Faithlife Sermons

Your Loving Ministry in the Local Church

Notes & Transcripts

Discipleship Training

Your Loving Ministry in the Local Church


What a privilege to be part of a church family! For all of our weaknesses and sinfulness and struggles, we are a group of God’s children that He has brought together for His sake. We are family in Christ. We are ambassadors for Christ in this area. We’re coming up on 6 years of being a local church here. How do we keep maturing, keep growing as a church? What steps do we need to take in the next year to be ready to parent another church, and send some of our people to Grace in Rancho? We’re going to take a two week break from our normal pattern of working our way through chapters and books of the Bible, and search biblical answers to these questions.

Earlier this year we decided that it was a wise time to take a step forward in terms of our facility. The Lord provided for us to make the move here to the college, which is a much more prominent, accessible location in Menifee. We’re spending some money to try to advertise, we just had a team here working very hard canvassing for us, we’ll have three GOnights before August 2, we’ll each be individually inviting and reaching out as we can.

Obviously, we are trying to act aggressively. The economic situation could tempt us to retreat, but instead it should spur us on to reach out as ambassadors for Christ.

But unless the Lord builds the house those who build it labor in vain. And so we must be people who pray. We cannot slip into the mindset that ministry activity produces eternal results. (pause) And so last Sunday night you had a prayer meeting – I hope you took the time to go. (I don’t know who went.) This Wednesday night the ladies meet to pray. Next Wednesday night the men meet to pray. This emphasis on aggressive activity + humble dependence is reflected in Paul’s words in I Corinthians 15:10: but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. As Paul labored diligently the grace of God accomplished the work through him.

So we combine aggressive activity with diligent prayer. When you have done that, you leave the results up to God. We’re excited about August 2, and open house, and the opportunity to advertise and invite. But whether anyone comes or not on August 2 is really not our concern IF we have labored diligently and prayed diligently. No need to be disappointed, discouraged. No need to set numbers of inflate expectations. Labor hard, pray hard, and then you can just rest in the Lord for the rest.

But what if?  What if God does bless our efforts and our prayers by bringing people-contacts for us? Every people-contact is a stewardship from God. Every person in this church family is a stewardship from God, and every new contact is a stewardship from God. Each person is a God-given responsibility, and each new contact is a God-given responsibility.

So, are we ready for that stewardship? If God chooses to entrust us with people contacts, are we ready to faithfully fulfill that opportunity? That question lies behind everything we will do for the next three weeks.

Our church places a major emphasis on the first greatest commandment – love God with all that you are. We put a strong emphasis on the majesty of God and on our relationship with God and responsibilities to our Creator, Savior, and Father. But that emphasis needs to be supplemented with an emphasis on the second greatest commandment – love your neighbor as yourself. If you have the second without the first, you have liberal Christianity: run a food bank, give out socks at Christmas, but God and the gospel are nowhere to be seen. So you can’t do that – you can’t make the second greatest commandment the only commandment. But once you lay the foundation of the first greatest commandment, love for others flows out of that. As John emphasizes so clearly in his epistles, love for others is always a mark of a true Christian.

This is not love in the world’s sense: I think you’re cute and I think you’ll make me happy, so we’re in love let’s get married. The love of the second commandment is the love pictured at Calvary as Jesus is murdered unfairly because of his love for rebels. It’s that kind of love.

Here’s my point: for us to be good stewards of people contacts, for us to be prepared for the stewardship of a growing church, we must not only be a church anchored in the first greatest commandment, but we must also be a church characterized by loving ministry, in both evangelism and discipleship.

Why would God allow our church to grow if we aren’t ready to faithfully minister to the new people?  Why would God entrust anyone else to us if we are not characterized by loving ministry? I’m not saying that we aren’t! But for the next two weeks we are going to focus on how we can be a church characterized by loving ministry. So that on August 2, or any other time, when God chooses to bring people contacts, we’re ready. And at the same time, we’re also further equipping ourselves for ministry to one another within the church family.

How could you recognize a church characterized by loving ministry?

What would that look like?

It would be a church where a single adult struggling with unfulfilled dreams would find people who don’t just glibly say “That’s God’s will for you, Amen,” but come alongside that person with compassion and be a family for them, and encourage them to take the next step with Christ.

A church where when mom and dad bring their teenagers, they can expect that other adults will seek to interact with their teens and point them to God.  A church where there is not a big division between youth and adult, but where there is God-centered interaction between the two.

A church where it’s normal for people to stop and pray together on the spot about a need.

A church where a person with learning disabilities is not shunned, but people are willing to invest for the long term in them.

A church where the person living through the ravages of cancer finds that the church family draws to them instead of away from them.

A church where men are humble enough and God-centered enough to speak to one another about their hearts, to encourage each other to godliness.

A church where the parents struggling with their kids find help instead of glares.

A church where someone can walk in dressed inappropriately, talking inappropriately, and they are met by people who see their potential through grace, instead of the surface issues.

A church where two women talk after church, and recognize that they are starting to gossip about someone, and they stop and find a quiet place and pray instead. 

A church where the elderly widower finds people who are willing to walk beside him through the valley of the shadow of death.

A church where the people pray for the church leadership, and actively pursue strengthening and encouraging them.

A church where a woman could admit sin, and the other women wouldn’t shy away, but reach out with loving encouragement and accountability.

A church where an immigrant, who feels out of place or misunderstood finds people who love him in Christ, and are willing to put in the hard work to overcome the cultural barriers or language barriers and help.

A church where visitors sense that these people really want me to grow in Christ. If I want to grow, I can tell that these people would do anything to help me.

Of course we could keep going, but that helps me get a more concrete glimpse of what loving ministry looks like. And many of those things happen here, but we can do more. We can do better. We can continue to mature and grow in loving ministry.

My prayer: that each one of you would say “I commit myself to God to do my part to see a culture of loving ministry here at Grace Bible Church.”

That’s the goal for the next two weeks, and it will unfold in three parts: in the rest of our time now, we’ll be talking about the church family’s need for you. In the next hour, we’ll consider your need for the church family. Then next Sunday, we’ll consider your role in a growing church, your role in our stewardship of the people contacts that God brings to us.

Again I am praying that each one of you would say “I commit myself to God to do my part to see a culture of loving ministry here at Grace Bible Church.”

This church family needs your loving ministry


Let’s work backwards through that phrase.


Ministry is what happens when you play a part in someone else’s growth toward Christlikeness. That might involve evangelism or what we usually call discipleship, but you play a part in someone else’s growth toward Christlikeness. That’s ministry. And you do that primarily by being an instrument to bring God’s Word to people.


Biblical love is a sacrificial commitment to what is best for someone else. Ministry takes sacrifice, and that is why ministry must be driven by love. We will quit if we are not driven by sacrificial love for God and others.

So the phrase “loving ministry” means that you, out of sacrificial love, play a part in the growth toward Christlikeness of other people.

Now the whole phrase says: This church family needs your loving ministry. You may well have loving ministry outside of this church – I’m not ignoring that. But my focus these two weeks is on this church that God has brought together. This church family needs your loving ministry.

I can say it a little more strongly: you have a stewardship here, a God-given responsibility here.

TURN TO I Cor. 12. I know this is a familiar passage in I Corinthians 12, but I think it would be good for us to read it again.

READ I Cor. 12:4-7 What a fantastic phrase at the end of verse 7: for the common good! Whatever the Holy Spirit has done in your life, He has done it to equip you for the common good. What common good is he talking about? the local church in Corinth. He’ll soon refer to parts of the body speaking to one another and caring for one another. He’s talking about something local, he’s talking about the common good of this church in Corinth.

Verse 12 beings a spectacular description of God’s purpose for loving ministry in a local church. READ I Cor. 12:12-26 We have talked before about that word in verse 24 – composed. God composes the church family. A composer takes these diverse instruments and weaves them together in interaction with one another, and the result can be so powerful that century after century, people will want to listen to that composition. So God is the great composer of churches, and He brings together weak and sinful people who are being changed in to the image of His Son, and He puts them together as a perfect composer. And when those diverse instruments are joined together in a local church, there is potential for something very powerful. And if those people will be deeply committed to the first greatest commandment, and then committed to the second greatest commandment and loving ministry, eternally significant stuff will happen! This can happen when God take sinful people who are being changed by His Son, and he composes a church family out of a diverse group of those people!

If that is true, then this church family needs your loving ministry, as a matter of fact, you have a God-given stewardship here. The Composer put you right where you should be.

TURN TO Romans 12. READ Romans 12:1-8. Verse 5 ends with this remarkable phrase: we are individually members one of another. It’s hard to clearly differentiate between the arm and the shoulder, the finger and the hand, it all runs together. We are not made out of Lincoln logs. Take out one part of the human body and lots of things go wrong, lots of things get harder. And so in a church, we are not independent Lincoln logs joined loosely together – in Christ we are members one of another. When God places you in a church family, you are part of them, you are connected with them, you all run together in an interconnected way. That’s why he said in I Cor. 12 if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. It’s like those team-building exercises that businesses use, and you sometimes see at camps, where you are stuck with this group of people and you must figure out how to work together. But this is glorious because these people are those that God has redeemed, they are His precious children, and we are stuck together in God’s family, and particularly in this local church. And not only that, but a perfect composer put this composition together!

So, here in Romans 12, Paul says in verse 6, whatever God has equipped you with, get busy! It’s funny because the end of verse 6 is implied, he doesn’t state it, it’s so obvious. If this is the case, if God has composed the body, gifted us differently, put us together in a local church, get busy!

This church family needs your loving ministry, you have a God-given stewardship here. You must be involved in loving ministry, playing a part in the Christ-like growth of other people here.


Why is this so hard for a local church? I don’t know how many times I’ve talked to a friend or family member who has said to me “We go to a good church, good preaching, good programs, but there isn’t much individual ministry between the people.” I hear that all the time from people. What makes this hard for local churches? What hinders us from loving ministry to others – from speaking the truth in love to one another?

Past experiences of really judgmental, critical people – and so we don’t do anything because we don’t want to be like that.

Awkwardness – we don’t know what to say. It feels awkward to talk about spiritual things.

Fear that someone might get upset at us if we try to help them.

There is a common conception that a church is a place where you go for an hour each week to listen to music and listen to preaching. For many people, that is what the word “church” means. Church is that hour when you listen to music and listen to preaching.  As a result, you have Christians who just come and listen and go home and that’s it. And if you ask them, they’ll say “That’s my church.” But there’s no I Cor. 12 going on. There’s no Romans 12 going on. It would be like a trumpet player in the LA Philharmonic who only shows up when they have official concerts – and even then he just sits there and listens. If all the instrumentalists do that, you have no LA Philharmonic. In the same way, if all Christians did that with church – if they just showed up for the hour to listen to the music and preaching – you would not have a church. You would have some sort of Christian show, but nothing close to a church. A church is a living organism, a group of people living out the gospel in relationship with one another, seeking to be what God calls a local church to be.

Another misconception that is a hindrance: people think they choose a church. But consider the implications of that word “composed” in I Cor. 12. If God composes the body the way he wants to, that means you didn’t just pick that church. God was involved – God put you there. He composed that body with parts that He chose. We need to see the hand of God at work in our local church family. We need to move from “I chose this church” to “God put us here.”

When we see God’s hand in it, it will be easier to see our God-given stewardship for the other people in that church. It will be easier to see that we have a God-given role and responsibility in relationship to the spiritual growth of the other people in that church.

We’ve raised a key question: if God is going to entrust us with people-contacts beyond what we have right now, will we be ready? Do we have a culture of loving ministry here at our church?

We’ve set our goal: that each one of you would say “I commit myself to God to do my part to see a culture of loving ministry here at Grace Bible Church.”

We’ve established a key proposition: This church family needs your loving ministry

And we’ve discussed a few hindrances to a culture of loving ministry.

Now let’s start moving toward more specifics about loving ministry.

Speaking the truth in love

Loving ministry can happen in many ways. As I Cor. 12 and Romans 12 illustrate, there are diverse people, diverse personalities, most importantly diverse giftedness from the Spirit. A great composer doesn’t just use all bassoons or all trombones – he uses a wide diversity of instruments, and God does the same thing when he composes local churches.

That means that loving ministry has many different facets.

But there is an underlying concept that runs through all of it: speaking the truth in love. The foundation of loving ministry is speaking the truth in love, ministering the Word of God to one another. When you see what the Bible says Christians ought to be doing with one another, it very frequently involves speaking to one another:

Heb. 10:25 encouraging one another

Eph. 5:19 speaking to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs

I Thes. 4:18 comfort one another with these words

I Thes. 5:14 admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted

Rom. 15:14 I am convinced that you are able to admonish one another

Titus 2:3-4 the older women are to teach and encourage

A church characterized by loving ministry must be a church where the people speak the truth in love to one another. A church where there are spiritual conversations taking place. It’s a church where people are ministering the word of God to one another.

That phrase “speaking the truth in love” comes from Ephesians 4:15 – which is part of the same sentence as Ephesians 4:16, which is a foundational text for our philosophy of church ministry. TURN TO Ephesians 4, READ Ephesians 4:15-16. We’ve talked about verse 16 many times: the whole body causes the growth of the body as each part does what is it supposed to do. But verse 15 tells us that the whole body causes the growth of the body as we speak the truth in love.

Speaking the truth in love is the foundation of loving ministry in the local church.


So now the question is this: how can we better equip you to speak the truth in love here in this church family?

Let’s start simply, with our interactions with one another at our church gatherings – Sunday mornings, fellowship groups, picnics, GOnights, etc. This is first base for loving ministry. You can tell a lot about a church by what the people talk about before and after church. Is there more than a passing mention of God? Do people talk about their heart, and what God is doing? Is the sermon discussed, is the worship remembered, are prayer requests given, do the people speak the truth in love to one another at church?

Today we’re giving you a CD called “Speaking the Truth in Love.” I made this recording this week, it is only about 20 minutes long. Nothing fancy, but it includes several things I wanted to talk about this morning, but knew I wouldn’t have time. Particularly it includes a lengthy list of questions that we can ask one another to spur on spiritual conversations.  If you were here in 2007, some of it may sound familiar, because it uses the relationship rivers illustration we used in our discipleship training back then.

We should be intentionally pursuing spiritual conversations, heart conversations, with one another. That ought to be the normal Sunday morning conversation. If you’re looking for ideas of how to do that, this CD should be helpful.

But of course loving ministry has to move beyond just the brief conversations we can have on Sunday mornings, or even on Sunday nights. We want to equip you to speak the truth in love in more extensive, one-on-one ways.

As a first step to that, we have taken our church’s basic discipleship Bible study, which is called Laying a Strong Foundation, and we’ve formatted this as a small book, and gotten them bound. We only have a few copies this week, but we will have more next week. Our goal is that this little book would become a tool that is commonly used for loving ministry in our church. This is written for new Christians, but it is useful in many other situations – as the cover says, it is for growing Christians, whether new or not. I want you to be equipped to use this, so that you can use it with others.

I want to challenge every one of you to go through these lessons in the next two weeks. Here’s why:  suppose I go over to David’s shop in his garage, and start working on a woodworking project. And as I look around at his tools, I am likely to use what I know. I am not a woodworker, and he has many tools that I don’t even know how to use. I don’t what they do. You’re not likely to use a tool that is unknown to you. It’s the same way in ministry – as long as this booklet is a mystery to you, you won’t use it. But once you go through it yourself, then it is familiar. You know what it is useful for.

So do it – start tomorrow, and go through this study yourself. Once you’ve gone through it yourself, I encourage you to go through it with your family. The concepts are probably difficult for little kids. But if you have middle elementary children or older, these studies would be very valuable to talk through as a family.

If you don’t have kids or they’re not at home, talk it through as a couple. Or, find a friend in the church, and do it with them. I’m serious, really, find someone else and do it together!

By the way, this study is very evangelistic – it starts with a close look at the gospel.

In connection with this, we’re also giving you a brief training CD to give you some ideas for using this with other people. This is a shortened version of what I did in Discipleship Institute some time last year. So after you go through the lessons, you’re ready to listen to the training CD. It’s a little less than an hour long.

Ultimately, our goal is that you would be able to meet one-on-one with someone else, and help them grow in Christ using these studies as a tool. After you’ve gone through it yourself, you can pray for God to open opportunities for you to use it. Next week, when we talk about your role in a growing church, we’ll talk about some specific opportunities you may have.

These resources we’re giving you are just a starting place, they’re not comprehensive. But they should help us move forward in two important areas: first base involves spiritual conversations with one another in our regular church meetings. Second base involves being equipped to do basic individual discipleship.

By the way, I trust you can see that this involves moving toward people. Think back to our opening examples this morning: we talked about an immigrant, a person with cancer, an elderly widower, a person visiting for the first time, a single adult. Those people feel excluded when no one moves toward them.  They sit in the back or the corner, and people say “Hi, how are you?” But that’s it. They can tell that the church people are shying away; they can tell that the church people are only really talking to their church friends. No one moves toward them in love. No one seems genuinely concerned; no one sits next to them; no one invites them out for coffee; no one offers to pray with them. I’m not saying that happens often at our church – but it can. Sometimes simply because we assume someone else will do it. We need a personal commit to move toward other people in love, that we might be able to speak the truth in love, that the whole body might cause the growth of the body.


We’ve talked about a lot. We started by talking about aggressive action, and prayer. What if God chooses to bless and grant us the stewardship of additional people contacts. Are we ready? Do we have a church characterized by loving ministry, so that God can entrust souls to our church family?

We’ve set our goal: that each one of you would say “I commit myself to God to do my part to see a culture of loving ministry here at Grace Bible Church.”

We’ve established a key proposition: This church family needs your loving ministry

And we’ve discussed a few hindrances to a culture of loving ministry.

We’ve talked about speaking the truth in love – the foundation for personal ministry.

And we’ve given you some resources to help equip you for loving ministry.

So, will you pray, and tell God: “I commit myself to You, to do my part to see a culture of loving ministry here at Grace Bible Church. I accept this stewardship, my place in this church family, and I commit myself to loving ministry to these people.”

And then, put feet to that commitment. Listen carefully, maybe repeatedly, to the “speaking the truth in love” CD. My hope is that by putting it on audio CD, some of you will be able to listen during your drives to work or even drives to church. It’s only 20 minutes. You can listen to it two or three times, and then come on Sundays ready to have spiritual conversations and eager to be an instrument of God’s Word to others.

Then also, work through the discipleship book yourself, use it with your family, listen to the training CD. Again I hope some of you will be able to use your commute time to listen to that CD. And then seek opportunities to use it here in our church family. More about that next week.  


Related Media
Related Sermons