2000 Baptist Faith & Message
The New Testament writers use a number of different images when they talk about the church. These images help us understand the nature and mission of the church. The church is referred to as the “People of God”, “the Temple of the Holy Spirit”, the Household of God”, and the “Body of Christ”. John in Revelation 19:7 refers to the church as the “Bride of Christ”. Christ is the loving Bridegroom who gave His life for His Bride and clothes her in fine linen. The Greek word used for “church” in the New Testament is the word ekklesia. Ekklesia refers to people assembled together. It was used of political gatherings and various other council meetings or assemblies. The emphasis of the word is on the individual people gathered together. By using this word for the Church, the New Testament writers are saying that an important feature concerning the nature of the church is people not institution. The church is made up of people redeemed in Christ alone and called together for the purpose of serving Christ. So then, people are central, not buildings and programs. This is important because if we fail to understand the nature of the Church we will fail to understand the mission of the church, and in turn we will fail to understand “ministry”.
At the end of Acts chapter 2 (2:42-47) Luke gives us. glimpse into the life and ministry of the early church. We see a similar picture at the end of chapter 4. (4:32-37) Building on the image of the church being the “Bride of Christ”, we see four activities in Acts 2:42-47 that form the ministry of a church. Think of the acrostic WIFE. (Bride = Wife)
Worship – Christ centered worship under Biblical authority.
Instruction – Making disciples through the preaching and teaching of God’s word.
Fellowship – Living out the gospel together in unity of believe and practice.
Evangelism – Making disciples through personal witness at home and abroad.
All four ministries, worship, instruction, fellowship, and evangelism are of vital importance. You can’t focus on one at the expense of another. All four are the heart and soul of the ministry of a church. How they are carried out in a local church depends on the context, culture, and the spiritual gifts of the people of the church. All four focus on people and not institutions or programs. All four pursued by a church for the glory of God alone will bring blessings from God.
Paul makes an incredible statement in Ephesians 4:15-16. He says that the church, the body, is growing up in maturity in Christ, and growth comes when every joint (member) is doing what God has gifted them to do. Ministry is from the bottom up, not the top down. Ministry begins with the grace of God saving, changing, and gifting a person and calling them to join a local body of believers where they are equipped for the work of the ministry and given the opportunity to use their gifts. The leadership of a church does not create ministry for the members to do. God opens the door to ministry opportunities and the leadership of the church leads the congregation into ministry. All of this is undergirded by the Holy Spirit taking the Word of God and uniting and equipping members for ministry.