Where We Are Going: Vision
Every church has the same mission, and we have enunciated that for our church: We exist to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ. Every church also has a vision for accomplishing that mission, or a way they do things. This page is dedicated to explaining the way we do things as a church. Because of our core values (The Word, The Gospel, The Truth, The Church, and The Nations), we do things in a certain way, trying to be faithful to the message and meaning of the Scriptures. We turn to Ephesians 4 and see that God has a particular vision for the church and we make that our own.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherdsand teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 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, 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.15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16, ESV)
The Vision for the Local Church Belongs to God Because the Local Church Belongs to God (11).
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers.
Look at the context:
- He Gave: Ephesians 4:8-10 shows us that Jesus is the one who gives these gifts to the church, and Matthew 16:18 reminds us that Jesus builds his church. The church belongs to Jesus and he will build it his way.
- The Sheep & Shepherds: Believers are the flock of God (1 Pet. 5:2) and God has given pastor-teachers to the church, called to exercise care and oversight to God’s people. The church belongs to Jesus, and he is the chief shepherd of his people and he cares deeply about how they are treated.
The Vision for the Local Church Was Planned by God (12-15).
Jesus has a very clear process: 12 [Pastors are given by Jesus …] to equip [to make someone completely adequate for something; to cause to be fully qualified; Means: 2 Timothy 3:16-17] the saints for the work of ministry [service; word is actually diakonias, for service], for building up the body [living organism] of Christ. Jesus also has a clear purpose: 13 Until we all attain to the unity of the faith [believe the same things] and the unity of the knowledge of the son of God [know the same Jesus], to mature manhood [spiritual maturity], to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
- Unity: Unity of the faith does not refer to the action of faith, but to the system of faith, or the body of Christian doctrine. The faith is the content of the gospel in its most complete form. We are united around the biblical gospel, not religious sentimentalism. Unity of the knowledge of God is not a basic salvation knowledge of Jesus as if to say, “When did you come to know Christ”, but a deep, vibrant, ever-increasing knowledge of Jesus (Philippians 3:8-10).
- Maturity: The place of Christian maturity is the local church. “From this is is plain that those who neglect this means and yet hope to become perfect in Christ are mad. Such are the fanatics, who invent secret revelations of the Spirit for themselves, and the proud, who think that for them the private reading of the Scriptures is enough, and that they have no need of the common ministry of the church”(John Calvin).
- Conformity: to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. We are the body of Christ. We are to “walk as he walked” and reflect Christ to the world. John says it best, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
This process and purpose has God-given results: 14 So that we ay no longer be children (maturity), tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine (stability), by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (shrewdness). 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. Our church has been greatly helped by the book The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne. The central theme of this landmark book on biblical church ministry is that the goal of all ministry is the nurture of disciples. This discipleship comes out in three areas:
- Conviction: Knowledge of God and understanding of the Bible.
- Character: Godly character and life in accord with sound doctrine.
- Competency: The ability to prayerfully speak God’s Word to others in a variety of ways.
We structure our ministry around these three ideas, planning events, programs, services, classes, and mission opportunities to the end that God might be glorified in the nurture of disciples.
The Vision for the Local Church is Empowered by God (16).
We rest on the biblical truth that the growth of every true church is empowered by God. From whom [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes [That is, Christ makes…] the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The power of God in Jesus works through the collected church to build it up as we follow this vision. The proper working of each individual part refers to the believer’s competency as he or she matures. Each part works properly when it is equipped properly. Each part works with all the other parts to be “the church”.
There are some practical ideas I want to share with you along the same lines as this passage and the Trellis and Vine book I mentioned earlier.
- The God-given, Biblical mission of the church is to make disciples.
- Goal of all ministry should be to nurture disciples.
- To be a disciple is to be a disciple maker:
- There is only one class of disciple: ”Every Christian is commissioned, for every Christian is a missionary. Nowadays we hire a church staff to do ‘full time Christian work,’ and we sit in church on Sunday to watch them do it. Every Christian is meant to be in full-time Christian service…There is indeed a special ministry of pastors, teachers, and evangelists-but for what? For the perfecting of the saints for their ministry”(Vance Havner).
- Training is essential: It isn’t enough to just say, “Pastors equip the saints to do the work of the ministry,” if we aren’t practically training you to do ministry. Just saying, “Do ministry…come on, do it” doesn’t help ministry get done. We want to spend 2014 training our deacons, our elders, our teachers and leaders not to just be learners and communicators, but people who are growing in conviction, character and competency, and thus becoming people who can speak truth into the lives of others who grow in conviction, character, and competency.
Our prayer is that our vision will be clear and that you will join us in our efforts to make disciples, nurture disciples, and glorify God.