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Delivered By
Rev Jonathan Gruen
Delivered On
October 20, 2019
Central Passage
1 Corinthians 12:4-13
Description

Rev. Jonathan Gruen

October 20, 2019

1 Corinthians 12:4-13

Series: Tell the Next Generation

 

Vibrant Ministry

Here at BSLC, we have a complex and active ministry! But does that make it vibrant? We have a full church calendar and many options for events and projects and groups and activities. But does that make our ministry vibrant? We have acres of land, a useful and practical building, a campus suited for a great many things. Does that mean our ministry is vibrant? We provide some services that the community wants. Does that make our ministry vibrant?

 

A vibrant ministry is one with a special energy and power, lively and spirited. “Spirited,” now that’s an interesting piece of the definition of vibrant. Something that is vibrant is “full of spirit” or full of THE Spirit.

 

1 Corinthians 12 describes such a ministry. Listen to verses 4-7: “4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

 

In these verses, notice what is the same and what is different. What is the same? It is the same Holy Spirit (v. 4), the same Lord (v. 5), the same God (v. 6) who is at work in each of us. And what is different? There are varieties of gifts (v. 4), varieties of service (v. 5), varieties of activities (v. 6).

 

So, we are the same in that the Holy Spirit is given undeserved and unearned, a gift for us, sealed and guaranteed in baptism. The Holy Spirit not only has created faith in you, but also dwells in you to know your spirit, to know you completely. He then intercedes for you, even interpreting your deepest emotions that you can’t put into words. He knows your faults, your sins, your weaknesses, but then reminds you that your sins are forgiven in Jesus, and your weaknesses are just opportunities for the great power of God to shine through you, for his grace is sufficient. He is your helper, your comforter, your strength. He makes you vibrant, lively, and full of faith. That is how every believer is the same.

 

We are different in that we possess different gifts of the same spirit, we serve in different ways, and we are active in different ways, and (as v. 7 says) our service is for the common good. That word service that Paul uses is the word ministry. It’s the same word in the Greek. We have two different words. So, when is service just service, and when is service ministry? When service is connected to the name of Jesus, it is ministry. Or when it’s connected to the name of a Church that proclaims Jesus, then it’s ministry. Whether you are sweeping the floor or praying with someone who is dying, it is ministry if you do it with faith in your heart for the good of another person as you are empowered by the Holy Spirit and engaged in a mission that proclaims Jesus.

 

So, what then? Do we just all scatter and do our own things for Jesus? Well, our efforts are a bit more coordinated than that. You’ve heard the definition of T.E.A.M before, right? Together… what is it?... Right! Together Everyone Achieves More. Similarly, as a coordinated body, we do amazing things together!

 

St. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, words it this way: (v. 12-13). “12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

 

Remember, we have the same Holy Spirit, Paul says. We were baptized into the one body of Christ. He would then go on to say (essentially): act like it. Don’t think too highly of yourself, but neither should you value yourself too little. You can’t leave all the work for others, but neither should you try to accomplish everything on your own. But as we work together, each using our gifts, each participating, each of us stepping up, as the Holy Spirit motivates and works his great power in us, then we are vibrant.

 

As we find motivation in our church’s new theme “Tell the Next Generation,” I want to challenge you all to take your participation in the ministry to a new level, especially you members. Now we love visitors, and you are always welcome, and we hope you will keep coming, but honestly our goal is always membership. Why? The short answer is that a member says “this is my confession and these are my people.” They have a commitment to the body even as the body has a commitment to them. Only members can and should be fully engaged.

 

So, how do you—if I can use a video game term here—how do you members “level up” in your service and become more powerful in ministry? Well, it’s not by being more perfect. That’s good news!—because we’re all filthy rotten sinners, every one of us. Although, we should strive by the strength of the Spirit to live a holy life as we also rejoice in forgiveness. It’s not by getting an advanced degree, though we all should keep learning the Word. And though God sometimes does call people to a new vocation, growth usually does not require leaving the callings you already have.

 

Instead, I want to ask you to think about what you are doing to serve others in the name of this church and in the name of Jesus, and then pray about how you can make that grow. For some of you, that may mean that you add something to it, get involved in more things. Some of you, though, do so much and are active in so many ways. So maybe for you that means simply making what you’re already doing more intentional, more focused, more mission-minded, more filled with the Word, more dependent upon the Spirit’s power.

 

Think that will be hard to do? I think you won’t believe you didn’t do it sooner. Serving in ministry is incredibly joyful and rewarding work! I can confidently say that because I’ve been there (that is, stepping up and finding it joyful)! And I can say that because we have the promise from God that you are gifted, gifted more than you know, for you each have the Holy Spirit, and a unique manifestation of his gifts.

 

In verses 8 to 10 of our text, Paul says that some have wisdom, others knowledge, and then Paul mentions healing, prophecy, discernment, and more. The point of his list is in verse 11: “11All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

 

And this is just one list. Paul has more lists where he lists more ways people are gifted in ministry. The point is, we all can find a way to serve in the body, a way to do ministry for the common good. Every single one of us.

 

Let’s get really practical. Here are a few ideas if you’re wondering what to do. Some are obvious. I will say them anyway. Read the bulletin and the emails. Join in any of those coordinated efforts to proclaim the Gospel and impact the community. Additionally, there are many things you can do for the body where you don’t have to wait for the announcement of an opportunity, you don’t have to be asked, and you don’t have to ask the pastor about it, you don’t need a board or committee’s approval, you don’t have to find an open spot in a jam-packed church calendar, and you don’t need budget money. A few ideas. Are you ready?

 

Pray. I don’t mean use “prayer” as a cop out, so you say “oh, I’ll do that” and then you never do. I mean pray like Edna. She was bed-ridden for nearly two years. So she prayed—for her family, for the church, for members, for friends, for the people she was trying to reach. She prayed, and she talked about Jesus to everyone. She was incredible. The prayer of the righteous one is powerful and effective.

 

Sing. Sing your praises. I knew this gentle giant named Mike who had a rich bass voice, and he would sing God’s praises in such a way that you just wanted to sing with him.

 

Here’s another. Get to know people. Look to your left, right, front, behind you. Oh, there are people here! It’s not just you and God. Do you know who they are? “This is your confession and these are your people,” right? Get to know people so that you can encourage them and be blessed by them in return. I knew a man named Charles who wanted to learn every single kids’ name here at church. That became challenging as we grew. And he would be frustrated when he grew sick and had some trouble remembering. But still he wanted to know their names because the children are the present and the future of the church. He wanted to encourage them.

 

Here are some more. Give a gift to someone going through a hard time. Spend time with someone who is homebound or in a care center. Take a friend to coffee to listen, guide, and pray for them. Call someone up on the phone that you haven’t seen in a while and check on them. Let a millennial know you care by looking them in the eye, asking them meaningful questions, and making that personal connection, which is something millennials are craving these days. Send cards to college students. Pam is collecting their addresses. Students often disappear from the church in college years. What if we could change that? Send an encouraging text message with a Bible verse to someone you’re thinking about. Find something dirty in the building and clean it. Tell someone on the ministry team about someone you know who could use help at Thanksgiving. Plan on helping decorate the campus for Christmas.

 

Look, whatever you do, do it in the name of Jesus, for the glory of God, with the Word of God on your lips, and his love in your hearts. When you do, it is not you doing these things, but the power of the Holy Spirit in you.

 

Now, admittedly, it is a constant chore for us to stay focused and motivated because the world works the opposite way. Jesus said that among the Gentiles, those who are in authority lord it over the others. In other words, the world likes status, power, self-advancement, putting others down, and ruling by force. You and I are always also tempted to be selfish rather than selfless. We are tempted to crave the power and fame rather than take the humble and lowly jobs. We are tempted always to think too much of ourselves, or on the other hand to be too timid, to think we are worthless, or be apathetic or lazy about it. Do any of those attitudes come from the Holy Spirit? Is any of that the work of God?

 

No! In fact, Jesus is the opposite of the world, isn’t he? Jesus said that he, the Son of Man, came not to be served, but to serve, to minister. Think about this—if anyone had a right to “lord it over” people, it would be the Lord! God the Son eternal, creator of the world! He could have come down here and forcefully exercised his authority and lived in a palace and bossed people around. He had taken on human flesh, and he could have pampered that body better than anyone. He could have been waited on hand and foot and had everything he needed, anything he desired, anything he imagined. But the Son of Man came not to be served, but to minister to people, and to give his life as a ransom. He gave his life for me (say that with me): “He gave his life for me.” He gave himself on the cross that I might rescued from all the traps of this sinful world and the road that leads to hell. He gave his life that I might become part of His Body, his ever-living Body, his vibrant, Spirit-filled body, his resurrected and always energetic body. And he continues to give us his Body and his Blood to give us life! What a gift! It was the greatest service, the greatest act of ministry ever, that he gave his life as a ransom.

 

Now you and I give our lives too so others will know the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord who saved us by his blood. We can’t lay down our lives in the same way Jesus did. As True God and True Man he gave a once for all sacrifice for the world, and we can’t duplicate that. But we lay down our life in service of others, in ministry for the common good. By the power of the Spirit, we are proclaiming the glorious works of God, who has ransomed us through the cross. We are declaring the wonders of his love. We are joining in the song, and work, and ministry of the Church, which will endure to the end of time. In this way, we will do our part to Tell the Next Generation.

 

So, God be with you to bless you in YOUR vibrant ministry, in his name. Amen.