonderful, merciful savior. We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”
(1 Peter 2:9). We must not come to church thinking we will snag a few nuggets of spiritual “magic” that we can use to make our kids behave better or make our troubles go away. We must come to worship the living God and to submit ourselves to him so we can mature and learn to know, love and serve him.
If you are a Christian, you are a saint—a holy person set apart for God’s use. We are children of God, but we are also his servants. The Christian life is not just learning about all the blessings God wants to shower upon us. Those are surely many. The Christian life is a life of both blessing and service. As Christians, we are laborers—field hands in the vast white harvest where God teaches us to thrive as skilled workers.
When I was a teenager, I worked for a couple of farmers. When I started, I knew very little about farming. The first thing I had to do was get some basics. I took a course in tractor safety. That was important, but it was only the beginning. The old farmers took it upon themselves to help me learn the everyday realities of farming. They taught me how to do everything from how to drill wheat to how to dig a post hole in rock-hard ground. I learned how to identify crops and weeds and tools used in farming. They taught me the rhythm of farm life and the reality of long, hot (or cold), boring hours of operating tractors and trucks on both ends of the farming season. We prepared soil, tried to keep it weed free (before mass chemical use), planted seed, cultivated and harvested the crops. I had to be taught both knowledge and skills. Farming, like virtually every profitable endeavor, must be learned by listening, watching, study and actual trial and error effort. I learned by doing, but it was “informed doing”. I learned to be a farm hand from real life farmers who invested decades of knowledge and skill into a teenage kid who did not stick around more than a few months.
A church is a body of believers where we are all learning to work in God’s harvest field. We teach each other and warn each other and encourage one another so that God can be glorified and so that more broken people (like us) can be brought into God’s care as they receive, by faith, the salvation and restoration that God provides in Christ.
If you want the benefit of church, you must invest the time and effort it takes to grow up. When the hard times of life come along, those who endure hardship and survive are most likely those who have done the hard, sometimes boring, work of being taught, trained and mentored in the faith. Every hard time is an opportunity to learn more about God and to be more available to God. Life in our fallen world is full of sorrow and difficulty. Christians can be people who (because they know they have been rescued from darkness) are committed to growing up so they can both endure hardships themselves and help others to endure through hard times too. I am thankful we can grow up in Christ…together.
Where is my heart?
As Christmas season ends, and the new year begins, I find myself becoming complacent. I Want to indulge my own desires. Quite frankly, I find myself wanting to do absolutely nothing. I justify those wants by saying I deserve a break after all the energy I expended in December.
Falling into this mindset never ends well for me. It brings my focus onto myself and off of Christ and his mission for my life. Just as I started settling into this pattern I woke up with the words to one of my favorite songs ringing in my heart.
These words stir my heart because I recognize myself in them. I can use this song as a prayer when I don’t have adequate words of my own:
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.
As the new year starts, I want to focus my heart back on God. One sure way is to read my bible and pray. As we start a new year, with our world in turmoil, what can you do to bind your heart to God?