Cultivating Spiritual Friendships
What is ministry and which ministry should we serve in? Pastor Eugene clarifies what God says about ministry and encourages us to attend this Sunday's EQUIP class to find out how we can serve one another in the body of Christ.
People sometimes ask me how they can serve in the church. With all the different ministries and activities, the choice can be rather bewildering, especially for someone who is new to the church. This is the reason why Ephesians 4 is one of my favourite passages in the Bible. It presents a scriptural model for ministry that is helpfully clarifying.
In verse 11, Paul writes about how the risen Christ gives to the church different gifts, in the form of apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers. But they all have a common purpose: to “equip the saints” (v 12). Every believer is to be equipped. But equipped for what? Verse 12 goes on to say: “For the work of ministry”. Notice how "ministry" is singular? Thanks to God’s amazing generosity to His church, there is a rich diversity of people, gifts and activities. But all these serve a single ministry with a common goal: “For building up the body of Christ”.
In other words, Paul expects every Christian to be involved in strengthening and growing the church. We don’t all have to be doing the exact same thing, but we are working together for a common goal: the health and growth of the body. In Grace Baptist Church, we have different ministries with different activities. But regardless of where we serve—whether in the hospitality team, in ushering, in the worship team, in evangelism, as an elder or deacon, in children’s ministry, in the youth and young adult ministries, in a care group, and so on—we are co-labourers in the ministry of growing the church to “mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (v 13).
Let’s get more specific. In vv 15-16, Paul says growth in the body happens when each member of the body is “working properly” and speaking the truth in love to others. God wants every Christian to be a speaker of His truth, so that others in the church are encouraged and built up in Christ.
For such truth-speaking to occur, we must have meaningful relationships with one another in the body of Christ. Ministry is fundamentally about people—about growing them in Christlikeness. Ministry is not just about doing various tasks. And it is especially not about getting things done at the expense of our relationships with one another. Ministry involves sharing our lives with one another, so as to spur one another on to Christlike love and good works. Paul tells the church in Thessalonica: “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” (1 Thess 2:8) He writes to the Corinthian Christians: “We work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.” (2 Cor 1:24b)
Ministry is very relational. Serving and speaking the truth in love both take place in the context of the relationships we have with one another in the body of Christ. I’m sure many of us have benefited from having fellow Christians journey with us on the path of discipleship. Spiritual friendships are vital for the growth of the church. These are relationships between believers, where we encourage, exhort, admonish, and share in each other’s joys and sorrows. We give grace to one another, helping others to press on in Christ. So, to answer the first question in this article: How do we serve the church? It is by cultivating spiritual friendships with our brothers and sisters-in-Christ, in order to build them up in the faith.
Sadly, we can become so busy with 'doing ministry' that we have little time for such spiritual friendships. This is deeply ironic, given that such relationships are the very place where ministry is supposed to take place. How can we be more intentional about building spiritual friendships and serving one another in the body of Christ?
To find out, please join us for this Sunday’s Equip class at 11am. The Men / Women of Grace class will focus on the important topic of how we can serve one another and build up God’s church, for our joy and His glory. The women will meet in room 310, while the men will be in room 516-519.
Our sermon series in 1 John continues this Sunday. We will be hearing from 1 John 1:5-10 and thinking about what it means for us to walk in the light. We also have the joy of celebrating several baptisms: Emily Chan, Samuel Tan, Janette Tan, and Ng Jian Hui will be getting baptised in obedience to Christ. We’ll also be welcoming other new members into our body: Jason Chong, Frederick Chua, and Patrick Grace Lee.
Let’s prepare our hearts for our gathering on Sunday. Come ready to hear God’s Word and to encourage others!