Summary: Building God’s Church through Service(Bob Russell - When God Build’s a Church)
Ministers often hear excuses from folks whom they have asked to serve in some role in church. The next time you feel like GOD can’t use you, just remember...
Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt
John the Baptist ate bugs
Peter denied Christ
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zaccheus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer...
Lazarus was dead!
This is the fifth in a series of sermons loosely based on Bob Russell’s book “When God Builds a Church.” So far we have talked about Truth, Faith, Excellence, and Leadership. Today we are talking about Service. This point is a bit different than the others. There is a chapter in Russell’s book titled Participation. I changed the title because, at least in my mind, conjured up images of people showing up and singing along with the hymns. When you read Russell’s book, the chapter on Participation is participation in the church’s ministries. I thought that Service was a clearer way to communicate that idea.
Last week we talked about leadership. That focused on the qualities and commitment that is need by the ministers, elders, and other leaders of the congregation. Today we are taking this one more step. We are talking about the need for every member of the congregation to use their time and talents to participate in the ministry of the church.
Our reading from Ephesians today seems to be about leadership. It talks about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
Let me digress for a moment and give you an easy way to remember these five foundational leadership roles. There is a ministry for each finger on your hand. The apostles are the thumb. The thumb is the foundation of the hand and the apostles are the foundation of the church ministry. You use the index finger to point things out, just as the prophetic role involves, not so much predicting the future, but pointing out things that the church needs to address today. The third finger is the longest, just as the evangelists are those who are responsible for extending the church’s touch. The ring finger represents relationships and it is the pastoral ministry that is primarily concerned with our relationships with one another as well as our growing relationship with God. Finally, the little finger is sometimes forgotten. Similarly, teaching is one of the most important ministries within the church, but it is one that is too little appreciated and too often forgotten.
Ephesians talks about these important roles, but what are these roles for? Does Paul tell us that these roles exist to change the world? Listen to the text.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
The leadership roles of the church exist to prepare God’s people for works of service. The thing that really matters is not what the leaders do. What matters is the works of service done by God’s people. It is those works of service that build up the body of Christ.
What is that all about?
There are varying degrees of involvement that people have in the church. It was in some Willow Creek materials that I first encountered one commonly used model for understanding these groups within the church. It identifies four groups: the core, the congregation, the crowd, and community.
The core are the folks who serve in the leadership roles, who are there whenever the doors are open, who teach the classes, who visit the shut-ins, and whose generosity pays most of the bills. These folks know about service. These folks give much of themselves to the church. They also are the group in the church who feel best about what the church is doing and feel most personally fulfilled by the church experience.
The group called the congregation makes up the majority of the typical church membership. They come on Sundays most of the time. They serve on occasion and will volunteer to help with special events. They take a turn in other areas of ministry. Generally, they give steadily, but not sacrificially. The typical church could not survive without the contributions made by these folks.