"The Work of Ministry"
The focus this year is on service. First to God, then to one another, and plans to serve the community.
The Work of Ministry
A. It’s a new year and with the start of a new year often comes new beginnings, new challenges, new goals, new ideas and lots of failure. I know that some of my eating goals for 2019 were lost within a very short time. But there are other goals, ideas, plans that I made in 2018 that I wanted to do in 2019 that have already failed.
B. One goal I had was to do a spiritual journal every day. Failed that one. Another was to have a specific time each day dedicated to God – either for prayer, reading, meditating on a passage, but something spiritual. Failed.
C. How can we only be one week into the new year and I have failed at several really good ideas that would only benefit my physical and spiritual health? I have an answer for me – laziness. I have the same 24 hours in a day that others have who practice those good and healthy goals. The difference is they didn’t wait until the new year to start, they didn’t wait until tomorrow to start, they started now.
D. The reason why they started now is because it wasn’t going to be a goal, those people knew it needed to be a life change. They simply stopped trying and started doing. That was the key. Start.
I. The Gift of Church Leaders
A. Paul begins this section of Ephesians in Eph. 4:1. What a better way to get started than with these words. Challenged to see ourselves as belonging to the Lord and urged to walk in a manner worthy of the calling.
B. The greatest blessing that has ever happened to me was to respond to the calling of God. I believe that God calls everyone, but only those who have ears to hear will listen. There are many times in my life when I shut my ears from hearing God’s voice.
C. But this charge to walk worthy of my calling is both personal and collective. Paul was speaking to an entire congregation, but he was also speaking to each member within that congregation. How do walk worthy of the calling? Paul gives that answer in the rest of this section. You seek unity. You humble yourself and you seek unity with the family of God and you do it by claiming the power of God.
D. Look at verse 7. “To each one of us.” This is you and me personally as well as collectively. You have been given by Jesus a gift. The UBS New Testament Handbook Series says: So it may be better to translate “Christ has given each of us a special gift, our own part of his abundant supply.” Jesus has gifted each one of us for a purpose and it wasn’t so I bury it in the ground until he comes again.
E. As the passage continues it describes Jesus as the only one who really has the authority to gives these individual gifts and then expects us to use them. That brings us to our text beginning in verse 11. The first thing we find that Jesus did was gift leaders of the church. But not every leader was gifted the same or given the same responsibility. The fact that Jesus gifted people to become those leaders is important. When does the gift of leadership end? If it is a gift from Jesus, then I use it. Do I walk away from being a preacher just because church life is stressful? Do I stop evangelizing because few people respond? If I am gifted by Jesus I use it.
II. The Gift of Ministry
A. The key verse for us today is verse 12. Good gifted church leaders equip, or prepare, the members to use their gifts for the “work of ministry/service.” This will be the theme for the month of January. It is calling to me and to us to see serving as a ministry; a calling from Jesus.
B. The word that gets translated as “ministry” in the ESV or “service” in the NIV has at its heart, the idea of “waiting on tables,” “providing physical sustenance” or “supervising meals.” It is the person who is a servant. I start here. I am called to be a servant. I can be a servant leader, but I am first a servant; a servant of Jesus.
C. How many times does a servant have to do something? Until the one he serves says to stop. If I claim Jesus as my Lord/master, then I keep on serving in the ways he has gifted me until Jesus tells me to stop. But I like the connotation of ministry better simply because it is service done out of love, not out of force or dictatorship. I do this service because I love Jesus and I love the ones he has calls me to serve. It becomes then my ministry, my shared gift to you first and to the unsaved second.
D. To emphasize this word, Paul calls this our “work of ministry/service.” This is an action of serving others. It is more than a goal or idea. James says faith without works is dead (James 2:17). That’s the word Paul is using to describe service. Serving, ministry, is an action. It is time for me to respond to God’s calling of serving others and do it. If I choose to do nothing with my gift, I know the parable of what happened to the one who buried his talent.
E. Christianity is a call to action. As we think through ways we as a congregation can serve our community, it will only happen when we, individually, decide it’s time to use the gifts Jesus has given us for his glory.
A. Yes, I am going to push us this year to be doing more with the gifts Jesus has given us than we have in the past. It is not just about being busy, it is about ministry. It not simply “come to worship and class more often,” even though that is a good start. It is about seeing yourself as gifted by Jesus and using that for his glory.
B. Something great happens in the local body when we all minister to those in this body and then to those outside our local church family. It is more than a feeling, is witnessing God at work in and through us. It more than self-esteem, it is the joy of the Lord inside me.
C. Listen the fullness of the text (READ Eph. 4:11-16). Will you help this body work properly? Will you help us grow in love? It begins when we see ourselves as servants of Jesus doing the ministry of Jesus.
Because of Jesus,
Jeffrey Dillinger, minister