Epistle November 2014
How to Use Your Church
We spend a lot of time as church talking about ways that we can better serve others in Jesus’ name. We feed the hungry through our food pantry, visit the sick and suffering and listen to neighbors and friends in need in the community around us. We’re always on the look out for new ways we can generously respond to the bad news in people’s lives with the limitless good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Church, we like to say, is not about us, it’s about Jesus. Good works, we like to say, are not for us, but for the sake of our neighbor. St. Paul’s is community that values self denial so that we can hear and respond in love and compassion to our hurting neighbors, so we can love all people following the example of Jesus.
Yet within this community — called and sent as living witness in our neighborhood to the reign of our crucified and risen Lord Jesus — God has gifted people for ministries for your benefit, so you can grow to maturity in your faith. In these ministries, we experience God’s grace that revives, reconnects and reconciles us in ways that strengthen us for our own daily ministries in the world.
St. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11-13, “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”
Think of a football team. There are a variety of position players needed by each team to play, compete and win a game. You, the people of St. Paul’s, are like the players on the team. Each of you has gifts, talents and abilities that God directs and uses for the sake of God’s mission to draw people closer to God through Jesus Christ. For this team to play at its best, it takes practice, coaching, trainers and even some medical staff to fix up the wounded and injured. While the goal of the team is to get out there and use their God-given talents to accomplish the team’s mission. It takes practice, experience and the guidance and help of an experienced and dedicated support staff to get the team playing at its best.
The church may exist for the benefit of others, but in order for us to be of any use to the world around us, God has given us “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” That ministry is for your benefit, so that together we might all grow “to maturity.”
So, how can you use your church — this St. Paul’s congregation — for your benefit and for your spiritual growth and faith development in Jesus Christ? There are many different ways to make use of these gifts with which God has so graciously and a wonderfully blessed us, but I think they all have to do with forming connections to the various people that make up St. Paul’s. The Christian faith is primarily and fundamentally a relationship, a relationship with Christ, with God’s people and with the people in the world. Since God has given us to each other in Christ, the first way to make use of your church is to make connections to the people at your church. Here are three ways to make connections.
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