About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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The Ministry Of The Local Church  


A local expression of church consists of individual believers, who by the Holy Spirit, have been placed alongside other believers in supportive relationships through which they can accomplish God's will as one unified body.  Each community of believers in any given locality is mandated to fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples of Jesus.  In order to facilitate this mandate, each local church has a God-ordained ministry in conjunction with the cultural environment in which it exists and the individual talents and ministries of its members.


The first generation church would have understood that each localized community of believers would have its specific God-appointed ministry.  The church at Rome and the church at Jerusalem were not only miles apart geographically; they were miles apart culturally.  The church in Rome would have implemented its mission differently than the church at Jerusalem. 


A local church is in error when it copies the mission of another church.  That seldom works and it ignores the Lord's personalized calling for that church.  Each local church, existing in its unique cultural setting, is comprised of those with varying talents and ministries.  It only makes sense that the cultural setting in which it exists, and the makeup of its members, helps determine its ministry path.         


If, for example, if there are a several gifted people in the arts in a local church, art, in all of its forms, might be an evangelistic tool of ministry to the local civic community.  If the cultural setting of a local church is in a university town, some kind of relevant ministry to students might well be one of the church's missions.    


The apostle Paul mentioned something about his ministry that I think is applicable to the local church.  1 Corinthians 9:22 reads:


"To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some."


In the process of fulfilling his ministry as seen in the above verse, Paul took into consideration to whom he was ministering and their cultural setting.  We see this in Acts 17:16 and following where Paul was visiting Athens , a city noted for its philosophical environment.  Knowing about the culture of Athens and the philosophers to whom he was speaking, Paul quoted Greek philosophy as a means of evangelism, something he was qualified to do.  For Paul, it was a matter of becoming all things to all people, and in this case becoming philosophical, so he could win some for Jesus.  It was a matter of using his talents and God-given ministry in the cultural environment in which he found himself.  If Paul approached ministry this way, I think a local expression of church could do the same.      


We often think of ministry in terms of an individual's ministry.  That is certainly important, but we must also recognize that the local church has its specialized God-given ministry.  The two go hand in hand.  Neglecting one defeats the mission of the church. 


There is more to church than ministering to itself.  Fulfilling our mission means spreading our evangelical wings and flying out of our localized nests.  As a unified community of believers, the local church has been commissioned to fulfill its specialized ministry calling.  For this to effectively work, the local church must know its God-appointed mission in light of the talents and ministries of its members and the cultural surrounding in which it exists.    

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