Growing As A Church
Growing As a Church
Every congregation is a unique body of believers from varied backgrounds, experiences, and maturity levels. Each body is unique because God has redeemed for himself a people from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Eph. 2:11-16). But how is such a diverse group of people to work and grow together? Ephesians 4:1-16 gives us the answer. There are three things we must do if we are to work and grow together.
Walk in Love (Ephesians 4:1-6):
Chapter four begins with a "therefore," which means Paul makes a point that flows from the previous section. Paul has spent the first half of the letter writing on the new life in Christ, God's gracious redemption, and how God has made one new community in Christ. Now, Paul begins a section on how we are to live in light of these truths.
The very first application Paul makes is that we are to "walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called" (Eph. 4:1). We are, in other words, live in such a way that matches or reflects the reality that Christ has indeed saved you. How are we to do this? Paul continues, "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love" (v.2). We walk worthily by matching our lives to Christ's character and conduct.
However, this is not a solo affair. Christ has taken us from our varied backgrounds and placed us in His body, the church He built. And there are other people in this body we must learn to work with. The Ephesians, and us today, are admonished to be "diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (v.3). The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) renders "diligent" as "making every effort." Indicating that unity is not a one-time act but something we must continually seek and nurture. Preserving unity takes humility, gentleness, a lot of patience, and making allowances for our faults because of our love for Christ and His people.
Paul then gives these seven statements. Seven undeniable absolutes of the Christian faith. While each could be a study unto itself, this point is sufficient for our study this morning. With such a diverse body of believers at Ephesus, there was a needed reminder of what made them united rather than what made them different from each other. In Ephesians 4:4-6, Paul reminds the Ephesians that there is
- One body (i.e., the church).
- One Spirit (one revealer of the mind of God and His will).
- One hope (there is only one object of our earnest expectation).
- One Lord.
- One faith.
- One Baptism.
- One God and Father.
For us today, if we want to continue to be a growing church, we must be committed to walking in love as the Ephesians did. Standing on the unchangeable truth of God's word.
Appreciate The Differences (Ephesians 4:7-13).
The following key to growing as a church is appreciating the differences within the body. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:7, "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift." Every believer, including Paul, has been given a gift to be used in service of each other and of the kingdom. Part of walking worthy of the gospel is making good use of this great gift.
What gifts did Christ give? In Ephesians 4:11, Paul gives a few examples, "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers." Note how all of these are teaching roles in this passage. The purpose of having these teaching roles within a church is stated in Ephesians 4:12 ESV, "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ." These are not the only gifts Christ gave. Paul speaks of faith, serving, exhortation, giving, and leading as gifts in Romans 12:3-8 and how each gift, no matter how small in our eyes, is valuable for service in the kingdom in 1 Corinthians 12.
Note again in Ephesians 4:11-12 that Christ did not only give some as apostles, prophets, teachers, etc., so they could do all the work. No. Teachers are in every church to equip every believer for their work of service. We cannot downplay this. As a member of this congregation, I have an area of service that I am to render so that the whole body may be strengthened. No one else can serve for me because no one else is equipped for my area of service. We keep rendering this service until all of us have reached maturity in Christ (Eph. 4:13).
When we appreciate that we are not equipped to do all things individually and need everyone working together in unity, then we will be on our way to being a healthy growing church. The third stanza in the hymn "We Are One" (#112 in the Supplement) illustrates this point well, "When you serve where I cannot, I rejoice in what He's planned: By your strength, our work is done, and we follow His command."
Grow As a Disciple (Ephesians 4:14-15):
That is a tall order to fill. It will take every disciple doing what they can when they can do it to cause the church to grow as it ought. That is why Paul's following words are, "As a result we are no longer to be children" (Eph. 4:14). Because there is work to be done, it's time to grow up! Growing as a church requires that I, as an individual disciple, am committed to growing as a disciple.
Paul continues, "children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up into Him who is the head, even Christ," (Eph. 4:14-15). There's nothing wrong with being an infant or a child. There is something wrong with staying an infant or a child. Spiritually speaking, if we never press on to maturity, we will never be grounded enough to give stability to our faith and our lives. Maybe you feel unstable in your faith. Perhaps you feel as if you are on shaky ground spiritually. God has the answer for you. Grow! Ephesians 4:15 shows us how we are to grow from infancy to maturity. We need to speak the truth in love and be committed to being more like Christ in all ways.
Think of the ripples that this command makes in our lives. Yes, we need to speak the truth in love to each other in our assemblies and Bible studies, but it goes beyond that. Speaking the truth in love is necessary for our homes, marriages, relationships with children, and friendships. I like how one writer put it. He said, "We need to watch our tone. We need to watch our attitude. We need to think about how it sounds. We need to make sure we are not coming off hurtful or hateful. We need to use words that others in the room will understand. We need to not blow people up for saying something poorly. Speak the truth in love."
Conclusion (Ephesians 4:16):
When we are striving to work together in unity, walk in love, appreciate the different gifts among us, and are committed to speaking truth in love, then amazing things happen. Look in Ephesians 4:16, "Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, cause the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love."