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« Introduction to A Growing Church: A Bible Study in Ephesians 4 | Home | The Growing Church: Part 2 »

The Growing Church: Part 1

By Mark D. Roberts | Thursday, June 26, 2008

Part 1 of series: The Growing Church: A Bible Study in Ephesians 4
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This is the first part of my address to the Presbyterians for Renewal breakfast at the General Assembly of the PCUSA.


First of all, I want to thank you for coming out this morning . . . and so early! Of course General Assembly is pretty much a vacation anyway, so I guess it’s not that much of a sacrifice to miss a little sleep. (Not!) Now you know why the PFR folk invite speakers from Texas. For you this breakfast began at 6:30 in the morning, and some of you are just waking up. For me it felt like 8:30, and I’m ready to roll, y’all.

bumble-bee-flowerI bring greetings from Laity Lodge, my new ministry in the Hill Country of Texas outside of San Antonio. I know some of you are familiar with this wonderful ministry. Many of you are not, but I hope you’ll get more acquainted with us in the future. We share a common vision of multi-layered renewal, and a passion for helping the people of God live as ministers of Jesus Christ. (Photo: A bumble bee on a flower at Laity Lodge)
I want to offer thanks to God for Presbyterians for Renewal. Throughout the past twenty years, PFR has been an outstanding source of wisdom and encouragement for me and thousands of others like me. I am grateful for this ministry and for all that PFR is doing to bring renewal to our churches and to our denomination.

Next, I want to thank PFR’s leaders for the extraordinary privilege of speaking at this renowned breakfast. When I consider some of those you have had address you in recent years, Tom Gillespie, Richard Mouw, and my mentor, Lloyd Ogilvie, I am humbled by the opportunity you have given me. I hope to live up to your trust in asking me to speak this morning.

This is a bit of a tricky assignment, actually. It reminds me of when my children were young and I’d take them to the park. It wasn’t easy to keep my eye on two busy kids when they were four and two and loved going in opposite directions at the same time. But I learned that if I kept moving, always with one child in immediate proximity, I could keep both kids in view. So, today, I have two purposes in view. On the one hand, I want to offer a close-up word of encouragement relative to this General Assembly, especially for those who are delegates. My hope and prayer is that you’ll leave this breakfast with new vision, courage, and conviction as you seek to serve the Lord in the Assembly. On the other hand, I want to speak to the larger issues of our life and mission as a church. No matter what happens in these next few days, all of the basics of our life in Christ will be unchanged. Though the actions of this Assembly might make our work easier, or might make it harder, our calling to the mission of Jesus Christ will remain the same. So I hope also to offer some words of encouragement as we go out into the world as the people of God, sent to make disciples of all nations.

Introduction to Ephesians 4

In our short time this morning, I want to do a Bible study. I plan to focus our attention on the first half of Ephesians 4, pointing to some of the highlights in this watershed passage. This text, I believe, speaks with clarity and power to our situation as leaders in the PCUSA. It calls us to the kind of leadership that’s desperately needed in our denomination, in our churches, and in our world.

Before I get to Ephesians 4, however, let me give a brief overview of its context in this letter. Ephesians begins with a mind-expanding revelation of God’s plan for the cosmos and our role within it. God’s strategy for the fullness of time is “to gather up all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (1:10). By bringing everything together under the headship of Christ, God will mend this broken world. Moreover, according to Ephesians 1, we were chosen before the foundation of the world to be part of God’s renewing mission. Out of his great love for us, God has lavished his grace upon us, adopting us as his children, so that we might “live for the praise of his glory” (1:12). Our whole life becomes a means to glorify the Lord as we participate in his mission through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 2 begins with the bad news of our condition outside of Christ: we’re dead. But God, who is rich in mercy, love, and grace, has made us alive in Christ. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we have been saved by grace through faith. We do not earn our salvation with good works. But, when we are saved by grace, we are also newly created in Christ for a life of good works. We join God’s mission of cosmic renewal, in which we play a crucial role.

The second half of Ephesians 2 reveals that the saving work of Christ touches more than individuals. It also brings reconciliation among people, represented in the breaking down of the wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles. Human divisions will be mended as God brings all things together in Christ.

Ephesians 3 reveals the pivotal role of the church in God’s plan. Through the church, God makes known his renewal strategy. The church is the means by which God announces his mission to the cosmos and demonstrates the ultimate success of this mission. Our wholeness and unity as formerly broken and scattered people will tell the world that the Gospel is true. This is what we Presbyterians mean when we say that one of the Great Ends of the church is “the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world” (G-1.0200). If you want to know if the Gospel is true, Ephesians tells us, just look at the church. (That, my friends, can be a scary thought!)

If the church is to exhibit the truth of the Gospel, then we will have to live out this truth in our daily life in the world. The final three chapters of Ephesians focus on the practical implications of the theological vision found in the first three chapters. Thus Ephesians 4 begins: “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (4:1). Paul, writing from a prison, urges us to walk the talk, to take our calling, spelled out in Ephesians 1-3, and embody it. It’s not enough to believe it. It’s not enough to proclaim it. We must also live it, each and every day.

To be continued . . . .

Topics: Growing Church |

One Response to “The Growing Church: Part 1”

  1. Glen Says:
    June 26th, 2008 at 4:25 pm


    Here is the first part of Mark D. Robert’s message at the PFR Breakfast. I will send the second part when it is posted on Presbyweb. Otherwise you can go directly to Mark Robert’s Webpage.



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