6 min. to read.
Would you take motorcycle classes and then never ride? Would you learn to play an instrument, but then never make music? Or learn to cook but never do it?
It sounds absurd, yet this is exactly the situation in the lives of many Christians. This strange situation is actually built into the programs of many churches.
Instead of helping you step into ministry, using your gifts to bless and serve the world around you, these church programs encourage you to be an attender and inviter.
Your job is to bring your friends. The “real” ministry is left to professionals.
For an apprentice to Jesus, this will never do. You can’t complete your motorcycle education without riding the bike, or become a great guitarist without playing the instrument.
The 6th commitment of an apprentice to Jesus is to enroll in ministry.
Why you should stop going to church
To talk about enrolling in ministry, we have to talk about church for a moment. If you’ve been following this series, you may have wondered how we’ve gotten so far in without any mention of the church. The standard guidance to grow as a Christian that you often here is this:
- Attend a good, Bible-believing church.
- Read the Bible.
If being an apprentice to Jesus is how we learn from Jesus how to live, how have we come so far without mentioning church? Let me tell you.
Being a part of a church is incredibly important. In fact, theologically, if you follow Jesus you’re a part of the church[note Biblically “church” refers to a body of people on mission with Jesus. It’s the ekklesia, the “called out ones,” called by Jesus to join Him on His mission in the world. It’s most definitely not a program you can attend, a denomination you can belong to, or a building you spend time inside. When you choose to follow Jesus, you become a part of His body, the church, and you inherit Jesus’ mission.]whether you think you are or not.
But church is also the source of incredible baggage for folks. There’s preferences and politics and all sorts of rough edges. As an organization we tend to get stuck. The institution has done embarrassing, even terrible things. I know. If the conversation starts with, “You need to be in a church,” a lot of folks check out, and with good reason.
Topping all of that, there are a hundred reasons why people get involved in church, and most of them are no good. They sound like these:
- We go to church because we ought to.
- We go because it makes us feel like good people.
- We go to church because our parents did.
- We go to meet people our age that we feel comfortable with.
- We go because we need the weekly hit of inspiration and hope.
- We go to have our beliefs affirmed.
- We go because we live in a part of the country where that’s just what good people do. (If that’s a struggle for you, move to Portland. That is not an issue here.)
Well, none of those are good reasons. None of them are Biblical. And none of them result in a powerful or transforming experience for you.
Are you ready to grow?
Ephesians 4:11-16 lays out the reason why committing yourself to a local body of Jesus followers matters for you. Here it is: So you can be trained and equipped for ministry[note Stop a moment and consider your definition of ministry. Ministry is not preaching or singing on stage. It’s not serving in the children’s program. Ministry is blessings and serving people around you. Ideally, it happens in a way that lines up with your gifts, your experience, and your passion. It includes anything that we do to serve others. It’s done with purpose, carrying the intention of sharing the love of Jesus, in alignment with Jesus’ mission of expanding the Kingdom of God.]. Why? So that you will mature in the image of Christ.
The ultimate goal of a healthy church community is to help people mature in the image of Christ. The primary tool for that is to train and equip people for ministry — blessings and serving the world around them.
Here’s the one reason you should get involved in a church. So that you can mature in the image of Christ.
That is not a passive process. It doesn’t happen by attending a worship service once a week and listening. Gathering new information won’t get the job done. It’s like the motorcycle, or guitar or cooking. You learn by doing. You try. You experience. It’s hands-on, the way that apprentices have aways learned from their master.
That’s why apprentices to Jesus get involved in a church. They seek out:
- A community that can help them grow.
- A community that includes wise elders (By that I don’t mean people with the title Elder, but people who are older, more spiritually mature, and who have more experience walking this walk.)
- A community that offers real community and accountability.
- A community that teaches the life and mission of Jesus.
- But even more than that, a community that lets you get on the motorcycle and try it out, that lets you step up to the stove and try cooking.
Apprentices seek out a church community where they can actually do ministry because this is the laboratory for growing in Christ.
Jesus called his followers together into a body. As a body we share Jesus’ mission in the world. As a body, we are called to help one another grow. So, find your place in a body that is committed to helping you mature in the image of Christ, and then enroll yourself in doing ministry.