However, our spiritual maturity and effective ministry are not automatic. They require development and growth in our new lives. God has called pastors and teachers to EQUIP the saints to do the work of ministry.
The church is the divine collective of Christ. The church exists to be the body of Jesus Christ on this planet until He comes again. Jesus is here as the church. But the church seems weak and ineffective. Unity within the church remains fragile and fractured. God is calling us to EQUIP the church.
The Church at the Cross, which is made up of baptized believers, is a unique collective of Christ followers in Orlando, Fl. We are called together to express Christ to our city and our world.
Our God-given mission compels us to ask three questions. Who are we, the Church at the Cross, to think that we can change the city of Orlando? How could we, the Church at the Cross, organize ourselves to fulfill this mission? What are we, the Church at the Cross, called to do to fulfill this mission?
These questions and more are answered in this journey through the book of Ephesians entitled: “EQUIP.” God inspired the Apostle Paul to write a letter to the church in Ephesus to simplify and clarify the relationship of a believer to God and to the church. The answers to our questions lie within this great book as we live out these truths in our relationship with Jesus and one another.
May this journey EQUIP the saints to do the work of ministry!
Who Are We?
Sons of God
Who are we to think that the Church at the Cross could be used by God to change the city? Ephesus was the leading city of Asia Minor in the first century. Christians in the first century had no standing in the culture, scant resources, and only portions of the Scriptures. Yet, God used them to change their city. God saved us so that we could be used to change our city.
Paul confronts the believer with the reality that we are sons of God. Our identity, when understood, produces our ministry. Being determines doing.
You are a son of the living God. Your sonship was established when you trusted in Christ, being born into the family of God. You have also been adopted. God chose you. You bring Him great pleasure as a child does to a parent.
Paul also confronts the church with the reality of every saved person’s sonship. No longer is there a distinction between the Jew and the Gentile. The Gentiles were once far off but now have been brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ. Jew and Gentile have been reconciled to God through Christ and therefore, reconciled to one another. The church is made up of the joint heirs with Christ, the sons of God, the redeemed of the earth.
Paul calls all of the believers saints. He declares that the entire redeemed community is Christ’s inheritance (1:18), empowered by the resurrection power of Jesus Christ (1:19), members of the household of God (2:19), recipients of the immeasurable love of God (3:20), gifted with pastors and teachers (4:11), called to a higher standard (5:3), and facing a dark enemy in spiritual war (6:18).
Saints means holy ones set apart for the use and service of God. Like sacred artifacts used in the Temple in Jerusalem, each one of us are now held in the hand of the Lord Jesus for His pleasure and glory.
Saints must be wholly devoted to Christ in order for us to be holy. Christ should have no rival for the saints devotion and attention.
Once again, Paul focuses on the collective aspects of our sainthood. We are saints together. God takes pleasure in us individually but even more so collectively. We are being built together as the dwelling place of God, the Temple of God, on the earth (2:22). Our sainthood speaks to the people of Christ and our fellowship with Him.
God has made all of us stewards of God. Paul wrote to make all of us see the stewardship that we possess in the mystery of the Gospel. Paul called the Gospel a mystery-the mystery of how that Christ could redeem us from sin, reconcile us to one another, and remake us into His expression to our cities and our world.
We are His workmanship with our individual gifts that only find their expression through the body of Christ, the church. Being stewards speaks to our purpose and our stewardship.
We are not individual soldiers. We are a collective army with the purpose of revealing the many facets of the wisdom of God, the beautiful reality of the grace of God, and the incomparable depth of the love of God to our generation and city.
How are we?
How are we to organize and orientate ourselves to be used by God to change the city? God has called us to be a witness to the city not only with our communication but with our community. The Gospel and the group express Christ. We are to fit together in community to show the life changing power of Christ which is in agreement with the message that we preach.
God gives us resources. His Spirit drives us, empowers us, gifts us, and knits us together. His saints encourage us and help us in our journey together. His servants, pastors and teachers, EQUIP us to relate to one another and to the lost city in which we live. His stewardship compels us to embrace the process of banding together in collectives to impact the city. Paul explained that as we seek together to reach people then our knowledge of God deepens. Our personal struggles become exposed while God’s grace works to move us to maturity and victory. Our hypocrisies and hidden frailties are strengthened through relationships with other saints of God. Our personal growth is magnified.
God intended for us to know Him, grow in Him, and go for Him (4:12-16). This process involves other believers. It does not simply happen to me. KNOW, GROW, and GO happens in the “we” not just the “me.” We know Christ as we relate to Him and our brothers and sisters. We grow in Christ through service, struggle, and sacrifice. We go for Christ in a spiritual war making known the mystery of the Gospel to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (3:9-10).
We accomplish His purpose of KNOW, GROW, and GO as we relate to one another in a collective group focused on reaching our city with the Gospel. Jesus called His disciples to follow Him and promptly placed them in a group to do outreach and ministry. He developed them in the context of community.
Paul intended to EQUIP us to know how we touch our city. Every one is needed for this great purpose.
We are all sons, saints and stewards. We are all called to KNOW, GROW, and GO together.
We must organize. We must participate and sacrifice. God has called your pastors and teachers to challenge you to join these groups and leverage all that we have for the furtherance of the Gospel.
What are we to do?
Jesus placed His followers in groups in order to reach others. He took them with Him as they ministered to unbelievers. “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men,” Jesus said. Our collective groups allow us to express our unique giftedness while reaching others for the Lord Jesus. We must approach our organized groups as collectives designed to reach people with the Gospel. You and I are responsible. This is your ministry and your stewardship. Our Lord will call all of us to account when we stand before Him.
We all share the responsibility of reaching our city. Your pastors and leaders organize small groups in order to reach others. You know Christ more deeply as you serve in these groups to reach others.
It will take all of us. You can not sit this out. You need to get on the pathway to be used by the Lord. Join a life group or a community group. A life group meets on campus every Sunday. A community group is an outreach focused group at various times to perform service and outreach. Life groups may also be community groups, if the life group has an outreach focus. Inside the group you will find leadership and growth. You will find that pastors and teachers will EQUIP you to do the work God has gifted you to do. Jesus is calling you to move from a consumer to a contributor. I know that you do not want to sit this out. You love Jesus and want to serve Him. You love the people around you who need Christ. You love your church. It is time to take the step.
Here’s the ask. Take the EQUIP commitment card and fill it out and return it to the church. Join a group. On or before September 29, make a commitment. Christ made you a son, a saint and a steward. You must take ownership of the mission. God placed you here for this. He designed you to serve.