This morning, we come to our theme “The Anatomy of a Church.” For the last six weeks, I’ve been basically sharing from my heart, I trust, what has been a helpful understanding of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We’ve been trying to reexamine who we are and what we are called to be and to do and to say.
And the Lord has really just impressed upon me, week after week, that this is a needful thing. And so, I have had a great sense of confirmation from Him that we are right in the place that He wants us to be, as we’ve shared these great truths together.
My life is the Church, in many ways. I don’t have a 9:00 to 5:00 job. It never ends. You never stop doing what you do when you minister in the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. And as a believer, you don’t either. Life, for me, is the Church of Jesus Christ. Every waking moment of my life, thoughts in my mind, have to do with His kingdom, and His work, and His people, and His Word. It’s a total saturation.
I’ve been called to a unique calling, and I understand that and with gratitude express my appreciation to God. And while there is tremendous joy and great exhilaration and wonderful privilege involved, there’s also a serious and weighty responsibility.
And I’m often reminded of several heart-searching passages in Scripture, like James 3:1 that says, “Stop being so many teachers, for theirs is a greater condemnation.” And James is saying to us, “Don’t be in a hurry to be in a place of spiritual responsibility unless you’re ready to deal with the consequence of failure.”
And I’m reminded also of Hebrews 13:17, where it says that we watch for men’s souls as those who must give an account to the Lord. And there is an accountability factor in ministry. There’s an accountability factor in pastoring and shepherding. There’s an accountability factor in leading the Church of Jesus Christ that’s very serious. And while life, on the one hand, is filled with joy and happiness and blessedness, there is always that lingering reality of the immense seriousness with which one deals with the Church.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 4, there is a text that perhaps can give us a perspective with which to begin. Open your Bible, if you will, to that. In 1 Corinthians chapter 4, the apostle Paul is expressing to the Corinthian believers his own view of his place in the ministry. And he says, in verse 1, “Let a man so account of us – “in other words, “Let it be that men say this about us,” or “Let this be their evaluation of us,” “ – that we were servants of Christ.” He use the word hupēretēs, which means under-rower, the lowest of slaves. “Let it be said of us, when all is said and done, and we’re evaluated, that we were low-level slaves of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” The “mysteries of God” are those great truths imparted to Paul in the New Testament, and a “steward” is one who manages what he does not own for someone else.
And so he says, “Let it be said of me that I was a low-level slave of Christ, on the lowest rung of slavery, and that I was a steward who owned nothing, but managed things well, namely the mysteries of God.”
“Moreover – “ verse 2 says “ – it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.” Faithful, trustworthy. Paul says, “This is what I want out of my life, to be a faithful slave, to handle what God gives me, and have Him say, ‘He’s trustworthy. He’s faithful to the cause and the call.’”
And he says, in verse 3, “With me it’s really a very small thing that I should be judged by you, or of men’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.” He says, “And by the way, in the process of doing this, I’m not looking for some human evaluation. It matters very little to me what public opinion is about me. It matters very little to me what your opinion is. It really matters very little to me what my opinion is. The truth is, you don’t know my heart, and I really don’t know my heart either, because in my sinfulness, I’m blind to some of my own weaknesses. So, ultimately, not you and not me can stand in the place of true judgment.”
Verse 4 says, “Even when I know nothing against myself – “ in other words, “I can’t find some overt, flagrant exterior sin that I can nail down, even when I can’t find that “ – I’m not thereby justified – “ that doesn’t make me right “ – but He that judges me is the Lord.” Serious, isn’t it?
He says, “I’m in the ministry, and let it be said that I was a slave of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God, and that I am not concerned with the judgment of men, nor am I concerned with my own self-evaluation, because men don’t know all the facts, and they may be biased; and I am biased and don’t know all the facts. The one that judges me is the Lord.”
And everyone who serves Christ will be judged by Him, for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the things done in the body, whether they be good or useless. All of us.
So, in verse 5 he says, “Judge nothing before the time –” And when is the time? It’s the time when the Lord comes. And when He comes, He “– will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and make manifest the counsels of the hearts –” In other words, the real issue is what’s inside you. It may not be how clever you were, or how glib, or how good a preacher, or how dynamic a leader, but what God’s going to evaluate is your heart. And men can’t see your heart, and you’re not even always able to see the truth. It’s only then that “ – every man will have praise of God.”
So, I confess to you that the Church carries with it a great amount of seriousness for me. I am under double condemnation for failure, and so are all those who minister and teach the Word. I must give an account to God, for how I have shepherded the sheep and fed the flock, and ultimately will be judged by the Lord Himself. And I want not to live under some illusion that I can be satisfied by the very gracious and kind evaluation of men, nor by the tendency to evaluate myself in a positive way.
So, I’m sharing with you my heart because these are burdens which I bear, and which all who serve Christ bear. And I just need all of you to bear it with me, to share the load. And so, we’ve been talking about the things that God would have us be as a church. And it’s so important that we understand that this is not an optional thing.
You know, when the apostle Paul gathered together the Ephesian elders at Miletus, on his way back to Jerusalem, they came down to visit with him there while his ship was in port. And he got them all around him, and he said to them these very important words, “Take heed to yourselves.” In other words, “As you lead the people, first do an inventory on your own life.”
“Take heed to yourselves, and then the flock of God over which He’s made you an overseer to feed the Church of God.” In other words, “First you do your own spiritual inventory, then you examine where your church is, the church that the Lord has given you to lead and feed.”
And then he says – what church is it? – “The Church of God, which he has purchased with His own blood.” And therein lies the issue. We’re not dealing with a triviality when we deal with the Church. We’re not dealing with something that – easy come, easy go. We’re dealing with the most precious commodity that exists in all of eternity because it is purchased with the blood of God’s Son. The price was infinitely high for the Church. And when that Church is placed into the care of God’s people, it is to be cared for with a sense of the awesomeness of the price that was involved.
And so, I’ve sort of tried to have the load a little bit and share the heart – my heart, and the heart of our elders and pastors – with all of you. So that together, with us, you can understand what it is that God wants us to be, that our accounting before Him may be pleasing to Him.
And as we have been looking at the Church, and what the Church should be, we’ve been using the analogy which is a pauline analogy of a body. And we’ve been trying to see the Church as a body. Though using a pauline analogy, we’ve been looking at it in a non-pauline way, kind of a topical look. And we said that a body could basically be divided into four elements: the skeleton, the internal systems, the muscles, and the flesh. And so with the Church.
First of all, there has to be a skeleton – that is, that which gives it form and foundation. Those are the bottom-line, nonnegotiable, basic foundational truths upon which it must be formed and framed.
And then we said flowing through the Church, there must be certain internal systems. We call them spiritual attitudes, and we talked about those for several weeks. And then last time, we began to talk about the muscles, and the muscles represent function. Now that we understand our form and have our foundation, and flowing through are the right spiritual attitudes, what are we supposed to do? And muscle is how we begin to function.
And I want to finish that and say a little bit about the flesh today, and then next Lord’s Day, I want to complete the series with a special message on the head of the body, who is Christ, and how He ties it all together.
But let’s talk about the muscles, the function of the Church, how it moves and ministers and operates. Last week we said, first of all, one of the functions – a critical one – is preaching and teaching. Preaching and teaching.
In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul instructed Timothy, “Preach the Word.” And he also said, in that same verse, “ – be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all long suffering and teaching.” So, preaching, teaching – basic function for the Church.
Secondly, last week, we also talked about evangelism and missions, that we are mandated to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. That we are called, as those who know the terror of the Lord, to persuade men. In other words, because we can see the impending doom on the ungodly, we are mandated to go out and warn them. And so, we are called to missions and evangelism as function.
Thirdly, we talked about worship. Both individually and corporately, we are to be a worshiping group. We are to worship in the heart, as Philippians 3:3, which is the best definition of a Christian I know in the Bible, “We are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” We’re to be the true worshipers, John 4, who worship in spirit and truth.
So, individually, we are called to be worshipers; and also, collectively, we are the temple of the Spirit of God, and God dwells within the praises of His redeemed people. And so, we worship not only individually but collectively. And Hebrews 10 tells us to draw near unto God with clean hands, a pure heart.
And then fourthly, we said that our function also demands prayer. We are to be functioning in prayer. That is a priority, beloved. When you go to Ephesians 6:10-18, and Paul describes the armor of a believer, and he goes through all the sequence of elements of armor, and finally caps it off, at the very end, after all of that, he says, “ – praying always,” which is the ultimate weapon. The ultimate weapon, because that says, “With all that I have available to me, I still am utterly dependent on God.” And with all my armor on, and a knowledge of the Word of God, and the sword in my hand, I want to pray, because no matter what I may know or what I may be, I cannot function independent of the power source. Praying always.
And in the early Church, the apostles said, “Look, we will give ourselves continually to prayer,” that’s first, “and the ministry of the Word.” The priority is prayer. Why? Because we must ever and always be fused with God. I mean the plug is pulled if we’re not, and the flesh can do no good thing. That’s why, “ – first of all,” says Paul to Timothy, in setting the Church in order, 1 Timothy 2, “ – first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, giving of thanks – ” All men everywhere lift up holy hands in prayer. First of all, we’re called to pray.
Now I want to talk about some other functions today, and I’m going to go through them rather rapidly. We could spend a lot more time, but I’ve taught them over and over; I’m just going to touch them. The next one is discipling. This is a function of the Church.
In Matthew 28:19-20, our Lord said, going into all the world, make disciples – mathēteusate make disciples. The word mathēteuō is the word “disciple” or “learner.” Make learners, make disciples, “baptizing them” – that’s how you get them started “ – teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you – ” that’s how you keep them going. Discipling, then, is bringing people to Christ and leading them in Christ to maturity. That’s the discipling process.
I love what it says in the book of Matthew when it says that Jesus disciple Joseph of Arimathea. The text actually says, “– and Joseph of Arimathea, who was discipled by Jesus.” What a wonderful thought.
We’re all in that process. In Acts 1:1, Luke writes, “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus – “ referring to the Gospel of Luke, “The former writing – “ he says “ – I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach.” Isn’t that a wonderful thing? He says, “My other letter was all about Jesus began, and this one – “ the book of Acts “ – is all about the carrying on of that work.” Jesus discipled 12, and now, in the book of Acts, we find what the 12 did with their generation. And the book of Acts is a flowing through from what Jesus began. And here you and I are, 2,000 years later, and we’re still working on what Jesus began.
Somebody gave the baton to the apostles; they gave it to somebody else, and somebody else, and somebody else, and somebody gave it to us. And we’re in the same succession of having heard these things to be committed, 2 Timothy 2:2, to passing them on to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also. You see, every Christian’s in a relay race. He takes the baton; he hands the baton. And none of us is in a solo effort. I mean we’re all in flow. And somebody invested in us, and we need to invest it in somebody else, which is to say to a believer, “You ought to be being discipled and be discipling.”
You say, “I don’t know much.” Find somebody who knows less than you do, and tell them what you know. Find somebody who knows more than you do and listen to them. Plug in someplace. Plug in, be taught, and teach. I mean I pour my heart into some people, in the discipling process, and I’m pulling it from somewhere else. All of us have got to be in the flow somewhere. We’re not isolated people out there; we’re in the flow. We’re a chain, all linked and hooked together.
Back to 1 Corinthians 4, where I was a moment ago, I think you have a wonderful indirect insight into the discipling process here. Paul is writing a letter that’s basically a rebuke to the Corinthian church, which he himself brought into existence by the grace of God and the power of the Spirit. And they have departed, in many ways, from the primitive things that should have been basic to their faith. And they’ve launched off into all kinds of sinful things.
So, Paul writes to correct them, and he begins, in verse 14, with a good insight into helping us understand the relationship of a discipler to his disciple. In verse 14 he says, “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though you have ten thousand paidagōgous which means moral guardians, or people giving you spiritual advice “ – in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”
Now, he throws this in because by now they’re saying to themselves, after four-and-a-half chapters of rebuke, “Who does this guy think he is? What gives him the right to talk to us like this?”
He stops and says, “Here’s why. First of all, I’m your spiritual father. That is, I brought you into existence.” And that’s the first thing about discipling.
People say, “Well, your church is into discipleship; what’s your view of evangelism?” You can’t do discipleship unless you do evangelism; who are you going to disciple? You have to beget before you can build up. Right? You have to have a baby before one can grow. Of course we’re committed to that. And the best place for discipleship to begin is to lead someone to Jesus Christ, and there will be a link there that doesn’t exist when you weren’t that key person. Oh, it can be pretty strong with others, but there’s something marvelous about that link of regeneration.
When God uses you to bring someone to Christ, there is an indebtedness, and a sense of responsibility, and a sense of love to you from them that ties you together and enables you to say things to them that you might feel a little hesitant to say to somebody else. But when they know that you are God’s agent to bring them to Christ, there’s something wonderful there that links you together. So, discipleship begins with evangelism.
Now, all of us have picked up somebody else’s, you know, child kicking and screaming somewhere, that nobody is willing to disciple, and we’ve taken them on, and that’s wonderful. That’s wonderful, and we need to keep doing it. Keep doing it. But the link between two people, one of whom led the other to Christ, is marvelous. It all begins in evangelism.
And then discipling moves. Look at verse 14. He says, “ – my beloved sons – ” The attitude in which discipleship occurs is an attitude of love, and love, as I have said, is not an emotion; it’s a commitment of self-sacrificing humble service to one in need. And so, you have an environment of love, which says, “I’ll give my life for you; I’ll give my time for you; I’ll give my prayers for you; I’ll give my insights for you. I give you myself.” That’s an element you can’t – you see, if you don’t care about a person, and if you’re not willing to sacrifice, you never really have the discipling process working in its richest potential.
And then thirdly, in verse 14, he says, “I warn you,” and that’s the word noutheteō, which means to admonish or to warn people with a view to judgment if they don’t change their behavior. It’s corrective. And that’s the third thing about discipling. It first of all begins with salvation. It exists in an era of – in an aura, really, of love, and it is marked by warning. It’s just like a child. You have to warn your children what to stay away from. You can’t just give positive instruction to your kids; you have to give negative instruction, too. That’s why Paul said to the Ephesian elders, in that same passage in Acts 20, at Miletus, “I have not ceased for the space of three years, night and day with tears, to warn you.” To warn you. To warn you. To warn you.
I was asked a week ago, “How important to you is a ministry of warning?” It’s essential.
And in discipling, we’ve got to say to folks, “You can’t keep doing that. You’ve got to stop that.” You’ve got to put the fences up, and the barriers up, and that’s part of discipling.
And then the key, I guess, to all of it’s in verse 16, “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.” You need to say to that disciple, “Look you’ve got to be like me.”
You say, “Whoa, that’s where I bail out, folks. You’ve got to be like me?”
That’s right. In other words, you’ve got to be further along the path than they are in your spiritual development. You’ve got to be able to give some leadership. Now, our Lord isn’t asking for perfection; it’s direction He’s after. It isn’t that you have reached perfection; it’s just that you’re in the right direction, and that other one will follow along. And your imperfection may only reinforce how important it is to follow.
If you were perfect, I don’t know about you, but I’d bail out. I wouldn’t try to follow a perfect person; that’d be very difficult. It’s the imperfection of the person that I follow that helps me understand the path. And so, there needs to be example; that’s the whole point. Paul said, “Be followers of me, as I am of” – whom? – “Christ.”
So, you need to be able to say to someone, “I want you to follow me the way I’m following Christ.” And you don’t say it proudly. You say it – what? – humbly, understanding your own weakness.
And there’s another element in discipleship. In verse 17 he says he’s going to send Timothy. And what will Timothy do? “He’ll bring you into remembrance of my ways, which are in Christ, as I teach everywhere.” And Timothy was going to come and teach, and that’s another ingredient. There’s got to be an imparting of divine truth, because people function off of truth.
So, discipling means bringing someone to Christ; building a relationship of sacrificial love with that person; admonishing that person to change their behavior if it’s going to come to the point of chastening, or forfeiture of blessing; setting a model or a pattern that they can follow; and inputting them with the truth of God. “And that’s what - “ Paul says “ – I’m trying to do with you people, and that’s why I talk the way I talk. In fact - “ he says “ – if you don’t shape up when I come to you, I’m going to bring a rod with me – “ in verse 21 “ – and let you have it. Now – “ he says “ – if you shape up’ I’ll come in a spirit of love and meekness.” So, he really was raising spiritual children, wasn’t he?
Now, beloved, this is what we’re committed to. This has always been the heart of our Church. And Jesus said, “And when a man is fully discipled, he’ll be like his teacher.” Isn’t that good? “When a man is fully discipled - “ it says in the Gospel of Luke “ – he’ll be like his teacher.” We’re trying to reproduce ourselves, reproduce ourselves. See, one of the characteristics of life is that it reproduces. Life that doesn’t reproduce isn’t life; it’s death.
Life reproduces. And you’re pouring yourself into somebody else: maybe a partner in marriage, maybe children, maybe a dear friend, maybe the person you led to Jesus Christ, maybe a bunch of little kids you have in a group, maybe an FOF class of brand new baby Christians, maybe a friends at work - who knows? – but you’re pouring your life in, see? And built into that kind of thing is accountability. Right? Because if you’ve got somebody looking at you and saying, “Show me how; show me how; teach me how; teach me how,” you’ve got to get your act together, and the accountability is so good.
And the ultimate end, of course, is 1 John 2:6. If we say we belong to Christ, if we say we’re in Him, we’ve got to walk the way He walked. Right? So, our model is Christ, and we’re trying to nurture people along in the walk with Christ. And our church is committed to this; we’ve always been committed to this; we’ve always desired to do this. And this is a function that we must be about, every one of us. No, it isn’t optional; it isn’t optional. We’re all to go and bring people to the knowledge of the Savior and begin the process of nurturing and developing. We’re all to pick up those that the Lord brings across or path who need to be discipled. And there might be all different kinds of relationships involved in it.
I’ve always said that discipling is nothing more than building a true friendship with a spiritual center. That’s what it is. So that you’re not friends because you both like baseball, or you’re not friends because you both happen to like the same music, or you both work at the same place, or you have certain likes and dislikes, or you have the same hobby, or you both knew somebody from Indiana. You’re not friends because of some kind of superficial thing. You’re friends, and it’s very deep, and it’s very profound, because at the core of that friendship is an openness about spiritual issues, and that’s what carries discipleship along.
You see, what you’re basically doing is teaching people a godly lifestyle. You’re teaching them biblical responses. And I’ve always said spiritual maturity is when you’re involuntary responses are godly. When your involuntary reactions are virtuous, then you know the Superintendent of God has control. And we’re trying to bring people to the point where they don’t have to think to act right; they react right. That’s the process.
And you know, along the way you’re going to have some failures. I spent an hour, 6:30 to 7:30 every morning, for six months, with one man, Ph.D., philosophy professor at UCLA. Said he came to Christ, wanted to know the truth. He said, “Could you meet with me?” I met an hour, every morning, 6:30 to 7:30 on Tuesday, every week for six months. At the end of that time, he said, “Well, I’ve heard all I want to hear,” and he left. He’s now an Episcopal rector somewhere.
And you look back on those, and you say, “What was the point of all that effort, all that time?” And if nothing else, you fellowship in the sufferings of Christ, who had even a worse thing happen. One of His own sold Him for 30 pieces of silver to be crucified. And if nothing else, you gain a wonderful new understanding of the sufferings of Christ, only in a very small way compared to His discipling.
There’s another function the Church has to be involved in, and that is shepherding. And we could talk a lot about this, but let me just say that we’re committed to the fact that you’ve got sheep, and you’ve got shepherds, and it basically says everybody’s got to care for everybody. We’ve got to be involved in mutually caring and meeting needs.
Jesus said to Peter, “Do you love Me? Do you love Me? Do you love Me?”
Peter says, “You know I do. You know I do. You know I do.”
And Jesus says, “Feed my sheep. Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep.” Shepherd. Take care of folks. And basically, it’s feeding them and leading them; 1 Peter tells us that. Feed the flock, take the oversight. Acts 20:28, same thing: feed and lead; feed and lead; feed and lead. Just like a shepherd. And we want to do that, because how can we say we love God, when we see our brother have need and close up our compassion? Right? How does the love of God dwell in you, if you don’t care about people, if you don’t care about their needs?
And may I suggest to you that we all have to be involved in the shepherding process. I mean you’re out there, bumping into the sheep; you’ve got to find out where they hurt. Meet their needs carefully. If you’ve got enough food on your plate to feed them, and they don’t have any, share your food. If you have enough insight to share with them, and they’re lost and wandering, lead them back. You see, the shepherding process takes place all over. 1 Peter says the Lord is the Chief Shepherd. And the implication is that we are His under-shepherds, and we’re all involved in caring for the sheep. It’s so essential.
You know, we want to shepherd, and it’s hard sometimes. People do fall through the cracks; there’s no question about it. It always breaks my heart, you know, when somebody says, “Well, you know, no one called me. I was sick, “ or, “I had a problem, and no one called me. No one seems to care.” Sometimes I get a letter from distraught people, and they say, “You know, such-and-such happened, and you didn’t call us, and you didn’t care, and no one from the church came by.” And my heart just aches when I hear that.
And I don’t know, sometimes maybe people’s expectation is beyond reality; that they expect maybe that I could be everywhere. As much as that would be something I would love, that’s not possible. But that usually isn’t the case. It’s usually not that I wasn’t there; it’s usually that nobody was there. I mean nobody seemed to step into that time. And this very often happens when people have death in the family. And as soon as the death occurs, everybody swarms around the person, and there’s tremendous reinforcement. And then after the funeral, it’s back to life as usual. And there’s a tremendous depression. All the strength and support has dissipated, and everybody’s back to normal, and the person is left alone just at the time when the real grief begins to take place. And we lose that sensitive touch.
Like the shepherd, you know, who, it says in John 10, he said, “I am the Shepherd,” and then He said, “I am the Door.” What that meant was, it was the Shepherd who was lying down across the doorway. Every sheep that came in or went out had to go over Him. And He dropped His staff when they came in and stopped every one of them and checked them over for every bruise and every nick. And when there was a need, He took oil and He put it in. That’s why it talks about, “My cup runneth over,” and, “the staff comforts me,” in Psalm 23. And the Shepherd cared for His sheep. There’s that shepherding responsibility.
You know, and I realize, too, that there are some wonderful people, quiet folks, and they don’t get shepherded because they’re just out there, and they’re quiet, and we don’t know about it. And they get minimal shepherding. And then there’s some people who are always in sin and all messed up, and they’ve got shepherds hovering around them all the time in groups, trying to get them straightened out. I mean really.
We have committee meetings on some people, eight elders, “What are we going to do with them?” Well, we brought up one this morning in our prayer time, “What are we going to do with this guy? This guy’s unfaithful to his wife. This guy’s – and this is the umpteenth time, and every time we go through this process, he does it again. What are we going to do with him?” So, we prayerfully brought him to God. You know, we kind of give up in the human realm. But I mean he gets shepherded.
He doesn’t even want to be shepherded, he just wants, “Get out of my life.”
And there are other dear folks, who are quietly sitting somewhere saying, “Please come into my life,” and we don’t know that. And I realize it. And that’s why, you see, we can’t carry the load. We all have to see ourselves as sheep and shepherds, too, in a sense, caring for each other. And I really do want us to shepherd. We have an account to give to God about this. It’s your church, you know; it’s not John MacArthur’s church. It’s yours; it’s Christ’s Church. He’s given it into your stewardship; it’s yours and mine and all of us, and we all have care, and we all have to give account.
And shepherding is a function of mutual caring, meeting needs, making sure people are moving down the track spiritually. You think we have you fill out your registration card on Sunday just as an exercise? Those cards are gone over by some dear folks every week, and they’re sent out to folks who can call those who are absent over a period of time, to try to shepherd those people, find out why they’re not here, “What are your needs? What are your problems?” That is essential.
First thing I did at Grace Church, the first week I came to this church, over in a little office in the front of the chapel, was to develop a way that we could shepherd the people. I knew we could feed them; we just wanted to make sure we could lead them, because the shepherd feeds and leads. And lead them to Christ’s likeness.
There’s another function, and that’s the function of building up families. Building up families. I believe that the family is God’s unit for passing righteousness on from one generation to the next. I believe this is abundantly clear in Deuteronomy chapter 6, that God ordains the family as the basic unit of righteous preservation in the world, and it’s to pass on its truth from one generation to the next.
Now, you know as well as I do, that whatever God has ordained, Satan has attacked. Right? Whatever God made to preserve righteousness, Satan attacks. And basically, that comes down to three things: the family, the Church, and the government. And where God has ordained a government for the punishment of evildoers and the good of those who are right, Satan will destroy that if he can. And wherever there is a church where Christ is exalted, and the Word is proclaimed, he will attack that. And wherever there is a family to pass on righteousness, he’ll do all he can to disintegrate that. Those are the basic units of preservation in society: the family, the Church, and the home, and the government.
And people say, “Do you think there’s a conspiracy to tear up our government?” Of course there is; and it’s succeeding. Our society is on the way down. Why? Because the mass of our society are godless people. And so, naturally, they are the pawns of Satan, and the system will collapse.
And do you think he’s attacking the Church? Well, of course. The Church is rank with liberalism; it’s revolting. I read this week about the new, nonsexist bible that the National Council of Churches has just published, with all sexist terms removed, such as, “Christ is the Son of God.” He’s no longer the Son of God in this bible, He’s the child of God. It’s nonsexist. They have absolutely no concern with whether or not the Holy Spirit said He was the Son of God. And that just attacks the – that’s the National Council of Churches, folks, Churches.
And then the family, disintegrated and blasted from pillar to post by the attacks of an immoral, lust-filled society, can hardly survive. And the Church stands in a vital place of preserving that unit of society, the family. And we are committed to that as a function, aren’t we? We’re committed to teaching the kids, and teaching the young people in the junior high, the high school, the college kids. We’re committed to discipling them. I’m so thrilled to see guys discipling, one on one, little sixth-grade kids. I’m thrilled to see people tied into our young people, because they’re the ones that have to preserve this thing in the next generation. I want them to know what God’s standards are of marriage and the family. It’s wonderful that we have counselors, that we have family ministries, a family center over there, and many things that work towards the preservation, the building of a godly church of families.
Ephesians 5, you know, says, “Don’t be drunk with wine.” And the text, of course, in 5:18 is talking about religious drunkenness. The cultists of the day of the apostle Paul used to think that they could ascend to communion with the deities if they could get drunk enough. And they got drunk, like the people in the Orient do on a high with drugs, to commune with God, to ascend to a higher plane. And in their drunken stupor, they thought they were communing with the gods through their lustful orgies with temple prostitutes. And Paul says, “If you think you want to communicate with God, it isn’t going to be done through drunkenness; it’s going to be done through the filling of the Spirit of God. That’s how you commune with the Living God.”
And as a result of that, one of the things that will happen is you’ll submit to one another. And how does that flesh out? Wives will submit to their husbands. Husbands will submit to their wives by loving them with a nourishing, cherishing, purifying love. Children will submit to their parents, and parents will submit to the needs of their children by not provoking them to wrath, but nurturing them and bringing them up in the things of Christ. All of that flows out of a Spirit-controlled kind of life. And that’s what we want to see. A function of the Church then is to bring families to the control of the Spirit of God, where they can see submission, because only in submission can relationships be meaningful and blessed. Where you have everybody fighting for their supremacy, and fighting for their own rights, you disintegrate the possibility of any meaningful relationship. And so, family is a function. You want to hold up each other’s family. You want to help each other with kids; pray for each other’s kids. Do you pray for your friends’ – when you see some kid that’s rowdy and unruly, or isn’t the way he ought to be, what’s your reaction? Do you pray for them? Do you call the folks and say, “I’d like to help you, if there’s anything I can do to work with your child.” You’ve got to care for family; it’s a function.
Another function is training. Training. And by this, I mean equipping people: equipping them for a ministry; equipping them for a task. “And He gave some, apostles; and prophets; and evangelists; and teaching pastors - “ Ephesians 4:11 says, “ – for the perfecting - “ or the bringing to the perfection, or the bringing to a useful place “ – of the saints - “ equipping them, for the equipping of the saints, the perfecting of the saints “ – for the work of the ministry – “ Ephesians 4:12.
We’re trying to train people for ministry; that’s our desire. Not just to give out spiritual truth in sort of general terms, but to train people so they can use that. And you take a course in evangelism; and you take all those verses that are floating around in your head, and you nail them all down, and you get a plan as to how they work. And you go out with a new holy zeal and boldness because you’re confident in how the presentation should go.
Or maybe you feel in your heart called to the mission field, and you run to somebody and say, “Boy, God’s calling me to the mission field.” We’re not going to pick you up and ship you next week. We’re going to spend a few years getting you ready. So that when you go, you’re going to be maximally equipped. The Church has got to be an equipping ministry, a training ministry, constantly training people.
We have courses – I don’t know if you know this – in our church for training people, training them ultimately to be deacons and elders. There are courses here for training in evangelism, and there are missions training courses. We have many things. I don’t know if you know it, but Logos has a second-year program for training people to work with young people. That’s a full year’s course in youth work. Training people in the seminary for preaching the Word of God and teaching. Training young people for ministry in the Church through Logos. Not just giving them generalities, but tracking them down a way that they can be trained, and out the other end they’re prepared and ready and equipped. The Church has got to function in the training area. We have to train children so that they’ll know how to be the right kind of parent; so they’ll know how to be the right kind of mates when they marry; so they’ll know how to be the right kind of leaders in the Church. Training. That is taking the teaching and putting it together in a way that gives a person a track where they can move from an undeveloped, to a developed place; from a minimally useful, to a maximally useful place. Training is essential. And the equipping of the saints is all part of that. You ought to be involved in that? You ought to be being trained for some specific task, consistent with your gifts.
Another – I wish I could say more about that, time is getting away – another one is giving. Giving. That’s a function of the Church. Giving. That’s a function. I mean ask yourself the question, “Are you involved in shepherding? Are you functioning in shepherding? Are you functioning in prayer? Are you functioning in discipling? Are you functioning in helping the family be sustained as God would have it? Are you functioning by training or being trained? Are you functioning in giving?”
I ask myself that, “Lord, do You want more? Am I doing what You want me to do?” And I want to listen to the Spirit of God, as he prompts my heart about all these things, to be more faithful. I mean I want to spend my life; I’m not trying to keep any of it. I want to do my last gasp, on the last day God has for me here. I want to end up right on target. I don’t want to be full of energy and going to heaven. Like Henry Martyn says, “Let me burn out for God.” I just want to go when I’m spent, but I want to maximize that.
And I see so many Christians who just sort of tentatively play around on the surface, and they make no major investment in the dynamics of function and ministry. And so, there’s no sense of accomplishment, and there will be, however, a time of accountability, and a forfeiture of some things.
What about giving? Macedonians gave abundantly out of their deep poverty. It’s never a question of how much you have; that has nothing to do with it. People say, “If I had more; I’d give more.” No, that’s not true. Because it’s not a matter of how much you have; it’s a matter of your heart, isn’t it?
And Paul said, in 2 Corinthians 9, “Sow sparingly, reap sparingly; sow bountifully, reap bountifully.” You give a little, you get a little back; you give a lot, you get a lot back. In other words, whatever you give, God returns to you interest. You invest with God. You don’t really give; you just invest. Jesus said, “Give, and it’ll be given to you, pressed down, shaken together, running over.” And so, God is trying to teach us that we can trust Him with our stuff. Got that? It’s just the reverse of what He’s asking you. He gives you stuff and says, “Can I trust you with this stuff?” And you prove that He can trust you with the stuff when you can trust Him with the stuff, and you give it back.
You see, the best lesson you’ll ever learn, in terms of stewardship, is you don’t own anything – nothing. Nothing you have is yours; it’s His. It’s only to be managed to prove whether you’re a worthy steward; that’s all. That’s all. And if you can’t manage that, He’s not going to give you the true riches. That’s what it says in Luke.
What about giving? Some people – some of you don’t give at all. You don’t give at all. Oh, maybe token; you don’t give. I don’t know why, but you don’t. We don’t need your money; I don’t want your money. Grace Church is not fading away. But you’re missing something wonderful because you’re missing the place of obedience and the place of multiplied blessing.
And some people give a little; I mean they throw in a couple of bucks, or they give minimally and can’t give more than that because they’re spending it all on things that are going to burn up. And that’s kind of sad. That’s real sad. And I grieve, not for us, but for them. I hope you’re giving generously, because I want you to be in the place of blessing. Don’t just throw God tokens.
David says, “I’m not going to give God that which costs me nothing; that’s a mockery.” You’ve got to learn first that it doesn’t belong to you. And then once you release it, you’re free. And then you just manage it. And if somebody else needs it more than you do, it’s theirs. And that’s the spirit of the book of Acts; they had all things in common; and they were selling and giving as those had need.
Where are we in that? One of the guys showed me a little deal. A church that has half as many people attending as we do, and it gets twice as much in the offering. And he said, “Why do you think this is?”
I said, “I don’t know.” And as I began to think about it, I thought, “Well, it might be for the wrong motives? Maybe they’re under a legalistic system, where they have to give, and if that’s the case, it doesn’t matter what they give. Because if it’s all given for the wrong reason, what’s the difference.” Right? Because it brings back to them no blessing.
But on the other hand, if they’re all giving out of an abundant heart of love, it’s pretty exciting. But I know this, folks, an awful lot of people in this church aren’t doing what they should. And week by week – it says, “Lay by in store the first day of the week” – I have to examine my own heart, because there are weeks I don’t do what I should have done, either, and I’m not obedient to the Spirit of God, and I want to wrestle with that every week. Every week.
Giving is a function. And not only giving that we may have the work here go on, but giving beyond here. See, the only reason we want a ministry here is to advance the kingdom beyond here. You get the picture? I mean whatever comes in here goes right back out again. We’re not trying to amass a fortune. We were talking this morning; this auditorium basically – just the auditorium part of this facility – this auditorium was built and furnished for about $750,000.00, a little more maybe. That’s pretty good. I mean you don’t need to worship – you don’t need a lot of holy hardware hanging everywhere, do you? Stained glass windows and all that stuff? You don’t need all that stuff. And the money that we do have, we try to be good stewards of and send the rest out; train people to go; reach those who have need. I mean God gave, didn’t He? Christ gave. How can God’s people in Christ’s Church not give? Be consistent.
Finally, fellowship is a function. And I know that you believe it’s an essential one. Fellowship just means a common life together. And I guess, in a way, it sums up everything we’ve said. It’s just communing, just being together, loving each other, sharing life with each other. It’s sitting at a table and hearing someone unbear their heart. It’s praying with someone who has a need. It’s visiting in a hospital. It’s sitting in a class. It’s going to a home Bible study. It’s singing a hymn with somebody you never met, holding the same hymnal and maybe talking about what Christ means to you. It’s new Christians sharing their joy. It’s sharing a prayer request about a loved one that’s ill. It’s all kinds of things. It’s common life. See? It’s common life. It’s having everything in common – everything. That’s fellowship. And that’s a function.
Do you belong somewhere? Do you fellowship? Do you open your life up? Do you expose yourself, with all your scar, all your problems to some other folks who have scars and problems, too, so together you can minister? Fellowship.
So, what are the functions? Pretty simple, really – preaching, teaching, evangelism, missions, worship, prayer, discipling, shepherding, family, training, giving, fellowship; those are the essential ones. Now listen, you say, “John, we’ve talked about skeletons.” That’s right. “We’ve talked about internal attitudes.” Right. “We’ve talked about function. What about flesh?”
Want to know something? It really doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter. I mean, if I can borrow my body analogy, man looks on the outward appearance, God looks – what? – on the heart. Do you want to know something? A church is what a church is at its heart. What I want to know about a church is what is its skeleton. Is it a church committed to a high view of God? To the absolute priority of Scripture, doctrinal clarity, personal holiness, and spiritual authority? And what are its attitudes flowing through? Obedience, and love, and service, and unity, and all of those things. And what are its functions? And then, folks, it really isn’t going to matter a bit what it looks like on the outside, or how it fleshes out, or how its programs take shape. Do you understand that?
When God, by His wonderful grace, brought me to Grace Church, I, in my own heart, said, first of all, and then said it to the men, “God, I know this, that if we are what You want us to be, there’ll be no trouble ministering effectively.” Because what we are is the issue. The flesh – that’s just the case. And so many times, as we said early in this series, when pastors come, like this week, to our Church, they’re looking for some flesh to drag back and implement in their Church. And it won’t hold up; it won’t stand; it won’t live because it doesn’t have in it all these things that are its life, you see. And if all of these things are there, the flesh is really not that important. It isn’t so important what it looks like on the outside; it’s the beauty that it is on the inside that speaks of its reality.
We flesh out our ministries. How do we – let me just think about the flesh for a minute. What is the flesh, the outward manifestation of our preaching/teaching? Well, it goes on all the time. It goes on Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, home Bible studies, our flocks, groups, fellowship groups, classes, Logos, our Christian school, our seminary. I mean we’re teaching, teaching, teaching. Preaching – preaching here; preaching in the jails; preaching in the rescue missions; preaching on tape; preaching on radio. I mean it goes on all the time. On any given Sunday, many of our elders are out preaching other places. We’re constantly out at that work.
And what about evangelism and missions? We have lifestyle evangelism. We have friendship evangelism; inquirer Bible studies; Fundamentals of the Faith for those that are newly born; discipleship evangelism; training programs. There are all kinds of things. Our baptismal services are basically a testimony of the grace of God and the saving of souls and an impetus to further evangelism.
We look at missions, and we see the development of a strategy for all around the world. We have a training group of people that are in a process meeting every month. A large group, ready to go to the mission field when God has brought all things into readiness. We have foreign radio development now in the Philippines and Guam; reaching with tape centers in Singapore, and Bombay, and I don’t where all - Manila. We’re in South America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe. I mean as far as fleshing out, it’s going on. You know? And now I understand that they’ve translated the family series into Japanese, and all the evangelical churches in Japan are going to see me speak in Japanese. Hard to imagine.
We’re developing video now. We’re going to start doing video, because the church in Liberia, which is an English-speaking country in Africa, they have asked if we would send materials and people, teams over to Liberia to train the evangelicals of the nation of Liberia. And all of these things just kind of flesh out, and it can happen all different ways if the heart is right. See?
Corporate worship. We worship on the Lord’s Day. Our service in the morning is to lift up God’ to praise His name, to praise the name of the Savior; to sing songs about His glory, His attributes, and all that He is to us. And we worship at His table. We worship in special services. Our music is geared for worship.
As a pastor, in the prayer of the morning, I try to be a priest that lifts you to God, that you may enter His presence and worship Him. And all the teaching we give is that you may know Him better, and out of that knowledge may come worship. Prayer goes on all the time.
Every Tuesday morning of every week, our staff meets together, and we spend an hour in the Word of God, and then an hour in prayer and worship, taking to God the needs of the church.
The elders meet every Sunday morning for prayer, and have done that for years and years and years, bearing the burdens of the people. And all through the week, there are prayer groups here and there and everywhere going on: homes, flocks, groups of people, and here among our staff and leaders.
Discipling, it goes on everywhere. Every group in our church is committed to a discipling process – every group. Discipling the leaders, and discipling the constituents of every group, from the littlest kids to the oldest adults, through flocks and all of our ministries.
And how does shepherding flesh out? With elders and deacons and deaconesses who care for people. With our love and action ministry. You can call in, if you have a need, and we’ve got folks to meet that need. In fact, through our flocks, you know, we have a whole system now, where if a person has a need, they let us know, and we can find out somebody in their area who’s volunteered to meet that kind of need: everything from fixing a transmission, to calling on somebody in the hospital. That’s all a part of shepherding.
Family – all kinds of classes and training means working with your kids and your children and babies and all the family center ministries, Every Woman’s Grace. We have classes for women whose husbands are not Christians. And by the way, when one becomes a Christian, they have a graduation party. And there’s a big celebration when a person graduates out of that class. All kinds of things: Proverbs Programs for Parents; fathers coaching, clinics for fathers to teach them how to be a family priest. Premarital classes – a wonderful, wonderful course for those that are being married. It really puts them in touch with the things they need to know. Training courses for evangelism, and for jail work, and mission work – and it just goes on and on in the training area, all kinds of things that are happening.
In the giving area, our Sunday offerings. And in the time that you give, and the effort that you give in sacrificing time and energy and gifts and serving Christ go on all the time.
Fellowship. Fellowship fleshes out everywhere at all times. Fellowship groups on Sunday are a great focus for that, a great focus. Flocks and many other things. That isn’t really the issue. The fleshing out just happens when all the stuff on the inside is right.
I believe God’s called our church into existence, and it’s a unique place. It is a unique place. Rarely does a Sunday go by, when I stand in the first-time visitors’ reception, and a group doesn’t come by and say, “Oh, we’re from so-and-so.” Last week it was Florida or Michigan. Last week was Michigan, and the week before was Florida or vice versa. And they said, “We’re from,” let’s say, “Michigan.”
“Oh, how nice. Are you visiting?”
“No, we just moved here.”
“Oh, you did? Why?”
“To come to this church.”
And then they’ll say, “Do you know a place where we might find somewhere to stay, or a house, and maybe a job?”
“You mean you just packed up and left everything and came?”
“Yes, we wanted to come to Grace Church.”
And a lot of times, there’s not just one or two, but there’s shhh a whole bunch of little ones. And they’ll say, “Do you have anybody who could kind of help us find a place to stay? We just believe life centers around the Church, not the job.”
And that happens, and I get a little lump in my throat and I say, “Lord, keep us what You want us to be.” You see? A lot of folks – a lot of folks look into that. We want to be His Church, built His way, for His glory. Amen?
Thank you, Father, for our time this morning. Good time. Sweet songs of faith ring in our ears. And the thought that You’re in this very room, and because You’re here, there’s quite enough love for all of us. Quite enough joy, quite enough hope, quite enough power to chase away any darkness. Oh, what a thrilling thought that is. Thank You for what You’ve done in our fellowship and in this church, for all that is good, You’ve done. All that is less than that, we’ve done. Help us to let You work in Your way.
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