I attended the University of Georgia for my undergraduate studies. When I entered the university, I hadn't declared a major, but eventually, I decided on Biology. Why? I don’t know. I’ve never worked in my degree field and the classes I had to take were much more difficult than those in other majors, but that is where I landed.
Even though I was a Biology major, I had to take a number of classes in other disciplines: English Literature, Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, and Spanish, among others. While I wish I didn’t have to take those classes, I now see that there was a method to the university's madness. There was a sort of unity in the diversity. The subjects they selected were designed to work together to make me a well-rounded student, teaching me skills I didn’t have and helping me hone the ones I did possess.
The church works in a similar way. While there’s not a diversified list of classes we have to take, there is a diversity of gifts that exist within the church. Within that diversity, there should be unity. In our unity, we should be working towards one goal. What is that goal?
What is the goal and purpose of ministry in the church?
At the end of verse 12 in Ephesians 4, we learn that the goal and purpose of ministry is to build up the body of Christ: "...to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ...” (Eph 4:12).
Think of the body of Christ as a building. In order for a building to become a home for someone to live in, many different things have to take place. The foundation has to be poured. Walls need to be erected. A roof has to be put on. Plumbing and electricity have to be installed. Storage and furniture have to be placed inside. All that is necessary for a building to become a home, at least in a first world country like the United States.
None of that stuff takes place on its own, nor does one person do it. A lot of work goes into building a home, work that is done by many different people who are all gifted in different ways. Concrete workers, framers, and roofers, electricians, plumbers, cabinet and furniture makers, as well as painters, people to lay the floor, and those who design the interior - all these people and more must contribute in order for a building to become a home.
Something similar has to happen in the church. The saints, equipped by a pastor, must all use their gifts to build up the body of Christ. We must all be actively engaged in the area of ministry with which Jesus has called us.
Now, we all have a good idea of what a home looks like. But what should the church look like? In other words, how do we know when the building has been built?
Look at the text starting in verse 13:
...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, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Eph 4:13–14)
Now, there is a lot here, so let’s break it down into its component parts just like you would a building project.
First, we see that we are working towards:
(1) A unified understanding of the faith and a deep intimate knowledge of the Son of God
This means we should all have a like-minded understanding of the core convictions of the Christian faith.
The core convictions of the Christian faith would represent things like:
- What is the Gospel?
- Who is God?
- Who is man?
- What is Scripture?
- What do Baptism and the Lord’s Supper represent?
- How are we to live as followers of Jesus?
These, among other things, are the core convictions of the Christian faith. We should all be helping one another gain a competent knowledge and understanding of these things. Alongside these, we are also to help others gain a deep intimate knowledge of the Son of God.
The knowledge Paul has in mind is not just head knowledge. It is not just something we can gain from a book. Instead, it is knowledge we must gain from one another as we live in community together. This is why I believe Paul begins this chapter stressing unity. We must be unified with one another so we might enter into one another’s lives and see, hear, and experience the Son of God actively working. When that happens, our knowledge of the Son of God will be deepened. It will become more than book knowledge. It will become an intimate knowledge.
Chuck is a man in my congregation. I have known Chuck for six and a half years, the whole time I’ve been a pastor at my current church. For six of those years, we have gathered together every Friday morning for a men’s group.
When we first started getting together, Chuck wasn’t the easiest person to get along with. It was hard to have a discussion with him. He would get defensive and even angry at times. But, over the years as our group has pressed into him, speaking the truth in love as Paul tells us to do in verse 15 and praying for him, using our gifts to minister to him, Jesus has changed Chuck. So much so that I now look forward to getting together with him. I find our discussions to be a time of encouragement, blessing, and learning.
But here is the thing: if I wasn’t actively using my gifts, if I wasn’t getting together with him week in and week out, if I wasn’t speaking the truth in love, then I wouldn’t have seen this brother change. My sanctifying knowledge of Jesus wouldn’t have been deepened. It would have remained theoretical instead of becoming concrete.
So what Paul wants us to see, and what I want you to see, is that we not only need to be unified with one another, but we must also enter into one another’s lives actively using the gifts we have been given by the conquering King. If we do that, we will not only be unified in our understanding of the faith, but we will have a deep intimate knowledge of the Son of God which will serve to sustain and drive our ministry to one another even deeper.
That is the first thing we are working towards in our building project, a unified understanding of the faith and a deep, intimate knowledge of the Son of God.
Next, we see that we are working toward:
(2) A church that resembles Christ in its thoughts, actions, and knowledge
Paul says in the middle of verse 13, “...to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ...”(Eph 4:13b).
A mature man is someone who is fully grown. We know someone is fully grown when they meet certain standards, a certain measurement. As our kids grow, we have to periodically take them to do the doctor for what is called a “wellness checkup.” At that checkup, our kids get the shots they need. The doctor asks us a bunch of questions about how they are doing and what they are eating. She also measures their height and weight. Our doctor uses all those measurements to tell us if our kids are maturing properly and to instruct us as to what we are to be doing as parents to help them reach that goal of maturity.
Paul is telling us something similar here. On the one hand, he is telling us that we should all be working towards maturity. We shouldn’t be stagnant Christians. We should all be maturing in our faith.
But on top of that, Paul is also telling us that we should all be employing our gifts to help one another grow in the faith, just like parents help their kids grow into mature adults.
Just like our doctor has a standard of measurement against which she compares our kids, the church has a standard of measurement. That standard is Christ. I know it’s a tall order, but our job as the church is to help one another become like Christ in our thoughts, actions, and knowledge.
Now, we are almost done in our building project, but we have one last item to tackle. While you might view the last two points as the walls to the building, you can think of this last one as the roof. I say that because the other two hold this one up. We know this because Paul uses the connector “so that” in his writing. In this case, “so that” tells us the result of the last two points. Let’s look at the result. Paul says in verse 14, “...so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph 4:14). The result is that:
(3) We should be a church that is able to discern and combat false doctrine.
The way we get there is by building each other up in an understanding of the basics of the faith and a deep, intimate knowledge of the Son of God. We also get there by being a church that is given to being like Christ in our thoughts, actions, and knowledge, and helping others do the same. Again, the only way we accomplish that is if:
- We are unified.
- We are gathering together in community on a regular basis.
- We are using our God-given gifts.
- We are speaking the truth in love to one another.
If that is our focus, then we will build one another up in the faith to mature manhood. We won’t be a church that is tossed to and fro, a church that is easily deceived by false teachers. On the other hand, if we aren’t doing those things, then we aren’t going to reach mature manhood. Instead, we are going to remain children who are easily deceived and led astray.
We return to the question this post seeks to answer: what is the goal and purpose of ministry in the church?
It is to use our God-given gifts and connection to one another to build one another up in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, helping one another think, live, and know as Christ does, so that we will not be deceived and led astray.
That can’t happen if you only attend your church every now and again. That can’t happen if you aren’t involved. That can’t happen if you just come and sit in the pew and walk out the door. Sure, you might learn something about God. You might grow a little bit in your faith. But you aren’t going to grow in the way God wants you to grow, nor are those around you going to grow in the way God’s wants them to grow. You aren’t going to be protected from false teaching, neither will those around you.
If you haven’t been involved, if you aren’t using your God-given gifts, if you aren’t connecting with others in the church on a regular basis, if you aren’t sharing with others the work God is doing in your life, if you aren’t doing those things, then it’s time you start.
There are a number of ways for you to get more involved in the church.
Most churches have a Sunday school program. That's usually an easy way to get involved because it only requires you to arrive at church an hour earlier than you normally would.
My church gathers on Wednesday nights for Bible study, prayer, and fellowship. Your church may do something similar. I encourage you to explore the options your church has for corporate Bible study.
Friday mornings a few men in my church meet for breakfast and Bible study at a local IHOP. The point is for men to connect over the Word. Explore the options your church has and get involved.
Other than attending church-sponsored studies, you can get involved in people’s lives and serve one another by simple: invite them to your house, go out to lunch with them, grab coffee with them, etc. Ministering to one another involves more than just fulfilling a role or performing a duty at the church. It involves us actually getting involved in the lives of others and sharing with them what we are learning from God.
If you aren’t involved, I challenge you to get involved and to use your gifts in such a way that others are built up in the faith.