What is the purpose of the local church? There are many possible answers to this question and through the generations a plethora of books have been written on the subject. However, in this series I wish to focus on those aspects which are determined by the people who comprise the church. Who are they? Why are they special?
In his letter to the Ephesians Paul tells us that God ‘chose us before the foundation of the world’ (Eph 1:4) ‘for good works .. that we should walk in them’ (Eph 2:10). If He chose us He saw the potential in each one of us. One of the primary roles of a church leader is to see this potential realised through teaching, training and discipleship.
Two years ago I visited Nigeria and led a training workshop on Church Administration. I shared how Biblical administration can release leadership to flow in their gifting by removing from them those activities that clutter their lives, as was true of the early apostles in Acts 6:1-7. There we see how these first church leaders were in danger of being deflected from their primary calling to pray and preach the word by a serious pastoral problem, women who were in serious disagreement because they were not being treated equably in receiving welfare. Once seven mature men ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ had been appointed to resolve the problem, and the apostles were relieved of handling this issue, the church grew rapidly (Acts 6:7).
As I shared this teaching I was interrupted. ‘What is to stop an administrator of this stature taking half my people and planting a church?’ I was asked. I responded that such a question was outside my frame of reference. If leaders, by jealously guarding their position, resist seeing their people fulfilling the potential God has placed in them they are not serving God’s purposes. A leader should rejoice if he raises up men of stature to take responsibility! Such a person is likely to continue to serve faithfully within the church rather than cause schism.
A place for everyone and everyone in their place
I have often found that people are very desirous of serving in the church but do not know how or where. Because they do not have a ‘profile’ ministry – teacher, elder, small group leader etc – they feel there is nowhere for them to serve and even wonder if they have a place in that church. I am certain that is not how God sees them! With this in mind I developed a course several years ago, Discover and Serve, with the valuable input from a colleague. I gratefully and willingly acknowledge the significant input from Valerie Gillam who subsequently led the ministry teams at the Toronto Vineyard during the outpouring of the Spirit in the late ‘90s. I am deeply appreciative of her insights and hard work.
The main purpose of the course is to help people see that they have much to offer and to help them identify what this is so that they may serve in a fulfilled and effective way in the local church, hence the title ‘Discover and Serve’. I have found that, once people identify their gifting and talents they realise that they do not have to strive to become like someone else in order to contribute to the life and ministry of the church. They have permission to be who God made them to be.
In this series I will first introduce you to the Serving Profile which people compile through their journey of discovery. I will then take you through the key elements that make up that profile so that you can apply these in your own life and church. My prayer is that through what I share more people will become actively involved in serving and find great fulfilment in what God has planned for them from ‘before the foundation of the world’.