Biblical Community | Romans 12:3-8
Brian Hedges | April 25, 2021
I want to invite you to turn in your Bibles this morning to Romans 12. We’re continuing in the series we began two weeks ago on Romans 12-16.
Let me just begin by saying very clearly what the aim and the purpose of this message is. My hope today is that the Spirit of God, through his word, would encourage you if you are serving in the body of Christ in this church and that the Spirit would convict you if you are not or if you are serving with wrong motives or attitudes. Okay? Pretty transparent aim. That’s the end goal here, so my hope is that when you walk out of here today you will walk out having taken a step towards being plugged in at Redeemer Church.
We’re going to talk about biblical community, we’re going to talk about body life and what that means. This is going to be very practical, maybe as practical as I’ve ever gotten. I’ve really tried hard to just connect the dots and make things practical today.
Now, I do think that this is challenging for us in our day, and perhaps it’s more difficult for Christians in Western, secular society in 21st-century America—more difficult for us than it ever has been to actually connect, to plug into a church. There are some reasons for that. One of those reasons is a cultural reason.
I’ve talked several times in recent months about this phenomenon that’s now known as “expressive individualism.” We live in the age of the self, the culture of the self. There’s actually a new book, a very important book, that I’m reading right now by Carl Trueman that’s called The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. In this book, Trueman contrasts the basic orientation and worldview of people in previous generations, in traditional cultures, with people in our culture today. He talks about how people used to find meaning and purpose in relationship to their communities as they conformed their lives to the expectations and the standards and the norms and beliefs and practices of the community, but now meaning is directed inward, and an individual creates meaning and purpose for himself or herself.
As an example, he reflects on how his grandfather would have answered the question, “Are you satisfied with your job?” Carl Trueman is British, and his grandfather left school when he was 15 years old and spent his entire life, his entire working life, working in a sheet metal factory in Birmingham, England, in the industrial heart of England.
Trueman says, “If you had asked my grandfather, ‘Are you satisfied with your job?’ he probably wouldn’t have understood the question. But if he did, he would have thought, ‘Well, I’m serving my community and I’m putting shoes on the feet of my children and I’m putting food on the table, so yes, I’m satisfied with my job.’” Because his whole perception of the focus of his work was not inwardly directed. He wasn’t thinking about it in terms of his personal feelings of satisfaction.
Whereas, Trueman says for himself (and this, of course, would be true for most of us), if we think, “Am I satisfied with my job?” we’re thinking about our internal experience, how we feel emotionally about our day-to-day work life. Does it satisfy us? Does it fulfill us? And so on.
Then Trueman goes on to talk about how in the culture of self, institutions such as schools and churches seem to serve a different function when people approach it with this selfward orientation. In traditional cultures, people viewed institutions such as schools and churches as places to be formed, places where their character was formed and molded; but in our culture today, we tend to just automatically view schools and churches and other institutions as platforms upon which we perform, rather than places where we are formed.
Also in a footnote he quotes the conservative philosopher Roger Scruton, who notes the shift in the understanding of self in relationship to dance. This, I think, is an interesting metaphor. He talks about how dance used to be—and you can still see this today in things such as a square dance—it used to be that people would come together in a community, live music, and you had to learn certain steps to a dance, and you would take your place as an individual coordinated with a larger group, and that’s what a dance was. It was very much a community event, and you had to conform to what the rest of the people were doing.
Whereas today, in a nightclub type setting, dance is very freestyle, it’s very individualized, and of course increasingly sexualized, so Roger Scruton says that mirrors what is happening in our culture. We have become increasingly self-oriented.
All of us are shaped by this cultural context, and I think it does make church more difficult for us to really plug into, because our whole approach tends to be wrong.
Add to that 2020 and a pandemic, where we by necessity had to spend some time in social distancing. We’re starting to come out of it now, but the temptation, of course, is going to be to remain on the sidelines, to keep livestreaming when we don’t need to because it’s just more convenient, because it’s just easier, or just not to be really plugged in to the body of Christ.
My goal today is to push against both of those tendencies and to help us see how the gospel leads us to actually plug in in very practical, tangible ways; the way we use our time, the way we invest our energy in relationships and in service; and that’s what this passage is about, Romans 12.
I’m going to read verses 3-8; you can read along with me in your Bibles or on the screen; and then we’ll look at three things. Romans 12:3-8. Paul says,
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”
This is God’s word.
There are three things that I want us to see this morning, three exhortations for us if you’re going to serve in the church and you’re going to do what Paul says in this text: 1. Get in your right mind, 2. Embrace your place in the body of Christ, and 3. Use your gift for the good of others.
1. Get in Your Right Mind
What do I mean by that? You know how if someone is acting in a way that is contrary to normal social norms, or they’re acting contrary to their basic character—they’re acting erratically or rudely or whatever it is—we will sometimes say, “He’s not in his right mind. She’s not in her right mind. She’s acting contrary to character. She’s not in her right mind.” We use that expression.
Well, Paul here in this passage is telling us that if we are not thinking of ourselves as members of the body of Christ and then serving one another, that we are not in our right minds. In fact, the word “think” is a key word in verse 3. You see this in verse 3. He says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober [thinking],” okay, or sober judgment. Sober thinking, but it’s a cognate of this word, “to think.” “...to think with sober thinking, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
Paul here is concerned with how you think! He’s concerned with your mindset. The word here and the cognates of this verb, phroneo. That’s the word, and it means to think, to set the mind upon. It has to do not just with the content of what you think, but the very direction of your thinking. That’s the idea.
I think Paul would say that if you are not serving you’re not in your right mind, you’re not thinking in the right way, and he wants you to change your mindset and to get in your right mind, to think in the right way.
What does that mean? I suggest it means three things.
(1) It means, first of all, to have a renewed mind. Remember what we saw last week in Romans 12:1-2? Our reasonable response to the gospel of Jesus Christ, to the mercies of God, is to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable to God. This is the reasonable response; and then to not be conformed, pressed into the mold of this present age, but rather to be transformed by the renewing of your minds.
As we saw last week, that means that our minds are undergoing a remodeling project. We are being renewed, renovated from the inside out. We are adopting new ways of thinking, new ways of viewing the world. It really turns upside-down the way the culture thinks of the world. We are not to think about ourselves first and others second; we are to put others first. We are to put God at the top and others first and ourselves coming behind. That’s a renewed mind; that’s a different way of thinking.
This is a concern with Paul in his letters. One of the places you especially see this is the letter to the Philippians. He uses this word, phreneo, over and over again in Philippians. One key place is in Philippians 2, where he says, “Have this mind among you, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” He goes on to describe Jesus Christ, who, though he is in very nature God, did not consider that something to be exploited, but instead took upon himself human flesh. He took the form of a servant and he became obedience to death, even death on the cross. A wonderful piece of high Christology there! But Paul is using it to say, “This is the mindset you are to have.” It’s the mindset of serving others.
Paul uses this word in Romans 8; he contrasts minding the things of the flesh versus minding the things of the Spirit. It’s what you set your mind upon; it’s the direction of your thinking. It’s really your worldview. It’s the grid through which you make your daily, concrete decisions and choices about how to spend time, invest energy, and so on. We need to have a renewed mind.
(2) Secondly, we need to have a humble mind. Paul says, “I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober [thinking].” Readers of his own day probably would have known that in Greek moral philosophy there was a contrast between high-mindedness, or hubris, and right-mindedness, sober mindedness, or prudence. It was one of the four cardinal virtues.
Of course, hubris or pride—you know, we can detect that. We can see when someone thinks too highly of himself. But the contrast to that is to have a right self-assessment. It’s really humility.
What Paul has in mind here is not abject, servile humility, someone who’s just constantly denigrating himself, talking about how unworthy he is. I mean, that’s really a facade. That’s not the real thing. It’s rather someone who is not really thinking about himself as at all; instead, he is highly invested in others.
C.S. Lewis famously said, “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call humble nowadays. He will not be always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. He will not be thinking about humility; he will not be thinking about himself at all.”
That’s the idea, right? We’ve known people like this, who just seem to have a genuine interest in others. They’re not self-absorbed. Well, this is the kind of mind we need. We need a renewed mind, we need a humble mind.
(3) The last thing is we need what we might call a gospel mind. Notice that Paul says we are to think of ourselves with sober judgment, “each according to the measure of faith.”
That phrase is subject to different interpretations, but I think it means this: the standard of the faith, the faith once delivered to the saints (there’s the definite article before “faith”); I think he has in mind here the body of Christian doctrine and truth, the gospel, basic Christian teaching, and this is the standard by which we are to measure our thinking.
Of course, at the heart of the gospel is a King who came to serve. At the heart of the gospel is the Son of Man who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. That’s the standard. That’s the measurement. A gospel mindset, a gospel mind, gospel thinking, means that we are imitating Jesus Christ in his servanthood.
Listen, if you’re not serving, if you are not plugged in, if you are not in concrete, tangible ways investing yourself in serving others, in meeting the needs of others, you’re out of your mind as a Christian. You’re out of your right mind. You’re not thinking the way a Chrsitian should think. A Christian who is in his right mind will live in a way that is congruous with the gospel, or in step with the way Jesus himself lived. That’s first.
2. Embrace Your Place in the Body of Christ
Here’s second: embrace your place in the body of Christ. Look at verses 4-5. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
I’ll borrow Kent Hughes’ way of outlining these two verses and just point out the unity, the diversity, and the mutuality in the body of Christ.
(1) First of all, there’s unity. “For as in one body we have many members,” and then verse 5, “so we, though many, are one body in Christ.” Paul here is concerned about unity in the body.
Now, of course, unity in the church has implications for how we think about our relationships with other Christians in the wider church, right, the universal church, the catholic (little-c) church. But especially in view here is unity in the local church.
Paul, as we’re going to see in chapters 14-15, he was really concerned about division between Jewish and Gentile factions. They were divided over secondary issues, matters of disputation. But he doesn’t want them to be divided, he wants them to be united. He wants them to be of one mind, of one heart, because they are part of one body. The way in which we tangibly express that oneness is through our serving of one another. There’s unity.
Notice that we are one body in Christ. It is in Jesus Christ and in our relationship to him, our union with him, that we get that unity. We are united to one another because we are united to him in our common faith and our common salvation. So there’s unity.
(2) There’s also diversity. Unity does not mean uniformity. We’re not all exactly alike; we are different. Paul uses here this metaphor of a body with many members. Again, verse 4: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function…”
Now, if you know Paul’s letters, you know that elsewhere Paul really explodes this metaphor with much more detail. In fact, I want to read one lengthy passage from 1 Corinthians 12, where he really develops this idea, this word picture of a body with its many different members, and how the members have need for one another. They’re not all the same. If they were all the same, they’d be missing certain functions, so they need one another. You can read this with me in 1 Corinthians 12:14-27. You can read it on the screen or in your Bibles. I’m just going to read with very little commentary. This serves as an illustration in and of itself. Listen to what Paul says.
“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” Just note that, the sovereignty of the will of God in placing people in the body, giving them their specific gifts, as he chose. Verse 19, “If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
Paul’s word picture is really clear: many members, a diversity of members, and yet all a necessary, integral part of the one body.
Many of you will know that I guess it was about nine years ago our family had a real medical crisis when our oldest son, Stephen, just seemed to be languishing, wasting away before our eyes. He was just getting sicker and sicker and sicker by the day. This had been going on for a few days, and Holly had taken him to our pediatrician twice, trying to get a diagnosis. Both times they had misdiagnosed. “This is just a virus; it’ll go away within a few days. He’ll be fine.” But he wasn’t fine. This normally vivacious little boy who was just bouncing off the walls most of the time was starting to look like a skeleton with bones. It was really scary.
So finally we took him back to the doctor a third time, they started running more tests, and by the time we got out of the doctor’s office we all knew that he had DKA, diabetic ketoacidosis. There was a scary moment where they told us, “Don’t go home, don’t pack clothes; go straight to Memorial Hospital. Don’t even check in; go straight to the fourth floor.” That’s how urgent it was to get him help. He was multiple days into this.
Well, thank the Lord for doctors and for insulin, and he’s doing great now. He’s a Type 1 diabetic, as many of you know, and we’re grateful for the Lord sparing him and for how the Lord has used that in his life and in ours.
Here’s the point I want you to get: the reason he was in that condition was because one organ, his pancreas, was not functioning properly. One organ wasn’t doing its job, it wasn’t supplying insulin.
I just wonder, how many churches are there that have the spiritual equivalent of DKA because a member is not functioning properly, because members are not doing their part? Let me ask you: as a member of the body of Christ, are you doing your part? Are you pulling your weight? Are you a vital, healthy, fully-functioning member of the body of Christ? There’s a diversity of members, and every member is necessary. You have to be plugged in, and the church needs you to be plugged in. This church, Redeemer Church, needs you to be plugged in.
(3) There is unity, there’s diversity, and then there’s mutuality. Look at verse 5. “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” One of another. What a beautiful phrase!
Of course, you will know that there are many, many places in Scripture that give us what we call the “one another” commands. There are probably a couple of dozen of these in the New Testament letters. We are to love one another and serve one another and pray for one another. We are to encourage one another and admonish one another. We are to greet one another. We need one another in the body of Christ. In order for that one another ministry to happen, to take place, it requires members to be together and to be connected to each other.
Listen to just one more passage, Ephesians 4:15-16. Paul here is contrast the immature body of Christ, the immature church, which is tossed to and fro by every wind and wave of doctrine, with the church that is growing and maturing into the measure and the stature of Christ. This is what he says, verse 15. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 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.”
Did you get that? When each part is working properly, that’s when the church grows! That’s when the body matures! It requires that; it requires each part doing its part. That can only happen when the parts are connected together. This has to be this connection.
To make it really practical, this is what it requires: it requires real relationships with real people, where you’re having real interaction. It requires proximity, frequency, and intimacy. Proximity, that shared space; frequency, shared time; and intimacy, shared lives. If you’re missing any one of those components, you’re not going to have biblical community. You’re not going to have community if you’re not spending time together, if you’re not in the same place together, and if you’re not opening up your hearts and your lives to one another. There has to be this mutuality, this mutual ministry, one another ministry.
Embrace your place in the body of Christ. This is absolutely essential, and it is, as we’re seeing in this series, it is part of Christianity applied. It’s part of the application of the gospel to our hearts and lives.
3. Use Your Gift for the Good of Others
That leads us to number three. Exhortation number three is use your gift for the good of others. Look at verse 6. It says, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” Let us use them.
Just a little technical point, the phrase “let us use them” is not in the Greek. There’s only one verb here in verses 6-8, and it’s the participle “having,” having gifts. But it is inferred. It’s implied by what Paul says about the various gifts. He’s going to list seven gifts, and with each one he says something about the gift that indicates how it is to be employed, the manner in which it is to be used.
Douglas Moo in his commentary says, “We should assume an ellipsis in verses 6-8 that must be filled with an imperative verb. Paul is not just listing gifts, he is exhorting each member of the community to use his or her own gift diligently and faithfully to strengthen the body’s unity and to help it flourish.” We are to use the gift. That is Paul’s point here. He wants us to use our gifts for the good of others.
Then, in verses 6-8, he lists seven gifts. This isn’t a comprehensive list, it’s a representative list. He’s giving seven examples of spiritual gifts. We’ll just look at these quickly.
(1) He says, first of all, “if prophecy, in proportion to our faith.” Now, whatever prophecy means, whatever it meant to the churches in the New Testament and whatever it means today—there’s disagreement on that—whatever it means, it certainly means this: it means speaking on behalf of God in order to build up and encourage and console people. Okay? I’m drawing that from Christopher Ash, his little book Teaching Romans. It means speaking on behalf of God in order to build up, encourage, and console people. Probably the most obvious application of this today would be a preaching ministry, prophetic ministry of the word.
(2) The second gift is service. He says, “If service, in our serving.” The word here is a word from which we get our word “deacon.” It means to render aid or assistance, to serve or to support. It carries this sense: Work done by one person or group that benefits another.
This just has a hundred different applications. This could include everything from vacuuming carpet and cleaning bathrooms, to setting up tables, to preparing a meal, to manning a welcome desk, to transcribing a sermon, to designing a slide—I mean, there are all kinds of ways in which people can serve, they can use their time, their resources, and their skills in order to benefit others. There are a myriad of ways to serve.
But Paul’s point here when he says, “If service, in our serving—” that almost sounds like a redundancy, doesn’t it? “If service, in our serving.” What he’s saying is when you serve, do it to serve! Don’t do it with some ulterior motive. When you serve, do it to serve, do it to meet the needs of others; don’t do it for recognition, don’t do it for praise, don’t do it to ingratiate yourself with others. Don’t do it with some ulterior motive, do it in order to fulfill the function of this gift, which is to serve to meet the needs of others.
(3) Number three is teaching. “The one who teaches, in his teaching.” The goal of teaching is to teach, it is to instruct. It is not to be patted on the back, “That was such a wonderful lesson.” It’s not in order to exercise power over others. It’s rather to serve others by giving them the clear, unvarnished teaching of Scripture. This could be public (teaching in a class) or it could be private (one-on-one mentoring and discipleship), but the purpose of teaching is that people may learn. It is to teach.
(4) Number four, “The one who exhorts, in his exhortation.” This word, to exhort, means to comfort or to console or encourage or to exhort. Christopher Ash says it means “to press home the implications of teaching.” This is both an aspect of preaching ministry, pressing home the implications of the truth, exhorting. I’ve read before that preaching could be defined as a personal, passionate plea, and I think my preaching needs more of that. I think I need to grow in this. Exhorting.
But here’s another way this gets applied: it’s in counseling ministry, where you’re coming alongside someone and you’re exhorting and counseling and encouraging and comforting in a one-on-one or a two-on-two relationship, or what have you. That’s exhorting.
(5) Number five, “The one who contributes, in generosity,” or in simplicity. The word probably carries the idea of simplicity, and the idea here is singlemindedness in your giving, simplicity in your giving; giving without ulterior motives, giving not in order to be recognized. Remember how Jesus says, “Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” You give in secret; you don’t give for public praise or recognition. What are you doing when you give? You’re using your material resources to meet needs. That’s what giving is. Paul is saying, “Give with simplicity.”
(6) Then, “The one who leads, with zeal.” The one who leads; that’s a word that literally means to preside over. So it’s someone who is maybe presiding over an event or who is leading a group. It’s the word Paul uses in both 1 Timothy 5 and in 1 Thessalonians 5 of church leaders. He says the one who leads is to lead with zeal; that means with energy, with eagerness, with diligence! It carries this sense of excited fervor to do something or accomplish some end. It’s the word Paul uses in verse 11 of this chapter when he says, “Do not be slothful in zeal; be fervent in Spirit, serve the Lord.” Zeal in leadership.
Why does he say that? He says that because leadership is hard. Leadership is not easy. Anyone who’s actually in leadership will know that, that leadership requires work, it requires diligence, it requires perseverance, it requires keeping a hopeful spirit. It takes energy, and Paul is saying, “Give all of your energy, devote yourself to this if you are in a leadership role.”
(7) Finally, number seven, is the one who does acts of mercy; he says do this with cheerfulness. One commentary says, “This could be someone with a special sympathy for the sick and needy or those in any kind of distress.” You might think here of a nursing home ministry or of hospital visitation or of praying for the sick, weeping with those who weep. You’re thinking of that kind of ministry, where someone is coming alongside compassionately and yet cheerfully, hopefully ministering to those with special need, they’re in some kind of special distress or suffering.
To quote Christopher Ash one more time, “The governing principle of all the gifts seems to be that when we use a gift we ought to use it simply in order to achieve what the gift is given for, and not in the service of some hidden, self-serving agenda.” Use your gifts for the good of others. That’s what the gifts are given for. They’re given to help others to build up the body of Christ.
That’s the application. So let’s just make it really practical: What does that mean for us today? It means that if you are serving, be sure that you’re serving with the right motivations and with energy and zeal and cheerfulness and all the rest; and it means if you’re not serving that you need to get plugged in. Here’s any easy way to do it: there are these cards that say, “Where can I serve?” They’re on the welcome table and on almost every other table out there. All you have to do is pick up a card, read through the options, circle a box, drop it in the offering box or hand it to someone behind the welcome desk, and we’ll get you plugged in. Or, if that seems too hard, email us (email@example.com) and say, “I want to serve,” and we will get you plugged in. There are probably 10 or 15 places where you can get plugged in. That’s the basic application.
However, since I have just said that part of my job description here in exhorting is to press home the implications of the text, I’m going to push a little harder. I want to counter now the possible objections that we may have, if you’re doing an inner monologue right now, of reasons why you wouldn’t jump in and start serving. These are the kinds of objections; we actually hear these. These are things that actually come up sometimes, and I’m going to go through six of these really quickly.
(1) Number one, “I don’t have time.” Nobody thinks they have time. I mean, every once in awhile somebody will say they have time, but most of the time we’re hearing, “I’m too busy. I’m too busy to get involved.”
Listen, you have the same amount of time anybody else has. You have 168 hours in a week. You’re spending 40 or 50 of those working, you’re spending maybe 50 of those sleeping. That still leaves 68 hours a week.
Listen, if you have time to be on social media, if you have time to watch any television show at all regularly, if you have time to do any kind of discretionary reading or to keep active any kind of sport or hobby, you have time to serve. You have 168 hours a week; don’t tell me that you can’t give two or three hours a month to serving in the body of Christ. It’s just a matter of priorities.
For Christians, it is a question of obedience. This isn’t an option, this isn’t a suggestion; this is a command, that we are to serve one another. You do have time; it’s how you use your time.
(2) Or you might say, “I’ve done my time. I used to serve in the nursery when my kids were little; I don’t want to do that anymore.”
Well, listen, service is not a prison sentence! It’s a biblical command, and it’s an incredible privilege. It’s an incredible privilege to use your time and your gifts, your energy, your experience, to use that to help someone else. That’s an incredible privilege.
The whole mentality, “I’ve done my time, I’ve already put in my time, I’ve done what I need to do,” that mentality is selfish, and it’s also self-defeating, because listen, if you live for yourself you will shrivel up and die inside.
The most important thing to say here is that if this is your mentality, then you need to go back to point number one and get in your right mind. You need to have a renewed mind, a humble mind, a gospel mind, and remember that we serve and we follow the servant king, the king who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. It is incongruent for a Christian not to serve.
(3) You might say, “I don’t know how to plug in.” Well, we’ll make it really easy for you. We have these cards in the back, “Where can I serve?” You pick up a card, you circle a box, you drop it in the offering box; or you email us. It is easy to plug in; there is no excuse of not knowing how.
(4) You might say, “I don’t know where to plug in.” I’ll tell you where some of the needs are: children’s ministry. I was in touch with Sarah Glod this week, our wonderful new director of children’s ministry; I’m so thankful for her and the hard work that she puts into it. In order for us to fully staff all of our Sunday morning children’s ministry in both services, 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., this is what we need: we need 27 volunteers, 27 volunteers that would serve once a month. That means you’re serving for about an hour and a half a month. If we had 27 people serving about an hour and a half a month, we added that to our list, we would have children’s ministry fully covered.
We also need youth ministry leaders. This is a once-a-week commitment where people are working directly with students in leading small group discussion, in counseling, in mentoring, and so on.
We need members on the worship team. We need a broader rotation of worship team members. Listen, if you have skill on a musical instrument, don’t hold back, but jump in and get involved in helping on the worship team.
If none of those fit, there are myriads of other opportunities where you could help—on the hospitality team, or in property maintenance or renovations, or security. I mean, the list just goes on. Again, we have all this stuff in the back.
(5) You might say, “I don’t want to miss church.” Well, guess what? We have two services! Which means you could serve every week one service and then attend the next service, and you never have to miss church. With two services, you never have to miss church again for serving. It’s that simple, really. So certainly you can serve one service a month and still attend every service, never miss one.
(6) Then you might say, “I don’t know people.” Well, that’s okay. One of the best ways to build a new relationship is to serve alongside others. This is one of the ways that community is built, is when you jump in and you serve with others.
Brothers and sisters, the call is really clear. This is a non-negotiable issue for every Christian. We are called to serve and to give of ourselves in order to build up our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. The need is real; as Redeemer Church is growing, we need you to do that. We need every single member doing their part. And the opportunity is there.
Let me just conclude with this wonderful quotation from A.T. Pierson, one of the successors of Charles Haddon Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, and then just a brief lesson that I learned many years ago.
A.T. Pierson said, “Everyone has some gift, therefore all should be encouraged. No one has all gifts, therefore all should be humble. All gifts are for the one body, therefore all should be harmonious. All gifts are from the Lord, therefore all should be contented. All gifts are mutually helpful and needful, therefore all should be studiously faithful. All gifts promote the health and strength of the whole body, therefore none can be safely dispensed with. All gifts depend on his fullness for power, therefore all should keep in close touch with him.” Beautifully said.
Many years ago, when I was a young, aspiring preacher, an older ministry (maybe 20 or 25 years my senior) invited me to go on a trip with him, a preaching trip. We were flying out of state, he was a guest speaker preaching in a church in the Atlanta area at the time. He invited me to come with him, and I had the opportunity to preach while we were there.
I was just relishing the time with this brother who I greatly respected. This guy was brilliant, he was super smart. He had a library to die for, all these books, and I just had a meager little library at the time, scrapping together money, trying to buy books. I was so eager to learn; I just wanted to learn, I wanted to grow, I wanted to be the best minister, preacher I could be.
I remember asking him a question. I said, “What should I be doing to prepare for ministry?” I thought he would give me this regimen of study or a list of books to read or, I don’t know, tips on preaching; who knows what I had in mind. But I wasn’t prepared at all for what he actually told me. This is what he said. He paused, thought for a minute, and he said, “You need to learn to wash feet.” Of course, he was referring to Jesus’ practice in John 13, where Jesus took the place of the servant and he washed his disciples’ feet; servanthood. That’s stuck with me ever since.
I’m still learning it, as I know you’re still learning it as well; but brothers and sisters, that’s a call. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, he took the place of a servant; and you and I need to learn to do the same. So please serve with cheerfulness and eagerness and zeal, and if you’re not serving, plug in. Let’s pray together.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the privilege of being members of your family, of the body of Christ. We thank you for the practicality of your word, and I pray, Lord, that you would use it this morning to encourage us, to convict us, to motivate us, empower us, and get us moving into action as a church, so that every member is doing its part. Lord, would you work individually in each one of our hearts and just show us where we need to be realigned, where we need to get the right mind, the mind of Christ, in the way we serve others.
Lord, for those who are weary in well-doing, would you encourage them and just give them fresh zeal and energy for the ways in which they’re already serving? For those who’ve been on the sidelines, I pray that this morning would be a wakeup call to jump back in and get involved.
Lord, as we come to the Lord’s table, may we come to it remembering the cost of the sacrifice of Jesus, what Jesus did in serving us, how he went all the way to death, death on a cross. He gave everything; he gave his life, and he did it to serve his people. May it be both a tangible reminder to us of the gospel and also a call to respond in grateful worship to you and in grateful service to the body. So prepare us for the table, draw near to us in worship; we pray this in Jesus’ name and for his sake. Amen.