As we get started tonight, I want you to go ahead and put your hats on. Go ahead and put on your hat. And once you’ve got your hat on, look at the other people around you. And I want you to find the person whose hat is the most like yours, and go sit down next to them and ask them where they got it. You’ve got two minutes, go.
Now, I want you to look around, and find the person whose hat looks the least like yours, and I want you to go sit next to them and ask them why they chose to wear that hat. You’ve got two minutes, go.
You can quickly, while still listening and not talking, go back to your seats. And when you get there, open your Bibles to chapter 4. And while you’re doing that, raise your hand if you heard a good story about a hat. (pick a couple if there are any).
Now, let’s talk about your open Bibles. I told you to turn to chapter 4. So, where did you go? Right, I didn’t give you a book. Why does that matter? It’s all the Bible, right? Aren’t all the books of the Bible the same? Isn’t one book just as good as another? Why does it matter what book you’re looking at?
Okay, open your Bibles to Ephesians 4. That’s the book of Ephesians, chapter 4. Ephesians is the 10th book of the New Testament, just past Galatians and before Colossians. Tonight, we’re going to be reading from Ephesians 4, starting in verse 16. And the Word of God says:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Let’s pray together: Lord, Jesus, we thank You for an awesome day at camp today. Thank you for safety and fun. Thank you for all of the way’s we’ve been learning as You show us more and more of who you created us to be. We thank You for the good food that You have provided for us. Thank you for Mr. Bob and Mrs. Vonnie, who have opened their homes to us this evening. and provided this wonderful evening of fellowship. But Father, as we turn, now, to Your Word and to back to the reason that You have called us here together, we ask You to come and be among us this evening. Would You send Your mighty Spirit to be our teacher. Would You show us things that we didn’t know. Would You help speak to each one of these students tonight to help them to understand how You would change them to be innovators in Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Friends, we serve a creative God. We talked about it last night. We talked about it all day today. Our God is creative. And last night, we talked about how we are both different and the same. We talked about how God has designed you especially as you are. He made you just the way He wanted you to be. He gave you your talents and abilities. He gave you this time and this place. He picked the color of your hair and eyes. He decided how tall you would grow. He made You, and He made a plan for You.
He knows everything there is to know about you. He knows your greatest moments. He knows your most painful ones. He sees every hurt, every scar. He knows your greatest strengths as a person, and He knows your biggest weaknesses. He knows those things that you do that you think nobody knows about, that nobody is watching, that you didn’t get caught doing. He knows. He knows everything about you.
God knows when you rise up in the morning, and when you fall asleep. He knows your inner most thoughts and the number of your days. God knows you better than you know yourself. And He made you unique. Just look at your hats. Mrs. Bethany had you bring hats to camp, she didn’t even know what this was for. But look at them. The hat you brought says things about you. And what I see in all these different hats is a bunch of different people. God made each and everyone of you unique He made you different than the person next to you.
But He also made you the same. He made each one of us with the same need to have Him in our lives and depend on Him for everything. He made each one of us for the purpose of loving Him with everything that we are, as we know Jesus and make Him known. That is, He gave all of us the same job of being a disciple of Jesus Christ and of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
That’s all of our job. Each and everyone of us have that job. All of us are to work hard each day of our lives to be more and more like Jesus, and to help others to do the same. That is the work in front of us. And I want you to think about us like an army for a moment. If we were in an army, fighting a war, we would have the same goal. We would have the same objective: winning the war, defeating our enemy. Yet, we might have different jobs and different roles in helping us achieve that purpose.
God has called each of us to make disciples. We’re always holding one hand that is leading us to be more like Jesus, and we’re always holding the hand of someone that we’re showing how to be more like Jesus. So the question isn’t whether or not God has gifted you for making disciples. The question is how.
In this passage, Paul lists out a bunch of jobs. He talks about apostles, those that were blessed to know Jesus personally and were sent by Him to lay the foundation for His church. And when I say church, I’m talking about you. The church is not a building, the church is people. The word church means the gathered group of believers. That’s what church is, and the apostles were the very start of that. They had special jobs that only happened then. They were the ones that recorded the New Testament. They started the first groups of believers. They were discipled by Jesus, and they discipled the next group that went out. They went and started churches where there aren’t any.
There aren’t any new apostles, but we do have something like them in a way. The word apostle means sent out ones. Today, we send out people from our churches as well to do a lot of the same kind of work. We call them missionaries. They go to places near and far to share the Gospel, make disciples, and start churches where there aren’t any, and the Holy Spirit is working in lives, calling people just like you and me to go and do this work.
Then, Paul says there are prophets. We think about prophets as people who see the future, but more than that, prophets are people who are speakers of the truth. They have been gifted by God to go and speak His message of truth boldly into the lives of God’s people in the church, even when the truth is hard and no one wants to hear it. We need these people, with this gift, to speak the truth in grace so that we will see those areas of our lives where we are failing to be like Jesus. They can say hard things and through the Spirit, many times, not always, but many times, people receive it.
Next, he mentions evangelists. Evangelists are people that God gifts especially for the role of leading other people to Christ. They can speak to large groups and many hearts will be moved to come to Christ because of the Spirit speaking through them. They can turn any conversation to the Gospel. Now Don’t get confused on this. I’m not saying these people are the only ones who can share the Gospel or that God doesn’t move through others to draw people to Himself.
In fact, we know that isn’t true, because what is our purpose? To know Jesus and to make Him known. All of us have the job of sharing Christ with those that don’t know Him, but evangelists are especially good at it. Next, moving through this list in Ephesians, you have pastors. These are people that God has gifted to lead and equip the local church. Pastors teach God’s word and help the church apply it to their lives. They equip the body of Christ to go out and do what God has called you to do. My job isn’t to do all the work of God’s church. My job is to get you guys ready and to show you what you need to know so that you can go and do it. A pastors job is to carefully seek God’s will and to lead God’s people in the direction God gives them as we make disciples together, helping you to stay on task and on the right path.
Finally, Paul says that some are teachers. Teachers are people that God gifts in understanding and explaining His word. They help God’s people study it and know what it says so that they won’t stumble. Teachers help the people learn sound teaching, so that they don’t fall for it when people try to twist Scripture to say what they want to hear. Teachers can help people learn how to effectively study God’s Word so that they can do it for themselves.
Now, this list isn’t the whole list. There are more gifts of God for the church than what Paul lists here. We find them throughout the New Testament. And you can have more than one of these gifts. Many pastors also have the gift of teacher or prophet. But the thing that we need to see here is that our creative God gives good gifts, and He has given special gifts to each and every one of you, and He has done it for a purpose.
Some of you in this room tonight have decided to follow Jesus. You have asked Him to forgive you of your sins. You have given Him the keys of your life, and you are letting Him lead. Some of you like the idea of forgiveness. You don’t want to go to hell. You don’t want to suffer for the wrong you have done, but you haven’t really surrendered to His Lordship. And I said that word, and some of you don’t even know what that means. It’s like this.
Jesus is the King. He is the King of everyone and everything. And in your heart, there is a throne for Him. It is time for you to get up and let the King of glory sit down. Still, there are others in here, I guarantee, that have yet to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ. I say I guarantee it because in any group, there is always at least one. Sure, you may have said a prayer, and you walked an aisle, but your life now doesn’t look any different than it did before.
And regardless of which of these you are this evening, I want you to know that God has a plan and a purpose for your life. He is in charge, and if you have given your life to Him, He has given you gifts to help you to fill your purpose. You don’t all have the same gifts, but you all have gifts. Even if you don’t know what they are yet, you all have gifts. God has given you gifts for a purpose. Look at verse 13 of our passage.
until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
If you’ve got your pen and paper, I want you to get them out now. Keep your Bible open as well, but I want you to write this down, that
I am gifted for building disciples
I am gifted for building disciples
Your gifts are unique. They’re different than my gifts or Mrs. Bethany’s gifts or your best friend’s gifts. They are your gifts. And they were given to you so that you can help other people become mature believers in Jesus Christ.
Your part will look different than my part, but you have a part and it is a job that only you can do. An evangelist and a pastor and a teacher and a prophet all have different gifts, but all of them are needed to help disciples grow. An evangelist will go out and draw new people in, while a teacher will help them to learn sound doctrine, and a pastor will show them how to walk as a follower of Christ and prepare them for their role in serving and reaching others, and a prophet will speak truth into their lives so that they don’t go astray.
All of these people are doing different things, but they are all doing the same thing: they are building disciples. God has given you unique gifts. He gave them especially to you to help you make disciples. And some of you are thinking “he didn’t give me that gift.” And you know what-there are only two possibilities there. If you think that God has not gifted you to make disciples, either you haven’t asked Him to show you your gifts so you can use them, or you don’t belong to Jesus yet.
Those are the only two possibilities, because God promises He gifts us with these things. WHy? Verse 13 and 14, so we can all grow into maturity, doing what we were made to do to the best of our ability. You are gifted for building disciples if you know Jesus Christ. If you don’t know Him, you are in the right place, and right now, tonight, you can change that. You can know Jesus and you can start living your life to fill the purpose you were made for. But those who are in Christ, you are gifted for building disciples. Secondly, I want you to write this down:
I am gifted to grow and unify the church
I am gifted to grow and unify the church
Verses 13 and 14 say that when we mature, we get unified. We’re no longer confused by false teachings. We’re no longer tossed around by whatever flashy, new thing comes along. You know, we see this alot in youth ministry, don’t we? That church downtown got a smoke machine and their lights flash, so that’s more exciting. That’s cooler. That is more entertaining. And you lose interest in the things of God for something more fun. But our hearts shouldn’t be turned so easily. And, when we mature as Christians, the church becomes unified.
This is why we need church. You know, some people tell me they don’t need church. They say, I don’t go to church, but I’m a Christian. You know what I say? That’s stupid. That’s a whimpy little answer if I’ve ever heard one in my life. And they always give me a lame excuse, like “I can’t because I have to feed my uncle’s nephew’s cat. I can’t because I stayed up too late and now I’ve got a headache. I can’t go today because I don’t feel good. I worship, I just don’t do it at church. The forest is my church. The lake is my church.”
That’s stupid. That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. You know why? The church is people! It’s not a building, it’s people. Saying you can be a Christian and not go to church is like saying you’re a student but you don’t go to school. You say, “I’m a student.” And I say, “oh, what school do you go to,” and you say “oh, I don’t go to school.” Then guess what? You’re not a student.
Christians go to church because they need each other. We need each other, because you’ve got gifts that I don’t have. I’ve got gifts that you don’t have. And when we gather together, and all of those gifts come together, we form the body of Christ. as one body.
You know, at Friendship, we’re all one church. You guys are youth, but you’re not your own church. You might call yourselves “The Vine” youth group, but the youth group isn’t the church. We are a church together. I heard a young person tell me once that it is awkward walking into a room full of senior adults, with all the Grandma’s and grandpas, and being the only young person. But in our church, it shouldn’t be like that. Those older folks should be like another set of Grandparents to you guys. And guess what? You have gifts they don’t have. You can do things they can’t. And they have gifts you don’t have. And some of them that have your gift have years and years of time using that gift in the body, and they could teach you a lot. We are one body, always growing ourselves and helping others to grow.
And God has gifted you with gifts that other people need you to use so that we are unified. God has given you gifts to make disciples. He has given you gifts to unify and grow the church. And even though your gifts are unique, they are the same in that they are so that we can accomplish these things together in the body of Christ. Look at verse 15
but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,
These gifts that we have, we have been given so that we can lovingly help one another grow in unity to becoming more like Jesus. In fact, that’s the next thing I want you to write down, that
I am gifted to love people
I am gifted to love people
Do you remember how last night, we were talking about our job is to know Jesus and to make Him known, and how if we love God with everything that we are and we love others like they are us that we will have fulfilled God’s purposes for us?
Well, it turns out that God has gifted you to do exactly that. He has given you gifts to help you to love other people. None of the talents and abilities or gifts that you have are for you and your own selfish gain. things were given to you so that you could use them as part of God’s church to help others in love to be more like Jesus.
And love is a key part of all of this, isn’t it. See, I’ll tell you guys that one of my gifts is prophecy. I am a speaker of the truth. But I had to learn how to use this gift with grace and love. Because it is really easy to say true things to people in a way that will really hurt them. Love is so important, and the great news is that God has gifted you for it. He has given you everything that you need to love other people.
You are gifted to love other people in our church. Jesus said in John 13:35,
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
You are gifted and commanded to love others in the body of Christ. As you use your gifts in service of others, you show them the love of Christ and love grows between the members of your church family. You might say that love is the glue that holds the whole thing together. This is why Paul writes in Ephesians 4:16
from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
You are called to love the other people in our church by using the things that God has gifted you uniquely to do. This isn’t saying “what’s the coolest gift?” or “what will put me in the spotlight or recognition or make me feel special.” Rather, this is about loving others in service of Jesus.
Sometimes, we get offended because we don’t get to do the thing we want to do, or we get bored because we don’t play enough games in youth group or because our church. But church isn’t about entertaining you.You don’t really want that, anyway, do you?
You all have been dubbed the WIFI generation. The world says that since you guys have never lived in a world where wifi and constant connectivity didn’t exist, and where you can talk to computers and actually get an answer, that you all are bored with special effects and high-end graphics presentations. They say that it is hard to impress you.
And I say praise God! Because I’m not here to impress you. That’s not what church is about. You don’t pick a church, God gives you one. You don’t go where you like the music or the facilities, you go where God leads you for His purposes.
What’s our memory verse for the week?
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
You are here to love God with everything that You are, and to love His people by using your gifts the way He made you to. It isn’t about what is fun or cool or spotlighted, but about what God created you to do. God is so creative, He has created roles for all of us in the body of Christ. And the last thing I want you to write down tonight is this, that
The gifts you use may change or grow over the seasons of your life
The gifts you use may change or grow over the seasons of your life
I look out at you guys, and I get so excited. I get excited about all of the untapped potential for the Kingdom of God that is sitting here tonight. Right here are pastors and teachers. Right here are worship leaders and missionaries and evangelists. We’ve got speakers of the truth in here, we’ve got encouragers, people with hearts for deep service and fellowship. God has made some incredible creations that He has put together here tonight.
And you guys are so young, and you want us to think you’ve got it all figured out, and in reality we know you’re just starting to scratch the surface. Don’t answer this out loud, but when you heard this list of gifts tonight, Which gifts lifted by Paul do you think you might have? When I started talking about all the gifts, did you immediately start thinking about gifts that you wish you had or did you think about things that you know God has gifted you to do? Maybe some of you felt conviction because you know God has gifted you in something and you haven’t been using it for Him. Which of the gifts I shared with you scare you the most? Think about it. Why? Why does it scare you? Why does being a missionary scare you? Why does the idea that God made you to be a person that serves behind the scenes bother you?
Or maybe your sitting there, still convinced by that liar, Satan, that you don’t have any gifts. Why do you think he would want you to think that?
When you think about your life, and your life plans, whose kingdom are they centered on? Are your dreams centered on God’s Kingdom or yours? Are the ways you use your talents centered on God’s Kingdom or yours?
And can I just challenge you tonight, right here, right now. God has gifted you uniquely to accomplish the task of knowing Him and making Him known. God has gifted you to make disciples, to unify and grow His church, and to love others with all that you are. And my challenge to you this week is to give yourself over to Him and let Him lead you to places you’d never dream of going.
See, when I was your age, I didn’t want to be a pastor. I didn’t want to serve in ministry. I wanted to be a rock star. I wanted to make music and a lot of money, but God had other plans. I started on my own path and tried to meet my own goals, and it took God really slamming some doors in my face for me to finally surrender to His will and not mine. And every step of the way, I fought Him.
I didn’t want to be a worship leader, and so I became one and I loved every minute of it. I didn’t want to go to school and get a master’s degree, so God sent me to Seminary and I loved it. My biggest fear was that He would send me overseas to be a missionary. And guess what. He did.
Mrs. Bethany and I spent 4 years living as missionaries in Spain, and it was amazing. It was some of my favorite years of ministry I’ve had to this point. I pray I get to go back some day. When we came back to the U.S., I knew that I never wanted to be on staff at a church, and guess what? I’ve been on staff in churches for more than 7 years now. I knew that I never wanted to be the Pastor of a church, and you all know how that turned out, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
And my story should point you to two things. First, don’t be like me! Don’t fight against God. Don’t make your own plan. God has a plan that He has gifted you for. He knows the plan, and if you are willing to follow Him wherever He leads you, I can promise that you will end up so much better than anywhere you would plan to go yourself.
And the second thing is this: If you are willing to let go and to take a chance; If you are willing to say, “Lord, here is my life, and my gifts, and my dreams, and everything I am. Here it is, I’m yours. Do with me what you will.” If you will do that, and be willing to go wherever God leads you, I can promise you that God will take you to places that you never would have imagined to do things that you never thought that you could do.
We have had a vacuum of disciples in the church for a long time. We have forgotten how this is supposed to work, but that can change right here tonight. We can start again, right here tonight, and it starts with you saying, here I am, Lord, Jesus, and I surrender. I’m ready to serve you the way You made me to-show me the way.
I’m going to pray for us. Jack is going to come and play for us, and Mrs. Bethany and Mrs. C.J. are going to come down here to meet you and pray with you, but first I’m going to pray for you. And if tonight, you are here, and God is working in your heart, and you realize right now that you haven’t been letting God use You and Your gifts the way that He desires, then tonight is your night to surrender and with every head bowed, and every eye closed we’re going to go to the Lord together, and I’m going to invite you to come, and let your youth leaders pray with you, and right now, tonight, your journey can change. Let God show you just how creative He is in where He leads your life. Let’s go to Him in prayer:
Lord, Jesus, I come to you tonight to thank you for making me just as you have. I know that every ability, and talent, and gift that I have comes from you. I know that you made me uniquely to fit into a part of your church, and to fill a specific role. And God, I’m sorry for the ways that I do my own thing. I’m sorry that I’ve made my life and my gifts about me and not about your church and your glory. Forgive me, Lord Jesus. Forgive my selfishness. Would You teach me? Would You show me my gifts, Lord, as I go through this week? Would You take me and use me the way that You want? Lord, Jesus I know that Your plans are so much better than any plans than I could ever make, so I give myself over to You. Help me to be a disciple that makes disciples of others, that your church may grow and You may be glorified in me. I can’t wait to see what creative things You will do with me. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.