Ephesians 2:10 and 4:12
I don’t know about you but this year’s World Series was one of the best in years. Whether you rooted for the Diamondbacks or the Yankees, we have to admit that it was a great series.
Now, there are groups of people who statistically follow the game of baseball. They love to find, study, and analyze the numbers related to the game and players. Now, I am not one of those people, but as I thought about this final sermon in our current series, “The Five Purposes of The Church, “ one statistic intrigued me – how many people were left on second base during the World Series.
So, I went surfing the Internet. But, I could not find that particular statistic either because I was not looking in the right place for it or it probably could have been had – for the right price – which I was not going to do.
But, one of things that I heard over and over during the series was runners in scoring position. What this means is that the team that is up to bat has base runners within scoring range. And if my memory serves me correctly a person is in scoring position when they are at third and second bases.
Any baseball manager will tell you that to score runs, you have to get runners in scoring position and hit to get them home to score some runs. Leaving a lot of men on base is not the way to win a game.
As we look at the final of the five purposes of the church this morning, the purpose of service, the image of runners in scoring position ran through my mind because I believe that there is a parallel in the church. Rick Warren puts it this way.
“Most churches do a good job of getting people to first base or maybe even second base. People will receive Christ, be baptized and join the church (that’s getting them to first base). Some churches also do an excellent job of helping believers develop the habits that lead to spiritual maturity (that’s getting to second base). But few churches have a plan to insure that every believer finds an appropriate ministry (third base), and even fewer quip members to win others to Christ and fulfill their life mission (home plate).”
The New Testament has a lot to say about service. Paul, in his letters to the first Christian churches, wrote often about the need for the people to be serving, to be involved. Here two examples from the book of Ephesians.
First, Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Notice what Paul says:
- We are God’s masterpiece! We are magnificent creatures, we are not junk, and we are not stupid or dumb or incapable. We have been created by God, magnificently created!
- We have been magnificently created to do good things that God has planned for us to do. In other words, we have a mission, we have a purpose, and there is a wonderful plan for us. God God has something for us to do!
That something is a ministry – a place of service, a “sweet spot” as I have said from time to time, that only we can truly fill. God wants us to get to third base and then to home plate to score a run for the Kingdom!
In Ephesians 4:11 and 12 we read, “He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ,”
Who is the minister of this congregation? No, it is not me. You are the ministers of this congregation. I am the pastor.
And what is my role as pastor? To make you look good! Now you have probably never heard a pastor say that before, have you?
I am here to help you minister in this community! I am here to help you be successful in all that God would have you be and do! I am here to help you find your place of service and help you do your best in bringing people to Christ. That is my Biblical authorization!
But, why is the work of the pastor to make the congregation look good? Why am I here to help you minister in this community? Why am I authorized by Biblical mandate to help you find your place of ministry and do it to the best of your ability?
Here are three reasons:
1. God has called each personally committed follower to a place of service. There are no verses in scripture that place limitations on who is eligible to serve or not. When Paul wrote in I Corinthians 12:10, It is the one and only Holy Spirit who distributes these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have. He was not talking to Pastors or missionaries; he was talking to you and me.
When Paul says in verse 27, Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it, he is referring to all of us. All of us have been given a place of service. If you have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, you automatically have a place of service that God, not me, has for you to fulfill. My role, our role for one another, is to help you discern what is God’s place of ministry for you. I’ll have more to say about that in a few moments
2. No one person can do all the service, all the time. Those that try to do it all: do not last. They burnout and collapse. Paul’s very important analogy of the body in I Corinthians 12 gives us a very clear illustration of this reason. We cannot all be an eye or nose or foot. We also cannot serve well without having an eye or nose or foot. Some of us know what it is like to lose a portion of our body and then try to compensate for its loss. The same thing happens in the church when we fail to get on third base and both discover and initiate our place of service in the ministry of the church. We “limp” along.
3. It takes all kinds of people to reach all kinds of people for Christ. Take a moment and look around the sanctuary. Does everyone look the same? No! Do all of us work at the same place of employment? No! Do all of us hang out with the same group of people? No! Let’s look at it this way:
Each one of us has a sphere of influence. We are involved in at least three of the four outer spheres – work, community, school, neighborhood or home. In every one of those spheres are people that we related to. All of us are a part of this community and yet we have meaningful connections with only a portion of it. But, when all of us are together, working together on the same page, great things will happen!
All together this means that the pastor or pastors of a church cannot do all the work of the ministry because it is humanly impossible and it is Biblically wrong!
Earlier this year, we began to address this issue of helping people find their places of ministry. At our gathering in January, we identified it as one of four areas we were going to work on. We have made some progress in most of those four areas, but not all of them.
One such area we called a ministry development process. This is a “third base” ministry. We have made some progress in identifying materials and the previous Pastoral Advisory Council and our current Leadership Council has gone and is going through this workbook that is our initial tool for helping one another begin to determine one’s place of ministry. This workbook is called, Discovering Your Ministry Identity: Learning To Be Who You Already Are!
Now, this is a challenging process and it is taking longer than I, and those currently in it, envisioned it would take. However, we are making progress and this will continue to be a part of what we do here.
My challenge to you this morning is be prepared to go through the process next year. I will be offering this during Sunday school sometime after the first of the year. My goal is to have at least 12 persons go through it by June 2002.
Now, we need not be intimidated by this workbook nor get caught up in it. It is only a tool. It is a door through which we need to pass in order to get to third base and have a more effective ministry – personally and congregationally.
God has a sweet spot a place of service that is uniquely you! Each one of us has a SHAPE; some have called it, that is us, and no one else. Now what is you SHAPE? (OVERHEAD UP)
It is the sum total of our:
Spiritual Gifts – those God-given, God-ordered abilities, that all of us have been given to use in service and outreach.
Heart – another word is passion. Let me ask you this question: If you could do any ministry in the church that you would like, what would it be? What is it that when you think about it, makes you so eager to get involved, you about burst? That desire, that dream is there for a purpose.
Abilities – all of us have natural abilities. Some of us are organizers and others of us are creative. Some of us are energized by tasks and others of us find great pleasure in working with people. But, all of us have abilities.
Personality – Some of us are introverts and to stand up and do what I do each week would scare us to death! Others of us are extroverts, like me, and have no trouble doing this. Others of us think things through very carefully before making a decision. Others of us are gut-level persons who are ready to act on a moment’s notice.
Experiences – All of us have had different experiences. Some have lived our entire lives in this community. Others of us have lived many different places. Some of us have lived in some very difficult situations and others of us have a rather easy life.
God can, and does, use all of these elements to lead us to a place of ministry and service so that others might find Christ and do the same thing. There is a place of ministry, of service for every one of us.
Let’s take a final look at the diamond diagram.
Notice that ministry or service takes place along the path that includes serving Christ and sharing Christ. This means that we must move beyond second base when it comes to our faith. Yes, knowing Christ and growing in Christ continue to be important. But, after a certain period of time, a deeper knowing and growing comes as we serve and share.
So what is the purpose of service? (OVERHEAD UP) The purpose of service is to enable the entire church to do God’s work! And when this purpose of the church is fulfilled, there is a ripple affect across the generations, across the decades, and the world. Let me illustrate:
In the 1930’s a young boy who happened to be named Jim attended a small storefront mission in Zanesville, Ohio. Mother Bowman was a committed layperson who was influential in Jim’s and his family’s life. Through the ministry of that church and this servant of God Jim and his family were saved.
In 1943 Jim and his family moved to Dayton, Ohio. That same year a new High School graduate moved from Tennessee to Dayton, where she eventually made a friend with a young woman named Elizabeth, who just happened to be Jim’s sister.
Well Ina became good friends with Jim’s family. In fact, Jim, 7 years younger than Ina, became Ina’s High School Sunday school class assistant. Nearly 10 years went by and the once teacher and teacher’s assistant became husband and wife!
They had a son they named James, Jr., who made a personal profession of faith in God as a boy at about the same age as his father. He too, got involved in serving God like his parents did.
In fact, he stands before you today to tell this story! For the young boy of Zanesville was my dad and the young women of Tennessee is my mom!
Service is a hallmark of my family. My parents, through thick and thin, were servants of God! Their faith did not allow them to sit but to serve. In fact, the inscription mom had placed on the tombstone after dad’s death 10 years ago says, “We served the Lord together!”
But, the other thing I want to have us remember this morning is that other people, some who I know and some who I don’t, were involved in service that shaped my parents’ lives and directly and indirectly shaped my life. And their service is affecting us today!
But, what would have happened if one or two people had not taken their rightful place in ministry in my parent’s lives and my life as well? You might say, “God would have brought someone else along.” He could have. But, the point is, as those many people came alongside my family and I over the years, they were fulfilling both a ministry and a mission that gave them the chance to be, as our workbook says, “Who They Already Are!”
A month ago, I said to you, “For the next five Sundays we are going to examine each of these purposes because we need to understand why we are here at Oak and Mitchell Streets in Kendallville, Indiana. I cannot say this strongly enough: it is imperative that we begin to understand the reasons, the purposes of why we are here. If we don’t we are going to flounder in our efforts, get frustrated in our attempts, and could ultimately fail to accomplish the mission that God has for us.”
So why are we here? Why are we engaged in worship, fellowship, discipleship, service, and evangelism?
To personally know Christ as Savior and leader.
To grow stronger in and more like Christ.
To serve Christ in a variety of ways.
To share Christ with those who want to know HIm.
To honor Christ in weekly worship.
That is why we are here. We are not here for our own benefit. We are here for the benefit of others – those already here and those who are yet to be here. The church does not exist for its own benefit. It exists for the purpose of helping people find, know, grow in, serve, share, and honor God with their entire lives.
How well are we doing? I think that we are doing well. But I also very, very truly believe that God has more for us to do. He has a bigger plan than you or I can even imagine. Do you believe that?
Then one of the things that it requires of us is to get off second base and head for third by discovering our gifts, our passion, our calling for an area of service that God has for us. Are you ready? Let’s go! Amen.