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BODY BUILDING

It’s only in the last few years that we have felt the Lord lead us to adopt a theme for the year. The year before last our them for the year was redemption. Last year, before many of us went into lockdown in our homes, we had felt the Lord put on our hearts the theme, welcome home. This year, we have felt the Lord lead us to focus on the theme, grow. The word ‘grow’ conjures up different emotions in me. There was a time, quite early in my pastoral ministry at Legana, when it was recommended to me that I engage a ministry coach. It was my desire to do all I could to see our small church grow. The ministry coach agreed that numerical growth should be my focus and share how he had helped other churches our size experience dramatic growth. It just so happened that at this time I was in the throes of my doctoral studies which were challenging and stretching me personally. Despite the coach’s insistence that I focus on the numerical growth of our church, we had not grown to the extent that the ministry coach had intimated that we should have. After a year or so of this professional ministry coaching which had involved some rather cold, analytical, surveys including developing a strategic plan and being subject to a dubious thing called a DISC analysis, the ministry coach said that there was nothing more he could offer me.

This reinforced in me that for some church leaders ‘growth’ only comes in one form – numerical. and often overlooks that the kind of growth that God calls us to comes in more than one variety. In fact, according to the passage that we are basing our understanding of growth theme on, there seems to be at least five varieties of growth encouraged in the Scriptures, and only one of them is achieved by evangelism.

And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ
Ephesians 4:11-12

 

HOW PASTORS ARE TO GROW BELIEVERS

God has given certain ones to be shepherds (or, ‘pastors’) of God’s people, ‘the body of Christ’, the local church. These called ones are to do the things that Jesus described of a true shepherd in John 10 — to care, protect, feed, lead, train and encourage.

But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
John 10:2-5

Pastors (shepherds) are called to grow those God charges them to shepherd. This Christian growth is described as the same kind of growth that a newborn child experiences as they are nourished and nurtured.

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
First Peter 2:2-3

The first kind of growth described in Ephesians 4:13 presupposes physical growth, but also links this growth to maturing which involves growing in the second way — emotionally.

Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:13

To grow emotionally involves being able to empathise (understand what someone else is going through), and sympathise (identify with and relate to how someone else is feeling in the midst of their circumstances).

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15

Being healthy emotionally involves the ability to laugh when things are humorous, cry when things are sad, get angry when something is unjust, forgive when others hurt you, appreciate and admire beauty, wonder at the marvels in creation, gladly serve another without the prospect of receiving anything in return, and applaud the achievements of those given the limelight of honour. Pastors are called to model emotional health and help those they shepherd to grow emotionally. But there are also other forms of growth that pastors are called to lead others into.

So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.
Ephesians 4:14-15

Thirdly, every believer is expected to grow spiritually. Pastors are responsible to help followers of Jesus to grow in their knowledge of Christ (theology) through a deeper understanding and application of God’s Word. A mature believer grows in the knowledge and application of God’s Word partly by being grounded in sound doctrine so that they can detect the falsehood of every wind of doctrine. This involves knowing what Scripture actually says and how to interpret it within context. Perhaps the primary job of a pastor is to teach, explain, apply, and model the Scriptures. It is by studying the Scriptures that the believer comes to behold Christ and in beholding Christ they are transformed into His likeness. This is the essence of spiritual growth.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Second Corinthians 3:18

There remains two further forms of growth described in Ephesians 4. 

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.
Ephesians 4:16

Fourthly, there are certain aspects to being part of a local church which require growth that can only come from training. Pastors are responsible to both model and implement ongoing skill growth. This is referred to as equipping in Ephesians 4:16. This is why pastors and church leaders are responsible to train believers to better serve others and use their gifts more effectively.

and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
Second Timothy 2:2

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace
First Peter 4:10

for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
First Timothy 4:8

 

HOW WE ARE TO GROW TOGETHER

Discipleship (“growth”) involves growing in the four ways mentioned above. As each believer grows as a result of the shepherding of their local church leadership, that church grows stronger and healthier. This is the essence of body building and it equally applies to the body of Christ. Each believer is then growing through the nurturing that occurs within the gathering of the whole church each Sunday where the whole church family gathers together to worship, to celebrate holy communion, to be reminded that the body of Christ in which the Lord has placed them involves others, and to receive the preached Word of God. 

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 2:46-47

And each believer grows when they gather in their small group because the church also gathers in small groups through the week whereby connections with others are made stronger, prayers are more personal, the Scriptures are studied and questioned leading to practical application. Both gatherings are important for the believer’s growth for these different reasons. As we read through the Apostle Paul’s exhortation for churches in Romans 12, we notice that the first half applies to the larger corporate (all together) gathering of a church, and the last half has greater application within the small group gatherings of a church.

But there is a another growth that also happens as each member grows and serves each other with the gifts, talents, and energy that God has given them and it is referred to in both our key passage of Ephesians 4, and the Acts 2 passage cited above — numerical growth.

Numerical growth happens in three ways:

(i) those believers whom God calls to be a part of our church (this is called transfer growth);

(ii) those who born to parents who are part of our church (this is called biological growth); and,

(iii) those who are won to Christ and discipled as part of our church (this is called evangelism/new convert growth). 

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ROLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

I have just spent the past five Sundays introduce the doctrine and role of the Holy Spirit. I think that we have good reasons to believe that the Holy Spirit is cares about all five varieties of growth. In fact, as we yield to Christ through the Holy Spirit we too begin to share in the heart of Christ through the Holy Spirit to see and experience growth.

¶ Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.
First Thessalonians 3:11-13

If the Lord delights to grant us all three types of numerical growth, it will come with some very predictable challenges. I know this, because I am the father of four children. With the arrival of each of our children, there was upheaval, insecurities experienced by the older child/ren, intentional reassurance required from the parents, extra attention given to the new-born, physical adjustments to the home to make room for the new arrival, and new responsibilities for each family member to contribute to the running of the family. The same challenges face a church that also experiences numerical growth. It is my hope that as we walk together with the Holy Spirit in our surrender to Christ, that we will grow and that each of us will be involved in Christ’s body building.  

Your pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

3 Comments

  1. Gordie

    Great theme. I started reading and thinking there are more forms of growth than just numerical and then of course you nailed it!

    Reply
  2. John Sands

    Great! Got lost in the numbering system for a while but caught on . Thank you again. I tried to be iconoclastic but failed yet again.

    Reply
  3. Karen Dickson

    Thanks Andrew, I’m in Ephesians at present so nice to have some extra insights in my learning 😊

    Reply

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CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.

UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY

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HOW TO OPEN LIFE’S LOCKED DOORS

When I turned 50, I decided to do something really difficult. I enrolled in a university course to learn Biblical Greek. And, trust me when I say, this in no way is a brag – because I struggled through it and took far far longer than the average Biblical Greek student ordinarily takes to complete this course. I had to do twenty translation tests and then two major translations exams of the New Testament’s Greek text into English. I scraped through the course and somehow managed to pass it. I can testify that learning another language later in life is really hard! This is why I have the utmost respect for non-English-speaking migrants who come to our country and manage to learn English. Learning languages is not the only thing I find difficult. I envy those people who do the things easily that I find difficult to do or understand (like quadratic mathematic equations for example). Over the years I have pondered why it is that different people doing the same task can result in a person finding it incredibly easy who then gets it done quickly, and why another other person finds it next-to-impossible and as a result gives up trying to do it. I have discovered the answer to this conundrum lies in the “mat” principle. 

JESUS ATE with SINNERS!

This confrontation of the All-Good meeting face-to-face with Serpent-breath in the wilderness didn’t go the way the Dragon had become accustomed to. Even more baffling to him was what the Eternal Son did next. Rather than going to the supposed ‘rulers of this world’ He went to the despised and inconsequential: the people of His hometown, Nazareth and those in the socio-economically challenged region of Galilee. 

¶ And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read…When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
¶ Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that He was the Christ.
Luke 4:16, 28-29, 40-41

Even more baffling to the Satan was that instead whipping up the mobs and leading a rebellion, the Christ went to the shunned, the despised, the broken, the humiliated, as their dinner Guest! It seemed like an odd strategy, especially to those who had been longing for so long for the arrival of the Promised One…

CHRISTIANITY IS A PROPOSAL NOT AN IMPOSAL

I do not want to give anyone the impression that Christian is just a set of intellectually propositions. It is much more but it is certainly not less. One of the propositions that we Christians make is that Christianity is a spiritual transformation of a soul. While its propositions are true, they are not just true, they invoke a miraculous transformation in a human being. Jesus described this as being “born again” (John 3:3). The New Testament describes the moment this happens as being a transaction with God where we surrender our life and our sin to Him and He gives us His life and His pardon (1Jn. 1:8-9)! This transaction includes a hope that goes beyond the grave. God the Father adopts all those who turn to Him. It results a new way of seeing life and the world. The things that once troubled us no longer do, because we have a growing confidence that God has a plan and is currently outworking that plan. If you have never surrendered your life in a transaction with God, you can now. You are just one prayer away from peace with God and purpose for your life – both now and beyond the grave! The choice is yours. We can’t impose this offer from God on you, but I do have a proposition for you.

DIVINELY PRECIOUS TRIPLETS

Some of the profound truths in the Bible are expressed in just three words. The late J.I. Packer, one of the world’s most respected modern theologians, was asked to sum up the gospel message. He did so in just three words: “God saves sinners.” Many of the most eloquent prayers ever uttered have consisted of no more than three words: “Help me Lord”, “Thank You God”, “God save me”, “Please heal her.” One of the greatest royal invitations only consisted of three words: “Come unto Me.” Three words is all it takes to start an exciting journey: “Come and see.” Many of these three words statements, prayers, and invitations, have become divinely precious triplets that have rescued a lost soul, repaired a broken relationship, and replenished the worn-out.  

ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT JUST MERELY A MATTER OF TIME

The beauty of John 3:16 is that it is so simple it can be understood even by a child; and yet, as a believer’s knowledge of God and His Word grows, he or she will come to discover that there is a wealth of spiritually-satisfying treasure to be mined! In its simplest form, Jesus died so that all those who turn to Him in trust will go to heaven after leaving this life. Dig a little deeper though, and you also discover that the eternal life on offer is not merely about a location (‘heaven’) or a duration of time—but a quality of life and status of existence that elevates the believer into a glorified state with God Himself (Rom. 8:17; 1John 3:2). Our lives are now the training ground for our status as co-regents and co-rulers with Christ over all of His redeemed creation (1Cor. 6:2-3)!