Just as love is the crux of the Gospel message, it is also the key to building a vital, effective, mature church body. Love is such a key factor that Matthew 22:36-40 says everything hangs on it. When I read that verse, I picture a door with two hinges. One hinge is our love for God and the other is our love for people. If either hinge is broken, the door simply does not work as it should. It may even become stuck and be totally inadequate at fulfilling its purpose.
God has designed us with purpose. We are called individually to serve God in different ways. And we are called as a body of believers to function in a certain way so as to complete the work that God, through Christ, began on this earth.
Ephesians has always been one of my favorite books of the Bible because in it I see how BIG God’s plan is for the church. It inspires me to see how a mature body of believers could really accomplish great things. If we are ever to fulfill that calling, we must get a grip on the love thing. We will never be the mature Christians we should be, or the effective church we could be, until love is firmly planted in our hearts. That’s why I’m so excited about The Encourager’s Devotional Series and the benefits of intentionally building an encouragement ministry. I think it’s the first, and perhaps biggest, step a congregation can take in becoming what God has planned.
You see, one of the biggest and most harmful myths that pervades the church is the idea that it is “THE” ministry’s job, or the job of a select few, to make everyone else become mature believers. But Ephesians 3:14-4:16 tells us differently. The ministry’s job is to prepare the saints to do ministry. The body is called to edify itself in love. We are all called to speak to each other in ways that promote maturity (4:15), to treat each other lovingly (4:2-3), and to do works of service together (4:12,16).
Like it or not, God has called us together to be a people – plural (Luke 1:17; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9-10). His plan is that we work in community (Eph 2:19-22). This community aspect of our faith is so important that unity was Jesus’ “last request” concerning His followers before His death (Jn 17:20-26). It is only when we work together with other believers in love that we are most effective as witnesses of God’s grace, power and love to the world (Phil 2:1-15).
When studying the life of Moses as he led God’s people, one thing is abundantly clear – God insisted that they stay together. They could not split up and say, “Ok, those with enough faith and maturity can go into the promised land now and the rest of you who aren’t quite ready yet must go wander in the wilderness.” No, they would either go in as a people or wander in the wilderness together as a people.
Studying Moses helps us answer the question of how you stick with a group of people when you see the promised land (in other words you see that things should be better than they are), but the people around you aren’t quite “there” yet. For Moses, it was even more than the lack of faith and immaturity of those around him which would have been discouraging. The people actually murmured against him personally numerous times. Yet, despite their attacks, he loved them.
At one point, God offered to give Moses a new group to lead (Num 14:6-20). This could have appealed to Moses’ sense of “justice,” but his love for God’s people caused him to stick with them and even to intercede on their behalf (also Num 12). Moses had the love thing down – both hinges in place. He loved God and God’s people enough to choose “to suffer affliction with the people of God” and live a life of self-sacrifice. For this, he is listed as a hero of the faith (Heb 11:23-29).
While the Christian walk is full of blessings that we receive as individuals, I believe the greatest rewards come as we work together in unity. To enter into that “promised land,” which is full of rewards we can only begin to imagine (Eph 3:20), we must encourage one another and speak God’s words to one another instead of murmuring and complaining. THE BODY MUST EDIFY ITSELF IN LOVE. This is a key to both the spiritual and numerical growth of the Church.
Join me every Wednesday for another installment in The Encourager’s Devotional Series. Next Wednesday will be the Bible study that accompanies this month’s devotion.