Equipping The Saints For The Work Of The Ministry

Personal Interaction With Jesus & The Community Of Believers
By Eric S. Love
podcast available

Community of Believers
As the Body of Christ, we should work together, building each other up in love and in the hope in which we have been called. We should demonstrate the love of Jesus to the world - no less to each other.

We are strengthened. encouraged, inspired, corrected and healed because we are in fellowship - true fellowship - with each other. That’s why we meet together. There is a power that comes through corporate worship that can elevate us in ways we just can’t get individually. But being together does not do away with personal interaction with Jesus through the Spirit. It augments it, strengthens that connection, and equips us. Still, we must walk with Jesus personally.

Personal Interaction With Jesus
“Being” with Jesus only during times of corporate worship is like putting a tuxedo on a corpse... it’s actually dressing up something that is dead.

Our personal interaction with Jesus is the substance in our relationship with the Father. What we share together on Sundays is just that: we share our collective encounters with Christ through the Holy Spirit.

We MUST be walking out our faith in the lives we live, not in the ones we pretend on Sundays (assuming, of course, that these two lives are distinct and separate).

It’s not just about when we come together as a Body. It is also about our presence in the “real world.” If our evangelism is going to be effective, our relationship with Jesus must be real and active. Plus, true evangelism happens only within the context of relationship in love. Don’t believe it? Then think about yourself. How did you come to Christ? If it was in a large meeting, then consider this: why did you stay in Christ? I guarantee the answer is found in a relationship.

But it’s not just in how we evangelize or in how we interact as the Body. It is in how we live. We ARE worship the way God IS love. It’s who we are. If it’s less than that, it is fabricated.

What’s The Point?
The point is, the average Christian considers his or her responsibility as a Christian simply limited to their commitment to be at church on Sundays. Not only is this act alone perfectly useless, it is also destructive to the reason we meet together in the first place. How? It undermines the true meaning of community and the lasting, effective impact the Body should be making, both corporately and individually, to the rest of the world. It fosters a sterile obligation without life that ultimately leads to unhappy people misrepresenting God to the world.

If you maintain that your commitment to your faith is intact simply because you attend church regularly then you are like a doctor who says he is fulfilling his duty simply by attending medical conferences. The point is for him to help people get well - not just understand medicine. If you are not consistently interacting with Jesus through the Holy Spirit and the Word - in personal worship and dedication - then there is no substance with which you can actually SHOW someone Jesus... at that point you are simply telling, and that is not effective.

On the other hand, if you maintain that your commitment to Christ is intact simply because you pray, worship, and meditate on the Word for an exceptional amount of time each week without being committed and grounded to and by a local body of believers, then you have missed the whole point of Christianity: fellowship. It’s not just about making it to heaven. In fact, that was secondary. (In Genesis, God walked with us in the garden... us going to heaven was a concept that came after the fall. To begin with, God’s heart for us was fellowship - with Him and with each other; if not each other, then why create Eve?)

We are going to look at how these two sides complement and strengthen each other and how every last one of us has responsibility and - yes - obligation to BE our part in the Body.

Ephesians 4:1-4, 11-13 (Amplified)
I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to and beg you to walk (to lead a life) worthy of the [divine] calling to which you have been called with complete lowliness of mind and meekness, with patience, bearing with one another and making allowances because you love one another. Be eager and strive earnestly to guard and keep the harmony and oneness of the Spirit in the binding power of peace. There is one body and one Spirit - just as there is also one hope [that belongs] to the calling you received.

Several things to see in this section.
First, being “one” - or being in unity - is how we live our lives in a way that is worthy of the calling in which we have been called. (It is difficult to be the Body of Christ if we aren’t in unity.) Living up to our calling is not in being sinless or in following Christian doctrine and tradition. It is by BEING in the Body in unity.

Second, we know that this unity requires humility, meekness, patience and love and that we have to STRIVE for and GUARD it in the “binding power of peace.: in other words, it does NOT happen automatically. We have to be DELIBERATE about it. Keep reading, picking up in verse 11:

...And His gifts were varied, He Himself appointed some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. His intention was the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints, [that they should do] the work of the ministry toward building up Christ’s body, [that it might develop] until we all attain oneness in the faith and in the comprehension of the [full and accurate] knowledge of the Son of God, that [we might arrive] at really mature manhood, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ and the completeness found in Him.

Now we are shown that the gifts of God and the positions of ministry (apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists and pastors) are for the purpose of fully equipping the saints so THEY can do the work of the ministry and achieve full maturity in Christ.

The purpose of what we call the “five fold ministry” is NOT to fulfill the ministry of the church. It is to equip the church to do the ministry in the world - which is where true evangelism takes place... but not just to “win souls.” If that were the case, it would have said so, but it actually says we do it to BUILD UP CHRIST’S BODY. Again, evangelism to salvation is a means to an end, and that end is RELATIONSHIP.

The point has never been to see who can get the most converts. But that has become the primary function of the modern Christian church. We call it evangelism, but it looks nothing like what Jesus or His disciples did. It simply draws forth an emotional response without any real change in character or lifestyle. (This, of course, is not always the case - but I would suggest evidence shows that the modern church’s idea of evangelism is clearly not effective. More to the point, it is counterproductive to the Work of Christ. Need proof? How many truly mature Christians do you know in modern Christian churches who have been church-going folk their entire lives?)

The point is for all believers to make up a community of people who can rightly depend on each other, trust, love, share, live - not separated from the world in actual geography but in our capacity to love.

What does maturity in Christ look like? First of all, it looks like love (we will come back to this). But it also looks like healthy people who deal with life in healthy ways and in healthy relationships.

Mark 16:15 (Amplified)
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach and publish openly the good news to every creature.”

Where: in all the world...
What: preach the good news...

The word preach means to herald, publish, and proclaim.
The only true evangelism is love... more on that later.

*When we hear the word “preach,” a particular image is conjured to mind. However, Jesus did “preach” to mass groups of people, but those people followed Him because of Who He was, not what He said. Even Paul said his message was not a message of empty words but of signs and wonders... “My language and my message were not set forth in persuasive words of wisdom, but they were in demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power,” 1 Corinthians 2:4.

There is definitely a time for “telling,” but if your life isn’t SHOWING what you believe, then nothing you can tell will make a difference.

Evangelism happens outside our meetings. Evangelism takes place where we live, work and play. So what is the purpose of our meetings? To build up Christ’s body, making it a safe, healthy place to grow and live. For what purpose? Fellowship with Jesus through the Spirit.

So, we know the “where” and the “what,” but “who” does this refer to?

1 Corinthians 12:6-7 (Amplified)
And there are distinctive varieties of operation, but it is the same God who inspires and energizes them all in all. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Holy Spirit [the evidence, the spiritual illumination of the Spirit] for good and profit. (and it goes on to list spiritual gifts....)

Who is supposed to answer the command in Mark 16:15? All of us. (The appointments of leadership - apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists and pastors - are not necessarily universal... there are those who are called to function in those offices. However, everyone is gifted with a functional, practical channel through which we can do the work of the ministry.)

If this is the challenge to us all, then how does it happen?

Hebrews 10:23-24
So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the hope we cherish and confess our acknowledgement of it, for He who promised is reliable and faithful to His word. And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities.

First of all, this happens when we make a point (seize and hold fast) to deliberately live what we say we believe (the hope we cherish), and “watch over one another” studying how we can actually stimulate each other to love. I.e. we LOOK for ways and opportunities to bring out the best in each other.

A good measure of where you are in the big picture is to check and see what kind of reactions you incite in those around you, and why.

*Clarification: often times people will respond to the right thing in others in the wrong way themselves - out of intimidation or guilt or some other reason. However, if pretty much everyone around you responds to you in a negative way, then that’s a good indication the problem is YOU.

Looking at evangelism, the TRUTH of the “good news” sets us free when we “abide” in the Word, and it in us - but people don’t generally believe in something without having proper cause. LOVE is that cause. If someone responds to your message of “good news,” it is because there is enough substance to YOU - not to your message - that warrants their confident reaction. That substance is LOVE.

John 13:34-35 (Amplified) The words of Jesus:
I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another. By this shall all [men] will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Jesus is the standard for how we should love. And love is how we are known; it’s what sets us apart; according to Jesus, it is what marks us as being His. It’s the greatest spiritual reality we can have and walk in - 1 Corinthians 13:13. And we are told, “above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins” - 1 Peter 4:8. We are exceptional at uncovering other people’s sins, but love covers them up.

*In Greek mythology, Theseus approached Hercules after a madness had driven him (Hercules) to kill his own wife and children. Hercules wanted to die, but Theseus begged to be able to help him. He said, “Do not keep me from sharing all with you. Evil I share with you is not evil with me. And hear me. Men of great soul can bear the blows of heaven and not flinch...” in other words, if you let me help you bear it... “You shall come to Athens with me, share my home and all things with me. And you will give to me and to the city a great return, the glory of having helped you.”

That’s beautiful. Sure, it’s Greek mythology, but it’s still beautiful. Need a Biblical reference to see the beauty of it?

Galatians 6:1-2 actually says that by bearing each others burdens and “moral faults” will actually cause us to grown and become complete in areas of our own weakness. That’s why love covers a multitude of sin.

The church’s preoccupation with sin is killing the Body of Christ.

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a group of people whose defining characteristic is love?

Bottom Line
Christian responsibility is both individual and corporate, but it is ALWAYS relational. Our healthy, individual relationship with God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit is in direct proportion to our healthy commitment and interaction within Jesus’ Body. And love is the most obvious evidence that we are getting it right.

Eric Love, 3/11/2010