Renewing Our Gospel Partnership
As the summer draws to a close (there was snow in Canmore this week!), everyone is thinking about getting back into their fall routines.
Some of those routines are the regular activities of a partner in the gospel (Phil 1:5, 4:15). At Calvary Grace, we tend to use the phrase ‘gospel partners’ to describe church members. Let me explain what I mean.
If we use the biblical definition of members of the body of Christ, we are on good ground. We will know that if we are a Christian, we have a role to play, things to do, and ways that God has fitted us to function in the body. We won’t be like everyone else necessarily, but we work together for the health of the body.
If we don’t take the biblical view, we will act like membership is something like a subscription that you pay money into (your tithe or offering?) and you get to consume the product or service you’ve subscribed to (maybe even ear-tickling teaching 2 Tim 4:3!).
Church membership isn’t a subscription service.
To correct the bad habits which evangelicals have gotten into, we like to use the other biblical term, namely partnership.
As partners in the gospel, we are conscious of our participation in the work. Each of us is not a consumer but a contributor. That’s what a partnership is. Each person contributes to the partnership in order to prosper it.
Our aim is to see the prospering of the gospel message among the needy souls of Calgary and beyond. We trust that God will work through this partnership in order to bring lasting fruit, the spiritual prosperity of the life of the Age to come.
And like any partnership, we contribute in multiple ways.
As we enter into the fall ministry season, begin to pray and plan ways that you can re-engage in gospel partnership.
Let me suggest a few ways:
Watch and Listen
If you pay attention to what is going on in the church, you will start to see the gaps, the limitations, and the stress points. You will see the areas that are waiting for someone to step in and humbly offer assistance. As you listen, you will hear about what are the real needs. Maybe what you are seeing isn’t the real problem, the need is something different that you don’t see. If the problem behind the problem is addressed, then a lot of other things can fall into place.
Action: Look at the different ministries that exist at CGC. Look at the needs that may or may not require a formal ‘ministry’ to address them. Pray and plan about ways you could assist in them.
When you aim to be a partner, you have to examine what you are honestly able to do. In truth, we can do most things in the church. Expertise is often not required. All that is needed is prayerfully showing up. There are some things with specific qualifications (eg. elders 1 Tim 3:1ff), but there are many things that require only the most basic housekeeping skills.
Often being honest about what you can do is not about recognizing all that you can’t do, but the vast number of things that you can do.
When it comes to honesty, our biggest barrier is not our skills or aptitude or ‘calling’ but merely our time. Will we sacrifice our time during the week, or on Sunday mornings in order to serve others in the partnership?
Action: What are the times when I am most free to sacrificially serve on Sunday and during the week?
If you see something that you could assist in, find out more. Maybe there is a reason why something doesn’t happen. Maybe there is a task that has a clear job description. Maybe there are parameters for the task that are important to know.
If you’re worried you can’t do all that is needed, discuss with a point person about ways to do part of it.
Many partial workers are better than the few fully committed though burnt out workers. It is a maxim in churches that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Good gospel partnership should change those stats.
Plan for a minimum of one serving opportunity on Sundays and another serving opportunity during the week.
The Early Church Example
As we renew our gospel partnership together, we can start to appreciate the extreme ownership which the early church had for one another and the advance of the gospel. Luke beautifully summarizes their example in Acts 4:32-35:
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
As the fall season approaches, let’s seek this kind of renewal in our gospel partnership too.