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Series on Witness

(Edited). We are making good progress in our sermon series on witness. Today we are up to the “E” in our acronym of the word “witness.” And the title is “Everyone can be a part.” What we are doing today is remembering some general teaching about the body of Christ and how the body works, and then applying this to our topic of reaching out.

1. Everyone has something to offer

God created each one of us and God has given each one of us unique abilities and talents. As David said to God in Psalm 139:14, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” And so are we all. A good example of this in our congregation is our worship team.

And as Christians each of us have spiritual gifts, because the Spirit has come to live in us and work through us. This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 – “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

I don’t think that this is an exhaustive list, but it does show us some of the unique ways that the Spirit works through different ones of us. And as each of us allows the Spirit to work in us for the common good the body is built up.

In terms of reaching out, some of you are specifically gifted to reach out. Some of you have talents and abilities and spiritual gifts that empower you to be effective at reaching out. And on top of this, some of you may also be called to the role of an evangelist. I have known a number of evangelists and I love to see them at work. Gary and Denise are among this group. And maybe God is calling others of you to the role of an evangelist. May that be so!

2. God calls forth leaders in the body

Paul says this is Ephesians 4:11, talking about gifts that Christ has given to bless the church, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers . . ..” This verse speaks of four or five different leadership roles in the body of Christ. This is my take:

  •  apostles plant churches
  • prophets encourage and call the church to faithfulness
  • evangelists share Jesus with others
  • shepherds or pastors oversee congregations
  • and teachers teach the Word to the body. These last two may well be just one since teaching is a, or the key activity of a pastor.

As each leader uses their gifts and callings, the whole body is blessed and built up.

In terms of outreach some have been called to lead in reaching out to others. Gary and Denise are helping give leadership to our congregation. The Elders and I work at this. And here recently the Fun and fellowship team has given leadership as well.

3. We are all to be well-rounded Christians

That is, able to do lots of different things as mature Christians. For instance, not everyone is called to be a teacher, but we are all called to teach each other. Paul says in Colossians 3:16 that we are to be “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” So you don’t have to be called to teach SS now and then, or to teach your children about the faith as parents, or to speak a word into a fellow believer’s life that needs to be taught something.

Another example, not everyone is gifted as an encourager, but we are all called to encourage one another. As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “encourage one another and build one another up.” So you may not have the gift of encouraging or a ministry focused on this, but you can still see someone who is down and say a good word to build them up and bless them.

So we all have gifts and specialties. But we are all also to be well-rounded, able to let God use us in all kinds of ways, depending on the situation.

In terms of outreach, not all are evangelists, but Jesus calls us all to be a witness for him. Jesus tells us in Acts 1:8,  “you will be my witnesses.” Not all have a ministry focus on outreach, but each of us are to always be prepared, as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”

  •  we can all speak and talk about the Lord
  • we can all look for opportunities that God opens up for us to share our lives and faith with others
  • we can all pray for the lost
  • we can all support and encourage those who do focus on outreach.

4. Leaders are to equip you for ministry

This is where there is often confusion. We fall into thinking that the pastor or other leaders are here to do the work for us. You support them and they get things done on your behalf. But this is not a scriptural understanding of ministry.

Yes, you are to support them, and yes they are to get things done according to their gifting. But what leaders do ultimately has to do with equipping us all for ministry. Paul makes this point in Ephesians 4:12. After talking about apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastors and teachers, he tells us that leaders are “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Not to do it for them, but to empower them to do ministry.

For instance those who lead as teachers help all of us to know how to teach and what to teach. And those who have a ministry of encouragement help us all to know how to encourage others better. We become more well-rounded.

In terms of outreach as well, leaders empower and prepare us all to reach out. Neither the Elders and I, nor Gary and Denise are here to do the work for you. Rather we are here to encourage you, to do the work with you, and to provide opportunities for you to reach out in ways that any Christian can do.

5. To be healthy all parts of the body must be doing their part

As I said to you several years ago, the best way to see me have a breakdown is to put all the expectations on me and sit back and don’t participate. Or maybe even criticize. None of us can do all the work of the body by ourselves. And sometimes the ones who are criticizing are the very ones who have strengths who could come alongside to help leaders and others to be stronger, working as a team. Now, I have learned not to take on false expectations of doing it all, but you get my point.

We are a body! What would it be like to be a body where all of the parts looked at the right foot and said, “hey it’s all on you! We’re not going to do anything.” “Hey right foot, we’re hungry!” Or “Hey right foot let’s go into the other room.” One foot can’t move a limp body. Or “Hey right foot, the ear has an itch can you scratch it?” What can a foot do by itself??

No, we are a body. And when every part is functioning, a body can do all that a healthy body can do. And when we are all functioning as the body of Christ, using our gifts, leaders doing their part to minister and to equip the body so that we are all well-rounded – God can do anything through us. Amen?

Paul says this in Ephesians 4:15-16 – “We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Notice the phrase – “when each part is working properly.” That’s all of us. Then, the body grows and builds itself up.

In terms of our focus, everyone can contribute to outreach on some level. Leaders, leading and equipping; evangelists and others with outreach gifts doing what they are empowered to do; and each one of us being well-rounded, reaching out as there is opportunity, praying for the lost and supporting those with special gifts and callings.

And then God can do a great work here among us.

William Higgins

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