Text: Ephesians 4
Main Point: Pastors should equip parents, families should build up the church, and singleness is better!
As a church, we are looking for a family pastor. The family pastor is an elder whose primary responsibility is to equip the families of this church to evangelize and disciple their children. The church and the family work together to fulfill God’s command to reach the next generation. Concerning the profound connection between the church and the home, Michael McGarry wrote, “Youth ministry is for adolescence. The family is for life. The Church is for eternity. Therefore, a biblical theology of youth ministry must be primarily anchored in the Church, for this is the true family to which all Christians eternally belong. The family’s significance is profound because it is a living metaphor for the Church. [This means] youth ministry is poised as a bridge to connect the Church and the family in their efforts to co-evangelize and co-disciple the next generation” (79).
Think about it from this angle: Who’s job is it to reach your coworkers? What is the church’s role in reaching your neighbors? Reaching your coworkers and your neighbors is straightforward because until you reach them, they will not even show up here with us. Your coworkers and your neighbors are your responsibility. We exist to equip you and help you reach your coworkers and neighbors. But what about our children? What about the unbelieving children among us? Our Sunday school was full this morning of these children. Is evangelizing and discipling your children only your responsibility? Is evangelizing and discipling a job best left to the professionals at church?
I want to show you today that evangelizing and discipling children is primarily the parent’s responsibility with the church coming alongside. Before salvation and church membership, parents have sole authority over the child. After salvation and joining the church, parents and the church share authority over the child, with the parents as the primary disciple makers and the church as the child’s new responsibility for ministry.
Thinking back to your neighbors and coworkers, if you win your neighbor or coworker to Jesus, then you should disciple your neighbor or coworker teaching him/her to follow Jesus. Undergirding this discipleship will be the ministry and authority of the church. If you win your child to Jesus, then you should disciple your child teaching him/her to follow Jesus. Undergirding this discipleship will be the ministry and authority of the church. My main point today is pastors should equip parents and families should build up the church. And with this emphasis on marriage and family let’s not lose sight of the fact that marriage is good, and singleness is better. To the Word and to the testimony! Let’s read Ephesians 4:11-16.
I. Our goal is all of us looking and living like Jesus
I don’t mean all of us should look like first century middle eastern men; that would be weird. What I mean is every Christian must continually grow in Christlikeness. Each of us should think, speak, spend, rest, work, love, and serve more and more like Jesus. We get our marching orders from Ephesians 4:13. Each of us must work until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The church’s goal is to push you to become more like Jesus. This means
- We all need to grow up
Look again at Ephesians 4:15, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
When I was a kid, I had an enormous head. Looking back, I had a lot of head injuries and I think it was because my head was too big for my body. I was awkwardly top heavy and I had to grow into my head. Every baby is born this way. I did some fast and dangerous internet research and at birth a baby’s head can make up a quarter to a half of it’s overall length. Physically, we all have to grow up into our heads. The same holds true for us spiritually, we all have to grow up into our Head who is Christ the Lord.
Every one of us has a calling and a gift that will help the members grow up to look more like Jesus. Some gifts will be used when we gather together as a church. Other gifts will be used when we go out into the world. Whether we are gathered or scattered, we must get into the details of one another’s spiritual maturity. We must help one another grow up. Our goal is unity as each one of us grows to be like Jesus and each of us helps others grow to be like Jesus. You have been gifted by the Spirit for our growth.
The way we help one another grow up is we all speak the truth in love while using the gift the Holy Spirit gives us. Verse 7 says, “but grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Here’s how that works, your gift provides an opportunity to speak the truth in love to others. Your gift may be administration, faith, wisdom, knowledge, hospitality, evangelism, teaching, leading, or giving. Your gift is not an end in itself. Using your gift will provide an opportunity to speak the truth in love to others so that they grow to be more like Jesus.
So, are you using your gift? If you are using your gift, are you talking about Jesus as you use your gift? Every member, young or old, rich or poor, single or married, with or without children, has a gift according to Christ’s grace that should be used to help others leave behind gullible childhood and move into Christlike maturity. Your goal is to help us grow up.
As we are thinking about a family pastor, let’s think about pastors’ work.
- The pastors’ work is equipping the members
If you are confused about what your gift is, or if you don’t have an opportunity to use your gift, then that’s on us as pastors. Please let us know what’s going on with you so we can try to equip you for ministry. Call us or text us. The elders’ numbers and email addresses are on the back of the bulletin so you can connect with us.
Ephesians 4:11 and 12 give a huge piece of an elder’s job description. Look at Ephesians 4:11 and 12 with me, “And Jesus gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Pastors exist to help you do your work. Your work, your service, is directed toward helping us grow in Christlikeness. Your ministry is building up the body of Christ.
Now let’s clarify the ministry. Unfortunately, “the ministry” has been hijacked and held hostage by pastors so that we talk about “going into the ministry” and being “called to the ministry” in such a way that the ministry becomes only something pastors do. Next thing you know, the ministry is the same as preaching. So, if you are going to do the work of the ministry that means you have to preach. It is a dangerous oversimplification to think that the ministry is only preaching because it would mean ministry only happens when a pastor preaches. No, the ministry, is the work every member does to help others grow in Christlikeness. So, ministry plays out like this: preaching and teaching is part of my ministry, but it is not necessarily a part of his. Administration is a part of your ministry, but it is not necessarily a part of hers.
I think in terms of the church gathered and the church scattered. God commands us to gather together as the church to meet with him in worship. Jesus holds out the promise of his presence to the gathered church (Mt 18:20). We gather as the church to seek Jesus’ presence and exercise his authority. We scatter, each possessing the Spirit of Christ, to do the individual work of discipling one another. Jesus gives elders authority to oversee this gathering and to oversee the ministry the members do when we go out into the world. The use of my gift on a Sunday morning is one part of the beautiful diversity of all of us using our gifts throughout the week. The sheer number and power of all our gifts forces us to realize we must not limit what it means to do ministry to Sunday mornings. The time it takes to mature in Christlikeness means we need more than a couple hours a week. Growing in Christlikeness takes more than a few men; we must all do our part. You see,
- The members’ work is building up the church
What did you do this week to help another member grow in Christlikeness? Maybe you shared a word of encouragement. Maybe you met a physical need. Maybe you offered comfort when a member was suffering. Maybe you helped fix a problem. Maybe you corrected or rebuked a member who was in error. Maybe you strengthened the weak knees of a member who our loving Father was disciplining. Maybe you rejoiced and celebrated with a member. Maybe you helped a member set up a budget or stay on budget. Maybe you prayed and struggled and wrestled for a member who was struggling with temptation. Each member and every day holds out wonderful opportunities to help your brothers and sisters. We need to keep saying this truth
- We all have service to offer or ministry to do
Use your gift so that the church is built up. Do your service so that the church is built up. Do your ministry so that the church is built up. From the youngest member to the oldest member, we all have been called, gifted, and sent to work. Look back at Ephesians 4:15-16, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
We all do our ministry speaking the truth in love, so that the body builds itself up in love. Thinking about Vacation Bible School this week it is a priority that we teach children the Scriptures that will make them wise for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). It must also be a priority for each of us to work in such a way that we love one another more at the end of the week than we do today. We work so that the body builds itself up in love.
As the church, our goal is for each of us to look and love more and more like Jesus. Our interactions, our conversations, and our responses to one another either help move all of us toward Jesus or away from Jesus. So, how will you act and speak so that your fellow members look more like Jesus after VBS?
Ok. Let’s look now at the specifics of how the church and family relate. I think we need to expand our definition of “the ministry” to include the family.
II. Family is a ministry
We need to take Ephesians 6:1-4 to the church and we need to take Ephesians 4:11-16 to the house. Let’s first consider
- The church’s role in Ephesians 6:1-4
Turn over to Ephesians 6:1-4 (read it).
The Holy Spirit gave these commands to the family as a part of the church. Remember, the Letter to the Ephesians was written to a church. It is in the gathering of the church that these truths were originally read and applied to the members. The church understands that children are to obey their parents and therefore the church must teach and encourage children to obey their parents. Teaching children to obey Jesus’ commands is the reason we need to tell children “you need to obey your mom” or “you need to obey your dad”. Our job is not to watch as children disobey, and our job is not to usurp the parent’s authority by contradicting the parents’ commands. Our job is to teach and help children obey their parents.
So, when a teenager comes to you complaining about his/her parents, what should you do? Speak the truth in love, encourage that teen to grow up into Christlikeness, and help that teen obey his/her parents.
It is also true that a child who is a Christian, who is a member of the church, will also be subject to church discipline for willful and repeated sin. The church’s role in Ephesians 6:1 is to teach obedience, encourage obedience, and be ready to build up the body through church discipline when there is repeated disobedience. Under the old covenant, a child could be stoned for repeated disobedience (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Now, under the new covenant, a Christian-child should be removed from church membership for repeated and unrepentant disobedience. The church has a role in teaching, encouraging, and disciplining children who are church members.
What about fathers and parents? Ephesians 6:4 is written to fathers in particular and parents in general (see Hebrews 11:23). Just as the church must equip children to obey their parents, so also the church must equip parents to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Just as the church exercises its authority over a child who is a church member, so also the church exercises its authority over a father or mother who is a church member. Known, repeated, and unrepentant sinfulness among singles, married couples, parents, and children calls for discipline precisely because we are called to help one another grow in Christlikeness.
So, the church must strive to help fathers become more Christlike. The church does not take the father’s role (unless he is an unbeliever). The church equips the father to fill his role. The expectation, dads, is that you will be teaching and correcting your child. Husband and wife are to work together to accomplish the mission of raising children who know the Scriptures that will make them wise for salvation. When a child is born again, mom and dad, are to take the lead in teaching that child to become more and more like Jesus. The church’s role is to encourage, equip, and discipline parents as they seek to fulfill the glorious ministry of family. Knowing this, we are looking for an elder who will take the lead on equipping parents for the ministry of family.
Ok, we took Ephesians 6 to church. Now, let’s take Ephesians 4 to the house. Think with me about
- The parent’s role in Ephesians 4:11-16
Shepherds and teachers exist in the church to equip you for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ. This word “ministry” means service; it is to render assistance or help by performing certain functions (Louw-Nida 35.19). The ancient office of a steward was an easy illustration of this principle. The steward was entrusted with the owner’s resources and given authority to act in the owner’s stead. The steward was expected to perform certain functions. If you have a child, you are called to raise your child so that the church is built up. We should parent with an eye on building up the church; this is a parent’s stewardship.
Parents, let’s think this way: your child ultimately belongs to God who created the child. The role of parent has been entrusted with authority from God for the purpose of bringing up the child in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. The goal of parenting is to see your child joined to Christ and maturing in Christ as a member of the church. Our goal is to see each child working properly so that he/she makes the body grow. Our desire is to raise sons and daughters who build the church up in love. Our goal for our children is the church, to be interwoven into the body so that growth in godliness is given and received.
So, daily family worship becomes a means by which children are evangelized so that they will become members of the body of Christ. Once a child is born again, family worship becomes a means of daily discipleship where worship and obedience are modeled and taught.
What then is the church’s role? The church needs to equip moms and dads to disciple sons and daughters who give themselves to the ministry of building up the church. Also, the church needs to come alongside and reinforce the teaching that is happening in the family. Only when a parent is weak or an unbeliever, does the church need to step in (hopefully for a short time) to fill the role of primary daily discipler.
Now to summarize,
- Family equipping is equipping parents who build up the church through the ministry of the family
We are looking for a family pastor because we understand the family as an important ministry and parents need to be equipped to fulfill their ministry. As the number of families has grown in the church, the work of equipping families has also grown. Therefore, we want to give a pastor the authority and freedom to focus on equipping families. The office of elder gives authority, and the responsibility for families gives freedom and focus.
So, now what do we do with all this? Pray for wisdom, discernment, and unity as God leads us to his man to fill this role as an elder. Pray for parents. Moms and dads are struggling to raise sons and daughters who are of the church and not of the world. Parenting is hard. Pray for us, encourage us, and help us. And finally, do your ministry so that your brothers and sisters look more and more like Jesus. Gather brothers and sisters around your table. Meet up with brothers and sisters to talk about the Bible and to learn how to follow Jesus.
This is a call to help and seek the help you need to do the ministry God has given you.