Sermon: Church Growth…God’s Way (Ephesians 4:7-16)

Church Growth…God’s Way

 Ephes. 4:7-16 (ESV) 

    But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  [8] Therefore it says,

    “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,

        and he gave gifts to men.”

 [9] (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth?  [10] He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)  [11] And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,  [12] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  [13] until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  [14] so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  [15] Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  [16] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

In recent years, there have been countless trees give their lives for the purpose of producing books on church growth.  This is one of the dominant topics in the Christian bookstores.  As one walks the aisles, one can amass an armload of these supposed foolproof processes to pastor a mega-church.  If you simply follow the principles given within the pages one will wake up one day in the Crystal Cathedral, every pastor’s dream.

In recent years, it has also been proven that church growth strategies are more business-like and less God-centered. Marketing is no match for ministry. Polls are no match for power.  The latest fad is no match for proven faith. So, I propose that at Grace Community Church, we do things different. How about we obey what God’s Word says about the church and if it grows fast fine if it grows slow that’s fine too. Let’s do the part God wants us to do and then let’s watch to see God do His part.

So, I put to you today that church growth is not the end as many propose, it is a result of us doing what God desires. Bringing God glory through our obedience is the end.

Years ago, I spoke with a church planter who made this statement. He said that the way his church had experienced growth was that they would spend time getting the people ready through teaching and preaching. Once they were adequately discipled then it seemed the Lord would send a new group.

Today, I want for us to see together how God grows a church, not how men grow it.

I think you’ll see a progression as I unpack these verses. Like with everything, it starts with God and ends with His glory. I also think you’ll be surprised at what church growth really is in God’s mind.

1. God Gives Gifts to Christians (Ephesians 4:7-11)

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  [8] Therefore it says,

    “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,

        and he gave gifts to men.”

 [9] (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth?  [10] He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)  [11] And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,

To begin with, the Lord gives grace gifts to people. He knows that if a church is to have good leaders, He must give them gifts. Whenever someone is given the Holy Spirit at salvation, the Holy Spirit begins to manifest Himself is certain ways in that person’s life.  This is called spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts show up as something that a person may be interested in but is afraid to try. Prior to conversion, you would have never thought in a million years that you’d do what you’re thinking about doing. Spiritual gifts show up to others as they are around you at church. The more I’m around some of you the more I can sense what your gifts might be. I think we should avoid the “spiritual gift inventories” that are so common today. They tend to show your natural interests not so much the ones God gives at conversion.

If you think you’re gifted in a certain area come and speak to me about it. If I believe there may be potential there in that area, then I’ll begin giving you some small responsibilities and then we’ll see together how things go. I will always help you discover your gifts and I will never allow you to fail in a big way. We’ll start small and see where things go. Maybe your gifting is a little different than you might think so we’ll take it slow and grow together.

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 

In this case, what Paul has in mind by using the word “grace” is a gift God gives someone to perform whatever it is He’s called them to do. This is not the grace given in salvation but like salvation, it is a gift.

Not only does every believer possess a gift to be used to fulfill their callings, but these gifts come from an amazing place.

In verse 8-10 of our text, Paul borrows from the Psalm 68:18. In this Psalm David is writing about the Lord’s victory over the Egyptians during the time of the Exodus. He writes that the victorious Lord leads the captives out with the train of His robe. The picture is the Israelites holding on to the train of God’s robe as He brings them out of Egypt to the base of Mt Sinai. It was there that the mountain began to shake and tremble because of the presence of God. This same God who came to earth as a pillar of fire is the same God who came to earth in the incarnation.

[9] (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth?  [10] He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

This victorious God is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul applies this text to Jesus. Just as Jesus was victorious in Egypt during the Exodus, so this same Jesus was victorious when He came and died for the sin of His people and then ascended to heaven. We know this is the proper interpretation especially as we look to other similar texts:

John 3:13 (ESV) 

    No one has ascended into heaven except him who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 

 

 

He led captives out of Egypt and He leads captives out of sin today. This victorious Christ also gives gifts to His children.

He graces His people with gifts of service. Once He gives these gifts, He then in turn gives these people to His church as gifts.

[11] And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,

The Lord creates a new heart then gives that person a gift to use for service then gives that person to the church.

Why are you here as a part of Grace Community Church? It’s not by accident. You didn’t just decide to come. God brought you here as a gift to this church to serve in the capacity in which He has called you. Sitting on you butt is not one of the callings He issues.

The apostles and prophets were during the time of the formation of the Bible. Many today use the title apostle but they use it in a lesser sense. There are no more apostles being created by God like the ones in Bible. These men were at the beginning or the formative years of the church. Now the Lord gives as gifts to the church the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.

The foundation of the church was laid by the apostles and prophets, now evangelists begin to build on that foundation. They’re the ones gifted in clearly explaining the gospel.

Paul commanded Timothy to perform his evangelistic duties.

2 Tim. 4:5 (ESV) 

    As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

It’s too bad that the title evangelist in our day has taken a bad rap. There have been so many tele-evangelists that have polluted the word. To be an evangelist is a very high calling. Men like Billy Graham who can preach simple sermons and call people to repentance and faith are needed today in the church. Maybe you have that gift? Maybe so far it’s been unrealized or maybe your gift needs some practice and refining. Grace Community Church needs evangelists.

The pastors and teachers come next in line. They’re the ones who take those who have been evangelized and work with them to bring them to maturity in Christ. Those called to be pastors are called to shepherd the church. For the pastor, tender care is needed to be shown to the sheep that are struggling and then, at times, forcefulness is needed.

It’s important that we understand in God’s method of Church Growth that all people must be exercising their gifts to perform the ministry they are called to. If not then the church will be running on three cylinders not four. Your faithfulness to ministry is the key to church growth.

2. Gifted Christians are to Disciple Others (Ephesians 4:12)

[12] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

The worst attitude a church can have is the “paid minister mindset”. We pay him to evangelize. We pay him to teach and preach. We pay him to go out and invite people to church. We pay him… In this kind of church to pastor is the hired gun to go out and bring ’em in. This is not the biblical model for church growth.

When a church is working correctly, the pastor and teachers are discipling the members so that they are equipped to go out and bring ’em in. They must be equipped to equip the saints for the work of ministry.

Each member is to be equipped to perform the ministry for which they’ve been called. God calls and gives gifts, then the pastor and teachers pour their lives into the folks to refine those gifts and to help them see areas to use the gifts God gives. Praise God for His gifting and calling!

If the pastor is doing his job, the people are being equipped to do the work of ministry. A pastor can equip and encourage but after that the people must have an interest in doing the work.

3. Gifted Members are to Reproduce (Ephesians 4:13-14)

[13] until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  [14] so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Surprisingly enough, the goal of Church Growth…God’s Way is not numbers. God isn’t interested in how many people we can get to come on high attendance Sunday. Rather, He is interested in that those He has called to be pouring their lives in others. Growth is to be in maturity and in love for Christ. If this is taking place then God will do whatever He chooses with the number of folks who are attending. Nowhere in the Bible does it say to get as many people to come as possible.

Those God has chosen and gifted are to grow to maturity and be united in the faith. until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,

The Lord wants our faith to run deep. He wants us to understand the truths of Scripture so that we are not taken in by the latest thing.

I can talk about the Southern Baptists because I was once one. They have given in to the guru mentality. LifeWay, their publishing company, is pumping out one fad program after another. Just do what this book says and your church can grow. There are millions of dollars being spent in the area of research in church growth. They want to try to see what other big churches did to get big so that they can copy it to get big also. They don’t realize that they have fallen into the trap that’s set by the devil.

 [14] so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Rather than helping churches disciple their folks they have remained children and are being tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine,

One major task for the church is to help believers mature in their faith. Paul rebuked the Corinthians because they should have been doing this but they were lacking in this vital area:

1 Cor. 3:1-2 (ESV) 

    But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.  [2] I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 

The writer of Hebrews explains the same thing to us:

Hebrews 5:11-14 (ESV) 

    About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  [12] For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,  [13] for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righ teousness, since he is a child.  [14] But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

 

 

There is no new gimmick that has not already been tried and has already failed. We should stay away from these things. If a book is successful in helping a church grow it probably is because it is using Scripture or scriptural principles. Why not go straight to the Scripture our self to see what God says not to what someone else says God says.

4. Gifted Christians Teach Others Truth (Ephesians 4:15-16)

[15] Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  [16] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Rather than being carried along by every new idea, we are to speak and learn truth. The Greek word translated here as truth is a very unique word. It literally means truthing. It’s not really an English word but it has in mind speaking and living the truth to the degree that it is being made apart of everyone. New members become mature just because they are around you. They are to learn truth by reading it for themselves and by osmosis.

 

1. God has given grace gifts to all believers to fulfill their calling and ministry

2. God has given gifted leaders to the church to fan into flame these gifts and to help believers mature

3. Mature believers are to reproduce themselves in the church. Discipling others is the way this is accomplished

4. The truth is what is taught and lived out in the community of grace.

So, the church growth God has in mind is growth in maturity and in Christlikeness…I believe if we seek do accomplish these things, God will send us more people in which to disciple.

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