Our Church is divided into family groups - that's the way we thought was the most effective in practicing the scriptures. So we are modeling these family groups after the model of the family. We are trying to be a family because that's what the bible tells us the church is, God's household and the family of believers. Basically, as leaders we need to see what is the best way that this family can be taken care of. As leaders we had to see what was the best way we could grow as a church personally, in our spirituality and also in maturity as well as in numbers. So we concluded that the best way is the existing way that we have always practiced - having great family groups and dividing our church into many family groups depending on the areas and locality and running family groups as a family.
Jesus started his ministry - primarily as a small group of people and he taught, discipled, prayed, corrected, encouraged and did whatever he needed to train them to be God's people and to take care of God's people in that group. And you see that is the most effective way of teaching, training, discipling, even "giving birth" to baby Christians in that group. This is the best model we can see from Jesus' example. The effect of Jesus' ministry is still visible today because of what he did with that small group. He did so many amazing things, taught so many amazing things, corrected many of their wrong thinking and wrong behavior and even rebuked them sometimes and we feel it's effects even today and people are going to feel it for many centuries to come. The best way is to follow Jesus' model today and that everyone should be part of a great family group, that all of us are active members, not just for namesake but active members, of that family group.
Primarily what we understand from the scriptures is that we are responsible for our own salvation.
12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!
13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.
14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
One of the things this passage says is that solid food is for the mature who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. So it talks about training ourselves to distinguish good and evil. So it is primarily our responsibility to train ourselves to distinguish between good and evil and grow to become mature. That is our responsibility - "my, personal responsibility" that is, your responsibility. In Christ it is the responsibility of each one of us to grow and mature as Christians.
Same thing is said in 2 Peter 1 - the responsibility that we have for our own salvation, for our own Christian life and our own growth in Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;
6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;
7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The responsibility here is to each one of us that we have to make every effort to add to our faith , goodness. It is our responsibility to make sure we are adding on these things so we don't become ineffective or stunted in our Christian lives but keep growing in Christ.
2 Peter 1:10-11
10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall,
11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Peter is telling the Christians that they should be all the more eager to make their calling and election sure. It is my responsibility, more than anybody else, to make sure that my election and my calling in Christ are sure. So I pray that we understand that very clearly. But God also wants to help us in to grow. How does God help us?
First of all - when we got baptized he deposited his Holy Spirit in us. That is how he guarantees our election. It is also by the Holy Spirit that we are able to grow, to be convicted, to be guilty, to mature, to be empowered to grow as Christians. We all have that deposit, that guarantee, that seal of our salvation and that continuous help that will keep us growing in Christ.
Secondly - God has given us his church. When we are baptized, we get baptized into the body of Christ, we are baptized into the church.
So God has given both these gifts to us as a blessing for us to grow and mature and never be a lukewarm person in Christ. And so, we need to appreciate the gift we got and enjoy the gift and use it to grow in God's church. So we need to learn to appreciate this gift and not put it aside and ignore these God-given ways to grow in Christ. So the bible puts us in the church and in the church he wants us to practice different relation -based dynamics to help us grow in Christ. In the bible there are a lot of scriptures that tell us how we need to be with each other.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.
7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;
8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Here, the author is giving instructions to the Christians about how to be in the church and how to give to the church. One thing we understand is that in a big group it's hard to meet each other's needs, hard to know each other's needs. I personally cannot know everyone's needs in the church and so also you can only know some people's needs. The best way to meet each other's needs is in a smaller group. There are so many commands in the bible about how to treat each other.
* In 1 Corinthians 1:10 it says we must agree with one another.
* 1 Corinthians 10:24 it says, "look out for each other".
* In 12:25 it says, "have equal concern for each other".
* In 16:20 it says, "greet one another with a holy kiss".
* In Galatians 5:13 it says, "serve one another".
* In 6:1 it says, "carry each other's burdens".
* Ephesians 4:2 says, "bear with one another".
* 4:25 says we must speak truthfully to each other.
* 4:32 it says,"be kind to one another". Be compassionate with one another. Forgive one another.
* In Ephesians 5:19 says, "speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs".
* 5:21 says, "submit to one another".
* Philippians 2:4 says to look out for the interests of each other.
The list goes on. Teach one another, admonish one another, encourage each other, build each other up, live in peace with each other, be kind to one another, spur one another on, meet with each other, love one another, confess your sins to each other, pray for each other, offer hospitality to each other, have fellowship with one another, lay down your life for your brother. There are so many instructions about how we need to be with each other in the church. The best way to follow these verses in our own lives is applying it in a small family group. We must understand that as Christians we have responsibility in the body, we have responsibility in the church. Not just attending meetings, though that is one of your responsibilities.
So now, we'll look at Romans 12. Today, in the church or in our family group we must not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to but we must have a sober judgement of ourselves. Why? In accordance with the measure of faith God has given us. The bible is very clear that we should be very sober about ourselves - we must not think ourselves higher or greater than somebody else because everybody is given different measures of faith by God, by his grace. All do not have the same measure of faith but have different measures of faith. So we have no right to look down on another brother who you think has less faith than you do.
Let us not take pride in having greater faith than somebody else or we know something that other people don't. Let's have a very sober judgement of ourselves because whatever good we have comes from God. If you are talented and can speak better than someone else or if you are a little more gifted than somebody else - all that didn't come from you. It came from HIM. So always be sober about who you are, what you are and how you are today is all because of God. Always be thankful to him.
The next verse says, "just as each of us has one body with many members and these members do not all have the same function. So in Christ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others". Two things we learn here
1. That we are all connected together. Just as in the body each part cannot live on its own but is connected so also we are all connected. It is not directly connected to the head but connected to other parts. There is a head - it is not independent but it is all inter-connected. Every part of the body is inter-dependant. You know that Jesus is the head of the body.
2. We who become parts of the body are each of us different and we have different functions - like the eye, the ear, the hand etc in the body. We do not all have the same functions but we all belong to the same body. We all don't live separately, we are all inter-dependant. Do you know what the bible says? We who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the other.
That's the most powerful truth in this scripture. Each member belongs to all the others. We cannot come to church and say I do not belong here. Then you are not part of the church. We have to obey the scripture and practice it. The scripture says we belong to each other. We cannot disobey that or act against that. We cannot say we are part of the body and not do our part. What do they do with parts that are not useful? They cut it off. Because if it is not used for a long time, it catches gangrene and they cut it off, usually. We all need to feel the responsibility that, "I have to give", "that I belong to something". It should not be, "You all do whatever you want and I'll do whatever I want". It doesn't work like that in the bible - we all must work at it together. We all have different measures of faith but we all need to be together.
So also in v6 it says, "we have different gifts according to the grace given us". Even our gifts are different according to whose grace given to us? His grace. God's grace. So our gifts are not our own but they are given to us by God. What are the different gifts this verse talks about? We will all have at least one of these gifts in our lives. Prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing, leadership and showing mercy. Each of us have at least one of these gifts.
The beauty of being in a family group is that we can practice these gifts to benefit each other. Every one in the group has some gift. Some people's gift will be leadership -we must appreciate that. Another person's will be serving and we need to appreciate that. Someone else will have the gift of encouraging so we need to appreciate his or her gift. One person's gift may be contributing so we must appreciate his or her generosity. That's the beauty of being in a family group -that we can use our God-given gifts to help one another and encourage one another, give to each other, preach to each other and show mercy to each other, teach each other as it says in this scripture. We can use our spiritual gifts to benefit one another - which is a great thing about having a small family group. The smaller the family, the better the family - so they say. Why? Because when you have less number of children the better you can take care of them. That is why the best way to take care of one another is in a family group.
Also it is where leadership can be raised up because that's where people's gifts can be identified, encouraged and they can grow. That's how God's church can grow and multiply, not only in numbers but also in maturity. Also it is only in a small group that you can really practice thanksgiving and praise in our midst. We can pray for people's needs - if somebody doesn't have a job we can pray for them, somebody needs financial help we can, with the advice of one another we can meet each other's need. Or if someone is sick in a group we can be available and be there for each other and practice those scriptures we read just now.
Also we are able to confess our sins to each other and watch each other's lives closely as the scriptures urge us to do and help restore our brothers and sisters who are in sin gently, as the scriptures call us to. Another thing that being in a small group helps us to do is evangelism. A small family group is where baby Christians can be born and taken care of. That's what we need to encourage in our family groups - lots of new baby Christians.
So let us be committed to the plan of the church and the leadership. Every brother and sister, who wants to be committed to God's church, to be committed to a family group where somebody, a group, is responsible and you are responsible in that group for your needs and for the needs of the group. This is very important for all of us to be committed in this way. That's the best way we can see to move the church forward.
Another question that comes to mind is discipling. We heard some people don't like the idea of someone over them, some people don't like the idea of discipling at all. This is wrong. We've got to understand scripturally what is necessary and what God wants us to be part of. We also need to be committed to the discipling pattern in our family groups. Primarily, in the bible, every relationship is a mutual relationship - not necessarily one above the other or one below the other. All relationships are mutual -that is very clear from the scriptures. Every relationship in the church - starting from every disciple to every family group leader to a zone leader or sector leader or church leader- is mutual. It is one another, each other primarily as the bible says.
Love one another or Love God first and then love each another. So it is primarily mutual. In your family group, that is what is most important - mutual relationship. We need to practice all scriptures in view of that. Of course in every group there will be mature people and so they will be doing most of the work or teaching more or they will have more godly wisdom that they can impart to others and so obviously there will be different levels of people - mature people, older people, younger people. We've got to learn to hold on to the word of God in respect to all these different people.
So primarily, it's all going to be mutual relationships. We are not to be independent in our relationships because the bible says every part is connected. So we all need to be connected to some part of the body. We cannot say I don't want to be part of any mutual relationship because then you're not obeying God's plan to help you in his church. And God has also planned leadership in the church, and, as it says in Hebrews 13, we've got to obey the leader and submit to authority. Any leadership set in God's church to direct, to shepherd, to guide, to teach - we must respect and submit to such leadership. That's very important for us to understand.
We are all connected to one another and in every family group all members need to be connected -the family group leader needs to be connected with others in the group both ways and other disciples need to be connected with others in the group both ways. The family group leader is also connected to other disciple in the church so that way everybody in the church is mutually connected just like the body model in the bible. We are trying to implement the human body model that is laid out in the scriptures. The way that Paul and the others apostles direct us is through the human body. So everyone has got to decide to belong to a family group and to be an active member of the family group, that we are going to use the gifts that God has given me to benefit the family group.
That is how God has called us to be. Also, though relationships are primarily mutual there will also be leadership - older brothers teaching younger ones, father-son model, elder brother - younger brother model and other models. As a church we are going to move forward in this way practically. So we want you to cooperate and offer your heart to this plan to help our church. We want every one of you to identify the God-given gift that is in you and use it to help and benefit one another because we all belong to each other as the scriptures say. That way we can meet each others needs, we can be a loving church and a prayerful church, we can be a caring and forgiving church, we can bear each other's burdens, we can be a church that meets the needs of our neighborhood, we can be a church that meets the needs of lost people, we can be a church that grows and multiplies. Everything that God wants us to do we can start doing it in our family groups to glorify God.