Christian leaders are well acquainted with the word need. It permeates the atmosphere of the church as we contemplate our culture. It tugs at our hearts, pulls out our tears, and weighs down our shoulders. At times, it pits us in a race against time that taxes our lungs’ ability to breathe.
It seems that as soon as we can point to fruit from our ministry, other needs seemingly wipe it from consciousness. Sometimes we read the words “Go and make,” and our gut reflexively chokes out, “I’m trying!”
At times such as this, our greatest need is to burrow deep into the faith that inspired Paul to proclaim that the church is “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:23).
Through the waters
Neither you nor the members of your congregation are ordinary people. On the contrary, you are part of a great tradition of men, women, and children who have allowed God to bring you out of one way of life and, through faith, miraculously crossed a body of water into another way of life.
When Joshua and the Israelites gazed across the Jordan River, they saw both the promise of land and the new way of life it signified. When God dammed up the waters so they could cross, they left a wilderness of needs behind.
During the pivotal account of the Exodus, God emancipated Moses and a procession of weary Hebrew slaves through the Red Sea. Then He took them to a place where He would reveal Himself to them and teach them His ways.
Abraham was considered a stranger in the land of the Canaanites because few people at that time crossed the rivers that separated their land from the region of Babylon. Noah and his family were also brought into a new place as a result of a water passage.
However, this tradition goes back even further, to a time when “darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:2). Out of those waters, God brought life.
And He is still doing it today. When we consider baptism through this lens, it becomes more than a symbolic act. We recognize that we, too, have crossed a body of water into a new place, and that miraculous place is within body of Christ. This same body is making all things new and, beginning with us, is reconciling all of creation to Himself until He consummates history with the physical renewal of all things in heaven and earth.
With this confidence Paul stated not only that the church is “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” but that Christ is giving us what we need to do so (Ephesians 4:13).
New life together
Christ has given the church what she needs. Specifically, He has given us one another. However, He has also given us what was not available to the great cloud of witnesses who went before us. Through Christ, He has given us the indwelling Holy Spirit. And this Spirit has gifted each member — image bearers who have passed through the waters of baptism to a new way of life. Christ never intended for the weight of the responsibilities of ministry to rest on one or even on a handful of members known as leaders. Rather, it is to be spread out among the priesthood of all believers.
Together we embody the fullness of Christ on earth and carry out the functions of His church. Together we build one another up for works of service. And only together will we “[attain] the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Thus, of all the physical needs we can point to, what do we need most? We need one another. God has gifted the church with everything she needs to thrive and be healthy: He has given us one another. This impetus is at the crux of discipleship and personal transformation. As God adds to our numbers, we will partner with Him to fulfill His purpose from the beginning of creation to reflect His rule to the whole earth.
Remember, reflect, respond
Feeling overwhelmed? Remember your baptism. Reflect on the unique ways that God has gifted you to build up the church. What type of service for God most connects you with the joy of Christ? Then help your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ remember their baptism. Share with them how you have observed God gifting them to build up the church. Ask them what type of service for God most connects them with the joy of Christ, and help them find a way to more fully engage in that service.
When we read the words “Go and make” with this perspective, we can ask for wisdom to shape the church into a community that disciples members of all ages into maturely carrying out the functions of the church — the need-meeting operations of Christ. Fortunately, we know that when we lack wisdom, we can “ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault . . .” (James 1:5) until His peace permeates the atmosphere of the church.
Artios Christian College is a diverse community of followers of Christ who are committed to studying God together for the purpose of being Christian leaders who reflect Christ into our spheres of influence. To find out more or to enroll in Artios’ introductory Essentials of Vibrant Leadership course, visit www.artioscollege.org.