Summary: In this text the Apostle Paul explains how Jesus grows his church.
About five years ago someone apparently stole several copies of the Miami Hurricanes’ football playbook from an assistant coach’s office. Later, some of the contents from those playbooks appeared on the Internet. It didn’t help the Hurricanes’ opponents!
A playbook, as I understand it, contains the offensive, defensive and special team plays that have been designed to carry out the team’s strategy in order to win a football game.
A playbook, of course, is a valuable tool for any team. It sets out their method and strategy for winning a football game.
Churches, just like football teams, also have playbooks. Over the past 30 years or so we have witnessed what is called the “church growth movement.” Seminars, conferences, books, programs, and even special organizations are devoted to teaching methods and strategies for church growth. Each has developed its own church growth playbook.
Many of the efforts of these church growth specialists are helpful. But they are only helpful to the extent that they are consistent with the methods and strategies that Jesus has revealed to us in his word for church growth. I suggest to you that Paul has given us Jesus’ church growth playbook in Ephesians 4:7-16.
Here, in its most succinct form, is Jesus’ church growth playbook by which he produces church growth. Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). And because Jesus is building his church, it follows that it must be built according to his plan. Attempting to build the church by human means, by using an unbiblical playbook, will only undermine the work of Jesus.
So, what is in Jesus’ church growth playbook? How does Jesus grow his church? Let’s read Ephesians 4:7-16 and see how Jesus grows his church:
7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Jesus, 13 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 Jesus, 14 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. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Jesus, 16 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 4:7-16)
Every pastor desires to see his church grow.
Pastor John Beukema tells the story of the time his church rented a theater to watch The Passion of the Christ. Afterward they gathered for dinner, discussion, and prayer. He returned home in a somber mood, deeply affected by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
When he opened his mail later that night, the first letter was from a local church, inviting him to visit their “special community.” They listed the ways they were unique:
• No religious dogma—We encourage the freedom of individual thought and belief
• A humanist view of life—Our faith is based on celebrating the inherent worth and dignity of every person
• Warm, accessible services—Our Sunday services include a mix of readings, music, moments of meditation, and a sermon
• Our children’s religious education program—We teach our kids to be accepting of different beliefs, and the importance of each person seeking his or her own truth. We study the world’s major religions and draw on the core values of each faith tradition.
So if you’re looking for a congregation that cherishes freedom of belief and opinion, with a warm sense of community and fellowship, please visit us!
Pastor Beukema commented that he had just watched the horrific suffering of Jesus and heard him say, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Hours later he opened an invitation to visit a church where truth doesn’t matter. The contrast was overwhelming.
Thankfully, Jesus has given us his church growth playbook in Ephesians 4:7-16. Paul explains how Jesus grows his church. This passage gives us four elements of church growth, not necessarily of growth in numbers, but in the sense of that which devel¬ops and matures the members of the body of Jesus.