Ephesians 4:11-16: Growing the Church with the Word: Part 2
‘Every member ministry.’ Have you ever heard this phrase? This phrase is used to describe a movement in the modern church where every Christian is encouraged to know their gifts and use them in service to God. We welcome such an emphasis as biblical, 1 Cor. 12:7, Eph. 4:16. However, this emphasis has often come at the sacrifice of the formal ministries of the church. If every Christian is a minister then why do we need pastors and preaching? We are in the midst of Eph. 4:11-16 which talks about both leaders and laity, formal gifts and informal gifts, and how the church is grown by God through the working of all the gifts, but each in their place.
Church growth has been a buzz phrase in the last half century and many strategies have been announced as to how to do it. Our concern is to answer this question biblically and Eph. 4:11-16 gives us the biblical perspective. Let me outline once again the basic flow of 1-16. Paul has been talking about how we are to maintain the unity God has brought us into by the Gospel, v1-6. However, there is unity but also diversity, this diversity consists of the various gifts that God has given to the church, v7-10. These gifts have a certain shape and purpose. In 11-16 Paul starts off talking about those offices which bring the word of God to the church, the apostle, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers.
We spent last week looking at a definition for each of these and how each one is related to the ministry of the word and their authority relationships to each other. Now we move into 12-16. These verses fall into 2 parts, firstly, 12-14 indicate how the word based gifts Paul has mentioned in v11 cause growth to occur. Then in v15-16 under the ministry of the word, we then see how the rest of the parts of the body as they use their gifts also contribute to the growth of the church. The concern we have as we look at these verses is to demonstrate that church growth is outlined in the bible as happening in a particular way, that God by His Spirit works through the word by the official offices of the church, and that this then stimulates all the other parts to contribute and cause growth. Today you will hear many calls for the latest technique to be employed to bring about growth, and many of these movements have some truth in them. For example, we need a revival in discipleship, or a revival in mentoring, or a rediscovery of manhood and womanhood, these are all true, but Eph. 4:11-16 points us to the fundamental place of God’s word through the offices of the church stimulating growth.