What does it take to have deeper, stronger relationships, especially in a church family? In today's passage (Ephesians 4:7-16), we learn 3 keys to having deeper, stronger relationships in the church.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)
11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
On verses 11-14: The first key is leadership. Here Paul explains that Jesus Christ Himself gave four types of leaders to His church:
1. apostles: those who plant and establish church communities.
2. prophets: those who communicate God's heart to the people.
3. evangelists: those who have a special gift of leading others to Jesus Christ.
4. pastors and teachers: those who shepherd God's people and teach them the Word of God.
He gave such leaders to His church for the following reasons:
- To keep His church united in "one body...one Spirit...one hope...one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all" (v4-6)
- To equip the people for works of service which God made them to do (v12, and also Ephesians 2:10)
- To build up the church so that the people can be united in the same faith and understanding of who Jesus is and "become mature, attaining to the full measure of the fullness of Christ" (v12-13)
- To protect Christians against false teaching (v14)
From this we learn that following, respecting and submitting to our church leaders is crucial if we want to grow into the people God made us to be and the church God made us to be.
Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
On verse 15: The second key is speaking the truth in love. Paul says that we will grow as we speak the truth in love. What does it mean to speak the truth in love? It means to confront each other with the truth in a loving way. For any relationship to go deeper, it is necessary from time to time to speak the truth in love. How do you speak the truth in love, especially when the truth is not easy to hear? Here are 3 basic tips (I call them the ABC's of speaking the truth in love):
1. Ask the Right Questions: Ask yourself, "Do I understand the situation fully? Have I made any wrong assumptions? Am I missing anything? Am I the appropriate person to bring this up?" As James 1:19 says, before we can speak the truth in love, we must be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
2. Believe in the Person: Affirm the person you are speaking to. Acknowledge the positives first. That way the listener knows that you are on their side.
3. Challenge the person: Gently and lovingly let the listener know how they can help improve the situation in a practical way.
We talk about speaking the truth in love in more detail in the "Love One Another" Class (which is Session 5 of Thrive Discipleship School Level 2). Access the "Love One Another" class HERE and the class handout HERE. "Love One Another" is a required class for every Thriver! If you haven't taken that class, be sure to check it out.
Ephesians 4:16 (NIV)
16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
On verse 16: The third key to deeper, stronger relationships in the church is for each part of the family to take responsibility and be committed to one another. I like that phrase "as each part does its work". It shows that it's not just the leaders of the church that are in charge of the church's growth and health. It's every member's responsibility to help grow and build the church in love.
Also, when verse 16 talks about "supporting ligaments", I think about small groups. According to medical dictionaries, a ligament is a connective tissue that joins one bone to another. A ligament serves to hold different parts of the body together and keep them stable. Small groups are the same way. They keep us connected to one another. That's why, as a member of Christ's body, if you're not yet part of a small group, it's time to join one!
Heavenly Father, help me to honour and follow my God-given leaders, to speak the truth in love, and to do my part as a member of Christ's body, so that all of us in my church can grow into the strong, healthy, loving, mature body You made us to be. In Jesus' name, AMEN!