Watching Our Stars Mature
I was previously taking you through a study I wrote back in the early-to-mid 80’s called, “Dust and Stars.” In the study, I was attempting to show you how extremely important the Church is to our Lord’s work in the world.
I was taking you step-by-step making my point as clear as possible. I showed you what the church was, how the Church was created, all the way through to how we are to live within the Church. Unfortunately, I got side-tracked by other events in a church I attend (which inspired my messages), and set aside Dust and Stars. But I feel it is time to return to my original study.
What made me think of it is that I had returned to the writings of Lewis Bayly and a book written in 1611. The book is entitled: “Practice of Piety: Directing a Christian How to Walk, that He May Please God.” Yes, it is a long title, but an excellent read for those interested.
Now you might be trying to figure out what that book has to do with Dust and Stars? Well, nothing actually, but in the introduction there is an excellent quote from Bishop Blomfield that I think describes what I have been discussing. Give it look:
“The Church! Am I asked again, What is the Church? The ploughman at his daily toil—the workman who plies the shuttle—the merchant in his counting-house—the scholar in his study—the lawyer in the courts of justice—the senator in the hall of legislature—the monarch on his throne—these, as well as the clergymen in the works of the material building which is consecrated to the honour of God—these constitute the Church.
The Church is ‘the whole congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments duly administered.’ The Church is so constituted under its Divine Head, that not one of its members can suffer but the whole body feels—nay, the great Head himself feels in the remotest and meanest member of his body: not the meanest member of the body can make an exertion in faith and love, but the blessed effects of it are felt, to the benefit of the whole, ‘which groweth by that which every joint supplieth, to the increase of itself in love.’”—Bishop Blomfield
Yes, that was written in an archaic old-English style, but it perfectly describes what the Church is, and what the Lord intends for it to be. You see, in my eyes it is impossible to be faithful to our faith outside the context of a Church. We need to become incorporated into the Body of Christ. We were never intended to be alone, floating away any more than an arm is to be disconnected from our body. We are only “Christian” in as much as we are connected to the body of disciples, following Christ.
I bet most of us are pretty nice people. However, if you are not accountable to someone, another person (or people) who are also seeking to honor their Lord, it is easy to license yourself pretty far. And frankly, I don’t do very well on my own.
And in our study we have covered a lot of ground. We have seen the creation of the Church; the growth the Church; how Jesus views the Church; and how we are to relate to the Church—and how we can develop intimate and close friendships within the Church.
Now, I want to discuss the “Structure of the Church.” But before I do that, I need to ask you some things. With everything we have covered, have you made an effort to get involved in your church? Have you realized your need for involvement? Have you sought out deep and meaningful relationships — relationships that will draw you closer to the Lord? If not, why?
I do want your feedback on this, because I feel these issues are very important, in fact, critical to your faith. Do remember that song, “People“?
People who need people,
Are the luckiest people in the world
We’re children, needing other children
And yet letting a grown-up pride
Hide all the need inside
Acting more like children than children
The song came from Barbara Streisand’s hit, “Funny Girl, and it accurately expresses a need in the psyche of mankind — a need that The Church is intended to fill! But you have to make the first move. I have covered this aspect of our Christian life throughout this entire study, and I don’t want you to miss it! My friend quit being a “loner,” and start mingling; interacting; and relating to your brothers and sisters on your faith.
Now, I began to address this above, but when I looked into the role that leadership plays in all of this relating stuff, I looked at Ephesians 4:11-13:
“His ‘gifts to men’ were varied. Some he made his Apostles [or ‘special messengers’ which a greatly misunderstood ministry], some prophets, some preachers of the Gospel; to some he gave the power to guide and teach his people [some mistakenly combine the role of Pastors and Teachers].
[Okay, that’s all nice and dandy, but why? Why were the “gifts” given?]
His gifts were made that Christians might be properly equipped for their service, that the whole body might be built up until the time comes when, in the unity of the common faith and common knowledge of the Son of God, we arrive at real maturity—that measure of development which is meant by the “fullness of Christ”
Now there are many things we can see here. For instance, those “gifts,” are “given.” They can also be taken away (and I can personally testify to that). Once you begin to see yourself “as the gift,” He may remove that “gifting,” until you are mature enough to handle it.
But also, those verses make it appear as though we should take a fresh look at how we function as a Church. You see, we picture the guy up front every Sunday as our pastor, and he may be, but in most churches he is simply a guy who teaches us about the Bible and hopefully how to apply the Bible to our lives. But that is not a true Pastor. It certainly fulfills a need in the Church, and teaching the Word is certainly a form of discipling, but not at a very intimate level. The pastor’s real job is to equip the other believers in order for “them” to mature in the faith.
Although, that is not how most churches function. The guy up front is simply entertaining the people, not perfecting them. That is the idea of the many activities of the church, to entertain, to maintain, to keep people involved. They are always on the look out for new ideas so they can maintain the people. They figure that if they can keep them in the grace of God until they die, they have succeeded.
That isn’t the ministry of a Pastor. No wonder the letter to the Hebrew church admonishes, “By now you should be teachers. Instead, you still need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food” (Hebrews. 5:12).
He must have been expecting something much better. He was expecting the laymen to eventually become the teachers. Instead they remained pew sitters.
Ephesians 4 doesn’t say that the apostles, and prophets and pastors are to do the work of service. It says they are to equip the saints to do that. An architect doesn’t build buildings; he plans how others should do it. If the architect also had to lay the bricks and put the building together, he probably wouldn’t get too many built, would he? As it is, he can “build” several at the same time!
We need to have leaders in the church today who can train other believers for the work of the ministry. We need leaders who can draw up God’s blueprints and equip the believers to put the building together.
In addition, architects train other architects. Or, to go back to the language of the Bible, ministers bring forth ministers. Sheep bring forth lambs. Why shouldn’t the sheep provide the milk for their lambs? This is the natural way. It is the key to multiplication.
The overall goal, according to Paul, is to “arrive at real maturity — that measure of development which is meant by the “fullness of Christ.” Our Father wants everyone to grow up as tall as Jesus. So Pastors must begin to reach for maturity themselves, first; then they will be ready to bring about the same growth in their sheep.
Paul goes on in verses 14-15, “We are not meant to remain as children at the mercy of every chance wind of teaching [which we can see happening throughout the Church] and the jockeying of men who are expert in the craft presentation of lies. But we are meant to hold firmly to the truth in love, and to grow up in every way into Christ, the head.”
The progression is like school. When we get to first grade, we can teach others all about kindergarten. A year later, we could be teaching others about first grade, and the first graders are teaching others about kindergarten. We are no longer teaching the ABC’s of the gospel—but that doesn’t mean they have been forgotten. They are still being taught, but by others at lower levels. The growth continues.
When my children were younger, I noticed that the two boys would constantly pass along to their little sister things that they had learned. (Both good and bad). So explain what happens when a Pastor takes a vacation or is maybe invited to teach at another church? Well, they have to call another church or their Bishop or another form of leadership to find someone to replace him.
The fact is, every church should have a truck-load of people who are able to teach and to replace the Pastor. Jesus went to heaven satisfied because He was leaving behind twelve replicas (imperfect as they may have been) of Himself. The twelve members of His congregation didn’t have to write to any bishop and say, “Please send us another pastor because ours was just taken up in a cloud to heaven.” After the Holy Spirit had come, they began to mature; they were ready to step into His shoes. How could Paul have been willing to leave this world if he had never made disciples of Timothy, Philemon, Epaphras, and others?
Whenever someone wants to go into the ministry, why is do our modern churches have to send them to a seminary or a Bible School? Why? Because the church is not fulfilling its job, that’s why. I was invited to teach in a seminary. Honest. But after reading some of their curriculum, it seemed clear that I would “fit in” with much of what they were teaching. As I see it, if pastors were equipping the saints to do the work of service, as the Bible instructs us to do, the seminaries would not be needed. God only has one agency on this earth, The Church. That is all He intended.
Sadly, even the church I attend hasn’t gotten it, yet. I attend a Vineyard church and within Vineyard there is the Vineyard Bible Institute and the Vineyard Leadership Institute. Their stated purpose is to train people to start churches. That should be the natural outgrowth of any church—a local fellowship where your Pastor is teaching and training you for the work of the ministry.
Now I should make it clear that I am not against seminaries, Bible Schools, and the other para-church organizations. When you see someone struggling with a handicap, you don’t kick their crutches out from under them, do you? Well, the Church is weak, and it needs crutches. In fact, praise the Lord for the crutches! But we shouldn’t spend our time building crutch factories; instead we should be healing the Church.
Tomorrow, let’s go a little deeper into this, and see how we can cause our churches to mature.
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.