Saturday, February 3, 2018
The Church, A Place of Nurture
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
Gifts were given to the church so that she could fulfill her purpose of bringing all to “unity of the faith,” and this is to be seen in maturity, or perfection. The leaders in the church were to disciple the followers so that they could become more like Christ. The gifts to the church included the very first apostles, those who witnessed the resurrection of Christ. But the gift continues and includes the prophets who are those who can point toward a future, to the place where God is leading the people. It also includes evangelists who can speak about the past and bring the good news to a needy world. Pastors who teach are those who will equip the saints, God’s holy people, to be engaged in ministry. All of this comes to fruition in the body of Christ, the church, that continually leads people to spiritual maturity.
When you think about the gifts that have been given to the church, in the form of people, it becomes a relational home of nurture and development. What’s important is that the gifts are all present. We have the foundation of the apostles on which to build, but today we still need the prophetic voice, calling us into a future that shapes us into the image of Christ. Evangelists are needed to preach the good news of Jesus Christ who transforms lives. We need to be reminded over and again of what Jesus has done for us. We also need pastors who will teach and equip those who are growing in grace.
There are some who argue that the church has become so focused on the pastor (shepherding) and teaching aspect that she has forgotten what it means to be prophetic and evangelistic. The reality is that we cannot simply nurture those who are in the faith, without helping others come to faith. As we grow and nurture, and become more like Christ, and we will want to become engaged in the evangelistic and prophetic mission of Christ. I would argue that if we don’t have those passions within the life of the church, the church is not truly growing in the ways in which God has intended. In this circumstance, there is no maturity, and the people are not being raised up to the “full stature of Christ.”
As a follower of Christ, and a member of the body of Christ, the church, we must all be engaged in the mission of becoming like Christ. The call to sainthood is for all, for it is to become clothed in the divine character of God, which is holy love. Again, Paul brings up the issue of unity. Holy love binds together the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and should also bind together God’s people. Unity in holy love is the reflection of God’s work in the world.
The church must be a place of nurture, where people come to Christ, are pointed in the direction of Christ, and become more like Christ. In this environment holy love begins to exude and the church becomes an incubator of Christlike disciples.
Lord, may your gifts be revealed in the church that reflects your kingdom on earth. Amen.