BODY BUILDING - Ted Schroder
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david at virtueonline.org
Fri Jan 21 23:49:10 CST 2011
By Ted Schroder
January 16, 2010
The purpose of the teaching ministry of the church is "to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up... From Christ the whole body of the faithful, joined and held together by every ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (Ephesians 4:12,16)
Body building requires a great deal of time and effort. So does equipping God's people for service and ministry. It does not happen haphazardly. It must be planned, prepared and worked faithfully. Nothing is accomplished if the plan isn't followed through. When Jesus left his apostles to build the church, he gave them a blueprint in the Gospel, in his own training and teaching, to equip them for their task. That plan is passed on from one generation to another.
Each of us has a part to play in that plan. The whole body of the faithful will grow and build itself up in love as each part does its work. We are not just consumers of the ministries of the church, we are also part of the production team. Each of us has a part to play in building the body of Christ.
The Chapel Long Range Planning Committee recommended the following Vision Statement to the Governing Board.
Our vision is: To love, to learn, to worship, to witness in Christ.
* Each of us needs to be equipped to love our neighbors in community so that we may grow and build each other up in love.
* Each of us needs to be equipped to learn the truth of the Gospel so that we will not be blown here and there by every wind of teaching.
* Each of us needs to be equipped to worship so that we may 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.
* Each of us needs to be equipped to witness in Christ by speaking the truth in love through our lives and service to the world.
How do we make sure that our congregation fulfills this vision?
I learned how to be a pastor and teacher from my apprenticeship to John Stott at All Souls Church, Langham Place, London. Located next to the BBC at the head of Regent Street in the West End of London, this historic church was turned from a fashionable venue for weddings, and only serving a silk stocking congregation, into a power house of mission that drew people from all parts of London. Central to preparing the members of the congregation for service was the Annual Training School. Members were encouraged to sign up for a twelve week course of instruction composed of two parts: the theology of the Gospel, and the practice of evangelism. The first part included classes in the biblical teaching on God, Humanity, Jesus Christ, the Cross, the Holy Spirit and the Church. The second part included what it means to be a Christian, why we should witness to Christ, ways to witness and lead someone to Christ, how to meet objections to faith, how to share your own Christian journey, and how to make home visits.
At the end of the course there was a written examination and then a public commissioning of the graduates before their assignment to ministries in the church, such as visiting shut-ins, the sick, teaching classes, counseling, and leading small groups. In time John Stott handed over the teaching of the course to me and I supervised some of the ministries.
Building up the body of Christ requires a commitment to learning and a willingness to serve. There needs to be some expectation that we will grow in our knowledge of Christ, and that we will be willing to do the work that is required to fulfill the vision. Churches that do not require anything of their members are dying. The spiritual health of many congregations is a mile wide and an inch deep. People are looking for answers to tough questions and are not willing to settle for superficial responses. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "It is not length of life, but depth of life." Church members who are consumers and not contributors will never grow in Christ. Building up the body of Christ requires a personal plan to learn, to love, to worship and to witness. We have to commit ourselves to a program and work that program.
Take, for example, our need to learn. I have signed up for three classes at UNF to update my computer skills. Signing up is easy. Making sure I get there and do the work is another. When I was a teenager my pastor shared his library with me. He fed me with books that educated me about the Gospel and about ministry. He asked me to be responsible for the book table in the narthex of the church. I sold Bibles and devotional books to the congregation. I promoted Bible reading. I was given the opportunity to witness to Christ. He encouraged me to learn and to witness.
Many of you are involved in Community Bible Study which has enriched your lives. Many have participated in our Sunday morning classes and midweek book studies and Beth Moore Studies. I have begun a men's Bible Study. We provide daily devotional guides for daily Bible reading. We have a Winter Conference scheduled on February 24 here at the Chapel. The speaker is the President of Scripture Union, the daily Bible reading organization whose notes I have used for my own daily devotionals for 55 years. His topic is: Refreshing Faith: How to renew your walk with God and change your world forever. Take advantage of these opportunities to grow and build yourself up in love.
What is your plan to grow and build yourself up? What part are you going to play in building up the body of Christ? What is your plan to fulfill our vision: to love, to learn, to worship and to witness in Christ? What is your plan?
It is very easy to become complacent about our health. We can fall into bad habits of nutrition and lack of exercise. We know we have to take care of ourselves if we are to be able to function in a way that we desire. The same is true of our spiritual health. We can become complacent about our relationship with Christ, and our spiritual growth. We can totally neglect our spiritual fitness. We can drift spiritually. We can be immature, like infants, being tossed back and forth by the waves of the day, by every wind of teaching that we encounter, vulnerable to self-deception. I have seen people become spiritually obese, their spiritual muscle turn to fat, by their absorbing the latest fad and fashion in the marketplace of ideas. What we all need is to have a plan to participate in learning and growing by disciplining ourselves to be committed to daily Bible reading, by involvement in a class, and by registering for the Winter Conference. Only by working this plan will you be prepared for works of service. Only by following through and sticking to the program will you fulfill the vision.
"No prolonged infancies among us, please. We'll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love - like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love." (Ephesians 4:14-16; The Message)
Become a body builder - a spiritual body builder - a builder of the body of Christ.
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