Every Member Ministry, Part 1
August 16, 2009 | Andrew Davis
Turn in your Bibles to Romans Chapter 12. I'm going to talk about the elders’ initiative that every member of this church has a pattern of ministry. Our desires as we moved away from the old polity or the old structure in this church is that we would free up the members of the church to do the spiritual gift ministries that God has equipped them to do. It was our conviction that the old committee structure of this church, in many ways, hindered that ministry, that it really wasn't the structure that God set up in the New Testament, that committees, per se, while they may have been used by God to do some good works, could sometimes be part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Furthermore, I know that it's a tendency that we all have, that we struggle to give ourselves fully to the Lord, to be fully dedicated to him, and to give ourselves to Him every day to use all of our resources for his glory. We would have nothing left, that on Judgment Day we would not be ashamed for how we lived our lives, that we didn't hold anything back. We need constant encouragement, don't we? We need to be exhorted, we need to build up one another, we need to consider one another, to provoke one another toward love and good deeds. We need all the help we can get. I don't suggest that the Scriptures that we're going to look at tonight will be new to you, that the concept of spiritual gifts, and that you can use your gifts to build up the church is a new concept. I don't really suggest that I'm going to say anything new tonight. I just want to exhort or encourage you to think with an eternal perspective about your life, that you would look inward and see what God has put in you, and that you would use your gifts to His glory. We're going to start at Romans 12. I want to begin by reading the scripture, Romans 12, but I actually want to begin a little further back with the glorious doxology at the end of Chapter 11, and then go into a discussion of spiritual gifts, beginning at Verse 33 of Chapter 11.
“Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God, how unsearchable His judgments and His paths beyond tracing out. Who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay Him? For from Him and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever, amen. Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, then you'll be able to test and approve what God's will is his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me, I say to every one of you, do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others, we have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve. If it is teaching, let him teach. If it is encouraging, let him encourage. If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously. If it is leadership, let him govern diligently. If it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”
Live for the Glory of God
That doxology, grand and glorious as it is, at the end of Chapter 11really sums up a magnificent section of scripture in Romans 1-11, in which the Gospel of Jesus Christ is unfolded so beautifully and so gloriously for us. In it, we see ourselves first. In Romans 1-3, a mirror is held up and we see the ugliness and the wickedness of our sin. No one escapes. If you're a Christian, you have been worked on by the Holy Spirit of God, so you don't excuse yourself from the ugliness of Romans 1, the description of 21 sins that follows, when we no longer live for the glory of God, when we exchange the glory of God for something created, when we become idolaters, that is the great rival to God. All the good things He's created, that we would set our affections, our hearts on them, and place ultimate value on them, instead of on him, that's idolatry. We should have been, we should be living for the glory of God. Everything we do should be for the glory of God, but we are naturally apart from Christ, idolaters, putting our great value and worth and all of the things that we cherish on something created. It could be any one of a number of things. There are lots of different gods and goddesses, there are lots of different idolatrous systems in the world, and I won't list them for you, you know what they are. It could be a foreign religion, it could be materialism, it could be yourself, it could be anything created, but anything that we place ultimate value on apart from God, we are denying or robbing him of his glory, we're not living for His glory.
It says in Romans 3:23, just summing it all up, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That's true of all of us. Romans 1-3 does an incredibly clear job of telling the truth about us, apart from Christ, we were sinners. But now in the middle of Romans 3, it says, a righteousness from God apart from law has been revealed, to which the law and the prophets testify, this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, it says, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Do you understand what that means? What it means is that God sees you perfectly righteous in Christ. You know what it really means? It means all of your needs are met. Everything you need is in Christ, it's been given to you. Paul doesn't stop there, he just keeps rolling and rolling through Romans 4, justification by faith alone apart from works. He gives us Abraham and his example. He shows us how completely forgiven we are and our assurance in Romans 5, justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, we have access by faith, and the grace in which we stand. We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, we even rejoice in our sufferings. Friends, we are just so completely taken care of, so completely loved, so completely forgiven, so completely justified, we should be freed from ourselves to serve God, that's really what he's getting at.
Now, he's realistic, Paul is, about this battle we have with indwelling sin. The reason we don't use our spiritual gifts, the reason we don't give ourselves fully to God and to one another, is we battle the flesh. We battle the indwelling flesh, the sin all the time, that causes us to be selfish and to hold back.I don't know if any of us has ever done anything wholeheartedly for the Lord ever. I'm not being grim when I say that, I just think we hold back. We don't give everything we have every day to Jesus. We know that that's a standard, and we are so glad that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more, and that you have brought today 30% of what you could have done, God accepts that gift, isn't it incredible? He covers the rest with the blood of Jesus. But still for all of that, there is that upward call of God in Christ Jesus. He calls on us to be perfect, as Christ is perfect, and He beckons us upward. He tells us that we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have the power of the Spirit of God at work in us, to put sin to death and to live for His glory. We have the promises of God's eternal working in us, that someday we will be perfectly conformed to Jesus Christ, we'll be made just like him in every way.
Romans 9-11 deals with the very significant problem of the Jews and the Gospel, and why it is so many of them are rejecting it, but it all just culminates in the picture of the grand sovereignty of God, and the fact that his plans cannot be thwarted. “That He who began a good work in you,” as it says in Philippians, “will carry it on to completion.” You're going to be saved, you're going to heaven, your present sufferings aren't even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in you. These are the mercies that Paul is referring to in Romans 12, the great glory of God, His sovereign power worked for you to save you completely to the uttermost until you are gloriously in heaven. So, what should you do with the rest of your life, since you're so completely covered? Since you're so fully, richly lavishly provided for, what should you do with the rest of your life? That's really what Paul covers in Romans 12-16. That's really what he's getting at in the last part of the book of Romans.
It begins with this transitional section here, which many just focus on verses 1 and 2, but I really think it should be taken as a unit. Romans 12:1-8, that whole section really tells you what you should be doing with your life. I just want to walk through it briefly, and I just want to give you an exhortation. I don't know what your ministry should be, but I actually don't think that the elders should have to ask you what your ministry is. We should just know what it is because we see how you live. We should know you well enough that we know what's going on in your lives, and you're just clearly living for Jesus and using your gifts in a clear pattern. That's where we're heading, that's what our desire is, that's our initiative for 2009. We want to focus on it and we want to exhort and encourage you as the Apostle Paul does here, so look at it if you would.
Beginning at verse 1 of Chapter 12, he says, “Therefore brothers in view of God's mercies, in view of all of what God has done, I urge you, I exhort you, I plead with you.” He's saying that there's an obligation, he said earlier in Romans, we have an obligation to live a certain way. So he says, I urge you to take this body of yours, these hands, these feet, this brain, this mouth, these eyes, take this body and present it to God as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him, give yourself fully to him. Like Noah as he came out of the ark after the flood and took some of those clean animals and offered them to God as a fragrant offering, a sacrifice to God. We shouldn't underestimate what a sacrifice that was for him. I really believe that love is measured by sacrifice, cheerful sacrifice, delighted sacrifice. You want to love your wife or your husband, give sacrificially, cheerfully. It can't be just one or the other. It's got to be sacrifice, and it's got to be done cheerfully, or it isn't a gift. Basically, God is saying, “Give to me now and give to one another. Now that I've done all of this for you, make a sacrifice.” David said very beautifully, “I will not offer to Lord a sacrifice that costs me nothing.” We have a tendency, like Saul, in the time of the slaughter of the Amalekites where he spared the best, you know, spared it, held it back. He lied about what his intentions were, I think that's my sense, is that he didn't intend to offer it as a sacrifice to God. God had told him what to do, but he held it back, he spared it. Think of how unlike God that is. “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all.” He's calling on us in like manner to spare nothing, specifically, don't spare yourself, don't hold yourself back, don't hold your time back, don't hold your money back, don't hold your spiritual gifts back. Give yourself fully as a living sacrifice. The word “sacrifice” points to the fact that it's costly, and the fact that it's living points to the fact that it's going to be a continual thing, it's not something just offered once. You're offering your body, you're offering yourself to God continually, all the time offering this living sacrifice to God, holy and pleasing to Him.
He wants it holy. You may ask what causes someone to hold back and not use their spiritual gifts. I think indwelling sin does. Not just that we're selfish, but we may be ashamed, we may be caught in patterns of sin. There may be certain things holding us back. We've got to put that to death so that we can offer our gifts to God so that we can more freely and fully offer to God the things He's put in us. We tend to hold back and not give. He wants us to give, He wants us to give generously and cheerfully to God in view of his mercies, gladly giving everything that we have, that's what he wants. I think earlier in Genesis 4 when Cain and Abel offered their sacrifice, I think it's probable that God wanted animal sacrifice, and my sense is that Cain didn't want to go to his brother and get the animals out of pride, he just wanted to do his own thing. He didn't want to humble himself and ask Abel for anything. It's very interesting how it's written in Genesis 4. “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering, he did not look with favor.” You know what that's saying? He's looking at the heart, He's looking at what the person is doing in the heart. And so it is with this living sacrifice, He wants you to give from the heart to God. He doesn't just want your attendance at a committee meeting. He doesn't want you to just present a form of ministry, He wants you. He wants you gladly and generously to give along this certain pattern, and that's what he's saying. So give yourself holy and pleasing to God, this is your fragrant offering, this is your spiritual sacrifice acceptable to God. This is what religion is for you now, not earning your salvation. We learn from the gospel from Romans 1-11, we didn't need to do that, but rather that we could do something that would honor Him, do something to say thank you, do something that would bring him delight and him pleasure, do something also to fit into what he's doing in this world.
You know what he's doing, He's building his church, He's building the church of Jesus Christ. He's building this grand and glorious structure, this spiritual structure where He's going to dwell forever, that's the work He's doing. Everything else is going to get destroyed, it's all going to get crashed. It's building on sand, and the rain's going to come and the wind's going to blow, and it's all going to be destroyed. I want to build on the foundation, I want to build the building He's building, and I want to build with quality materials. That's what he's doing. These are the good works. So he says, “Present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing God, this is your spiritual act of worship.” And then in Verse 2, he says, “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” What he means there is, don't think like a worldling. When you think about your life, don't think about your life the way they do. They again are thinking about in a selfish kind of framework, how they can use their own money in their own time to bless and to please themselves. But we have learned from the Gospel, we really don't need to do that. We're freed from that, free from the self. We can deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus, and so, we're not to think like they do about our time and our money and our talents and all that, we're supposed to think like Christians, like Jesus did, and give it to the Father. We're supposed to be transformed, and the more you're transformed by the renewing of your mind, the more cheerfully and sacrificially, and generously you'll give.
If you're having a problem with “every member ministry”, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Get back into the word. Ask yourself, “Am I in the Word? Am I saturating my mind with the Word of God? Am I listening to the sermons, the preaching? Am I taking advantage of all the rich resources of teaching we have in the American Evangelical scene, stuff on the internet, stuff in bookstores?” You can order things. We have everything we need, dear friends, when it comes to teaching, and so, be transformed then by the renewing of your mind, and if you are, he says, then you'll be able to test and approve what God's will is, his good, pleasing, and perfect will. I think this is an important verse, and I don't mind counseling people at key transition points in their lives, maybe singles who are looking for a spouse, how can I know if this is the right one? Or somebody looking at the end of their college years to what kind of career or where they should go, or somebody looking at different avenues of mission work, should they do this or that? I think this is a fine verse for that, but I don't think that's most natural to the context.
Use Your Spiritual Gifts
Most natural to the context is if you are transformed if you present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, and if you are being transformed by the renewing of your mind, you'll be able to figure out your place in the church, your place in God's world. You'll know what He has done in you, and how you fit in, what your gifts are, and how you're to use them because that's right where he goes to. In verse 2, he goes right on into spiritual gifts. Basically, if you want to know what your spiritual gift is, then present your body as a living sacrifice, be transformed by the renewing of your mind, and then He will teach you who you are, and what He's made you to be. You'll be able to test and to prove. You'll know what your spiritual gift is, and you'll be delighted in it. It won't be a burden to you, it'll be a pleasure, this is how you will give to God. It's not a drag for me to teach the word of God, I love it. Somebody with the gift of giving, it's not a drag for them to give generously, they love to do it. I have met givers in this church, such as I'd never seen before I came here. I have met some incredible givers here in this church, and they just love it. And the same thing also with those with the gift of service, they just get strengthened and they feel their place when they're able to serve in some way. It's a beautiful thing to watch. It's not a drag. It's not depressing, it's wonderful. You'll be able to test and approve what God's will is for you.
Isn't that wonderful that God has a will for you? He's actually thought about you, He's got a specific place for you, He has pondered you. He is apportioned, it says in Ephesians 4, a gift for you. He’s measured it out, cut to fit you, and He's put it on you, this is your gift. It's a beautiful thing. You will be able to prove it too, God's will for you. He goes right on, like I said in verse 3, "For by the grace given me, I say to every one of you, do not think of yourself more highly than you ought." What Paul is saying first of all, it's the word "for" in Verse 3 which means I'm talking about the same thing, I'm going right on, I'm going to continue on this discussion. He goes right on to spiritual gifts. God's will has to do with spiritual gifts. He said, "For by the grace given me." What he's saying is, "By the spiritual gift I got... " "I got a spiritual gift, I got a ministry to build up the body of Christ, I, Saul of Tarsus, the one who was breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples." In one sense, if we can use this language, "I should have been struck dead that day.” In one sense, we're not second-guessing what Jesus did do, but “I deserve to be killed. Instead, I got a ministry. What grace is that? I actually got a ministry. Who are you, Lord?" The “answer was, “I am Jesus, the one you're persecuting. Now, get up and go into the city of Damascus and you'll be told what you must do. I've got a ministry for you, I'm not going to kill you, I'm going to give you a ministry." So it is for each one of us. He's not going to kill you, He's forgiven you, He's given you life, He's given you time now here on Earth, and He's given you a ministry.
“I’ve got something to do for by the grace given to me,” Paul says. "The ministry I've been given, by that ministry of being apostle and teacher of the Gospel, by that I am now telling you something about your gift ministry," whatever it is. But let's start with this concept, think about yourself, and it's kind of weird, but that's about what he says, He starts negatively, "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought." That makes sense, don't get a big head about your ministry. You're not indispensable, God does have a plan for you, he does have a purpose for you, and he will use you. But don't think of yourself too highly, more highly than you ought. But there's a flip side too, and it's implied though, he doesn't say, don't think of yourself too meanly or lowly either. Don’t say, “Oh, God can never use me. There's nothing I could do. I don't really fit in here, they don't need me." Don't do that either. Think of yourself soberly, think of yourself with Judgment Day perspective. "I have a gift, the scripture tells me I have a spiritual gift ministry. It's been assigned to me. If like the one who received the one talent, take it and hide it in the ground, I'm going to be judged for it. I can't hide. I need to do my ministry, I want to think with sober judgment, I want to be serious about myself and serious about my time. I have the scripture that says, been given a spiritual gift. I need to use it. I need to get out there and get active with this thing, but I'm not indispensable, and God has built-in redundancy. I'm not the only teacher here, I'm not the only one able to preach." There are a lot of gifted people here, just like in the church in Antioch in Acts 13, and so also the givers, they're not the only ones, there's redundancy here, so don't think of yourself too highly. Don't say, “Yes, but I'm the best." Don't do that, you already know you're lurching into arrogance and pride, don't do that. Think humbly about yourself with sober judgment in accordance to the measure of faith that God has given you.
What he is saying here is, you need to think about yourself. What does he mean when he says, “think about yourself."? I think what he's doing here is that you need to see yourself as a part of the body of Christ. You ought to pray and ask for wisdom, "God, I don't know how to do fit in. I don't know what I'm supposed to do at First Baptist Church. Will you please show me?" But do think about yourself. Hebrews 10: 24-25 says, "You ought to also be thinking about others in the exact same way." So you think about yourself with sober judgment, "How do I fit in the body of Christ?" You also ought to be spurring one another on considering each other, thinking about each other. Just take three, four, or five people and start praying for them and say, "Lord, show me what their gifts are and how they fit in." Then exhort them and encourage them. That will bind us together so beautifully.
But also it says, you ought to think about yourself, think about yourself with sober judgment in accordance to the measure of faith. Then he gives us this body analogy in verse 4, "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others, we have different gifts according to the grace given us.” He does more of a development on this theme in 1 Corinthians 12, "The hand, the eye, the mouth, the foot... " that kind of thing, and all of it part of the body, that no one part should boast over the other, or no one part should feel inadequate or inferior toward another. We all have a function, we all have a part to play, so we have different ministries here. This body needs you to use your ministry. We each can't be everything God wants us to be.
Furthermore, you must give it, and if you don't think so, then meditate on what Judgment Day will be like when Jesus asks you about it, and ask you what you did with it. We need it, we all need one another to do it. Think soberly, think according to faith, how you fit in, think with a Judgment Day mentality, and then see yourself as a part of the body, and then use your gifts, however, you're gifted. Then he gives you just a very brief sampling of what are some of the gifts. I tend to think in terms of gift packages, like you get kind of three or four or five different capabilities, some a little stronger than others, and that is who you are and that's how you're to minister. I don't just have the gift of teaching, I have a number of different things that I hope to give to the body of Christ and help it grow. So also I think it is with each one, it's not just one thing. But I think what we're called on here is that we have a ministry focus, a pattern of ministry. You just start to do it, and that's what Paul is saying here toward the end of this passage, he says, "If it is a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith." I actually think a better translation is ‘the faith’. So if your gift is proclaiming the Word of God, be sure it lines up with the existing revelation. I think that's what it is. Be sure it's connected to the right doctrine. He says, "If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it." If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve. If it is teaching, let him teach. If it is encouraging, let him encourage. If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously. If it is leadership, let him govern diligently. If it is showing mercy, let him do it. Do you not see what Paul's saying here, it's so plain. Whatever it is, do it, do it.
You may say, "I don't know what my gift is." I really would urge you just to do some ministries. I think it's helpful to just get involved in the body life here to start doing some things, get involved in some things, and say, "I like to follow the things I'm interested in." Just dive in, if you're interested in Urban Ministry, there's Jobs for Life's coming up, and there's a lot of different things you can do with Jobs for Life. You don't just have to teach, you could do your gift of hospitality so that when the students come in, it's a whole different room because you were there, in terms of the snacks or the drinks or whatever. You can do that and you are doing urban outreach at that point, whatever it is, use it, that's the whole thing. There are other passages and another message for another time would be, as you use it, you tend to develop it, you get better at it. Paul talks to Timothy about developing his gift, fanning his gift into flame, but the more you use it, the better at it you get. But just use it.
What does that mean for us here and now? I think there are just certain avenues of ministry that we would exhort you to consider. Part of the idea of spiritual gifts is that you use it in submission to the leadership of the church. In other words, if the elders feel that we need to reach out in a certain way, then the people with the gifts of administration and service and evangelism all that go in that direction using their gifts. That's how it works, it's a beautiful thing. That way we're not all pulling in different directions, but instead you say, "Okay, what kinds of things are the elders doing?" And the elders have entrusted to the deacons all kinds of practical physical ministries. There are different ministry teams, for example, there's missions, so that would be just being involved in our cross-cultural missions work, supporting our missionaries on the field, short-term missions, there's all kinds of things, cross-cultural missionaries. There's urban ministry, international student ministry.
These are ministry teams. There's the host ministry, these are the people that greet people that come in through the doors and make them feel at home. That has just taken off and it's been beautiful to see. Family and youth ministry, definitely some work to be done. College ministry, corporate worship, that may be the focus, and we heard some of the gifts tonight, and that may be exactly what you're already doing, but believe me, I'm not suggesting necessarily that some of you are starting from scratch here, some of you've been using your gifts and your ministries for years, keep doing it.
But there may be others that say,"You know what? I'd like to get involved in some of these things." There's counseling, which we think that could be a tremendous ministry, both within the walls of this church and as an outreach. Again, you don't have to be a gifted Biblical counselor to get involved, and again, you could use your gift of hospitality or gifts of administration or service to bless that ministry. It's a beautiful thing the way the Body of Christ works together. There's women's ministry and the ministry of encouragement, there's a lot of different details about these things, but you know, it's just an array of opportunities. You have senior adult ministry and facilities, you may just be interested in working in keeping the building looking good, that could be something that you're gifted at, and church planting, the desire we have to just be multiplying good churches around here. That's 13 ministry teams you could get involved in, that's one approach, and I want to give you another. The other is home fellowships. We're doing home fellowship Sunday evenings, many of you are involved in that. This is a perfect vehicle for multiplicity of gifts to be on display. Clearly the gift of hospitality with the host families, clearly the gift of teaching with those that are teaching, the gift of prayer with those that could organize the prayer ministry of those home fellowships, and on it goes. So these are two major focuses of your spiritual gift ministry. So find out, just follow the pattern here in Romans 1-8, present your body daily to God, holy, pleasing to Him, ask Him to show you His will for your life, that you'll be able to test and improve what God's will is for you, and then understand the different opportunities and get busy, start to serve.
I would urge you to consider these ministry teams. I'd urge you to consider home fellowships, if you have a question about this, you may say, "You know, I'm involved in this para-church ministry, a prison ministry. How does that fit in?" Those are great opportunities. Use the church's resources for that, don't be a lone ranger, but make it a church ministry, work with the elders, but make it a church ministry so that people with gifts can make that even better than it ever was before." Now you may be saying, "How could it be better than it already is?" You may be saying that, but there's a verse in here for you, I think something about not thinking of yourself more highly than you are. Of course, it could be enhanced by being an FBC ministry with others chipping in and being involved. So I would urge you, I would exhort you, by the mercies of God, to consider your life and your ministry as a member of this body.