To get to the moment in our Sunday worship service when we hear the preaching and teaching of God’s word on behalf of the risen Christ, it takes literally hundreds of acts of service by a few hundred people each week. All of these gifts and skills are signs of God’s goodness to His church.
Service Begins by Applying the Word of God
“11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11, 12)
These verses teach that Jesus has given to His church leaders who deliver the word of God. The apostles delivered the teachings of Christ to the first churches as their foundation. Before the Bible was completed, the early church prophets declared the will of God to the churches. Evangelists were the first church planters and missionaries who took the word where it had yet to be heard. Shepherds or pastors were those who led each local church with the word of God.
The word is given to lead each member to serve the body to health. It’s not enough to just have the word, but for each believer to be a doer of the word (James 1:22). The phrase “to equip…for the work of ministry” is a call to action in light of the word.
Imagine thinking your eyes should do all the work of the body. Picture a church that sees what they are supposed to do, scripturally, but never actually does it. This body will become lazy, weak, depleted, and dead.
Your service begins with hearing and obeying the word. Every time the word is preached, we should respond, “Here I am with my resources and gifts for the health of this body. Who and where do I need to serve?”
We Serve for the Sake of the Gospel
“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, 14 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.”
In this letter, Paul addresses the major dysfunction between Jews and Gentiles in the church. Their relationship was marked by alienation from one another rather than unification to one another in the gospel. Paul wrote to them to show that the church is the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). God’s manifold wisdom is that Jews and Gentiles are in the same family by the same faith in Jesus. Spiritual maturity is recognizing and embracing this reality by serving one another. Maturity in the gospel leads us to serve those that are unlike us like family.
Serving is Loving the Body
“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.”
Your hands and arms are joined to your shoulders, which are connected to your neck, which leads to your head with a brain that’s connected to all of your body parts by nerves that tell the body to care for itself. The brain tells the hand to put food in your mouth when you’re hungry, and for the stomach to digest the food you’re eating for nourishment. The brain tells your lungs to expand and contract, bringing oxygen into the body so that it works properly. Mouth, “chew.” Throat, “swallow.” Stomach, “digest.” Lungs, “breath.” Involuntarily, the nerves and muscles connected to the brain work so the body is healthy and functioning properly.
Jesus designed the church, His body, out of love. He’s given the church its many parts to care for the whole. He holds the church together by joining her to Himself. He keeps her together by telling her how to love herself. As members respond in obedience to the Head, the body is loved to health. The extent to which we’re not serving is the extent to which we are lacking love.
Serving keeps the body healthy. The extent to which every member serves is the extent to which we are functioning properly. Even more, to not serve the body is a choice to not only destroy the body but to harm yourself.
If the stomach goes AWOL, we get sick. If the hand refuses to care for the rest of the body we could get sick and die. In death, the stomach and hand don’t just part ways to live as lone parts, but they die along with the rest of the body. Refusal to serve the body is self-centered sabotage of the body.
Serving is Spiritual Warfare
The church is not just a generic, healthily functioning body existing in the world for no reason. As the letter ends in chapter 6, we see that the body is a victorious warrior in Christ on a mission to display the love of God through Christ to a lost and dying world. When one member refuses to serve the body, we’re not only in danger of becoming unhealthy, we’re in danger of being taken out by the enemy and dying. And this isn’t just one of us, but all of us.
- How have you seen your gifts and unique abilities help our church fulfill our mission? How have you seen your gifts and unique abilities help our church to function healthily in unity?
- Are there people different from you when it comes to age, background, and/or ethnicity who you will serve in the gospel at our church? Who are they? How will you serve them?
- What spiritual gifts do you have that you want to use in the church? How will you take the initiative to use those gifts?
- How will you help us mobilize others who need to serve the church?