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Get in the Game–the Member’s Ministry
In every sport, there are three kinds of people in attendance . . . those who make things happen on the field, those who watch things happen in the stands, and those who don’t know what’s happening (like a homerun at the football game—“What happened?”)
In the Church, it’s the same. In fact, it’s called the 80/20 rule–20% of the people do 80% of the work in the Church, 20% do 80% of the giving, the serving, or the playing on the field. The vast majority in the Church watch from the stands, or worse, don’t even know what is happening.
Which one are you? Are you a normal Christian or an average Christian? Average is one who looks at others and says, “I am okay.” Normal looks at Scripture and says, “Am I pursuing God’s commands by the power of the Spirit?”
The Scripture teaches that all true children of God are full-time Christians. It is not true that pastors are paid to be good and everyone else is . . . good for nothing. Pastors are supported so they can invest greater time to study, prayer, training and teaching in order to shepherd the flock that God has given them. They are not paid to be better Christians, nor are they paid so they can be full-time Christians. Every Christian is a full-time Christian–in every situation and every circumstance each believer is to be ready to represent Christ.
And the Bible declares that there is no unemployment in the kingdom of God. Everyone has a job to do. The problem is this–the work of the Lord is hard work. You can go unappreciated and unnoticed. As a result, countless ministries go unfulfilled, even though many workers are needed. FBC is the same . . . why is that?
Why is there a worker shortage in the Church–because we have forgotten that every Christian is called to full-time ministry. Only a few are financially supported in that lifelong task. You gave your life to Christ–you’re His slave, you follow His Word. The ministry of this church is by, with and through its many parts. And I bet you’ve forgotten just how crucial each of you are to the health of the entire church family here.
To prove that to you, open your Bibles to the book of 1 Peter 4:10 to 11. We are studying this book verse-by-verse, and today I’d like us to pull back from the business of our life and ministry, and take a good look at what we’re about, how we’re doing, what we’re doing, and more importantly why. Allow me today to remind you of some commands that apply to every Christian in this room.
All true Christians are slaves of Christ–He is Lord, and we do what He says. Will you today–hearer or doer? This passage is not for super-Christians, but for every believer. So compare your life against a normal, biblical Christian described in 1 Peter 4:10 to 11, where He says to us, “As each one has received a gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so, by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Let me dress the stage–Peter is writing people just like you and me. They are scattered over a wide area and he writes to them as a warm and caring pastor/apostle, giving them great encouragement and exhortation as to how to live in a world that does not understand or like Christians. He shares with them about their salvation, exhorts them with the importance of submission, and finally instructs them how to deal with suffering. In the midst of his instruction about persecution, he is moved by the Spirit of God to give some practical commands as to how to survive until Jesus comes again.
And that is exactly what he does starting in verse 7. He says to us, if you are going to survive a hostile world then remember that your time is short. Therefore think clearly and keep cool–don’t panic. Have an eternal perspective, give yourself to prayer, work at your love for one another, and show Christ’s love to the lost. Finally, Peter wraps up his survival exhortations with verses 10 to 11.
If we are going to survive in a hostile world, then we must be fully involved in ministry. To make it until Christ comes, each one of us must minister to the body of Christ. Every Christian is in full-time ministry. Peter wanted his readers and us to grab this so much, he spent one verse demonstrating its importance and another showing its ingredients.
#1 The importance of you serving in ministry
Since every word is God’s inspired Word, let’s see what God has to say word-by-word.
First The ministry of each individual member of the church is crucial
Notice how Peter starts verse 10, “As each one has received a special gift.” The word for “each one” in the original Greek is emphatic. Each one starts the verse, giving it emphasis in the Greek. God’s point here is that each one of you is crucial for the survival of the whole Church.
In God’s Word, there is no gap between the clergy and laity. We are trying to be biblical when we say we want a lay-run church–everyone is in ministry here. It is not those who are paid who serve, but all those who are born again. Pastors equip the saints for what–the work of ministry. It is essential that everyone function. Everyone has a place to serve and a part to play.
We as members of the body of Christ can be compared to the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece has protrusions and indentations. The protrusions represent our strengths (gifts, talents, abilities) and the indentations represent our weaknesses (faults, lacks, shortcomings, and underdevelopment). The beautiful thing is that the pieces complement one another. My weakness is filled by your strength.
Each member is very important and can minister to the other members of the body. When one piece is missing from the puzzle, its absence is very obvious and damages the picture. When each piece is in place, however, no one is conspicuous but blends in to form the whole picture. If I handed all of you a piece of the puzzle, but only those in ministry to the body could actually add their piece to complete the picture, what kind of picture would it look like—a mess, cause you are not functioning?
Statistically and symbolically, this is a picture of this church. Even though this is a Mickey Mouse illustration, it demonstrates that maybe 50% of our Sunday attendance is functioning members. This is the picture that we are giving the world. If everyone is crucial, where are the rest of you? Not only is it crucial that each member minister, but Peter also tells us that . . .
Second Ministry is a privilege
In verse 10 he says that each one has received a gift. The word gift means that which was given out of grace. Gift is something that comes from God, and never could have been achieved, attained or possessed by your own effort. Gift is a God-given ability for service within the body of Christ. Gift is a blessing from God, sovereignly given–it is grace that is lavished on us, determined by God, not men, nor by your own choice. Every true believer in the Church has received a unique, special and undeserved giftedness to use to help others be more like Christ.
Several Valentine’s Days ago, I gave Jean a “Bottle of Love”. I had bought some parchment paper, five pens, a stamp with little hearts on it, and a fancy bottle. I cut the paper into long strips and wrote out categories that would represent gifts or time together. I made ten recreation slips (like bowling), ten dinner slips (special restaurants like McDonald’s), ten snacks (like ice cream, honeycomb candy, peeps), five time zones (to watch the kids), five trips (museums), ten love slips (which is none of your business/back rub). I rolled them all up and put them in the jar and she gets one per week to remind her of my love, and a way that I can serve her. Imagine what would happen if she let it sit, then put it away and finally threw it out in the trash without ever using it once. Can you imagine how hurt I would be if she didn’t even bother to use my gift for her?
Men and women, what are you doing with the special giftedness that God has given you? How are you responding to God’s gracious blessing to you for the survival of the whole body? God’s love for you is far greater than a husband to a wife–how grateful are you for His gifts? Now the importance of your ministry to the Church is not only found in the fact that it is crucial and a privilege, but also that it is your
Peter goes on to say in verse 10, “As each one has received a gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards.” Stewardship is a responsibility. All of us are familiar with the fact that a steward was a slave who was responsible for managing a man’s property or household, and for distributing the wages and food to its members.
You have a responsibility, Christian, to be dispensing your gift, resources and talents in service to the church that God places you in–you are a steward. Turn over to Luke 19:16 and let’s look at how God views stewardship. Though there is much truth contained in this parable, allow me to focus only on certain key truths as they relate to our responsibility in stewardship.
In the parable of the ten minas, a nobleman goes to a distant country, and before he goes he gives ten slaves one mina each (which is about three months’ wages), and tells them to do business with it until he comes back. When he returns, he calls three of the slaves (who represent the rest) to come and report what business they had done. How had they used their stewardship?
Look at verse 16 to 17 (of Luke chapter 19) and let’s draw out three key truths, “And the first slave appeared saying, ‘Master your Mina has made ten more, 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a VERY LITTLE THING, be in authority over ten cities.’”
1 It starts with little things
All God expects of you is to use what you have. If you are a teacher, then teach . . . if you are a giver, then give . . . you may be the best encourager, then do it (share, talk, give, write) . . . or you may be great with your hands, then serve . . . or an incredible organizer/administrator, we sure need you. If you’ve been given one coin or ten, use it in service to the body.
Some of us do not want to do little things. We would never say it, because it would embarrass us—but we only want to do big things, public things, spotlight things. But stewardship starts with little things–being faithful in little.
2 Reward for doing little things well is more work, a bigger job
Look at what Jesus shares in verse 17–if you are faithful in little things, I give you authority over ten cities—wow. Jesus says, “Well done; now here is a really big job.” Once you do well you don’t stop being a steward, you don’t get a prize, but you earn the right to have a bigger job and more responsibility. In other words, there is no retirement in Christianity–there is no such thing as reaching for the bench, there is no maturity or age-level that is reached where you stop serving, or start cruising and merely enjoy the fruits of previous labors.
Jesus says if you do little things well, then you get more work and a bigger job. Is that you? TC guys, what we do when we’re done is we serve (not rest, like David on his housetop when he should have been out to war). Those of you sixty and up–do you know the thrill of not retiring? I can’t wait to grow older. (Some of you are saying, “Yeah, either can we–grow up Chris.”) You know why? Because I have been surrounded by mature, older men of God who fire me up by their commitment–Jerry Smith, Walt Miller–that is what stewardship is all about. Little things lead to greater ministry, never retirement.
Stewardship principle number three is found in verse 20, “And another slave came saying, ‘Master, behold your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief.’” Jesus goes on to call this slave a worthless slave and takes his mina away from him and gives it to the slave who earned ten.
3 There is great danger of a life wrapped in a handkerchief
Those who are poor stewards with what God has given, those who do nothing with their gifts, talents, resources and abilities are in great danger of judgment. A similar parable in Matthew would lead us to believe that those who don’t use their gifts in service and never produce any fruit need to question whether they really know Christ or not? Simply stated, your ministry is a command. Willful disobedience over time raises a question of your salvation—period.
As you go back to 1 Peter, notice that Peter calls us to be good stewards. He means for us to be the kind of steward that is admired for his service, to be one who is praised and affirmed for his faithful work. Is that you?
Fourth Each member is unique
Look again at the end of verse 10, we serve “one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” The word “manifold” means many-colored (like Joseph’s many-colored coat), and was used to describe the skin of a leopard, the changing seasons of the year, or the variations of a strain of music. God is telling us there are all different kinds of people, gifts and expressions of the grace of God.
Look at your neighbor—go ahead and look long and see how different they are. Yeah, they’s really different–that is the grace of God. In fact we are so unique that only you can accomplish the work God has given you to do. This week, if each one of the spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12 were represented at your small group or in your ministry, and someone just dropped a dessert on the floor, here is what each one of them might say:
The Preacher person would say, “That’s what happens when you’re not careful.” (He’s motivated to correct your life.)
The Mercy person would say, ‘”Don’t feel bad, it could have happened to anyone.” (They’re motivated to relieve your embarrassment.)
Serving would say, “Oh let me help you clean it up.” (They’re motivated to fulfill a need.)
Teaching would say, “The reason it fell is that it’s too heavy on one side.” (They’re motivated to discover what happened.)
Exhortation would say, “Next time let’s serve the dessert with the meal at the table.” (They’re motivated to correct for the future.)
Administration/leadership would say, “Jim, would you get the mop, Sue please help pick it up, and Mary go get some more dessert.”
Each one is needed, yet all are different. Yet not only is Peter telling us that everyone is different, but that God will work differently through each person and in different ways. This is illustrated by the Life of Barnabus in Acts 11.
At this point in Church history, except for Cornelius and company, Christianity is only a Jewish religion. But in Antioch, some Jewish believers who had been scattered with the persecution start sharing with the Greeks for the first time, and a large number of Gentiles get saved. As a result, the Jews really get nervous. And so they send Barnabus to check it out.
Now this is Barnabus, son of encouragement, man of big heart. They could have sent a narrow, legalistic, traditionalist. Let me dare to ask you–would they have sent you? There is nothing worse to the ministry of the members than a traditionalist, narrow, rule-loving, legalistic, weaker brother who is critical, inflexible and intolerant of a Christianity that is not done their way–if you’re one, take it personally.
Look at verse 23, “Then when he had come and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord.” Barnabus rejoiced, “God is at work! The grace of God is bigger than the Jews, it’s different than we thought.” It is not what we are used to, but he rejoiced anyway. He let God work–not man’s way, but God’s way and it let the Gentiles in. I’m not talking about compromising the Word–but God’s grace is manifold, it is many-colored.
In Acts 11, the Jews wanted to say to the Gentiles that to be saved you have to be like us, look and act like us, get circumcised and follow traditions. No! We can and should be different, and give room to those who are different. We need to accept each other and give each other room. The upper class needs to accept the lower class, white collar accept the blue, families accept and esteem singles, whites accept yellow, brown or black, educated accept the uneducated, young accept the older, Republican accept the . . . well (let’s not get radical). Like tools in God’s tool chest we are all different, but it’s important to complete God’s work God’s way, so get in the game. But not only is your ministry important, it is made of several . . .
#2 The ingredients of your ministry
What are the Ingredients of our ministry to the Church? Look again at I Peter 4:10 and 11–Peter says in the middle of verse 10 that our gift is to be employed in serving one another, and in verse 11, with our service, we are to rely on the strength that God supplies.
In fact the word ministry is from the Greek term meaning “to serve”. It means here to wait on another and care for their needs–to place the needs and comfort of someone else above your own in active work and sacrifice. And it is in the present tense, which means that if the Church is to survive its hard times, then this action must go on continually. I’ve been in churches that were 200, 4,000, 10,000 and everyone is desperate to have every person serve.
To really understand your servant ministry of the member, turn over to Acts chapter 6. Here the early Church was growing, and there were needs going unmet. The apostles couldn’t meet the need, so they chose certain men to meet the needs. In Acts 6:5b it says they chose Stephen, man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. In verse 8 it says that Stephen was full of grace and power.
This man had a remarkable grasp of the Word of God and the boldness to preach it with conviction. His wisdom was such that the enemies of the Gospel could not refute him. And what was the great ministry that the apostles intended for this powerful Christian? What position in the spotlight of the early Church did they intend for man of faith? Verse 2 gives the answer–he was to serve tables.
Burton Michaelson and Sam Britton, founding families at Grace Community Church, were handing out flyers at the shepherds’ conference. Stephen could have said, “Me? Serve tables? Apparently you are unaware of my wisdom, power, faith, and preaching ability. Get someone else to serve in the shadows. I’m sure you can see that I am better suited for the spotlight of center stage.” But that was not his reaction, praise the Lord. Stephen humbly took his place with the other six servers, and later became the first Church martyr.
What’s the point? There is always room for another true servant. The small area in the spotlight can get a bit crowded, but there is always room in the shadows for the person who is eager to serve. It is so easy to forget the example Jesus set for us. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (and to give His life a ransom for many).
Not only do we forget the example of our Lord, but also His exhortation as well. Matthew 23:11 to 12 says, “But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humble; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” True ministry is first the role of a servant–to wash feet, to give ‘til it hurts, to love the lost until they start asking questions why, to set up chairs, stuff bulletins, help the secretarial pool.
As you turn back to 1 Peter look at verse 11–notice that the kind of service Peter addresses is both public and private. It’s done with both your mouth and your actions. We are to serve each other publicly and privately, yet most ministry is private, unseen and unnoticed. Think about what it takes to make this church a reality. There is all the worship team and instrumental rehearsal, the order of service to be decided and printed, the ushers to all show up and know what’s happening, the sound people to be set up with all the right equipment in the right places, the recording that goes on, the worship center is cleaned, communion set up each week, air conditioning set at the right level, bulletins have to be printed, folded, stuffed and distributed, PowerPoint made and ready, deciding what songs to sing, informing everyone in advance as to the correct order and the list goes on and on. In order for us to have an undistracted worship service, it takes a lot more than just the pastor and worship leader–it literally takes hundreds of servants who will never be in the spotlight. Get in the game! But not only is your ministry primarily service, it is also . . .
Look again at verse 11 and let me give you the literal rendering. God says through Peter, if one speaks–as God is saying, “If one ministers”–as out of the strength which God supplies. As all the members minister, whether through their speech or through their actions, true biblical ministry will be empowered by God. In other words, God’s work, done God’s way, will not lack God’s strength. Perhaps the most often overlooked source of power in a church is the Holy Spirit. Zechariah’s words are as true today as the day he penned them, “Not by might nor by power, but by My spirit,” Zechariah 4:6b.
In Ephesians 5:18 we are told to be filled with the Spirit. This is like a ship that sets its sails–the Spirit empowers the boat to move it along. Even the literal word for spiritual gifts is “spirituals” or “of the spirit”. You and I can do nothing eternal except it be the Spirit in us and through us, to others, for God’s glory. You can’t glorify God, only God can. You can’t live the Christian life, only Christ can. You can’t serve in the church–only the Spirit can through you.
An essential ingredient to the member’s ministry will be dependence upon the Holy Spirit of God, and before you minister it would be well for each of us to recall what C.H. Spurgeon used to do as He stepped up to his pulpit in England. Before he would minister the word, with each stair step he took up to the pulpit he would repeat to himself this phrase–“I believe in the Holy Spirit.” We need to be filled with the Spirit to serve in ministry. Yet another crucial Ingredient of your ministry is also found in verse 10, to be serving one another.
Third Your ministry is to be corporate
What you won’t notice in verse 11 is the meaning of the word for supply. When Peter says that God shall supply the strength to serve, he is telling us that every church is supplied with a chorus of ministers. In fact the word originally meant “to supply a chorus.” Every member of our church can spiritually be singing a different part, yet all singing the same song in perfect harmony. Our ministry must be corporate.
Ephesians 4:16 says the same thing—“Christ, From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” What that means is, just because you attend it does not mean that you are a part of the team—or just because this is your church home it does not mean that you are a functioning organ in the body.
One night a man who broke his left arm and couldn’t sleep. As he lay in bed, he imagined a dialog between his right and left hands. The right hand said, “Left hand, you are not missed. Everybody’s glad it was you that was broken and not me. You are not very important.” The left hand said, “How are you superior?” The right hand replied, “Why my owner cannot write a letter without me.” Left hand, “But who holds the paper on which he writes?” Right hand, “Who swings the hammer?” Left hand, “Who holds the nail?” Right hand, “Who guide the plane when the carpenter smooths a board?” Retorted the left hand, “Who steadies the board?”
Then the left hand continued, “Let me ask you a question. When our owner shaved yesterday he used you, but face is cut because I wasn’t there to help. You can’t take the money out of the wallet because I’m not there to hold it. The master can do very few things without me. We are both needed, righty!”
We were not created to serve alone, but together in chorus, in harmony, all of us doing our part. It does not matter if you are a part of the melody, or harmony, instrumental or choral, you are critical to the whole chorus. A crucial ingredient of your ministry is to see yourself as part of a whole team, not an individual star or lonely martyr. Finally, and most importantly, your ministry includes
Fourth Purposeful focus
Why are we corporately serving one another? First Peter says in verse 11, “So that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. AMEN.” Our purpose is to be like Jesus Christ and to glorify God. You see, ministry is a heart issue not a bunch of external do’s–it is a desire from the heart, an expression of gratefulness for having been given so much. It’s remembering what Jesus did for you that will encourage you to be a functioning minister to get in the game.
When you remember again what you were–a rebellious sinner on the way to eternal punishment in hell, will you serve with a right heart, full of gratitude to serve the One who gave everything for you? When you remember the example of Jesus, then you will serve from your heart. When you really believe He was God, and yet submitted to the Father, became a man, that He veiled His glory and majesty to live unselfishly, to serve us–only then will you work at submitting to others, prefer others before yourself and give yourself sacrificially to others.
You see, the model for ministry is Jesus Christ. We are to do what He did–invest in others’ lives, reach this planet by making disciples, share with the lost through words and deeds and serve one another in His body. His rule now is only seen when you obey, and part of obedience is service in ministry to the local church—period. Get in the game. Don’t be a mole, or a zit, or a blemish on the body. Be a muscle, bone, an arm, an organ and function in the body–which leads me to the final point.
#3 The instruction of your ministry–the so what
1 When a life is Christ’s, then like Christ service will flow from your lifestyle.
2 Every Christian is unique. We don’t all play the same position, we don’t all have the same gift mix, we don’t all have the same passions. If you are a leader, people will follow–if you look behind and no one is following, you are not a leader. If you have the gift of mercy then people you visit in the hospital will be encouraged and want to get well–if you don’t have the gift of mercy, people in the hospital will want to die after you’ve visited them. You’re unique–start to serve and God will show you where you belong, through people, your desire, fruit, pleasure and leaders.
3 God will remember your service in the Church. Don’t do what you do for others, do what you do for Christ, but do so in the body. All gifts are meant for service within the body. Don’t go for glory, be an unsung here. Hebrews 6:10, “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.”
4 This is no time for quitting or delaying–if you are sick you can pray, if you have four rug rats you can still volunteer, if you are a senior you can volunteer, if you have a twelve-hour-a-day job you can contact others on the phone, serve on Sunday, write notes, stuff bulletins, take pictures, type at home, and so much more.
5 Don’t merely be a hearer, be a doer. If God is at work in your heart, then you will step up and say I’ll do anything. You will talk to an usher or greeter, you will call an admin, you will join children’s ministry or youth staff, the worship team, children, hosting, or set-up.
You say, “Chris, I will preach instead of you anytime.” Some of you are drying up–you need to get in the game, get off the bench. Find your gift by serving so you can serve even more for God’s glory and your joy. Some of you are disobedient and need to repent right now. Some of you have never or rarely been in faithful ministry, and you need to question your genuine relationship to Christ. True worship is to respond with your life. False repentance is feeling guilty and doing nothing. True repentance is turning from sin to obedience to God.