Ephesians 4:12-13, “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
What does “the work of ministry” look like?
In our little church, “the work of ministry” looks like making coffee, clicking powerpoints, opening doors, and greeting strangers and friends alike. It looks like planning crafts and arranging snacks. It looks like wiping noses and playing with blocks. It looks like preaching and singing and praying for one another. I imagine one hundred pairs of hands at work each Sunday. Whatever our “work of ministry” may look like to human eyes, what we’re actually doing is “building up the body of Christ.”
After Jesus ascended, he gave us apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers (v. 11) to equip us to do the work of ministry. The building of the body of Christ is a collaborative effort, requiring a variety of different gifts. As each person uses their gifts to do “the work of ministry,” we all grow towards full maturity together. What is striking about this passage is the way it celebrates both the collaborative nature of the work and the collaborative payoff of corporate maturity. As those with a gift for teaching get opportunities to teach, we all “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” Even though teaching takes a central role in our Sunday service (and deservedly so!), the ultimate purpose of this teaching is to equip us all to do “the work of ministry,” even the behind-the-scenes work that can so easily be taken for granted.
None of that work is wasted, though. Somehow, even when our contribution to the Sunday service may not look like much, God joins our work together with the work of all the other saints in order to build us all up toward maturity. When we work together, we grow together. We all mature.
Our aspiration is to reach “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Jesus Christ represents to us what full maturity looks like, but the goal is not to race towards maturity as a personal achievement. We reach that maturity as a church, using our gifts to encourage and teach one another. We don’t use our gifts to train ourselves. As much as we have may have learned from the spiritual journey of Pilgrim’s Progress, we should not conclude that the way to Christian maturity is ultimately a solo trip. Instead, we are to seek to attain maturity together. Only as the body of Christ can we reach “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
This means that “the work of ministry” includes tenderness towards the young, mercy for the weak, and service for our siblings in Christ as we press on together.