“It is YOUR Church!  You are Needed!”

Pt. 4 of the series: “What’s a Pastor to Say to His Congregation?”

May 26, 2019

 

Ephesians 4:7, 11-16

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it… 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

 

The nerve of some churches.  These churches have the audacity of actually expecting the members, all of the members, to be in ministry of some sort, to be of service in the work of the church.  I’ve even heard of some churches putting it on their website, on their bulletin, something like this: If you are looking for a church where you can come and sit in a pew and watch everybody else work, this church is not for you!  They actually say that.  They said don’t come to this church if you are going to be a spectator.  They said go to the church down the street if you just want to sit on the sidelines!  They actually say this stuff!  The nerve of them!  These churches are obviously not Missouri-Synod Lutheran churches. 

 

Yet, if we really understand what ministry is supposed to be like in the church, if we really understand how God has designed the work of the church, how God gave each person the privilege of using their gifts for Him, then we must admit that these nervy churches are not too far from the truth.  You see, in our series, “What’s a Pastor to Say to His Congregation?” where I am laying out some principles I think are really important, things I’ve been preaching about for years, what I want to say to you today is, “It is YOUR church!  You are needed!” 

 

Now, I know that this congregation has incredibly gifted and talented people who willingly give of their time, talents and treasures.  Some amazing ministries have happened and are happening because people have exercised their gifts and talents for the Lord.  As pastor, I want to really applaud all those wonderful people using their gifts freely and I want to encourage you people to continue to serve, to continue to use the gifts God has given you to accomplish the vision of this church.  But, I also want to tell you my congregation that there are some things that need to be done, that need some folks to step up and volunteer to make them happen.  This is all the more important as we go through this transition.  There are things I did here at Risen Christ that I will not be doing any longer.  Will those things just fall by the wayside or will there be some folks who step up and fill in the gaps?  That is what is needed during this time.  This congregation is healthy and alive and the members of Risen Christ need to make sure it stays that way.  So, I just want to remind you that it is YOUR church!  You are needed!   

 

Our Scripture for today tells us about this.  This section of Scripture from Ephesians 4 is one of 4 places in the New Testament that speaks about spiritual gifts and people at Risen Christ using their spiritual gifts is what is needed more than ever.  So, first,

 

  1.  Who Gives the Gifts?

 

“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”  Ephesians 4:7

 

The grace Paul is referring to is not saving grace and it isn’t grace at meals.  Paul is referring to the gifts He gives to the members of the church.  Christ is the One who gives these gifts.  Five times in this chapter, Paul reminds us that our gifts come from God and God alone.  Sometimes people think of spiritual gifts like they do money.  People, Christian people, think that at the end of the day, they have earned their income, that they are solely responsible for their house, their cars, the money they have in the bank.  They look at their pile of stuff and they think, I did that!  But, the truth is God gives us the ability and the talent to make the money we have.  God does that!

 

Spiritual gifts are much the same.  We might think I am a born leader, I am a great teacher, I love to have people over, that I have the gift of hospitality.  We tend to think, that’s me, that’s what I am good at.  I did that!  But, spiritual gifts are not like that.  Spiritual gifts are given by God.  As the Scripture says, “Christ apportioned” them.  He did that.  How would your view of spiritual gifts change, how would your use of your spiritual gifts be different, if you owned the fact that God gave you those gifts, if you truly believed that Christ was the One who gave those gifts just for you?  Would you be more inclined to use your spiritual gifts if you knew Christ gave you those gifts?  That’s the first thing Paul tells us in this passage.  Next,

 

  1.  Who has the Gifts?

 

Verse 7 tells us; “Each one.”  The passage doesn’t say, “Now to some members grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” No, it says that, “to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”  You weren’t shorted in the gift exchange.  You weren’t out to lunch when Christ handed out spiritual gifts.  Every Christian, bar none, has a spiritual gift.  Some people are out front leading.  Others are behind the scenes checking on people who are hurting.  Still others have the gift of intercession and are all the time praying for folks and still others have the gift of generosity and help fund the mission.  But, believe this, every single Christian has at least one spiritual gift.  And, third, 

 

  1.  The Gifts are to be Used

 

Every person has at least one spiritual gift, but that doesn’t mean that every person is using their spiritual gifts.  Some never took time to discover their gift.  Others are letting their gift lie dormant.  They aren’t using it.  Still others haven’t made the connection that spiritual gifts, talents, things we are good at, to be used for God’s glory.   

 

We have this rule in our house that it is okay to take presents back to the store.  If we don’t like the color, take it back.  If it is the wrong size, take it back.  If the diamond isn’t big enough—no, there is a limit.  When Christmas or a birthday is coming, we take the time and effort to shop for the perfect gift.  We love each other and want them to not only like the present we bought them but to use it as well.  So, our unwritten rule is that if you don’t like the gift, take it back.  Rather than stuff the gift in the closet, never to be worn, never to be used, take it back and get what you like, what fits you, and use it.   

 

God has given you the perfect gifts, those just for you, and He wants you to use them.  They are not the wrong color or size.  Christ has given you those particular spiritual gifts and those gifts needs to be used.  How would it be if, for Christmas or a birthday, your spouse gives you a new shirt and you never use it?  Your spouse may be upset that they worked hard to pick out just the right gift and yet they never see you in it.  God has given you just the right gift, so be sure to use it.   

 

One guy used his spiritual gift a little too much.  It was during the French Revolution and 3 Christians were sentenced to die by the guillotine.  One Christian had the gift of faith, one the gift of prophecy, and one the gift of helps.  The Christian with the gift of faith was brought forward first. He was asked if he had any last words, so he said, “I have faith that God will deliver me.” Well, they pulled the rope but the blade didn’t fall. The executioners were in awe, as they took this as an act of God, so they quickly freed the man.  The Christian with the gift of prophecy was next. They asked him, too, if he had anything to share. He replied, “I predict that God will deliver me.” Again, the rope was pulled and nothing happened, and the executioners were amazed and freed him immediately.  Then they brought in the third Christian, with the gift of helps. When asked if he had anything to say, he looked up at the blade and then replied, “Yeah, I think I just found the problem with your guillotine.”  [1]  His gift was not wisdom. 

 

If you truly believe that the Spirit is in you—which it is—you cannot say that you have nothing to offer.  Here in Ephesians 4, Paul lists just some of those gifts: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.  There are 3 other places in the Bible that lists other spiritual gifts.  We use a list of 20 spiritual gifts but there can be more.  The list we use is found on your outlines.  Take a look at that list.  Now listen, you have at least one of those gifts and that gift is to be used.

 

     Administration     Artistry           Discernment   Evangelism                 Exhortation

     Faith                      Giving             Hospitality      Intercession                Knowledge    

     Leadership            Mercy             Music-Vocal   Music-Instrumental   Pastoring       

     Service                   Skilled Craft Teaching        Wisdom                      Writing 

 

I heard one Baptist pastor say that the Baptist way to do ministry is to “win ‘em, wet ‘em and work ‘em.”  Author John Stott said it this way that “ministry is not the prerogative of a clerical elite but as the privileged calling of all the people of God.” [2]  Commentator Bob Utley wrote, “Every Christian is a full-time, God-called, God-gifted minister.” [3]  That is what you are.  You are a “full-time, God-called, God-gifted minister.”  Turn to the person next to you and tell them, “You are a full-time, God-called, God-gifted minister.”  No, that is too much to remember.  Just tell them, “You are gifted.  You are special.  Your gifts are to be used which means that   

 

  1.  You are Needed

 

When I was growing up, my friend’s uncle worked at Bethlehem Steel in Baltimore.  Bethlehem Steel was a major steel manufacturing company in the United States.  One evening, he took my friend and myself on a tour.  We saw some of the operations of that company.  But then we went into the locker room.  There laying on one of the tables was a man sound asleep.  My friend’s uncle explained that the job at Bethlehem Steel was his second full time job and that he came to work and slept the whole time.  This sleeping man must not have thought that his position, his gift, was needed.  A few years later, Bethlehem Steel closed its doors.  No wonder, when the workers didn’t think they were needed.  But, you are needed.  The church is a body and all of the parts of the body are needed. 

 

  1.  You are needed to make the body go

 

If you don’t do your part, the body suffers.  One woman had a terrible ear ache.  She ran a fever, couldn’t hear, couldn’t sleep at night.  She was incapacitated because her Eustachian Tube, a tiny tube in her ear about an inch long had become infected and it laid low the body of a grown woman for a week.  Every other part of her body worked properly.  Her eyes, hands, liver, feet all worked fine.  But, that one part of her body didn’t and it incapacitated her.

 

You are needed.  If you don’t use your gift, the body of Christ called Risen Christ church can become incapacitated or not work to its capacity.  Here, what if, when God came to Moses, Moses said, “No, I’d rather not use my gifts to do what you want me to do.”  Actually, Moses did say that.  He said that he didn’t speak so well.  But, God told Moses that God was the giver of the gift and that Moses’ brother Aaron would help him and that God had a huge task for Moses.  Moses was needed.  Moses finally took a big gulp and did what God called him to do.  Or, what if Isaiah told God, “No, what you are asking me to do is too big of a task.  Find somebody else.”  No, Isaiah said, “Here am I.  Send me!”  What if when God asked Jonah to preach to the Ninevites, what if Jonah said, “I’d rather not.”  Actually Jonah did say that and rebelled and got in a ship.  God told Jonah to go this way and Jonah went that way.  You know what happened to him.  He became whale food. 

 

What if someone from our church came to you and asked you to do some task and you said, “I can’t.”  Now, there could be good reasons for you to decline.  Sometimes what is being asked of you is not your spiritual gift.  You might be asked to teach an adult Bible study but teaching is not your gift.  You may decline.  Even then, you may not have a particular gift but you can still join in to get the job done.  But what if you told the recruiter that you can’t do a particular task and that recruiter then said, “Okay, if you can’t serve in this way, how can you be in service?  What other way is God calling you to use your gifts for Him?”  The thinking of that recruiter might go like this; God gave that person their specific spiritual gift.  Each person has at least one.  Each person needs to use the spiritual gifts God has given them.  They are needed by this congregation.  Therefore, if they can’t serve in one capacity, they need to be serving in some other.  You can’t teach Sunday School?  Okay, what can you do?  I’ll wait while you tell me.  You can’t take a position on the church council?  I respect that but where else will you serve.  I’ll write it down.   

 

It is true, you are needed.  You are always needed, but, in this time of transition, you are needed all the more.  This is not to be a church of spectators.  We are to be an army not an audience.  Someone said that spiritual gifts are servant towels, not merit badges.  Believers are worker bees.  You are needed.  I have said this again and again the last couple of weeks, it is time to step up, not step out.  Listen;

 

  1.  You are needed to achieve a higher purpose

 

Paul said that we all are to use our spiritual gifts—here it comes--

 

“… so that the body of Christ may be built up. ”  Ephesians 4:12

 

The church around the world needs to continue to be built up.  Making disciples of all nations must go on.  This body, Risen Christ, needs to continue to be built up.  Especially in this transition, we cannot let this church atrophy.  We cannot fall asleep.  We have incredible work to be done.  We have a higher purpose to make disciples.  We have a higher vision of seeing marriages and families thrive with Jesus in the center.  Your spiritual gifts will contribute to this body being built up.  You are needed.  One last thing;

 

  1. Using Your Spiritual Gifts is Good for You

 

Here’s what Paul says.  He says

 

  1.  In using your gifts, you will create unity which is good for you

 

the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God…” Ephesians 4:12-13

 

Using your gifts will create unity.  When you see others working with you, using their spiritual gifts as you use yours, you will realize that we are all in this together and that fellowship, that working together, is good for you.  He also says that

 

  1.  In using your spiritual gifts, you will become mature

 

“…become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.. we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:12-13           

 

We baptized 10 Dougherty children today.  I’ve never baptized that many at one time.  Pretty cool!  These children are all baby Christians.  They have been given faith through the power of the Holy Spirit, but, that faith needs to grow and one of the ways to grow faith is to put it to work.  These children need to put their faith to work.  Alex already did that at Flower City Work Camp.  I went by his work site and Alex was hammering away on a project.  He was putting his faith to work.  We all need to put our faith to work, using our spiritual gifts.  We were saved by grace through faith without works.  But, we were saved for good works.  James tells us that faith without works is dead.  Faith is meant to work.  We were saved to serve and it is in serving that our faith grows.  Again, it is good for you to use your spiritual gifts.  And in the end, as you work out your faith, you will walk toward perfection.  Listen to the way Paul puts it;

 

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”  Ephesians 4:16

 

We are joined together, growing up as each part, as each person, does her or his work. 

 

Every now and then, some member of the Risen Christ family asks to use the Fellowship Hall or the lobby.  My response to their request is, “It is your church!  Go for it.”  It is.  This church is your home.  Use it.  But also, if this church is the home for the Risen Christ family, then the family members need to take care of their home.  Think of what this means during this transition.  Think of what it will mean if each member of the Risen Christ family uses their spiritual gifts, if each member finds a place to serve, if each member realizes that they are needed, that they have something to give.  Twenty-four years ago, when I was interviewing for the position of pastor of this place, I saw people working.  They weren’t sitting back waiting for the next pastor to come along, figuring, when he comes, then he can do the work.  No, they were in there working, doing the work of the ministry.  I saw that.  It was one of the key reasons I accepted the call here.  I was happy to be the pastor of a church where people were willing to do the work of the ministry.  So, together, we worked for the Lord. 

 

That same thing can happen in this transition.  You might interview a pastor and if every member uses their spiritual gifts, he will see that and he will know that he will not be going it alone, that he will be working side by side with some of the best people in the world.  That’s what I saw.  That’s what I have experienced these last 24 years.  It has been my privilege to work beside you.  Just keep it up.  If you haven’t been actively involved, jump in.  It will be appreciated.  The church will be better for it and so will you.  And, that, dear Risen Christ family, is another thing this pastor wants to say to his congregation.  It is your church.  You are needed.

 

In Jesus’ name.

Amen     

 

           

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

[1] https://www.cybersalt.org/clean-jokes/spiritual-gifts

[2] Quoted in the sermon, “How Christ Grows His Church” by Freddy Fritz found at Sermoncentral.com

[3] From the commentary on Ephesians by Bob Utley.