One of my grandfathers was an auto mechanic. For a while, he ran his own garage in Goodfield. Then, he went to work at a larger business in Eureka and specialized in front-end work and alignments. Lastly, he worked at Caterpillar, fixing whatever they threw at him. That was his job, fixing things. I kind of followed in his footsteps but in different ways. While the church is sometimes like that – fixing brokenness – its real purpose is something grander.
Paul laid out this purpose in Ephesians 4. But first a word of direction. Don’t get hung up on the titles and offices or think that because you’re not “one of them” that God doesn’t use you. Paul wrote, “And He (Jesus) gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11–13, NASB95) While we all need some “fixing” at times, the church’s grander function is to equip and buildup folks towards unity and Christlike maturity.
The church is there to address brokenness through the Cross of Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We all need that, we all have broken areas which need forgiveness and healing. I want to make sure we understand that equipping doesn’t replace fixing but goes beyond it. However, if all we do is get fixed or only come around when we’re broken, then we’re missing out on the grander part of church.
At its very core, equipping means to help one another apply Biblical truths in all aspects of life. This equipping happens through five activities. Sometimes these functions are defined as offices, but they can also be momentary enabling’s of the Spirit. The “apostles” are the sent ones. Those folks God sends into our lives at unlooked-for places and times for a variety of reasons. The “prophets” are the hearing ones relaying a word from God in the form of a scripture verse or a special word. Sometimes without even knowing it. Those messages could be corrective, directive, or encouraging. The “evangelist” reminds us of God’s good news and is always pointing us back towards Jesus. The “pastor” is the comforting one, helping us stay in the flock and on the path. The “teacher” is the building one, providing a foundation of truth the others build upon.
For a long time, these activities have been reserved for only the select few. The professionals and leaders; the titled and ordained. And there is room for that, God does call and equip folks for servant leadership within the body of the church. But here’s where we get it backward. Often the leader is equipped by the congregation, imbued with a title and expected to do all (or most) of the works of service and ministry. That’s directly contradictory to the verses above from Ephesians 4.
Instead, the leaders, take the responsibility to equip and husband (in the sense of gardening) folks into works of service and ministry while advancing towards unity and maturity. In this sense, church leadership is not a “let me do it for you” role, but a “let me show you how so you can do it to” role.
In some ways, this equipping ministry is a lot like parenting and doing chores. Yes, mom and dad could wash the dishes faster and cleaner than the children. While having the kids do the dishes may be frustrating at times, it teaches them valuable lessons on the value of work and family responsibility.
In this respect, church becomes more of a training ground than a repair shop. I’ve learned this the hard way, you don’t need a title to be someone of value in the kingdom. All you really need is a heart to love others through service, humility to always be learning and growing in Christ, and a willingness to follow those Holy Spirit nudges.
If I were to put an expectation on doing Bible-based church it would look like this. Church is a gathering together of uniquely gifted and shaped folks on a faith journey towards loving God and truly loving one another. That’s church. That’s the common expectation of all Christ-centered congregations. But from that central expectation is a vast diversity of ways which are shaped by history, beliefs, the prevailing culture outside the walls, and the winds of the Holy Spirit.
The goal of this section of The Basics was to avoid the comfortable pride accompanying our familiar ways of doing church. It’s easy to think that we’re the only ones doing it mostly right and others are missing it somehow. Oh, the blindness of pride which elevates our successes and blinds us to our failures. I may be uncomfortable with another church’s ways, but I’ve found that those others also love Jesus. We truly are one body with a variety of expressions. One body and one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (see Ephesians 4:1-6). A diverse orchestra of churches following Jesus. Each one adding their unique voice in harmony with one another. Not as competitors of one another but as completers of one another in Jesus Christ – our all in all.
Closing the Book – Final thoughts to close the series
Everyone who endeavors to create, regardless of the medium, has to put down the pen, brush, instrument, or keyboard and proclaim completion. This long series I’ve called The Basics: A Readable Review of Christian Faith is no exception. There are perhaps hundreds of Biblically “basic” topics which are not yet on the canvas. But these which we have covered are the foundational roots upon which everything else rises. As such, even in its imperfections, we finish this series.
In a sense, our faith is complete, yet we are always growing and maturing into our life in Christ. These basics are completed yet there is much more to discover and apply. In music, there is a longing to resolve as the song ends. To land on the note that feels like completion. Sometimes though, the songwriter or musician chooses to leave the song unresolved, to end the song in tension. It’s a way of saying the song is complete but not yet finished.
If there was a way to complete The Basics with that feeling, with just the right word that retains the tension I would write it. For you see, the last note of this series is up to the reader to produce. How will you resolve the faith truths of this series? What will you do with the information? How will you respond to its encouragements? The notes you bring will resolve this series to completion.
Future plans for The Basics and beyond
At some point in the near future, I intend to compile this series to a single downloadable PDF available on Lambchow’s Resources page. And maybe after a year or so publish it in printed form for those more inclined to paper than pixels. My hope above all else is that this series is a starting place for a vibrant and growing life-long faith in Jesus. And a reminder of what faith in Christ is all about.
For current Lambchow readers: The next few articles will be stand-alone and not in a particular series. On September 9th, 2019 we will begin a 15 part series based on 1 Corinthians 13 – Love is…
I don’t write this very often, not near as often as I should, but I appreciate each and everyone that takes a few minutes out of their day to read one of our articles. Thanks for hanging in there during this long series of topics you may have already known and settled in your heart. I invite you to contact me at dale@lambchow with comments, complaints, questions, and suggestions.