Ephesians 4: 11-16
11 And [m] he gave the [n] apostles, the prophets, the [o] evangelists, the [p] shepherds and teachers, 12 [q] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for [r] building up [s] the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to [t] the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, [u] to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of [v] the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, [w] tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in [x] deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, [y] speaking the truth in love, we are to [z] grow up in every way into him who is [a] the head, into Christ, 16 [b] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, [c] when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
I am not a Plumber, nor an electrician. I don’t pretend to be. I am not hesitant to call one if the need arises, because the best I could do would not fix the issues at hand. Churches need to be unafraid to reach out for resources that can help them through the process of transition.
Have you ever gotten into a repair job and discovered that you were completely in over your head? Maybe it was something “simple” like a leaky faucet. Or something more like taking on remodeling an entire room or an entire house. Given the very limited construction experience that I have, I can tell you that it does not take long for me to be out of my comfort zone. In the first home that we bought, it took me less than 30 seconds to be fired from painting walls in a house. Ever. I had the idea of getting an electric sprayer, I didn’t fully read all the instructions, and one swipe with the sprayer was all it took. I was definitely not called to be a painter. I did a lot of other jobs on that house, but no more painting. In fact, I have not put a paintbrush to wall in almost 15 years. It is something I do not do well. My time is more productive doing something else and the time of those I’m working with are not needed to fix what I just did with paint…
You cannot do this on your own
A couple weeks ago, we started with the phrase “its not about you”. It still stands. You cannot build a church. We in this room cannot build a church. Just like me staring down a wall that needs painted, we are going to need some more skilled help. Verse 11 tells us some of the Gifts that God gives those in the body of Christ for the purpose of building the church.
It’s easy to get hung up on the specific gifting in this passage, going back to the Greek and comparing the different English translations and how church traditions have treated these passages. Believe me. There is a time and place for this discussion on another day, and I am not minimizing the value of study. But the goal this morning is to focus on the giver of the gifts more than the gifts today. We are going to dig even more into that in a little bit.
You need help from others
Verses 12 and 13 tell us that the purpose of these gifts are unity. Unity is good. It places the body of Christ in the place that God desires us to be. Albert Barnes describes this in his commentary on verse 12
On the meaning of the word rendered here as “perfecting” … It properly refers to “the restoring of anything to its place;” then putting in order, making complete, etc.
Here it means that these various officers were appointed in order that everything in the church might be well arranged, or put into its proper place; or that the church might be “complete.” It is that Christians may have every possible advantage for becoming complete in love, and knowledge, and order
Some of us are given the gift of teaching in order to help equip those around us with the knowledge and wisdom to more effectively serve Christ in the community around us. If you want to be a growing church, you don’t call a pastor to do the ministry for you, you call a pastor to help equip the congregation to ministry in their surrounding community. In the words of Greg Stier, “You want to make disciples who make disciples”. That starts in the pews.
Could you share the gospel on the spot if someone asked?
Are you in need of some equipping?
You need to avoid distractions
In verse 14, Paul is not talking about biologically young children, he is talking about those believers that are not mature in their faith, willing to believe most anything without critically examining it against the scriptures. Coffman’s commentary warns against blindly accepting what you hear:
There are two things which contribute to the seduction of Christians away from the holy faith. These are: (1) the natural instability of many persons who are captivated by novelty, easily misled, swayed by popular fashion, etc. As (William) Barclay said of such people, “They are always under the influence of the last person with whom they talked.” 2) Then there are the deceivers themselves, ruthless, cunning, unprincipled sons of the devil who, while often appearing in sheep’s clothing, are nevertheless “ravening wolves.”
In today’s society, this warning is very fitting for this present time. We have 24 hour news cycles that tell us stuff, but is it real? Is it worth our time and attention? I think that this passage gives us something to examine personally and even more as a congregation.
Several years ago, a local Amish business person told me something I will hopefully never forget.
“You drove about a mile down a rock road to get to my shop. There are 2 miles of road ditches in that mile. Satan wants us distracted. He doesn’t care where or which road ditch you run into or where at…”
We can get distracted by new methods of sharing the unchanging message of the Gospel that are working in other churches. We can look at the new and shiny and lose sight of the Three P’s we talked about two weeks ago,. Purpose, Passion, and People. Its so easy to let something new side track us on one or all three. On the other hand there is just as much danger not in tradition, but traditionalism. There is a big difference between the two…
Tradition vs Traditionalism
Chuck Lawless, Professor of Evangelism and Missions at Southeastern Seminary defines properly aligned church tradtion this way:
It honors God for what He has done. Tradition, by definition, is tied to the past. Ideally, though, it focuses on God and what He has done, not on what we used to do in the church. Healthy tradition is concerned about glorifying God only.
Longtime pastor and current Chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, Chuck Swindoll defines traditionalism as:
“an attitude that resists change, adaptation, or alteration.”
Chuck Lawless also points out some of the dangers of a steeped Traditionalism in a congregation.
It emphasizes what we (or others) have done more than what God has done. Traditionalism fights to save traditions, but the traditions are what we’ve done . . . what our forefathers did . . . what our denomination has “always” done. It assumes that our preferences are God’s commands.
It elevates the past over the future. Traditionalism is protective and reactive. It guards yesterday’s turf at the expense of making a difference today and tomorrow. It fears the future more than it influences it.
So yes, both the new and the old, even within the life of the church can distract us from doing what God has called us to do. Love God, Love people, and Make disciples. One job, three distinct functions. If we get too distracted to carry out one, we are likely failing at all of them. This morning I hope that we are looking through this passage intently as we re-examine the tools we have available, and a reminder that we cannot do this on our own.
You need equipping from the ONE professional church builder
I am not talking about a contractor or architect. Not anyone on HGTV, TLC or Discovery Channel. I’m not even talking about professional church growth consultants or Denominational staff.
We need to look first to God the “Giver of every good and perfect gift” as stated in James 1:17. We have everything available to us that we need to grow the kingdom in our community. God is there ready to give it to us. We just have to ask. Some of it we probably already have, we just may not be aware of it yet. So the question is this – Are we asking? Are we taking regular time to ask God what He would have us do? Are we looking to Him for the equipping we need? If we ask, we had better be ready to receive the equipping that God is going to give us. It may not look like what we thought we were asking for. Remember, It’s not about us. It’s up to God to put us in the place that He desires us to be to best serve Him. It’s up to us to be obedient on the way there and once we are there.
Verse 16 talks about having everything fitted together in the body of Christ like a body has joints that fit together. Part of that is how we work together with as a congregation. Think of all the bones in a wrist or ankle. That’s us as a congregation. Think of how the wrist fits to the arm, or the ankle to the leg. That is us working with other parts of the body of Christ to accomplish His will as believers. We may not agree on all points, but we have a purpose to accomplish together.
Going forward is going to be a big job. Next we will be taking about “Repair”
Repairing relationships, repairing our vision, and repairing our view of the community around us. A
Is my congregation’s service to the body of Christ marked by Tradition or Traditionalism?
Have we become distracted from what God is calling us to do?
Are we looking to God to equip us as we minister to the community around us?