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Growing together in the gospel

Ephesians 4: 11 16
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So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and
teachers,
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to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be
built up
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until we all 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.
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Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here
and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their
deceitful scheming.
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Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in
every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
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rom him the
whole body, !oined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds
itself up in love, as each part does its work.
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C#$C $uchong Conte%t& 'ilestone of church membership. Classes in (ovember )*+,.
Today, there are lots of discussions on how we can grow the church. Some say you gotta
know your market segment and meet their felt needs. -thers say the key is to have a
network of cell groups where real community happens. Some say forget about church,
!ust meet at Starbucks and have spiritual conversations. -thers say lets bring back ancient
religious symbols to give people a sacred e%perience. Still others say& If it brings people
to church, does it matter how you do it as long as it.s ethical/
I.m not saying all of them are wrong. In fact, we can learn lots from them. or e%ample,
we have a children.s library because we discern that people in $uchong have young
families and there is a need we can meet. 0nd we do have covenant groups where close
bonding and relationships are formed, sometimes over Starbucks or Coffee 1ean. #uring
Good riday23aster, we do appreciate time"honored tradition of The Stations of the Cross
filled with sacred symbolism.
1ut having said that, it would be silly to start construction on a building without first
knowing what kind of structure we plan to build. 0n apartment is different from a
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bungalow. They all have different blueprints, different materials, uses and shapes. The
process of building will depend on what you want to build.
The same goes for building a church. 1ecause a church is not a profit making entity. It.s
not a multi"level marketing company. It is not a social club. It.s not a 4otary Club where
people come together to do social works. In fact, a healthy church is unlike any other
human organi5ation because it.s not devised by men.
The church is God.s idea. It is a central theme in the biblical salvation story 6 the church
is a new humanity created by God the ather, she is the 1ride loved and redeemed by
God the Son and she is the new temple in whom God the 7oly Spirit dwells.
So it only makes sense to see what God.s word has to say about how 7e wants to grow
7is church. 8e should look to God.s instruction manual to build 7is church since it.s 7is
design. -therwise, looking back in +* years. time, we may end up building in vain. So
that.s what we will look at together as we consider church membership today.
1) How does the church grow?
The Greek word for church is ekklesia, a gathering or a congregation of people for
displaying God.s glory and sharing 7is gospel in the world. 0nd the Scriptures use
various metaphors to describe her& 8e are branches of the same vine, sheep of the same
flock, brothers and sisters in the same family, stones built in the same building and, from
the passage we read !ust now, we are members together of the same body.
It means all of us are connected to the 1ody of Christ though we have different functions,
abilities and roles. 0nd the entire body grows and builds itself up in love, as each part
does its work 9v+:;. If any member is cut off from the body, it will shrivel and die. 3very
member is !oined and held together by every supporting ligament. 8e are all needy
people. 0nd we are needed. -ur lives are inter"dependent. 8e rely on each other to grow.
)
The hand cannot say to the foot, <I don.t need you=. 0nd we receive instruction and
nutrition from Christ himself, who is the head.
(ow, how does the body grow/ 7ow do we grow into Christ"likeness/ $aul tells us in
verse ++& Christ himself gave us leaders 9apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and
teachers; to equip his people for works of service, so that the body may be built up. >erse
+? says& <speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature
body of Christ=. Speaking the truth in love is 7-8 we build the body up.
1ut what does <speak the truth in love= mean/ Is it like when your wife asked& <#o I look
fat/= you will tell it as it is, but gently& <8ell, dear, let.s !ust say you are hori5ontally
endowed. #on.t worry, there.s more of you to love.= @ou tell the hard facts, but do it in
love. That.s partly true, yes. 1ut crucial to spiritual growth of the church is we need to
speak biblical truth to each other. 8e need to feed each other with truth about God.
Spiritual truth of 7is promises. 3ncouragements from what Christ has done on the cross.
Confront sinful patterns with the truth in love.
@ou can tell by looking at the conte%t& In verse ++ all the leaders that Christ has given to
equip us are all truth agents& apostles and prophets are the authoritative, foundational
witnesses to the truth 9their teachings are now preserved for us in the 1ible;, the
evangelists 9who do the work of evangelism with the truth of the gospel;, the pastors and
teachers 9who take the truth and use it to feed and protect the flock of God;. 3very one of
them equips us with God.s truth. They are truth agents who equip us for ministry.
8e can also see in verse +,& <speaking the truth in love= is put in contrast with childish
thinking, being easily deceived and swayed by every wind of false teaching. 0s we
speaking God.s truth in love, it transforms us, strengthens us, comforts us and gives us a
stable anchor and unity in sound doctrine. That.s how we grow.
0nother way to put it& The core business of the church is to grow people into mature,
disciple"making disciples of Christ by teaching them to obey everything that 7e
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commanded. 8e are talking about people growth and gospel growth. God.s word is like
seeds that we sow. It.s like rain that nourishes us and makes us bear fruit.
If this is not happening, it doesn.t matter how much programs, how many members, how
big is the budget and how grand a building we have 6 there is no spiritual growth.
7ow do we help each other grow into the measure of the fullness of Christ/ 0nswer& by
speaking truth about God and about Christ in love. 1oth are crucial& Truth and love. Truth
without love is !udgmental and puffs up in pride. 1ut love without truth is confused and
compromising. 8e need to learn the art of listening well in order to understand, not !udge
and feel what others feel. 8e also need to learn the courage to speak a word of truth in
love even when it may get uncomfortable. God.s truth comforts and assures us. It can
also challenge and call us to change.
This can happen in many wonderful ways in C#$C $uchong&
+; It can happen in small groups when we gather for covenant groups, youth groups,
ministry meetings and one"to"one 1ible study.
); It can happen when we read prayers and the 1ible with our children and spouse. -r in
daily conversations as we eat and drive to school.
A; It can happen during water cooler conversations at the work place with colleagues.
,; 8hen people prayerfully speak God.s truth in love from the pulpit, in class rooms and
training workshops. 8hen worship leaders lead us in worship grounded in Scripture.
8hen pastors, teachers and evangelists model how to faithfully read and apply the
Scriptures, we are equipped to serve others.
?; -r when we follow up with new comers at the children.s library over lunch or invite
guests on Sundays to our homes. $erhaps !ust over Bopitiam, when we discuss what
we learnt during sermon and invite God into our conversations.
There are endless possibilities but what happens is the same& God.s people prayerfully
speaking God.s word in love to someone elseC That.s what the 7oly Spirit would use to
cause people to grow and bear fruit. That.s our core business. 3verything else supports it.
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ho will do the wor!s o" #inistr$?
If a guest walks in here and asks you& <8ho is the minister around here/= 7ow would
you reply/ 8hat.s the correct answer& 4ev 8ong/ $astor #avid/ 1ut the biblical answer
to <8ho is the minister around here/= is& <0ll of us are. 0ll of us do the works of
ministry. 0ll of us speak the truth in love=.
@es, God has given some members of the church with the gift and responsibility to lead
and equip God.s people. 1ut look at verse ++& 3quip them to do what/ or works of
ministryC or works of serviceC So who are the ministers/ -nly the pastor or teachers
who do the equipping/ (ope, a minister is a servant so all of us serve by doing ministry.
There is a die"hard heresy that only full time, paid people have a ministry or only what
happens on the pulpit on Sundays count as ministry or only <specially"called, specially"
trained= people have a ministry. The main function for the rest of God.s people is to assist
a few who can do <real ministry=. 8e support with our time, energy, prayer and finances
so that full time, ordained pastors"teachers can do the really important thing.
1ut that.s not the model given in God.s word. Deaders equip God.s people to minister.
God.s people do the Ereal ministry. of speaking the truth in love to each other. -f
encouraging and comforting each other. -f challenging and correcting each other. 0s
members of the 1ody of Christ, we all have various spiritual gifts and roles that would
enrich and are needed by others. The hand cannot say to the foot, <@ou don.t need me
anyway so I can sit back, rela% and en!oy the show=. The apostle $eter says& @ou are a
chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people so you could show
forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 8e
all are called and have ministry as prophets, kings and priests in the world.
or e%ample, let.s imagine a discussion about the Children.s Dibrary. Some people would
look at it and say& <I.ve been around for four years. It.s wonderful to see so many
families come to read and borrow books. 1ut how do we reach them with the gospel/ It.s
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!ust not happening yet.= -thers look at it and say& <@ou know what we need first of all.
8e need to encourage and mobili5e more people to support the work. Strategically, we
need more librarians, story tellers and befrienders.= Still other say& <1ut you know
what.s even more important& 7ave we thought about children who cannot read or come
from poorer families or with special needs/ 7ow can we serve them too/=
If we are not careful, we may misunderstand each other& <That fella is always thinking
about evangelism, what about serving the poor/= or <That fella is always thinking about
social !ustice, but who.s going to do the work/= 1ut in truth, each one has a unique
perspective because the first person has a prophetic ministry 9how can we evangeli5e/;,
the second person has a kingly ministry 9how can we get organi5ed strategically/; and the
third person has a priestly ministry 9how can we sacrificially serve others/; 0nd we need
all of three contributing to the same Children Dibrary so it can be more effective in
serving others and evangeli5e. 0nd we need each other to make the best decision 9blind
spots;. That.s why as part of the church membership class ne%t month, Tom will discuss
about how we can serve and use our spiritual gifts to build up each other.
If prayerfully speaking God.s word in love is what brings spiritual life and all of us are
ministers called and gifted by God, how would that change the way we think about
church growth/
7ere are important mind shifts& It means our priority is in equipping people for
evangelism and to make disciples, rather than running events, attending committee
meetings, managing property or organi5ing programs. @es, we do need to be responsible
stewards of our resources and finances. 1ut we cannot be so caught up in running
programs and committees that we lose sight of our core business in making disciples.
4ather than to start with gaps in our ministries and programs and see how people can fit
into them, our priority is to start with people and where they are atF and then consider
how we can help them grow in spiritual maturity and what gifts and ministries look like
for them.
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0 newcomer 98endy; she is a solid Christian, a teacher and has a passion for evangelism
in her network of colleagues and students& <#avid " how can I serve/= #o we look around
and see a gap in the worship2music ministry& <-B, you can plug the gap here/= -r do we
see her gifts and encourage her to pursue evangelism/ That.s the test. %&inistr$ &ind shi"t ppt)
'astl$ what is the goal o" our #inistr$ in ()*( *uchong?
3very process has an end product. So what is the result from our process of speaking the
truth in love with each other/ 8hat is the goal of our ministry/
The first goal of our ministry is the building up of the body of Christ. >erse +)& Christ
gives leaders to the church Gfor the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the
building up of the body of Christ.G It means we are in the business of raising up mature
Christians " equipping disciples who do interpersonal ministry wherever they are. The
fruitfulness we are after is that people are trained and sent out to make disciples, plant
new churches and make an impact in the work place. In this hectic and mobile world,
people don.t remain in the same place for very longC There will always be people who
come and go for work, for studies, for relocation. 0nd that.s okC The priority is not that
this church will grow in si5e and budget. That.s secondary. The priority is that we want to
produce and e%port mature disciples who speak the truth in love wherever they are 6 to
0ustralia, >ietnam, (orwich and beyond. The church should function like a body where
every member serves in the power of the 7oly Spirit.
The second goal of our ministry is the unity of faith and the unity of the knowledge of the
Son of God. >erse +A& Guntil we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge
of the Son of God.G That.s why in (ovember 9as part of church membership; we will
have conversations on <1asic 1eliefs=. There are lots of things that Christians can agree
to disagree about 9small or big government, GST or no GST, different opinions about rap
music, organic food, football teams etc;. 1ut at the same time, there are historic doctrines
of the Christian faith shared by believers across the ages 6 we need to have unity of faith,
unity in knowledge of Christ and what he has done for us in the gospel.
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8hy is such a unity and foundation important/ Dook at v+,& So that we will no longer be
infants. 8e should be humble and be child"like in faith. 1ut we should never be childish
in our thinking. 8e should not be tossed back and forth by winds of popular opinion or
cultural fads& <It.s not cool to preach about sin and !udgment in this day and age. 4ela%
and forget about it=. The opposite of having unity in faith and knowledge is to be naIve
and easily conned by craftiness of people in deceitful scheming. I do consider myself a
Echarismatic. Christian 6 I believe God works miracles, heals and delivers people from
bondage today. 1ut I don.t think it.s spiritually healthy for us to chase after signs and
wonders, to be obsessed with the latest phenomenon that comes to town like holy
laughter, holy bark, holy roar, gold teeth2gold dust. Some of these movement leaders were
e%posed with marital and financial scandals. #on.t be naIve. 1e centered on the gospel.
The final goal of our ministry is that the church becomes mature like Christ. >erse +A&
1uild up the body Guntil we all attainC to the measure of the stature which belongs to the
fullness of Christ.G 0 common feeling among Christians is that they only get prayed for
and visited by when they.re sick or in trouble. -f course, we are all people in need of
help, friendship and prayer. It takes courage to be open to share needs and find help. 1ut
we shouldn.t have a culture where people pray only when reacting to crisis. The goal of
ministry is also about pro"actively encouraging people to move forward in holy living
and spiritual maturity whether they have problems or not. 8e want to be comfortable
teaching and praying for one another even when things are going well that we may
present everyone mature in Christ. 9Colossians +&)J;
8e aim for the body of Christ to grow into the full grown stature of Christ, the mature
man. 8e are not yet there. It.s work in progress. 8e want unity in faith, we want to equip
the saints for ministry so that the church reflects in our character, our spiritual life, our
service, our relationship the fullness of our Dord 7imself. 8e want to the world to see
Christ magnified and lifted up through us.
J