Summary: There are many different ministries and quite a few people are involved in more than one. Two of the major reasons we have a problem with properly conducting ministry can be attributed to contemporary Western culture and a misunderstanding of the nature o
This month we have been studying stewardship. We have seen that all that we have including life itself is really a gift from God. It is proper to give back to God some of what he has entrusted to us. We examined stewardship of our time and saw that it is also a gift and our time should be wholly dedicated to him. Last week we took a look at spiritual gifts. Each and every Christian has a gift and we looked at the nature of that gift and the purpose that it is given to individuals. This week we will conclude our study of stewardship with a look at the stewardship of the ministries God has entrusted us with.
I am specifically talking about the ministry God has given you to perform here at International House. There are many different ministries and quite a few people are involved in more than one. It is also one of the areas that we have the most difficulty with. Two of the major reasons we have a problem with properly conducting ministry can be attributed to contemporary Western culture and a misunderstanding of the nature of ministry.
If I asked you to name five successful ministries I would not be surprised to hear answers like Billy Graham, Rick Warren, John McArthur, and the like. These answers are indicative of the problem of living in the hyper-individualized Western world. We attribute ministries to individuals rather than churches. We highlight the achievements or failures of individuals rather than the successes and downturns of churches. When a ministry is successful we assume it is because of the leader and attribute it to him or her. We do the same when things go wrong. We shine a light on those who seem to be very gifted and allow the less gifted to sit in their shadows. This can only cause problems in the long run. This is not, however, a unique problem.
In the same chapter we looked at last week is a continuation of Paul’s discussion of gifts. In the second half of this chapter he turns the focus from the individual to the group. Even a casual reading of 1 Corinthians will reveal a church that has been fractured by individuals and groups. Different people seemed to think that they had gifts and ministries that were more important that others in the church. They had ceased to look at the group and focused on themselves. It seems that we have the same problem in our modern churches.
I. The identity of the church is based on relationships among the members and not the identity of each member. (vv 12 –19)
• The perfect image of a unity based on relationship is the Trinity.
o Father, Son, and Spirit cannot be isolated as individuals.
o Their identity comes from their relation one to another.
o The Son cannot exist without the Father and the Spirit while the Father cannot exist outside of a relationship to Son and Spirit and the Spirit cannot exist without the Father and the Son.
o Though we can identify each, their identity is dictated by relationship not by individuality.
• This is how man shares the image of God.
o Man is the only creature capable of entering into spiritual relationships.
o We can see that even our own identity is dependent on our relationship to one another.
o Sin interrupts our relationship to God and mars God’s image in man.
o Without others one has no identity.
• The church is a network of relationships not a group of individuals.
o The church doesn’t derive its significance from the number of people in it.
o The church doesn’t depend on the identity of those in it.
o The church is identified by the special relationships within it.
Man is in right relationship to God.
The unity derives from spiritual bonds.
Men and women are bound together as a unity rather than a group of individuals.
Many Christians have been infected with the most virulent virus of modern American life, what sociologist Robert Bellah calls "radical individualism." They concentrate on personal obedience to Christ as if all that matters is "Jesus and me," but in doing so miss the point altogether. For Christianity is not a solitary belief system. Any genuine resurgence of Christianity, as history demonstrates, depends on a reawakening and renewal of that which is the essence of the faith – that is, the people of God, the new society, the body of Christ, which is made manifest in the world – the church.
• It doesn’t matter what position you hold in the church you are a valued member.
o You can be a brand new Christian.
o You can be the pastor.
o You can be a teacher, a preacher, a hostess, or a musician.