Sunday, 28 January 2018

Capacity - Releasing and Empowering - Ephesians 4:1 - 16

God with us! Jesus physically ministered - touching the leper, healing the sick, declaring the Kingdom, forgiving and releasing people, drawing them together and calling them to follow Him. His ministry led him to the cross, but death could not hold him - he rose again and was alive, victorious. Yet then came that moment where he would no longer be physically present, he would take his right and proper place in the seat of God.

With that moment came a question: How would the Kingdom ministry that was still needed in so many people continue if Jesus was no longer physically present?

Jesus had an answer! After his ascension he said we would not be left as orphans, but he would send His Spirit - God with us, now God within us. And with His Spirit comes a whole package of exciting things. In those things are the ascension gifts, abilities put in us to continue his ministry. They are like activator keys, given to release what God has put in us: callings, passions, abilities that Jesus created and intended all along. This is God's answer to Jesus no longer physically being present.

The callings are listed in v11. Each one is something that Christ has given. The Greek word is forceful on this point, it is not might or could, but they have been given. In brief they are:
  • Apostles: the visionary, pioneer, risk-takers - who extend the Christian faith across peoples/cultures/borders
  • Prophets: the justice-minded and challengers - who draw attention to the gap between God's reality and our own
  • Evangelists: the recruiters and mobilisers - who lead people to join in and follow Jesus
  • Shepherds: the protectors and nurturers - who create and maintain healthy community
  • Teachers: the wise guides - who help people gain insight into God and His ways
Which of the above comes most naturally to you? Maybe you have a bit of a mix, but likely one will tend to come to the fore. Hence the key question:

Key Qn: [IN] What has Jesus put in you to benefit the whole body?
Challenge: Ask friends for feedback in terms of A-P-E-S-T

Note this is not about whether you are an up-front kind of person or not. It is also not whether you might be a leader, or happy to be on a team simply helping out. Those are valid things to think on, but the A-P-E-S-T gifting cuts across these and applies to all of us, whether we are back-room, quietly serving or otherwise. You may be the unnoticed serving person ... but still have in the core fibre of your being that burning justice of a prophet, or the ability to organise clear thought like a teacher. So ask what people see in you in terms of these 5 giftings.

The passage unpacks what the 5 achieve. Verse 12 says 'to equip' us all for works of service, to build up the body, to bring unity, to become mature, all leading to fullness of Christ (being more like him and closer to him). Note that the Greek word 'to equip' may also be translated as 'to mend', 'to join together', 'to put in order', 'to perfect'. So we can read the gifts given for the body to be mended for service/unity/maturity, or perfected to service/unity/maturity and so on.

Once again we see Paul is concerned for the whole body, and sees that everyone in the body has a role. There is something of apostle/prophet/evangelist/shepherd/teacher in you to contribute to our combined work as a church. Jesus has given all five, and so together we surely need all five - working together much like the different sections of a symphony orchestra combine to make their beautiful music. In fact we can say that Jesus giving all five is foundational for the church to grow.

Remember that Jesus physically did Kingdom ministry ('works of service'); he forgave & released people ('building up'), drawing people together ('unity') and called people to follow ('become mature'). In other words Paul says that the five gift-callings enable us collectively to do the same overall ministry that Jesus did when he was physically present - we are now that presence continuing the ministry. The end result is a mature body of people growing up with Jesus as our head.

So what then if we paid no attention to these giftings? What if the church organised itself with these gifts ignored or overlooked? Surely it would be tragic, because the positive effects described in v12-16 would simply not happen. That is why as a leadership we want to take these callings seriously. That is why we want all of us to discover what God has put in us, and train/mentor/encourage each person to go with the Spirit activating and developing it.

For some that will bubble up as leadership - and we certainly want to grow, train and release leaders. For some it will emerge as helping as a volunteer. A-P-E-S-T is not about professional ministry, so we want to honour and give positive language to people ministering in voluntary ways. Remember that even if you humbly help by moving the chairs, you can still have one of A-P-E-S-T running as a passion deep within you.

Some go further and intentionally give their time, fulfilling what we call Community Ministers. We want to journey with you, helping you find & refine, progressing the ministry that Jesus has already seeded in you. And as a church we want to encourage pioneers. For too long the Western church in general has organised itself ignoring the Apostle, Prophet and (largely) the Evangelist. Lets welcome back the 'A-P-E's, so to speak, and encourage them in their vital contribution.

Finally there may be new ministry, but it can only be done if someone receives an income to enable them to do it. We want to be open to that, ready to financially release and enable when we see that calling emerge.

Jesus has given in his victory, and that means there is latent potential seeded into us - his body, his church. We desire everyone to discover that which Jesus has given in them. If we can encourage those abilities to all work together, the prize is a growing, healthy and mature body, upwards to Christ who is our head.

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