Think about Jesus…did he do all the ministry? At first, but he was doing the equipping. Then he sent the disciples out in two’s. Ultimately, Jesus’ ministry was equipping the disciples and directly serving those outside of the disciples. How many miracles did he do on behalf of or directly for the disciples? No healings…except for Peter’s mom. He did calm the sea for them too. So he did care for them “pastorally.” So his ministry wasn’t to them but for them.
The Church is the Body of Christ. Therefore the Church doesn’t exist to serve the Christian but for the Christian to serve. The Church exists to serve the Christian in their service!
After reading 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, it’s pretty clear that Michael Green’s summary of the theology of the Lord’s Supper is super helpful to Christian who wants to participate on Sunday but isn’t sure what to do with that corporate time with God. Using this text and the following outline has helped me to avoid making this memorial meal an empty ritual.
- Look back (to Christ’s death).
- Look in (self-examination).
- Look up (fellowship with God).
- Look around (fellowship with each other).
- Look forward (to Christ’s return).
- Look outward (to proclaim God’s word to others).
An ideal local church should both be comforting AND challenging at the same time. To do that entails 3 things:
1. Remind me who I am. We are set apart from the ways of the world, yet are to engage the world with loving sacrifice. We are the light of the world, salt of the earth, and city on a hill. We are holy, yet broken. We are broken, yet holy; broken yet able to carry the presence and power of Christ.
2. Show me what I can become. People are encouraged to identify and live out of their SHAPE (spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, experience) and to engage in spiritual habits that grow them deeper. Roots for growth and strength. Branches by which to serve: an invitation to live out our calling empowered by the Spirit.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
I think of my experience at the church I served in St. Louis as an intern and how the church let me explore my gifts. They were patient with me and let me try different things. We have to allow people to try and even fail, all the while encouraging them.
3. Hold me accountable. Accountability involves the art of encouragement and admonishment.
Encouragement is an indispensable part of accountability. We think mostly of “tough love” admonishment, but without encouragement who can with stand just admonishment? We need fellow Christ followers who are absolutely convinced that we are great and can do great things. We need people who applaud us when we succeed and pull us up when we fail.
Holding someone accountable is not easy; it takes discernment.
And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15
Look at those verbs: warn, encourage, help, and be patient. That is the grammar of accountability and ultimately a healthy church.
We live in a consumer culture. Each day we are treated as a customer, and this leads us to believe we are entitled to have all of our “needs” met.
In the Church this plays out when people think it exists to “serve me and my needs. The community should not tell me what to do–that is up to me.” But in reality, the Church community exists to shape and guide my soul. The community has a right to expect certain behavior from me, and can provide the encouragement and accountability I need.
Transformation into Christlikeness has been the aim and responsibility of the Church from its beginning.
The soul-shaping role of the Church is not just for our own spiritual nurture. It is meant to propel us out into mission.
“Immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.” Ephesians 3:20
1) More than we can ask: We come to a Father who is able to do what we ask and invites us to come to him (Philippians 4:6).
Because we are human, our requests are feeble and finite. We want dessert when we need meat; safety when we need godly courage. We ask within the limits of human wisdom/vision, but He is able to do more.
2) More than we can imagine: the ways of our Lord cannot be limited to what we ask because His wisdom/power and therefore His intentions are beyond our imagination.
Inevitably that for which we pray is limited by our human perspective. We think we shall be happy if we see the perfect sunset, meet the right person, get the right job, or get relief from the person or disease that troubles us. But the One who sees beyond sunrise, into the heart, and after the disease, knows that in a fallen world perfect solutions do not exist and their dim reflections may only distract us from dependence upon Him who must redeem us from all that falsely promises fulfillment.
When compelled by a true calling of God, a believer is captured by God’s goals.
Although Paul resided under house arrest in Rome, he did not consider himself a prisoner of the Romans or Jewish officials who originally accused him. He identifies himself as, “Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus, for the sake of you Gentiles (Ephesians 3:1).”
With these words of imprisonment to Christ, the apostle tells us that one called by God is willing both to die to self AND to live for others.