What To Do With That Idea You Have
This weekend we are doing something as a church that we have not done before. We will be doing some evangelistic Christmas caroling. Why are we doing this? There are a number of reasons why we are doing this, but the first reason, the reason that got it all in motion, was one of our members brought the idea to our attention and explained the benefits.
Do you know what this is called? This is called the saints doing ministry. This is called the Spirit-led people of God in action. This is called the normal Christian life. But, sadly this is not normal for many Christians and many churches. So what I want to do is walk you through the biblical process of how the saints do ministry so that you will also bear fruit as you live out the Christian life with the people of God.
1) A saint is submitted to and growing in a local church
This is first and foremost. Before you even think about serving in the name of Jesus, you had better make sure you actually are in the grace of Jesus as a true saint. Jesus gave the church the keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16:19) which is the responsibility of recognizing and confirming a true regenerating work of the Spirit in a person’s life. And one of the marks of true faith is a love of the brethren that desires true, committed fellowship with them. Another mark is an obedience to the Lordship of Christ, including the call to submit to elders (1 Peter 5:5). Therefore, not only does the church confirm that you are a real saint, your presence within the church is a further confirmation of new birth. And there in the church, with the protection of elders, declaration of truth, and purifying nature of accountability, the Spirit of God begins to transform you into one who holds a biblical worldview. You will be growing in grace when you breathe the air of holiness and truth in the presence of God’s people. There with God’s people you will begin to see the glory of the gospel and how it needs to be taken to the world of lost people, and applied in a church of broken people. And with that biblical worldview, deepening with every passing week, you will begin to filter ideas about your world through it.
2) A saint sees a way to possibly advance the gospel
Next, an idea lodges in your mind. Something has captured your attention and you can’t seem to shake it. It could be large or small. It may be as big as a lifetime career in missions or as small as a plan for letter-writing or chair-staking. Whatever it is, you begin to see certain features that you hadn’t seen before. Perhaps you see a gifting you have than can be leveraged for gospel work. Maybe you have resources that could be put toward a new endeavor. Perchance you know a group of people who could be organized to do something for the name of Christ and the good of other people. Maybe it is just a need that no one else is recognizing. But there it is, throbbing in your brain, demanding something be done.
3) A saint gets equipped to assess and act on the idea
What happens next? I will tell you what normally happens next. Normally that saint will tell the pastor and expect the paid church staff take it from there. Let me quote Paul here and say, “May it never be!” Pastors are not the ones to do all things ministry. Well, who does then? YOU DO! You have the Spirit of God, so go bear fruit. The pastor has a basic job description in the word of God. He is called to shepherd the flock (1 Peter 5:2) through “prayer and the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4) That means the pastor is called to get you equipped to turn your idea into fruit-bearing ministry. The pastor may do this directly one on one, or get you set up with other saints who will disciple you, teaching you what to do by example, instruction, or both. This will include bringing a fuller biblical evaluation of your idea. Some ideas need very little evaluation, like sharing the gospel. The Bible is clear about sharing the gospel. Nevertheless, many saints need equipping on how to do this effectively and faithfully. Other ideas are personal applications and often fall under the umbrellas of “calling.” Sadly, many people consider “callings” exempt from evaluation. But even these big ideas for the gospel must be evaluated, and a church that is protected and equipped by faithful elders will help a person see if the idea is self-promoting, self-deceived, worldly, doctrinally-skewed, or have other problems. And yes, this means there are people who should not go into ministry or missions, even though they want to. Therefore, all ideas for gospel work need to be run through the local church, assessed and equipped appropriately.
4) A saint strives for unity
Once there is a green light for action, caution is needed. It is funny how gospel work can bring out the worst in people. We can get so wrapped up into “doing something for God”, that we forget God still wants us to obey the second great commandment of loving our neighbor. And when it comes to the church, God is really serious about unity and peace. Ephesians 4:3 says, “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Do you know what the single greatest reason is for missionaries dropping off the field? It is team conflict. Missionaries get so wrapped up in their mission that they stop striving for unity, forbearing with one another, and considering others more important than themselves. There were two godly women in the church of Philippi who had this exact issue. We read about them in Philippians 4. They both worked alongside Paul in gospel work. But when they came alongside one another it didn’t go so well. It is quite sad when a ministry becomes an idol. Let Jesus be the cornerstone and you a humble servant who trusts God even when people get in the way of your great idea.
5) A saint gives all glory to God
Sometimes a great idea flops and sometimes is flies. You can’t be despairing in the first case, or prideful in the second. In both cases we entrust ourselves to God, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, press[ing] on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil 3:13-14. Where there is fruit, we confess we are just the branches of the true life-giving vine. Where there is nothing visible, we say, “your will be done.” In all cases, we l will all ultimately say, “Not to us, Oh Lord, Not to us but to your name give glory because of your lovingkindness, because of your truth.” Psalm 115:1