“The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11)
Not all of us can be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers in the formal sense of being trained at a college or seminary. Yet, the writer of Ephesians says that we all were given gifts by the grace of God to be used to build up the body of Christ for ministry in the world. Those categories are fairly flexible; after all, teaching can happen in a variety of ways, and a lot of teaching is practical experience. We sometimes hear people say, “I went to the school of hard knocks.” We learn from experience.
I preach in some manner or another about living the Christian life every Sunday. My hope is always to make the Bible meaningful, connected, and relevant to everyday life. Lots of research goes into it along with a lot of talking with God about what I should say. Of course my own experience influences what comes out in the final preaching moment, and I rarely stick with the manuscript because there are many times when I feel led to share something else to illustrate the point.
There are times when I wonder if what I preach really gets through. Of course, I realize that my ego probably gets in the way because ultimately it is the power of the Spirit that speaks to people wherever they are in their lives. Some congregants may hear part of the sermon one way and be enlightened or interested in pursuing a thought, and others may think it was the worst sermon they had ever heard me preach. Their response isn’t up to me but up to the way God touches their lives.
Yet, there is that question that pops into my head about recurring behaviors that rarely change, such as folks to continually want things their way and refuse to listen to what the rest of the group is suggesting. Or the person who has been offended, the offender apologizes and asks for forgiveness, but the person refuses. This happened to me and a few other folks recently. I have to say that not being forgiven by someone when you have sincerely apologized hurts a lot. It’s as if you offered reconciliation and peace as a gift and the other person rejects your gift.
Have you ever given a gift to someone who refused it or said they didn’t want it? How did that feel? Maybe the gift of God’s grace is something we reject way too often whether it’s from God or someone else. I wonder how God feels when we reject gifts that God gives us? I can’t imagine that it is pleasing – it must actually hurt. So, in a way, we are all given the ability to give and receive the gifts of God as well as offer them to others. Maybe that’s the best way to build up the body of Christ – to receive and share God’s grace. This world would be a far better place if more people would do that. I pray that we all can grow in God’s grace every day and be the body of Christ to the world.