Last week, we learned that our Lord has perfectly orchestrated the best way for Christians to grow. At salvation, He gave each of us spiritual gifts and placed us in the church to use them for the building up of others. Our Lord uses His church, with all her warts, to grow us in Christlikeness through our commitment to using our gifts to serve and edify the body. When we embrace this truth, we give ourselves the best opportunity to grow. However, when we short circuit this process out of selfishness, we stunt our growth, and tragically, that of the body. No one wins in this scenario.
Now you might be asking, “How can we be certain that God intends for each Christian to grow through edification and service in the context of the church?” Starting in Ephesians 4:7 Paul says that Christ gave gifts to men in the church to build up His body—the church. Writing of these gifts, Paul states:
He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-12).
For this article, we will focus on the pastors and teachers whose purpose is to equip the saints for the work of service which results in the growth of the body—the church. The Greek word translated “equip” is a medical term used for setting a broken bone. More generally, it was used to signify restoring something to its original state. As such, the job of the shepherd is to train the church to live according to God’s ordained purpose for them.
We tend to look at equipping on the individual level. However, we must not miss that Paul spoke of equipping in the context of the whole. We purposefully gather to be equipped through the preaching and teaching of God’s word by a faithful shepherd. To have the most effect, we must also spend time with one another discussing the impact of the word of God on our lives. Scripture tells us that iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). Therefore, this type of intentional fellowship sharpens us and presses theological truths deep into us.
Growth through Praying and Singing!
Also, we cannot discount the impact of praying and singing together as a body. Gathering to pray indicates a dependence on God and a willingness to share burdens with one another as we petition the Lord with our needs. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the Law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We have no greater opportunity to bear one another’s burdens than when we come together to open our hearts in prayer to our great God — as such, praying for one another helps to develop a heart of humility. Humble people pray for those in need while the prideful withhold their petitions on behalf of others.
Gathering to sing theologically rich songs also drives the truths of God’s word even deeper into our hearts. We cannot replicate the full power of this outside of the gathering. Even worldly psychologists recognize the power of singing together. They understand that people draw closer to one another as they sing in a group. You will undoubtedly appreciate this comradery if you have ever attended a concert or sung in a choir. The military even uses songs and chants to improve troop morale. Again, these are a shadow of the church singing in worship to her King.
Service is Proof of Love’s Growth!
If equipping and fellowship are the vehicles by which we grow, then serving the body is proof that we are putting what we have learned to good use. Service is proof of love’s growth in our hearts! The outcome is not only our growth as individual saints but more importantly, the building up of the church. The result of this is that we attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. In other words, we grow in the knowledge of Christ which unifies us with our brethren.
Therefore, the Christian who comes to the gathering but does not take seriously the responsibility to receive the teaching cannot grow as God intends. However, we must take this one step further. The Christian who comes to church only to sit and listen without actively fellowshipping with and serving the body also cannot mature. If you are committed to growth in Christ, then you must be committed to being equipped, to fellowship, and service.
Next week, we will begin to find out how we can jumpstart our growth by studying some indicators of Christian growth.