Friday, March 7, 2014
Starting from the right foundation
Ephesians 2:19b-21a (TM)
You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all – irrespective of how we got here – in what He is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now He’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together.
WE are considering the kind of leadership God wants us to serve His church with, for the kind of community He wants us to grow. This gets the focus right off one person holding a vision, and right on to working out what God is doing through the different kinds of people He has put in place to carry it out.
It doesn’t always go well. Sin happens. Serious sin can cause serious damage and loss, especially when we try to sort it out the world’s way of “you committed the crime, you pay the price”. This is one instance (there are plenty of others) where it is essential to be reminded of heaven’s viewpoint – as each of us know, God really loves sinners as much as He really hates the sin – and He understands why we fail, and has healing for those insecurities. That viewpoint and that relationship bring the possibility of repentance, which depends on relationship woth God, and restoration, which depends on grace flowing from God and through those He depends on.
I am sitting in a new extension to the Manse where I live, right on top of the most massive piled foundations I have ever seen for a single storey extension. We are talking steel and concrete going down metres, into flint and chalk below. Yet none of this could be seen after the artisan bricklayer began to raise the structure with its beautiful brickwork and flint infill. Which is most important, the foundation or the visible structure? Wrong question – they are important to each other.
If we build on the wrong foundation, the structure is severely limited. Traditionally churches were built on a foundation of pastors (shepherds) and teachers. Shepherds are about connecting people with God’s love, providing care and protection, and about how people work and their personalities. So when the shepherd is the pre-eminent emphasis and foundation, the church is about pleasing people. It doesn’t get to grow much before someone influential isn’t pleased any more and the lone shepherd will take the rap for that.
Teachers are about explaining the precepts, or rules, by knowing the Bible. When things go wrong, this rather reinforces the world’s way of relying on rules, with the added complication that not everyone will understand the right and wrong of them in the same way.
Paul writes to the Ephesians to remind them that the foundation is intended to be the apostolic people – that’s their gift, seeing the kingdom and what the church is called to be – with a generous helping of hearing how God wants to shape it, build it and grow it – that’s what the prophetic people bring. How does this impact the wider community and what is the witness to them? The evangelistic part of the team will be all over this, and now the care and connection with God’s love comes into the picture. Now the teaching people know where to go in the Word and how to teach it, coming out of the prophetic sense of what God is doing.
There is an order we see in Scripture (1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11). It is not so much a hierarchy of importance, as a helpful and logical sequence to follow. This is the key Jesus gives us to free us from rather tired models of earthly government which are designed to control and condemn, rather than releasing and restoring.
It depends on us recognising all five of the ministry gifts He has put in His church – and using them.