Equipped for effective ministry (Hebrews 13:20-21)

We have a vision statement that says Hope in Christ Church exists to equip people for effective ministry and to show God’s love.  Today we are going to explore what effective ministry is.  It is my understanding that the scripture would define effective ministry as being Empowered by the God, informed by the Word of God, and lived by the people

Because of this, effective ministry involves both God and people.  God is the ultimate equipper and his people work for him enabling others to live into their full potential.  To this end, the author of Hebrews makes a wonderfully doxological statement about the glory of the Christians life when he says, May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good (Heb 13:20-21a).

God equips us, it is God who gives us all good things.  He gives us the ability to produce wealth (Dt 8:18).[1] He gives us autumn and spring rains in season, and assures us of the regular weeks of harvest (Jer 5:24). Imagine what life would be like without the normal rhythms of nature.  How would we know when to plant?  How could we be assured our crops would grow if God weren’t watching over the good thing we call nature and ensuring its good order?  He brings blessing upon the obedient and curses upon the disobedient (Dt. 11:27). Another wonderfully good thing that God provides for people, as is evidenced from the stories of Sarah, Hannah, even Elizabeth, is children. God gives children and the Word says, (Psa. 127:3) Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.  He gives health and healing (Jer 30:17; 33:6).

But these are all just earthly material blessings.  God also gives endurance and encouragement and unity (Rom 15:5)[2].  He gives wisdom to those who lack and ask, giving generously to all without finding fault (James 1:5).  Again imagine a world without people able to stick to it, or to speak words of motivation.  Imagine a world where people can’t get alone and cooperate.  Picture life where wisdom is bereft and people constantly make poor choices and there is never even a hint that a better way of living exists.  I have never read the book, but I understand The Lord of the Flies paints a picture of just such a life.  A children’s book, entitled The Giver, paints a picture of life without love and emotion and it is dreary and painful to see people long for love but unable to experience it.  Again love is a gift from God.

But these are emotional blessings, what about spiritual blessings.  Do these come from God as well?  They certainly do.  He gives the Spirit without limit (John 3:34), he gives us the true bread of heaven and therefore gives life to the world[3] calling the dead out of the grave (Romans 4:17)[4] and assuring us of the victory [available] through our Lord Jesus Christ (1Cor 15:57).  And that brings us to the most important thing that God gives us.  His greatest gift to humanity is Jesus Christ and the ability to know him. (2Cor. 4:6) For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

He gives us the Scriptures so we have proper revelation and understanding of life and its value.  That word is compared to armor in Ephesians 6, which protects the people of god.  How can someone understand righteousness apart from God’s revelation in the Bible?  How can we be fitted with shoes of peace, if we ourselves do not understand the peace that Christ has purchased for us?  One can only run with the gospel of peace if one understands he or she can run into God’s presence without fear.  It is impossible to deflect the fiery darts of evil if one has no understanding of faith in Christ.  It is impossible to protect one’s mind unless the helmet of salvation rest in one’s thought life.  And it is futile to argue with Satan, his minions, and for that matter with the intelligent of the world, using worldly arguments alone.  One must have the Bible to keep from falling prey to smooth talkers and slick philosophies.  The Bible and its revelation are essential for understanding sin; salvation and the life of gratitude believers are called to live.  In fact, 2 Tim 3:16-17 says exactly that: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

And that is why God also gives the church leaders who can help other Christians understand the Word of God.  Ephesians 4:11-13 assures us It was he [God] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. These leaders in the church help us to know how to read the Word of God.  They help to disciple and catechize us.  They challenge our presuppositions and cultural assumptions with the very words of God.  They help us to mature in our knowledge and living of the gospel.  In short, they are called to help us to become mature, knowing Christ ever more deeply, personally and intimately.

Given this list of material, emotional and spiritual realities that all come from the hand of God, is there anything we are lacking, anything we need, in order to be equipped for effective ministry or to show God’s love to the world? We don’t need anything else.  We have everything we need to be successful and to minister the gospel to the world.  There is nothing else that the Christian needs.  With the word of God before the Christian, the indwelling power of the spirit living in them and a mind directed towards seeing Christ exalted in the Word and world the Christian is complete.  They have been restored and are ready for living and working in the world with a fruitful ministry.

So what keeps Christians and churches from having effective ministries, if their ministry is empowered by God and informed by the Word?  There are two things: first is a desire to do the will of God, and second are role models for us to emulate. Hebrews says, God equips you with everything good for what result, for doing his will. Do you desire to do God’s will?  Do you desire to live honorably?  Do you desire to make the gospel attractive to others by your life?  Do you desire to know the word of God more fully?  Do you desire to become totally dependent upon your Lord, even sacrificing financial security, social prestige, or worldly power in order to fall headlong into the hands of the living God?

Romans 12:1 instead of asking the questions, commands believers …to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Are you willing to die to your desires and so live unto Christ?  God has given the believer everything they need to live, but the act of dying is still hard and painful.  It is an act that no one can do for another.  No one can force you to offer your life upon the altar.  No one can force you to lay your will upon the fire and let it be burned away.  Only an individual can make this choice and begin to see the benefits of a fruitful ministry.  Do you desire to do God’s will?  If you want an effective ministry at Hope in Christ Church, it begins with dying to yourself – your fears, your desires, your I could never do that, your don’t ask me to give ups.  All of these impair you and the church.

The second thing that hampers effective ministry are sufficient role models to emulate.  Here I am talking again to all Christians, but especially to those in positions of leadership and authority.  Our Sunday school teachers, our gems and friendship volunteers, and particularly our elders, deacons and ordained office bearers.  Are we living a life worthy of emulation?  Are we setting an example for others to follow?

Paul instructs Titus to set the example by doing what is good… and make the teaching about God our savior attractive by the way they live and the things they do and the things they abstain from doing (Titus 2:7,10).  Effective ministry comes when the leaders of a congregation are men and women of integrity who do what they say they believe.  Effective ministry comes when people have role models to look up to who can teach them how to read the word and apply it to life and the daily situations we encounter at work and at home.  Effective ministry comes when the church has more people in it who say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while [awaiting] the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. 15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you (Titus 2:12-15).

When the church is full of leaders who are sold out to Jesus and who live an attractive life, then effective ministry will happen.  People will be ministered to, needs will be met, joy will reign and life will be spiritually good for the church.  When there are role models that disciple younger believers in how to pray and serve, give and lead, evangelize and heal then effective ministry begins.  That is the story of the early church.  The apostles taught the word and modeled it for others.  They were passionate about seeing Christ in the pages of revelation and they were equally passionate about ensuring that dependence upon God and his Spirit reigned.  They prayed no less than 3 times a day and then they ministered the word, people were changed, they repented of sin, and became Disciples of Christ and the Acts of the Apostles tells us “All the believers were one in heart and mind.  No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.  There were no needy persons among them. (Acts 4:32-34a).

That was effective ministry. Empowered by the Spirit, informed by the Word of God, and lived by the people.  It revolutionized the ancient world and it has revolutionized many parts of the globe since then.  The reformation, the winning of the Dani people in Irian Jaya in the 1960-70’s under the ministry of John and Helen Decker where a love for Christ and the desire to live out the message of the gospel brought a stone age culture (no metal) without any knowledge of Jesus into a modern church that has sent out 65 missionary couples to other tribes in the area and is winning the area for Jesus.  You can read their story in Torches of Joy.    The same thing is happening among the Ticuna Indians of Brazil in the last decade.  It happened when Saint Patrick landed in Ireland 1700 years ago, it happened during the great awakening of the 1700’s and it can happen again today if God’s people will believe that they have everything they need in Christ, if they are led by godly leaders sold out to Christ and if they themselves are willing to obey the Lord in everything.

We don’t need programs to teach people to evangelize, or serve, or give generously, or study the bible, or act peaceable, or any other Christian trait.  We need leaders who are sold out to Jesus and who invite us to copy their life and emulate what they are already doing.  Do you believe that will revolutionize the church and empower her for effective ministry?  I do, and the word of God testifies to it as we have already seen.  So let us be sold out completely to Christ, it will change the course of Hope in Christ Church.

So that brings me to my challenge and vision for how we can become a church of effective ministry:

1)    Start praying together.  Every month on the 3rd Friday Mitch leads a prayer time next door.  Let’s make it a point to gather and pray for the Spirit’s empowerment in our ministries.

2)    Be intentional.  If you are going to serve in your Christian life, invite someone to come along with you from outside your normal sphere.  Deacons, if you are going to give benevolence to someone, invite another person in the body to take the gift with you.  Elders, if you are going to visit a family, or teach a class invite someone else to teach with you.  Members, if you are going to visit someone sick, volunteer in a cause, or share the gospel with someone, invite others to come with you.  In this way, you not only model but you also give us things to pray.

3)    Vision of effective ministry with constant prayer.  Bible studies daily for those enquiring.  A training school where future pastors and missionaries live in residence to learn the academics but also the practical skills, all lead and taught by laity with specific passions who are already doing the work.  I see a medical ministry unfolding on our campus to serve the community.  I see great numbers of missionaries both short and long term going out from our doorstep.  I see orphanages being established abroad, theological and vocational school started, wells drilled, and the gospel preached.  And I see it all not because we hire people and throw money at it, but because as God’s people empowered by his spirit, informed by his word and living in the world, we are doing effective ministry and showing God’s love to a world in need.  Amen.

[1] Deut. 8:18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

[2] Rom. 15:5 ¶ May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus,

[3] John 6:33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

[4] Rom. 4:17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed — the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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