If we want to become mature disciples, it’s not enough to just connect with God and connect with other believers. We must also look outside the body and be…
3. Caring for our community
I think that we find the ultimate goal of being a mature disciple in verse 12 of our passage. You see, the responsibility of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherd teachers is not to do all the ministry in the body, but rather to equip every member of the body to do “the work of ministry”. I like to summarize that principle like this:
Every member is a minister.
That becomes much easier for us to understand once we realize that most of the ministry of our church does not take place within the walls of this building. It occurs when our members go down to the Gospel Rescue Mission to help feed the homeless or hand out Christmas gifts to children who would otherwise have nothing. It occurs on the second Wednesday of each month when members of our church family serve a meal at the Women and Children’s Center and share the gospel and pray with those women and children. It occurs in the classrooms of both public and private schools here in this city where teachers who are part of this body minister to the needs of the children in their classrooms in the name of Jesus, even though they are not permitted to even speak His name.
It occurs in our home and neighborhoods where we serve the needs of others in the name of Jesus. It occurs when our church family gives generously so that Wes and Julie Shoemaker can purchase a vehicle that will facilitate their ministry in a remote village in Mexico. And that only scratches the surface because frankly there is ministry going on every day that I know nothing about.
As we might expect, Jesus confirmed this third step in the discipleship process with His own words:
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
John 15:8 (ESV)
The third test of true disciples is that they bear much fruit. And in the context in which Jesus spoke these words, it is clear that the fruit He is speaking about here are the “works of ministry” that impact the lives of people outside the body.
Because these three steps in the process of making disciples are so important, we have intentionally designed everything that we do here at Thornydale to facilitate those three aspects of discipleship. Whenever anyone suggests a new ministry or program, the first question that must be answered is “How does that facilitate on or more of these three steps in the discipleship process?” That is the litmus test which determines whether we even give further consideration to that particular suggestion. Since we have limited resources, both in terms of people and finances, we need to make sure that everything we do furthers the disciple-making process.