Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Don't Squander Your Gift - Part V

In light of what we've been saying about spiritual gifts, the job of the pastor is to teach his congregation how to use their spiritual gifts in ministry. He is charged to equip the saints who are responsible to get the work done. For a pastor to neglect equipping his congregation and try to do all the work himself is to abandon his primary call. It is also a pretty ineffective way to build a church. Larry Gilbert writes:
"A pastor who cannot get his people to do the work and tries to do it all by himself is like a mother who says, 'Well, I can't get the kids to clean their rooms, so I will let them go out and play so they will be out of my way while I do it.' She is wrong. If her job is to train her children so they will one day be responsible adults, then she cannot clean their rooms for them and let them play."
By doing all the work, a pastor is developing an irresponsible congregation.

By doing all the work, a pastor is building a spectator church - one that has to be entertained all the time, and one that has to have all their needs met all the time. He is not building a spiritually mature church that actively ministers. As a result, the work is stymied, and that church won't grow. It puts too much of a burden on one man. There's no greater way of limiting church growth than for only one, or just a few, trying to do all the work of ministry.

Just how much can one man do? Even if you throw a few deacons into the equation, it's still too much work. It could never accomplish what all of us working together could accomplish. So, which makes more sense? Training your kids to clean their own room, or cleaning it for them? Teaching your congregation to use thier gifts in ministery, or doing all the ministry yourself? God's way sounds so much better. If God has given you a calling and a gift to do it, what will God think if you don't do it?

First Peter 4:10 says, "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." You are a steward of the gifts God has given you. God expects you to use those gifts in ministry. This is the whole purpose for which God saved you. Will you get to work?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Don't Squander Your Gift - Part IV

Our premise has been simple. God equips us for the job He give us. What God does to equip us is to give us a gift tailor made to allow us to do the job. OK, if that is true, why are so many churches dying on the vine? Could it be, at least in part, that believers in those churches don't know about their spiritual gifts, or that they are not using their spiritual gifts? Could that be it?

Why have 80% of the churches in this country either plateaued or gone into decline? Could it be that the majority of thoe congregations aren't engaged in ministry? Could it be they aren't using the spiritual gifts that God gave them? And why are some churches bursting at the seams with explosive growth? Could it be in those churches that a good share of the membership is actively engaged in ministry? Could it be that they are actively using the gifts God gave them?

Obviously, little churches stay Little for a reason. This could be one of the reasons: too few people are doing the work that God prepared for them. There is an old 80/20 rule of thumb that says that in a typical church 80% of the work gets done by 20% of the people. That it is true explains why 80% of the churches aren't growing. How can they grow if so many of their people are doing so little work? God never intended it to be that way.

A good place to look at God's plan is Ephesians 4:11-12, which says:
"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."
Historically as Jesus built the church, He gave apostles to lay the groundwork, along with the prophets. He sent out evangelists to plant churches. And He called pastors to teach.

But what was the purpose? The pastor-teacher was to equip or train the saints, the congregation, so that they could do the work of ministry. In other words, he was to teach peole to recognize and use their spiritual gifts in ministry. Why? So those people could use their gifts for the edifying of the body of Christ, the church. Edify means to build up. That's God's master plan for building His church.

What is the pastor's job? It is not to do all the work, or even most of the work. It is to train his people how to do the work so they can get busy. it is to tain them to be a more effective work force. The pastor is the coach. We are all a team. And we have all been given gifts to use in ministry. What we need is to be trained how to use them. We need to be equipped through teaching. Teaching is the most important job of the pastor. Doing the work? That's your job. That's what you have been gifted to do.

The apostles recognized this. In Acts 6, when a complaint arose that the Greek widows weren't getting as much charity as the Hebrew widows, the apostles called a big congregational meeting. They asked the congregation to pick seven men who could help them because it wasn't a good use of resources for them to do it all themselves. This is what it says in Acts 6:2-4:
"Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, 'It is not desirable that we should leave the Word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out form among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business, but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.'"
The disciples were to find some qualified people to do it. Let them administer the charity. That wasn't what God had called the apostles for.

Why, those slackers! How could they be so lazy? No! No! Not at all. God hadn't called them to wait tables, but to minister the Word of God. It would be a violation of their call to neglect it. They wisely chose to keep first things first. They were needed to teach. Other people could administer the charity. The pastor has a job that God has specifically called him to do - to teach the Word of God so you can be equipped to do the work. What work has God called you to do? Are you doing it?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Don't Squander Your Gift - Part III

Jesus made a promise in Matthew 16:18. He said, "And on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The way Jesus builds His church is through us, His followers. We are the tools He uses. We are His body left on earth - the church.

Our Mandate is the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20,
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
This is the way Jesus builds His church, through us, His disciples. He does so using our hands, our feet, our voices, our resources.

Let em tell you a story to illustrate this: In the courtyard of a quaint little church in a small village in France stood a beautiful marble statue of Jesus with His arms outstretched. It wasn't very big, and it wasn't made by a famous artist, but it held a special place in the heart of the village people. They loved that statue of Jesus.

But, one day during World War II, a bomb struck too close. the statue was mutilated. It was broken into lots of pieces. After the battle had passed, the townspeople decided to find the pieces of their beloved statue and reconstruct it. They patiently got to work gathering and piecing the statue back together. The cracks and scars left by the disaster almost seemed to give it more beauty.

But there was one major problem. They could never find the hands. "A Christ without hands is not Christ at all," someone said with sorrow. "Hands with scars, yes! But what is a Lord without hands? We need a new statue."

But someone else came up with another idea, and everyone liked it. A brqass plaque was attached to the base of the statue which said, "I have no hands but your hands." That's exactly the point I'm making. Christ uses our hands to do His work building His church.

years later, someone else was touched by the statue and wrote these lines:
"I have no hands but your hands to do my work today.
I have no feet but your feet to lead men on the way.
I have no tongue but your tongue to tell men how I died.
I have no help but your help to bring men to God's side."
That's not just flowery talk, it's good theology. The church is the body of Christ left on earth. Ephesians 1:22-23 says:
"And He (God the Father) put all things under His (Christ's) feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."
That is us, the church. We are the body of Christ on earth. Jesus is the head directing the action, but we are the body carrying out the actions. We are His hands and feet and tongue. What gets done on earth is done through us. And what Christ is doing is building His church. He's given us the Great Commission to carry it out.

As Larry Gilbert wrote, "The Great Commission is the greatest command, given by the greatest general, to the greatest army, for the greatest task ever." We are that army commissioned for this greatest task. We are Christ's church commissioned to make disciples to build the church.

But, what so many of us have forgotten is that God who assigned us this task also assigned us the means of fulfilling this task. He gave us spiritual gifts - tools that the Holy Spirit uses to accomplish His work through us. He gives us the divine ability to do the task. He leaves us with no excuse for not getting the job done.