“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teacher for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
–Ephesians 4:11-16 (NKJV)
When I was growing up – hahahahaha! – my Dad was 6’-1” tall, my mom was 4’-11” (if she stood up). My 2 brothers were 6” and 4” taller than I. I think at my greatest height I was 5’5”. Scoliosis has done a number on that total. The older of my 2 brothers was 5’9” tall, but when he died 2 years ago, he was shorter than I am. He, too, suffered from scoliosis. So I’m a real expert on growth!
But what about church growth – how does one measure that? I once belonged to a fellowship of the area fundamental pastors. Do you know what the FIRST question seemed to be when each of us met for our monthly fellowships? Here goes: “Well, brother, how big is your congregation in the morning service?”. I usually responded by, “well, brother, some of my congregation members are REALLY big!”
That’s NOT what he was looking for. He was looking for the comparative, to see if his church attendance measured up anywhere to my church attendance. Perhaps if he had 5 more people attending on the average than my charge did, that made his church a better church?
Church growth. Let’s pretend to create a “church growth chart.” What would it look like? Let’s find out, and rather than compare your fellowship with my fellowship, let’s line up our church against this chart AND then let’s grow up together!
I promised you last week an insight into Ephesians 4:11-12. This passage for many congregations is the most abused passage in the HISTORY of the local, even fundamental, church. Why? I don’t mean to offend anyone, but let’s compare our beloved KJV with the NKJV. See if you notice the distinct difference:
KJV (King James Version): “…he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ… “
NKJV (New King James Version): “…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…”.
Did you notice any difference between the KJV and the NKJV?
Let’s hypothesize: let’s say a pastoral candidate comes to your church and in the process of his meeting with you, you let him know what you expect of him. You would say, according to one of the above versions, “We want you to visit, call, serve, start and lead a vibrant youth group, prepare and deliver great sermons, and do all the work that needs to be done to get our church going strong again.” Which version was that?
The same pastoral candidate goes to another church and cautiously asks, “what do you expect your pastor to do on a regular basis?”. In this church, the leadership say, “we would like you to train us, either one on one or as a group, to learn how to do the work of the ministry in our town. We are only 30 strong, but 30 of us can be in 30 more places at one time than you can.” Which version was that?
What made the difference? Our beloved KJV (King James Version) authors, as well intentioned as they were, put in an unfortunate COMMA between “saints” and “for”. Thus the passage implies that the PASTOR DOES ALL THE WORK! And you and I know MANY churches – perhaps even your church – where the pastor is expected to do just that: do all the visitation both purposely throughout the community and on a moment’s notice when any one needs attention. In addition to his leading the services, he is to teach, teach, teach, work, work, work. The end result often is a most burned out pastor who lasts maybe, if the church is fortunate, 2-5 years in that church’s pastorate.
But the NKJV (New King James Version, and the Greek, dear people) does NOT have that COMMA! So as the pastor trains the people, WHO according to the Scriptures, are accountable and joyfully do the work of the ministry? THE BODY OF CHRIST! Yet in our society there are unfortunately MANY well intentioned churches that expect the pastor to do it all. I once knew of a church where a pastoral candidate was told the above proverbial list of expectations of the pastor-to-be’s qualities.
And you know what he had the nerve to ask in reply? “And what are YOU going to do while I do all the work of the ministry?” You know what? He stayed 20 years there and trained the people and worked beside them. Today they are still reaching out to their community as a body of believers, showing the entire village the love of God in Christ wherever the Lord has wisely placed each one. THAT’s what Ephesians 4:11-12 is supposed to look like in action!
So what are the signs of a church that is growing together doing the work of the ministry under the leadership of a wise pastor – a pastor who not only trains but also is an example of a disciple within the community the entire body is serving together?
THE FIRST SIGN IS “’TIL-LING’” (verse 13)
We live in a NOW age. I remember the story in our area of factory workers who were soon to be laid off from their hard earned jobs. So they pooled together some money, entered the New York State lottery as a group, and…WON. $46 MILLION DOLLARS! “Now we are set”, they said in unison. But our passage calls us to a “’Til” mentality.
We are to be working the work of the ministry “together ‘TIL we come to the unity of the faith”. This is a work for the entire body! The pastor is more than just a leader. He is a co-worker, a co-learner. What he expects of you, he first expects of himself. Do you have a pastor like that? Do you have the freedom to expect your pastor to be like that?
We are to be working the work of the ministry “together ‘TIL we come to the knowledge of the Son of God,” a full knowledge of our Savior. Often don’t we settle for just the knowledge of salvation? Listen to these challenging yet encouraging verses: Psalm 119:125: “I am Your servant; Give me understanding, that I may know Your testimonies.” Philippians 3:10: “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His
We are to be working the work of the ministry “together ’TIL we mature to a perfect man”. Identify yourself: are you just a babe in Christ, or are you a mature Christian with a working AND learning knowledge of the Savior? I encourage you to review Hebrews 5:12-14: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Which are you?
We are to be working “together ’TIL we come to the stature of the fullness of Christ…”. That’s our measure, our standard. We should be asking ourselves, “Is Christ seen in me? Or am I getting in the way?”
How long? “’TIL”!
THE SECOND SIGN IS “TOSSING” (verse 14)
“That we should no longer be children, TOSSED…”
Ever hear the story of the man disgusted with his son’s actions. He yelled at him, “Joey, you’re acting just like a five year old!”… to which the boy replied, “But Dad! I AM a five year old!” What is cute in a five year old is NOT in an adult. The test is this: “What do you think of Christ?”
I encourage you to read 1 John 2:1-6. Listen intently to verse 5:
“But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.”
THE THIRD SIGN IS “TRUTHING” (verse 15)
I like how the Amplified Version translates literally this verse: “Speaking truly, Dealing truly, Living truly…”
Under Christ’s Headship people ought to see us not as how we represent ourselves, our families, even our church. They ought to see us as how we represent Jesus!
People ought to ask of us our hope, to which we can quickly reply, “We have learned this of Christ.”
Most of us are familiar with Acts 4:12:
“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
But have you ever noticed the next verse, Acts 4:13:
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” [my emphasis]
Then and only then does the cycle go back to me, and who I am because this is what I have learned of Christ.
LET’S WRAP THIS UP!
Do you remember the initial question? The group of pastors in a wonderful fellowship ask one another, “How many are coming to your morning service?”
What SHOULD they be asking? What are the REAL final tests of the growth of one’s local church?
Is your church body joined and knit together?
Is every joint supplying?
Is every part doing its share?
Is the body building itself up in love?
Do all the functions of the local body show Christ and Him crucified, risen, and coming again?
Do I? Do you?