“A Body In Motion” (Ephesians 4:11-16 sermon)

Sir Isaac Newton, the English scientist, is famous, among other things, for the “laws of motion” he formulated in the 1600’s: among them being that a body at rest tends to remain at rest, and a body in motion tends to remain in motion — unless acted upon by an outward force. 

Perhaps ironically, those two terms could describe a lot of CHURCHES today too:

— There are a whole lot of churches that are “at rest,” and they just “tend to remain at rest,” and as a result, many of them are dying. Several thousand dying churches will close their doors this year in America. 

— But there are also a lot of churches that could well be described as being “in motion”— and they “tend to remain in motion.” They’re always doing something. We might that of that as a “good” thing — and it CAN be good — but we need to make sure that the “motion” of our churches is in the right direction. 

And the place where check that “right direction” is the word of God. 

As churches of Jesus Christ, we are not here just to “remain in motion;” we are here to remain in motion by doing the right things, those things which are based on HIS WORD.

So this morning we are looking a passage of scripture (Ephesians 4:11-16) which describes what the church as a “body in motion” should look like.

We need to KNOW what this passage teaches we are to do as a church, and make sure that we are committed to it as a people in the days ahead.

I.  The Equipping of the BODY

This passage begins listing the gifts God gave His church, and His purpose for those gifts. Verse 11 says: “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, (:12) “FOR the equipping of the saints for the work of the service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”

Here God tells us that He gave us a variety of gifted leaders in His church: prophets, pastors, teachers, etc. — and the reason He gave them. He specifically says that He gave these leaders “FOR the equipping of the saints for the work of the service …”.   So God says He did not give Pastors & teachers to DO all the work of the ministry in the church. He gave them to equip the SAINTS — the members — to do the work of the ministry.

It is NOT my job, or Kyle’s, or Scott’s, as pastors, to do all the ministry of the church. That is an old-fashioned, Roman Catholic concept from the middle ages. During that time they came up with a very “un-Biblical” distinction of “clergy” vs. “laity” in the church: that the “clergy” were to do the ministry of the church, while the “lay people” would just come and sit and watch and give money. But they were not encouraged to be involved in the ministry. And they were not to read the Bible for themselves, lest they misunderstand it and start spreading error among their friends. For this reason, in medieval ages, the Bibles in the churches were literally CHAINED to the pulpit, lest some “ignorant layman” get ahold of one, and who knows what all damage they might do with that!

But we see here in Ephesians that this concept is not Biblical. NO; the Bible says the SAINTS — the “laypeople” are to do the work of the ministry — and the pastor(s) are to equip them for it. 

Perhaps a good analogy is that the pastor is like the “coach” of the church. The coach is not usually the one out there playing the game; no, he is an expert at the game who teaches his team members how THEY can get out and play the game. That is just what the Bible is teaching here. The pastor(s) are not so much to DO the work of the ministry in the church, as they are to equip the MEMBERS to do the work of the ministry.

This is why I spend so much time preaching/teaching on how to have your quiet time, to walk daily with God. WHY do I keep doing that? #1 because you were created to walk with God and enjoy Him, as we saw last week, but #2, I am equipping YOU to walk with God for YOURSELF, so you can be the minister God wants you to be in our church and community. 

THIS is the goal: our goal as a church is NOT for us to have 3 full-time staff members who work really hard and do a lot of ministry. Our goal is to have 3 full-time staff members who work really hard to equip God’s people to do the work of the ministry! We are to “coach you up” to do God’s work.

Now perhaps the better description is that we are to be “player-coaches”.

Back before the era of Michael Jordan and Lebron James, Bill Russell was considered to be the greatest player in NBA history. His Boston Celtics won 11 championships. But what you may not know is that the last two, they won with Bill Russell as the “player/coach” of the team. He both lead the team as the coach — but then he would also get in and play the game too. He was a “player-coach” — and he won 2 NBA championships as player/coach.

Well that’s a pretty good picture of what the pastors of a church should be. Our primary responsibility is to be “coaches” — training God’s people to serve. But we are not JUST coaches; pastors are like “player coaches” — we’re in the same game you are in the world, day in and day in out.

 — We aren’t just sitting here telling you what to do;  we are to be out there doing it ourselves. 

— I don’t just tell YOU to get up early and seek God; I do it myself too.

— I don’t just tell YOU to prayer walk this month; I am out there prayer walking too.

— I’m not just telling YOU to seek God by fasting this month; I’m fasting this month too.

— I’m not just telling you: “Go take these dinners out when we get finished next Saturday;” I’m planning on taking meals to all my neighbors that I have been praying for! (And I hope you’ll plan to do the same thing!) 

SO we are “player coaches.” We’re training YOU to do ministry — but we are also doing what we are telling you to do, so that we aren’t hypocritical, and so that we can lead by example. 

But Biblically, our greatest responsibility is not just to “do” the work of the ministry, but to train YOU to do the work of the ministry. That is what God is ultimately “grading” us on as pastors!  

So THAT’s OUR responsibility: to train you for ministry. But YOUR responsibility is this: are you taking seriously your God-Given directive to be equipped to serve?

— are you walking with God daily to get His leadership for Your ministry?

— are you taking part when we have spiritual growth classes?

— are you participating when ministry opportunities come up?

OR do you have the “old-fashioned, middle ages” idea that Kyle & I are here to entertain you, and your role is just to come and sit and listen and then go to La Casona when it’s all over — and then repeat it all next week?  That’s an old, “traditional” view of ministry, that you just come “sit and watch,” but it is not a BIBLICAL view of ministry!  The Bible’s view of ministry is that pastors equip and lead the whole church body to serve,

II. The GROWTH of the BODY

The picture we find in these next verses is a picture of the spiritual growth that is to take place in us: Verse 13 says we are to do this work together “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure that belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children,  tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ …”. 

In these verses we see what we are to look like as our pastors and teachers lead us grow spiritually as a church body:

A. For one, we will have “the unity of the faith.” We will be united around the essential doctrines of the Bible, and we will not be deceived regarding them. This doesn’t mean that we will all agree on every particular teaching in the Bible. But there are certain teachings that are essential, that we must know, and stand on, and never compromise.

Paul mentions some of them in :4-6, when he says we have: “One body, and one Spirit (the Holy Spirit); just as you were also called in one hope of your calling; one Lord (Jesus); one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”  He says we have to be UNITED in these essentials:  God the Father, The Lord Jesus, The Holy Spirit (our Triune God); salvation by faith; baptism for believers; our hope of heaven. 

We must be unified in these things — and we must not be deceived by the false teachers which are always trying to lead us astray from them. He says in :14, “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of man, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.”

Paul warned the early church: there WILL be deceivers. And he warned us that as we near the end, it will get even worse. John says in I John 4 “MANY false prophets have gone out into the world.” So you have to be discerning: 

— You can’t just believe everybody who teaches from a Bible.

— You can’t just listen to every evangelist on tv

— You can just read every book, even in the “Christian bookstore.” 

There are too many deceivers. We have to grow spiritually to the point where we are reading the word of God for ourselves so well, that we recognize false teaching as soon as we see it — so that we don’t fall for the newest “spiritual fad,” or heresy. We will be united around the essential truths of the gospel.

B.  Another thing that will characterize us as we grow is what we’ve been studying for the first couple months of this year: we are to mature to be like Christ. That is our #1 goal. That is what those Beatitudes were all about: the character of Christ being built into our lives. And we see this same goal re-emphasized here in Ephesians 4 several times:

— :13 talks about how we’ll grow into “the knowledge of the Son of God”

— and “to a mature man” — WHAT is “a mature man”? It defines maturity as “the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” So again, the definition of spiritual maturity is that we are like Christ in our character: “poor in spirit,”/depending on God; mourning over sin; trusting God’s will and doing what’ right; hungering for righteousness, and so on. As we grow spiritually, our character will be more and more like Jesus. (We’ve looked at this at length for a couple of months, so we won’t spend a long time here today.)

— But third, :15 gives us one of the best examples of true Christlikeness: “speaking the truth in love.” To me, this is one of the best signs of genuine Christlikeness — and also one of the easiest things to have out of balance in our Christian lives.  BOTH of these are so important: “Speaking the truth/in “love.” But not only are each of these important; it is vitally important that we keep them both in BALANCE.

This is what Jesus did so well: He was the perfect example of this. He always spoke the truth, but He always did it, in love.:

— Think for example of the Rich Young Ruler. The Bible says that Jesus “felt a love for him” — and yet in that love He had to tell him the truth: that he had to be willing to stop making his money an idol if he wanted to get into the Kingdom of God!

— Jesus did the same thing with the Samaritan Woman. He obviously showed love to her: no one else would’ve even talked to her! But in love, He had to tell her the difficult truth: “you’ve had three husbands, and the man you are living with now is not your husband.” He spoke the truth, in love.   And on and on … we could do a whole sermon just on this. 

But the thing is, the Bible says, WE are to grow up into that same kind of spiritual maturity of Christ, and have that same, Christlike balance of truth and love. The problem is, most of us fail either one way or the other. Most of us have a natural inclination either to just “love” someone and not want to tell them the hard truth — or just “blast” someone with the truth, without really caring for them from our heart. Both of these are wrong.

When my sister was a summer missionary, she served as an intern with a small church. While she was making visits she met a woman who said, “Oh, I know that church. My daughter has a baby with the music minister.” Erin said, “Oh, I didn’t know he was married.” The lady said, “Oh, he’s not.” So Erin went right back to the church and asked one of the members if this was true, and the member said, “Oh, yes, we know he did that, but we just love him too much to let him go.” That may sound like “love” to some people, but that is not what the Bible calls love, or what Jesus showed us is love. Love that is not holy; that does not speak the difficult truth that a person needs to hear, is not real love. Real love is always balanced with truth.

But you know what; we may criticize that church (and they WERE out of bounds in what they did) — but others of us miss it on the other side, when we just clobber somebody over the head with some truth from the Bible, when we don’t really care about them personally. That’s wrong too!

Keeping that balance is not easy, is it? To me personally it is one of THE most challenging aspects of Christianity: to keep that Christlike balance:  “speaking the truth, in love.”  To really care, and at the same time, to be willing to speak that difficult truth that a person needs to hear.  

I have mentioned Rosaria Butterfield before, the former lesbian college professor from New England who came to Christ while reading the Bible for a research paper. In one of her books, she had something very insightful to say about this balance of love and truth. Because of her background, she is very sensitive to people who just “lambast gays” without really caring about their souls. She says, yes we need to share the truth with them — that God made us male and female, and we must not compromise that.   But at the same time she said this: “Your relationship with others must be as strong as your words.” (Rosaria Butterfield) I think that is so insightful. People are not going to listen to difficult truths from you, if they don’t have a relationship with you; if they don’t know that you care about them. And that’s where a lot of us make the mistake: we try to correct someone or tell them some difficult thing, when we haven’t showed them that we really care about them first. Who are YOU to be telling them that?  Mrs. Butterfield goes on on in her book to talk about the importance of taking TIME to build bridges with people, which, she says, cannot be rushed.

She know this, because she was eventually won to Christ by a pastor and his wife who loved her, had her over to eat at their home, showed they cared about her even as a lesbian — and because of that, she was open to hear it when they discussed difficult truths from the word of God. That couple could speak some hard truths into her life, because they had earned the right to speak it, by the love that they had shown her. “Their relationship was as strong as their words.”

The problem many of us have, is we want to speak hard truths into the lives of people that we really don’t care about — and they know it! And they aren’t going to receive that truth from us, unless they think we really care. This happens all the time on social media, doesn’t it? People just start “blasting” each other with hard truths, when there is no relationship there; they don’t care about each other. And as a result, they don’t really listen to that other person; they just get more and more angry about it.  Listen: your best evangelism is not going to be arguing about the Bible on Facebook with people who don’t even know you. It’s going to be with people you care for personally, who know you are “speaking the truth” with them, “in love.”  

This is the place of being the salt we talked about last week; of living the Christian life in the world; building relationships. Some of us could start that next week by just bringing a meal from the church to someone — or meeting some other need they have.

But make no mistake: God says this is our goal: to grow up to be like Christ: and especially in this: to be able to “speak the truth — in love”, in that perfect, Christlike balance. (And I think it’s interesting too, by the way, that he really doesn’t say anything here about growing in numbers; that’s not our main goal. It’s being unified in the faith; speaking the truth in love, and becoming more and more like Christ. THAT is the goal of our growth as a church body.)  

III.  THE ACTION of the BODY

As we mature in Christ, what’s going to happen? Well, as Newton said, this body will be “in motion”! It will ACT!  Verse 16 says: “the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body.”

Here the Bible describes the church body in ACTION. And HOW is it in action? Importantly, it says it is in action as EVERY MEMBER does their part. Notice how many times it describes that here:

— :16 = “the WHOLE body” — every part of it

— “being fitted and held together by what EVERY JOINT supplies”

— then it says “according to the proper working of EACH INDIVIDUAL PART, causes the growth of the body.

THREE TIMES there in that verse, it talks about the importance of the WHOLE body; EVERY joint, EACH piece, doing its part.

That’s vital in a physical body, isn’t it? Some of y’all younger people don’t know much about this, but as you get older, you really KNOW it: it only takes ONE little part of your body being “out of sync” to throw your whole body off, doesn’t it?

— as some of y’all know very well, ONE vertebrae out of alignment can virtually paralyze your whole body

— ONE broken bone in your foot can cripple your whole body

— even one bad TOOTH can make it virtually impossible for you to concentrate on anything and get anything significant done.

Just ONE part of your body out of place, can keep your whole body from functioning well.

And we need to realize it is the same way with the church body. It’s not a coincidence that the Lord calls His church a “body.” And it wasn’t by “accident” that THREE times here in one verse in Ephesians 4 God talks about the importance of EVERY MEMBER doing its part in the Lord’s body. Because ALL the individual parts of God’s church need to be functioning, for us to work well as a church body. 

To me, I am just SEEING this lived out in our church in these days. We have SO much going on right now; SO much that needs to be done — and it is taking ALL of us to get these things done.

For example, I really felt a conviction from the Lord that we should let our neighbors here right around our church know that we are here, and that we are here to minister to THEM. God used something that one of our men said a few months ago, to lay on my heart that we should do a BBQ for the neighborhoods right here by our church. Well, that sounds like a good goal, doesn’t it? Until you figure up there are 260+ homes around the church, and if you figure 3 people per home, that’s over 750 people to feed with BBQ!  

— My first question right off the top was to Darren Brooks, who’d cooked some steaks for our pastor/deacon dinner last year; I asked him: “Darren,  is it even possible for us to cook enough brisket for 750 people at one time? Can we even do that? (Meaning can HE do it!)  I loved his answer: “We can do that.” 

And it went from there. 

— Deb Peterson was willing to help organize the rest of the meal; she lost her mom right in the middle of all this, so Tracy Delasandri stepped right in at a CRUCIAL time to get our food signup started.

— And do you know how many pans of baked beans and potato salad it takes to feed over 700 people? I don’t, but last week they told me we needed 24 MORE pans than we had (we’ve gotten a lot more since)

— But we need people to cook, and people to serve, and people to clean up — 

— not even talking about all the people walking and praying in these neighborhoods; Lauren making our great prayer walking logo …

— and the 40 or so people who are staying after church today to write personal invitations to every one of those 260+ homes

— and Billie coordinating the lunch to feed those people

— and Kyle and Scott and Dana all doing whatever needed to be done: gathering addresses, getting envelopes, making brochures.

— and then we need lots of us — because we know that all these meals will not be taken by the folks in these neighborhoods — so we need tons of us to be ready to take the remainder of these meals OUT “to the highway and the hedges” to people we’ve been praying for; to our neighbors, and Sunday school absentees and prospects, and homebound.

It takes ALL of us to do this — and that’s just what Ephesians is saying here: it takes every member of the body, to do their part, to work together to make things happen. This is a big, worthy project for us as a church. And it is also a living picture of Ephesians 4 of the church in action.  

And we need to make sure we do this, not just on this project, but on everything we do as a church. It takes a whole body of folks to make every Sunday Service happen here: choir and musicians and technicians; every Sunday school hour it takes multiple workers to lead all of our age groups; it takes all of us tithing and giving to finance everything we are doing … And especially it takes all of us PRAYING, because Jesus said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.”  It just takes us all … which is what being a church family — a church BODY — is all about. 

It’s just like Ephesian 4 says: “The WHOLE body … EVERY joint … EACH individual part.”  It takes us all. The question is: will YOU be a part of it?

INVITATION

“Are you a part of it?

— That’s really the first question: ARE you part of the body of Christ? Do you need to repent of your sins and trust Jesus as your Lord & Savior today, and demonstrate it by being baptized?

— Then are you part of church family? It’s important to have a church HOME. And I don’t want to rush anybody into joining our church; you take your time, and pray, and seek God — but when He makes it clear to you that you need to join a church home, then you need to do it. If you’ve been saved & scripturally baptized, you can become a member of this church body today, if God is leading you.

— Others of us are saved/members — but you’d say, “I’ve just been sitting back; it’s time for me to get involved.” Talk with me, Kyle, Scott, other leaders in the church about how you can serve. 

— There are other ways to be involved: Signup to serve/make next Saturday; SHOW UP at 1:00 to take meals out to people God lays on your heart …

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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