“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 4:11- 16).
This passage is the one that for me most clearly defines my ministry. For while I am a part of the Body of Christ – no greater or lesser than any other part – I have been set aside by the Holy Spirit to serve in the office of shepherd and teacher. This is the passage that has most clearly expresses what the goal of the pastor is. The pastor’s goal is not sound preaching or teaching (though this is important), it is not counseling those in emotional or spiritual distress (though this too is important), neither is it visiting the sick or home-bound (though this too is clearly important). These are all the tasks of the pastoral office, but they are not its objective. The objective of the pastor is spelled out here in chapter 4 of Ephesians. My task is to “equip the saints;” to prepare you. I am not here for your pleasure or your comfort, but for your equipping. For what purpose am I charged by God to equip you? “For the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” In other words I am charged with building together as one Body the members of the congregation that this joined Body might engage in the “work of ministry.” And what is the work of ministry? Well this text tells us that as well, “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.” In other words, the joined and equipped Body of Christ – when it is working properly – will do the things in the world that will build itself up. What does this mean? In a word, evangelism. Most of you are aware – if you have listened to my sermons – that I am passionate about evangelism. But for many, this notion may shut you down almost immediately. The idea of being involved in evangelism just does not feel like something you can do. You’re not going to start knocking on your neighbor’s doors and handing out tracts. You’re not going to corner your friend and “share” with them your testimony. You’re not going argue and convince those in your community that they should accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. But when I speak of evangelism for the Body of Christ, this is not what I’m talking about. If the Spirit moves individuals from among us to directly share the Good News with their neighbor – giving an answer for the faith in their heart – then I say “Praise God.” But that is not what I’m talking about. I do not believe that we are called to turn our neighbors into fellow believers – the working of faith is the work of the Spirit alone. I do however believe that we are commanded by Jesus to go and make disciples. We need to leave the call to believe in Jesus to the Holy Spirit and instead call our neighbors to “follow Him.”
To do this, we must all commit our congregation to three tasks. These are tasks that any farmer should be well acquainted with: Planting, Watering, and Harvesting. When we plant in our field, we plant the seed of Christ’s love. We don’t do that by knocking on doors or handing out tracts, or standing on our soap box. But by doing things in our community – not just individually but as the Body of Christ – that clearly show the entire community Christ’s love. When we water, we nurture individual members of this community with the love of Jesus Christ. This does not mean browbeating them to accept Jesus. But by finding those individuals in our community who are in need and caring for them just as Jesus Himself would. When we harvest, we – as the Body of Christ – invite those in this community to come and follow Jesus. We don’t have to confront and challenge our neighbors to fall on their knees and accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. God claims us – we don’t have to worry about getting people to claim Him. Rather, we must create opportunities for our community to hear the call to follow Jesus as we gather together to worship and praise His name. All of this constitutes the process of making disciples. As we faithfully do this, we can trust that the Holy Spirit will handle the rest.
No one member of the Body can hope to accomplish this – not even your pastor. But God does not give this entire task to an individual, but to the entire Body of Christ. Ask yourself one question. Are you a member of the Body of Christ? If so, then this is your responsibility, given to you by God. Not all of it, but as a member of the Body, each one of us are commanded to be a part of this work. Let us work together to develop opportunities for the Body of Christ here to plant, water, and harvest in our field. I ask that each one of you pray that God strengthen you and commit your heart to fulfill what our Lord has entrusted to you as a member of His Body.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field” (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).