Growing and growing together
In writing to the Church at Ephesus Paul encourages them and us to see the beauty and the potential of the church as the body Christ. The letter identifies the present shortcomings of it while looking forward to a perfect resolution in the future.
In chapter 4:11-16 Paul writes, 11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
In these verses Paul identifies some key elements of growing. First Christ has given gifts to the church specifically to equip and build up the body Christ. Paul then articulates the outcome of these gifts as they are applied. Immaturity will give way to maturity. Furthermore, we have certainty in what we believe so that we are not buffeted and confused by changing views, ideology or other false teaching (or more plainly lies).
Paul is convinced the outcome of this growth and maturity is positive. Such things as speaking the truth in love, Christlikeness and unity within the body that is perfect. While this will be the eventual outcome we ought to be somewhere on the road, and without doubt I know we are. Because there is clearly a sense of love, peace and desire for growth and understanding within the fellowship. And for this we should be truly grateful and give thanks to God.
In Disciples Who Will Last Tim Hawkins writes, “so- growing disciples who will last is not just about making our individual church programmes better, or even just looking after each individual Christian. One of the reasons we aim to grow disciples who will last is that it is God’s strategy to grow his church!”
So how are you doing? Is there a desire to mature and grow in your understanding of the gospel and its implications in your life? Do you or perhaps others see in you a growing Christlikeness? Are you deliberate to encourage and contribute in love to the life and ministry of the church? Will your faith survive the test of time? Are you a disciple who will last?