It was suggested to me that I should consider putting onto paper my view on the various subjects pertaining to the life of the church. This article will be the first of what I hope to be many. These articles, by their very nature, will allow me to endeavor to communicate my heart for the church in another way that may be missing through my normal interactions within the church. It should be remembered that no method of communication is perfect and there are a few possible pitfalls to written communication. Among these is the loss of the use of visual and audible clues. Clearly, you cannot see the expression on my face, my gestures, or even hear the tone of my voice through the written word. All of these things should help clarify and enforce the message being spoken. There are, however, some distinct advantages to written communication. We have the opportunity to re-read at will, for example. This is one reason that the Word of God is given to us in written form. All of this is to say, if you have questions or comments, or seek clarification, please allow me to address those things through further conversation. That is, ideally, these articles would be starting points for conversation and not simply me expressing my viewpoint.
As I began to consider what portion of Scripture I would like to begin preaching through given the opportunity, it occurred to me that the Epistle to the Church at Ephesus is a very good place to start. There are several reasons for this choice. In this letter, the Apostle Paul addresses several issues which I feel are particularly pertinent to our present situation. The apostle begins with an overview of the glorious spiritual blessings which we have been given in Christ. Then a concise presentation of the gospel is given followed by an explanation of the work of Christ in regards to the church universal. Paul follows that up with discussing the mystery of the Gospel in which he discusses the tearing down of the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile. (This is certainly applicable in our day in which we see great division among the people of our country.) Paul then writes of the unity we are to have as believers as we are in Christ. The discussion of the gifts to the church follows all of this, and it is this discussion by the Apostle Paul that is most pertinent to the discussion of church growth.
As we see in Ephesians 4:7, Christ gives a gift to every believer. The intended use of that particular gift is for use in the church for the edification of the church. We see this clearly in the passage following verse 7. In fact, verse 16 is key to this where we read the following. “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.” This is the key to church growth! The question is, what does “each part working properly” look like?
Thankfully, we are not left on our own to figure this out. Amazingly enough, God is interested enough in the growth of the church that He has told us how it is to grow. Too often, I fear, we act like we have to figure everything out based on our understanding of our culture and societal moods. Praise be to God, the Word of God, nor the will of God, is subject to such things! We are told in verse 12 that Christ gave pastors and teachers with the stated purpose of equipping the saints for the work of ministry. There is the key. It is the saints who are to do the work of ministry as they live out their daily life. It must be noted that the pastors and teachers are by their very nature saints as well. I say this to make it clear that they are not exempt in any way from the work of ministry. It is through this work of ministry by the saints whereby we see the “building up the body of Christ.” This is not only explicitly stated here, but it is also what is modeled for us throughout the New Testament.
One may be asking, “What does this look like?” Let me briefly try to paint this picture, if I may. The saints come into worship service and thereby enter into true worship where Christ is exalted. (I will write specifically on worship soon, Lord willing.) Through the Spirit empowered uses of the public means of grace (praise, preaching, prayer) their lives are ever more transformed into the image of Christ. During the time between worship services the saints make consistent use of bible study, prayer, praise, and fellowship to continue to aid in their spiritual development. As all of this is happening they live their life looking for opportunity to share their love for Christ to all whom they “rub shoulders” with. As the saints live out their life in a Christ honoring manner, others will “see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” The key is true spiritual growth, and that happens through the life of the church as well as the making use of the private means of grace.
This brings me to a brief look at two pitfalls of the idea behind relying on others to build the church. The first pitfall is that this is an unbiblical idea, therefore it is doomed to failure ultimately. This is not an area in which the Word of God is silent, as we have seen. We must be a people committed to the Word of God, hence, we must seek in all things to be obedient and faithful. The second pitfall is that such an idea will lead directly to spiritual laziness in the saints. There are at least three detrimental results from this.
Brothers and sisters let us be people committed to the Word of God. Let us be committed to doing the work of Christ in the manner in which Christ has prescribed in His Word. Let us stand fast upon the assurance that we have been given all things for life and godliness, and it is in the Scriptures, and through the Holy Spirit, whereby we have those things. To God be all of the glory! Amen!
If you would like to become connected with First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest (1350 S. Downs Street), please reach out to us at fbcridgecrest.com” We offer Sunday services at 10:30 or through a drive-in parking lot broadcast on F.M. 101.5 (bulletins and sermon notes available inside front door)
Pastor Paul Mondragon
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