This is the oral manuscript I delivered last Sunday to a congregation I’m encouraging in their pastor search process, so please take into consideration this is what I take into the pulpit and not written for publication. It is written in a manner to keep me on track as to the thoughts to present to God’s people (Thus contractions, bold, underline, etc). I hope you are blessed…
A New Testament Congregation (Selected, Eph 4:7-16)
Notice I didn’t title this “A NT Church,” but rather “Congregation.” There is only one church… the Universal one that Jesus died for. Clumps of C’ians who meet together are congregations. Just one of my weird little soap boxes (Another is “Resurrection Sunday” for Easter & “Receiving” the offering).
Today we continue examining Scripture for the purpose of NHBC to continue growing toward being a healthy NT congregation. Now… I’m going to read several passages of Scripture & then open them as a group. Write each of these down to read later… but turn to Eph 4…
1 Cor 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 & there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 & there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
1 Cor 14:12 So w/ yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
Ro 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think w/ sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, & the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, & individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, w/ zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, w/ cheerfulness.
Eph 4:7 Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors & teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith & 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 & fro by the waves & carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 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 & held together by every joint w/ which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
1 Pet 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another w/out grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…
From this point my comments will come from the Scripture we just read, I hope you’ll use your outline to go back and meditate on these passages. This message is for us to pause & consider our participation for God’s glory in the congregation called NHBC.
1st, Every Believer Is Gifted By God According To His Will. Over the years I’ve heard many say, “I don’t have a gift.” The only problem w/ that statement is it contradicts Scripture. The truth is everyone God saves He gives a spiritual gift! Do you get that? YOU have a gift given especially to you by GOD! You may not know WHAT your gift is, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have one!
1 Cor 12:6, “The same God who empowers them all in everyone…” Ro 12:6, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…” Eph 4:7, “Grace was given to each one of us…” 1 Pet 4:10, “As each has received a gift…”
Whatever your gift is, GOD determined WHAT your gift is. Honestly, I didn’t like mine at first… preaching & teaching in front of people! Listen, I’m not comfortable in crowds. I don’t like being in front of people… but that wasn’t my call. In fact, often God’s call will contradict your liking… which will make you rely on God (Good thing!). Remember Moses’ speech impediment (Ex 4:10-12).
Another thing to remember: Not everyone’s gift is the same… so don’t expect others to do what God didn’t gift to do! If a person is not gifted to teach, don’t make them teach a class! God places people in a congregation w/ different passions, abilities, & gifts by His will. And no one has ALL the gifts! A church full of people of the same gift would be abnormal.
The point Paul makes is found in the body metaphor. The human body has A nose… 2 eyes… 2 ears… 2 hands, 8 fingers, 2 thumbs… 1 mouth etc. I we saw someone who was just one big ear, that’d be abnormal… as would A leg or AN ear or A nose. So in a congregation God spreads the gifts around so we all have to work together to glorify Him. We NEED each other!
2nd, Every Believer Is Expected To Use Their Gift. As everyone knows their gift & puts it to use, God is glorified. If (WHEN!) people don’t/won’t use their gift, it hinders God’s work & places undue burden on the congregation. It’s like a person being deaf… or blind… or having a game leg. They just can’t function like those who aren’t hindered physically… And neither can a local congregation when some congregants are spiritual “gold bricks” or “hitch hikers.” (Explain)
A faithful pastor will help you find your gift… train you (Eph 4:12)… & plug you in to build up the body for God’s glory! A congregation that’s functioning effectively will strive to have every member serving in some way… somehow… on a regular basis. And that applies to who? YOU
Sadly, those who don’t/won’t use their gift are taking advantage of those who are trying… & in the process burning them out! Some of you who are juggling 2 or 3 things at church on top of having a job & family. That’s not fair! Or better… It’s just not right!
Healthy congregations have a high percentage of their membership doing ministry… using their gift… participating in ways to glorifies God. Unhealthy congregations expect a few, & especially their pastor, to do virtually EVERYTHING. 20% do majority, 80% hitch-hike a lot… (Explain)
Know what that means? Some here will miss out on eternal rewards! Remember two week ago about getting to heaven smelling like smoke (1 Cor 3:12-15)? Now listen to Jesus… Mt 6:19…
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth & rust destroy & where thieves break in & steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys & where thieves do not break in & steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Your treasure is what you think about most. What you think about when you have nothing else to think about. What you put your energy into… what you protect… where your $ goes. Jesus is clear… live now focused on eternity. Ask: What can I do… want to do… like to do that benefits others & glorifies God? Quilts… cleaning gutters… meals for shut ins… cutting grass.
Look at Mt 6:19-21. Jesus is clear. He’s given spirituals gift to be used. To do anything else is to be disobedient & rebellious to God. Is your heart here or looking toward heaven? (PAUSE)
3rd, Every Believer’s Purpose Is For The Common Good. In the last church I served I asked the Deacons to take on visiting the widows of the church. One of them told me he wasn’t good at visiting but at administration… so he wouldn’t be visiting. Thank God he u’stood & chose to resign since he wasn’t gifted to do what deacons are called to do (Ac 6). He needed to serve elsewhere to benefit God’s people.
Here’s the point, a NT Congregation is filled w/ people serving to build each other in the faith. They are ALL using their gift from God to contribute to the spiritual maturity of everyone else. Every person finds ways to participate in strengthening the Body of Christ… the congregation.
As it is written: 1 Cor 12:7, “For the common good…” 14:12, “Strive to excel in building up the church…” Eph 4:12, “for building up the body of Christ…” 4:13, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith… to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” 4:14, “That we may no longer be children…” 4:15, “We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…” 4:16, “Makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Healthy congregations have people using their gift for God’s glory to benefit others. In doing that God is glorified & the church matures. Your pastor should be consumed w/ discipling you… growing you in your faith… & helping you build others up (Eph 4!). Everything else is secondary!
For NHBC to be a healthy congregation it takes EVERYONE knowing their gift & using it. It takes the Pastor doing what he is called to do. Deacons doing what they’re called to do. And YOU doing what you are called to do… according to how God gifted you.
Everyone here is called by God. Some to repent & believe… others to get involved in ministry… others to get back into ministry… & some to be affirmed. You are in one of those groups. Eternity is knocking at your door… when you walk thru it, your heart’s treasure will be played out forever…