Ministry can be a tug of war! In our last blog, we talked about the harm such pulling in multiple direction can have upon the local ministry. Our summary was: nothing valuable happens! There is a lot of energy being expended, but nothing good happens – and, in fact, people get injured and tired and simply drop out! The lesson every person in every church needs to learn is this:
UNITY PRODUCES GREATER RESULTS THAN INDIVIDUAL EFFORTS!
Last time we spoke of the first challenge to ministry unity: SELFISHNESS. If this was our only challenge, this would be formidable. We spoke of this last time. However, we now have to move from the challenge of selfishness to our second challenge in the church:
Challenge #2: IMMATURITY
I think the easiest way to help you see what immaturity looks like is to illustrate it:
Immaturity finds itself when an individual …
1) Refuses to be trained by the pastor (v. 11-12)
2) Refuses to do the work of the church ministry (v. 12)
3) Refuses to take sacrificial responsibility for the church (v. 12)
4) Acts like a child by following the latest fads of culture and Christianity (v. 13-14)
5) Follows deceivers because of their greed and desires (v. 14)
* When the church is filled with the spiritually immature – all we are going to be able to do is provide milk, change diapers, and stop the crying!
Tommy Tenny tells us that many of our members have become “Milk Babies” in padded pews! “Unfortunately, the Israelites suffered from the same problem many Christians do today. We have become addicted to the anointing, the relayed word of good preaching and teaching. Too many of us have become “milk babies” who want to sit on padded pews in an air-conditioned and climate-controlled building where someone else will pre-digest what God has to say and then regurgitate it back to us in a half-digested form. (We’re afraid of getting ‘spiritual indigestion’ from messages we think are “too rough” to handle.) Tender tummies are unused to tough truth!
“The solution is hunger and desperation for God Himself without intermediaries. We need to pray, ‘God, I’m tired of everybody else hearing from You! Where is the lock on my prayer closet? I’m going to lock myself away until I hear from You myself!’ (Tommy Tenney. The God Chasers. 2001. Destiny Image Publishers, Inc. Shippensburg, PA. Pg. 74.)
How do we grow “milk babies” into mature, Christ-followers? We need to understand that …
- Unity happens when we GROW people into Christ-likeness.
How does this growth into Christ-likeness happen? Paul tells us exactly what has to happen:
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ …” Ephesians 4:11-12
Paul teaches four steps to this growth process:
1) Pastors equip the leaders (Ephesians 4:11-12). The pastoral team members are your spiritual coaches. Their task is to make sure you are fit for the game of life; life on earth in all it’s dimensions: Relationships, finances, career, and most of all your spiritual walk with and for Christ. When we listen to our coaches, life (all aspects of it) goes so much better.
2) Leaders do the ministry with the people (Ephesians 4:11-12). Each weekend across America two similar scenarios are played out. In our great sports arenas we see a small group of individuals working intensely for the prize of victory and desperately in need of rest while thousands of people watch, offering their own criticism and advice. Often at the same time in smaller venues around our great country we see thousands of spectators watching a small group of people seeking to bring them into the very presence of God, all the while offering personal thoughts and ideas on how to do the job better.
When our leaders engage those very ‘arm-chair’ worshippers in the ministry, much changes and lives are impacted for the glory of God. In fact, this is the design of people doing the ministry under the coaching of their pastors. As more and more people take up the work of the ministry, the ‘immaturity quotient’ of the church decreases. This is the very process Paul described some 2.000 years ago.
“… 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, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ …” Ephesians 4:13-15
3) This is the process of people growing up in Christ (Ephesians 4:13-15).
As this process continues to move forward, Paul tells us the result of this process:
“… 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.” Ephesians 4:16
4) Our church is built up in faith, health and size (Ephesians 4:16)! In other words, the more people who DO the work of the ministry, the healthier the church becomes. As the church becomes healthy, it grows numerically as well.
Challenges to unity happen ever day in ministry. Following the Biblical steps to overcoming selfishness by pointing people to their calling and immaturity by growing people into Christ-likeness by having them DO the work of the ministry brings unity, health and growth to our church!
Next time we will continue our exploration of how to bring unity to our ministry by unpacking Paul’s advice to combat the third challenge.