Summary: We are called to serve those inside and outside the church and to overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:9-21 “Spirit-filled Service for Christ”
We come to the end of our focus on Desert Streams’ mission statement. I hope that these four Sundays have help clarify Desert Streams’ mission to you, and has also helped you to perceive how the resurrection of Jesus Christ affects your life on a daily basis.
Desert Streams’ mission statement is, “Inviting Everyone to a new life in Christ, a deeper relationship with Christ, and Spirit-filled service for Christ.” Today we focus on the phrase, “Spirit-filled service.” Our Scriptural reference is Romans 12:9-21.
A HISTORICAL TRUTH
Romans is a fascinating theological writing. For the previous eleven chapters, Paul has focused on God’s overwhelming grace for creation, the Jews, the Gentiles, and those who try their best to please God but who fail miserably. In chapter twelve he switches gears and starts to teach how we are to respond to God’s grace. “Offer yourselves as living sacrifices to God, holy and acceptable,” Paul writes. In the passage that we are focusing on, Paul gives practical advice on what it means to be a living sacrifice to God.
Paul calls upon his readers to be loving, zealous, generous, and humble. They are to meet the needs of others even if the people in need are their enemies. The people to whom Paul writes are all of the people of the church. Paul is shaping a ministry of the laity.
The church quickly forgot Paul’s teaching. Ministry became the calling of the ordained and the leaders of the church. Regular lay members of the congregation were relegated to ushering, teaching Sunday school, and cleaning. Young people were dressed in little white robes and told to light the candles on the altar. Only ordained ministers—clergy—could visit the sick, take communion to the home bound, and teach adult classes.
Martin Luther fought against this. He came up with the doctrine of “the priesthood of all believers.” But it didn’t work. The Lutheran church was as dominated by the clergy as any other denomination. It hasn’t been until recently that true progress has been made in opening up ministry to all members of the congregation regardless of their sex, age, or spiritual maturity.
It doesn’t take long, when you’re around Desert Streams, to realize that we are serious about inviting everyone to spirit-filled service for Christ. The reason I don’t do more is not because I’m lazy, but if I did more I’d be denying you the joyous opportunity of using your gifts and talents in service to God. In addition to that, some of you are better in certain areas of ministry than I am.
MINISTRY TO BOTHERS AND SISTERS
Paul understands that the glue that holds the church together is love--love for God and love for each other. That love is expressed everyday in our relationships with each other through our words and our deeds.
One pastor has pointed out that the New Testament is full of “one-anothering.” Christians are told to love one another, care for one another, encourage one another, speak well of one another, and dozens of other micro-ministries. Part of our spirit-filled service is to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
One anothering promotes harmony, humility and respect. These are essential ingredients for a vibrant, growing fellowship of believers.
Desert Streams has begun down this path of one anothering. It is visible in all of those in making our Sunday worship services a possibility, and in the teaching of our children. We care for one other by praying for one another, using our monthly prayer calendar, and in participating in our Prayer Connections Team. We have Angel tree and we’ve participated in several fund raisers for families in need. For all of this to happen, it takes the involvement of everyone using their specific gifts and talents in ways that make the most of those gifts and glorify the Lord.
MINISTRY BEYOND THE WALLS
Our service and ministry is not confined to the boundaries of our congregation. Combining our gifts and talents we reach out to the community of Surprise, the state of Arizona and beyond.
Paul challenges his readers to bless those who persecute us and to serve our enemies by giving them food if they are hungry and water if they are thirsty.
Desert Streams has started to do this in small but significant ways. Members of Desert Streams participate in Habitat for Humanity. We provide meals for Eve’s Place, school supplies and backpacks for the children of Pan de Vida, and meals for the women and children at Eve’s Place. As more become involved in ministry, we will be able to expand the level of commitment and number of ministries in which we are involved.
When we invite people to Desert Streams we are not only inviting them to worship with us and grow in their relationship with God. We are also inviting them to become involved in serving others. We are inviting them to live lives that impact others and leave a legacy. We do this because we know how life changing spirit-filled service can be—both to us and to those we serve.