He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
A theme is emerging as we read through the epistle to the Ephesians: in order for the body to be complete we need all of the parts! We are called to love our community because it is literally filled with the organs and tissues of Christ on earth. Our sermon this week was entitled, “Porches and Patios,” and Pastor David talked about the shift in our culture from sitting out on the front porch, where one is able to engage with the community, to the back patio, where we are more isolated and alone.
There is nothing wrong with privacy. Jesus frequently left his disciples to be alone with God, and your neighbors will probably appreciate it if you let them wake up and put on clothes before you start barging in and talking about the gospels. However, the message that Paul is sending to the Ephesians is clear: we are called to live in community because we are all needed to work God’s will.
Well, how do we do that?
I will be the first one to admit that I am terrible at evangelizing. I’m introverted, private, and mortified even at the thought of giving another person life advice.
If you have ever successfully engaged a stranger or mild acquaintance in an evangelical discussion, God bless you, it is certainly not my strength. It has surely been done before, and all things are possible through Christ, but I don’t think there are a lot of successful conversion stories of Christians cornering strangers or holding up signs with John 3:16 written on them at football games. Most people aren’t going to come to church because a stranger told them to.
Our community is aware of the church. Maybe they don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible, but it’s difficult to grow up in the United States without at least a passing grade understanding of Christianity. So what is keeping them from a relationship with Christ? They want to feel a sense of purpose and belonging. We all do! We get those feelings from rooting for the same football team, for being aligned with a particular political party, for having the same crew at a cafe or bar. Most people don’t associate church with community.
Our job is to change that perception, and to create a community that welcomes strangers and newcomers. This is difficult, and I can really only speak to my own experience, but I have found that I’m much more willing to engage in a community when I feel that I have a role to play. I don’t want to come and passively sit while four people do all of the work around me. I want my strengths to be recognized! I feel like I belong when I’m given something meaningful to do!
We can help bring our community together by engaging in meaningful work that is shared according to individual strengths.
The good news is that our church is already engaged in this sort of work! Sunday Funday is a great example of meaningful work being done in the community. We are actively helping those in need while asking individuals inside and outside of the church to play a role. That communicates a much stronger message than writing John 3:16 on a billboard.
Look at the phrasing of the passage again, “Speaking the truth in love…” which of these two approaches to evangelism speaks the truth in love?