Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I Need to be Fruitful in my Church

Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." (In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 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. (Ephesians. 4:8-16)

Many will say that they attend church regularly, give a large portion of their income regularly, and that they pray and read their bible constantly. Do you think this is sufficient service to the Lord? In these activities you do, what spiritual gift are these? What ministry do you do and what sphere do you practice these gifts? What have you accomplished for the Lord in the past year for the Lord? What things are you planning to accomplish to build this church, in 2013? What do you think you are unable to do now? Is it because of age? Or your new family or job-related commitments? Do you wish for the good old days? Anything that may hinder you from serving the Lord more than you did serve Him in the past should be treated like an idol, because they have claimed God’s place in your life.
Each one of us has a responsibility in the church as long as he has been saved by the Lord and placed in a local church. It is for us to ask ourselves, what is it that we are doing in service to the Master? We should not be content in being spectators in the church. Eric Wright a long serving missionary in Pakistan wrote a book that he called, ‘Church – No Spectator Sport’ and it is an appeal to return to the priesthood of all believers. He says that every member ministry is biblically normative because when the Lord was ascending, He never proposed that His church become a congregation of spectators, rather, when He ascended He gave gifts to men that all may participate in ministry (Eph. 4:8).
A.    Let us now pay attention to the passage before us by noticing the following:

1)   Christ gave gifts to men: He did not give to angels. He gave gifts to men to serve in His church. Every believer has one or more gifts. It is for you to discover them by working them out and bearing the necessary fruits in the ministry or ministries the Lord has given you to serve.
2)   He gave some specific ministries in the leadership of the church: He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers. The apostles and the prophets are the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20) and every church depends on the word that they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write. The foundation having been laid by the twelve and the prophets these two gifts and ministries are done in that there ought to be no addition for them – the last man prophet is John the Baptist as Jesus said in Matthew 11:1314. The last Prophet prophesied by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, 19 is Jesus Christ (Acts 3:22-26) Hebrews 1:1,2 clarifies that there is only one way or method in which God has spoken to us – by His Son (this is in contrast to the manner He spoke in the past at different times by the prophets in diverse ways). He also gave evangelists who continue to reach out to the lost with the message of the gospel and the pastor/teachers who lead and feed the church.
3)   He gave these gifts for the equipping of the saints: The purpose and reason for the giftings is to equip each and every believer for ministry. This presupposes that every one saint is involved in the ministry. This means that you are to be involved with all in the church, not a group of people or individuals but the whole church. He did not give them for the individuals to benefit from them and do whatever they want. He did not give them to be hidden by the believers.
4)   End result is unity and maturity into the fullness of Christ! The end to which He gave the gifts to men, is so that they may be fully equipped and in turn equip others in order to achieve three things in the church:
5)    Our spiritual growth leads to the growth of the whole church! We are to grow in love in order to function properly so that the whole body grows. The basic ingredients for growth is in the manner of speaking and speaking the truth in love. You mark a person’s maturity particularly in the manner of speaking – careless talking, coarse joking, lies or deception, lack of communication etc. shows people who are not mature. The particular conduct desired is the motive of love. Everything being done in love. This leads to growing to be like Christ who is the head.
B.    How would you discover your gifts?

1.     Providential preparation
Natural abilities, our education and training, our ministry and work experiences, along with any skills we have acquired, will furnish us with a glimpse of the Spirit’s work in endowing us with gifts. Find out all the jobs, education, jobs, hobbies, interests or talents you that could in any way be used of God in the ministry. First think of yourself outside of your church – in your home, at work the way you spend your leisure time. And invest these skills into the ministries of the church.
2.     Taking inventory of our sense of need
Christians are people who meet needs. Take a moment and consider what greatest concern that you have for the church. Things that you are constantly praying for or thinking about as not met as you may want. Then ponder some of the ways that you think you can help. You can as well ask, what is it that I may want improved (removed, added to or something different) in this church? What can I do to help in improving this need? What is lacking in the life of my church?
We are supposed to pursue this line of reasoning because there is a possibility of repressing some spiritual gifts to the detriment of the church. Unmet needs in the church cry out for ministry. As we obey the Lord as Christians we discover our gifts. For example as we help the needy, fill up for people, we discover that we have been gifted in those areas as time goes.
3.     Discovering the effectiveness in specific areas
Needs that are met show that there is a spiritually gifted person present. When there is ineffectiveness in the church in particular ministries it shows that there is someone who is not exercising his spiritual gift. People led by the Spirit exercise their gifts and inevitably produce spiritual fruit. Think over your own life. In what areas can you recognize some degree of some spiritual effectiveness? Whom have you helped through witnessing, teaching, encouragement, mercy, giving, etc.? Do others seek you to talk over your problems? Are there practical things you do like witnessing to your neighbors with other church members, taking food and the gospel to those in prison, counseling young people for marriage etc? Where are you most effective in serving Christ? Where do you see fruit from your labours?
4.     There is enjoyment and fulfillment in ministry!
God did not create us for misery. When we glorify God we find a deep sense of fulfillment, joy and satisfaction. As much as Christian life calls for suffering and self-denial there is a lot of joy and fulfillment for those Christians who suffer for their faith. Paul was bitten up several times in his endevours to evangelize to the Gentile world and yet He was very happy in Christ. Our desires and aspirations are vital in finding out what one can do for the Lord. You can ask yourself, “if I could be assured of success, what I would most likely want to contribute to my church fellowship?” What would you really love to do if you could? As a rule God, God prepares us to find satisfying niche of ministry where we can use our gifts. Are there moments when we find that our minds are a fountain of ideas and methods about how to engage in a certain project or service? Our potential gifts must yield a certain measure of enthusiasm. As much as every ministry must have its share of sacrifices those who find ministry in the areas of their giftedness find greater satisfaction.
5.     Listening to the counsel of other believers
Wise Christians always welcome the counsel of others. When we face difficulty or important decisions that require subjective choices we would be wise to seek counsel from others. In a healthy church pastors and deacons ought to be readily available for counsel. Therefore you should be apt in seeking counsel from the leaders in order to develop your gift. Look at the example of Paul to Timothy who realizing Timothy’s timidity gave him wise counsel in order to make sure that he was helped. He urged him to stir up his gift (1 Tim. 4:11-14). I do not think I would have become a pastor where it not for an overseer who appointed me to the position even without my approval!
6.     Taking adequate time to discover your gifts
Gifts develop in a climate of prayer and submission, obedience and love. Spurgeon demonstrated powerful preaching gifts at an early stage which was an exceptional, though God can do it again. Usually considerable time elapses before many Christians know their spiritual gifts. Time produces the necessary humility, and love so essential in service. Time also helps us to experience a broader range of Christian activities so that we are also able to work with others in the service.
C.     Applications

What part of your Christian life are you most proud of? What is it that if the Lord came now you would want to tell Him about? Is it the way you have been evangelizing or the way you have been making disciples? Is it the way you have been faithful in your duties or the way you have delighted in the Lord? Or is it NONE OF THE ABOVE?
How would you account for your time before the Lord? Would you, with a good conscience say, that you have looked carefully how you have been walking, not as unwise but as wise, and that you have been making the best use your time? Eph 5:15-16

How would you account for the gifts, abilities and skills that you have before the Lord? Have you made the best use of them? Would you with a clear conscience be able to acknowledge the gifts that the Lord has given you and confess that  you have served faithfully with cheerfulness so that if speaking you have spoken the oracles of God; if serving by the strength that God has supplied, if giving then cheerfully?
How will you account for your money before the Lord? How much shave you invested in the ministries of  the church?
D.   For  Prayer:
  • 1.   Lord help the leadership of this church to deliberately work towards raising disciples and leaders for your service
  • 2.     God grant each one of the members of this church a desire to serve in the church
  • 3.     God open up their eyes to discover their gifts, abilities and skills and inspire their zeal to serve in the context of this local church.
  • 4.     Lord give them a passion, enjoyment, and fulfillment in the ministries you have called them.
  • 5.     Grant unity, maturity into the fullness of Christ.