6/21 Sermon

Pneumatocracy

 

Beloved, today is Father’s day. A day to celebrate Fathers but more than that a day to celebrate the role of father. A role ordained by God to be vital and helpful in the life of humans. Designed to be such a source of protection, wisdom and gift giving that God took the father language upon himself in relation to us.  But, Father’s day is not a great day for everyone, some have lost their fathers recently and so today brings back feelings of loss. For others they had a fractured or non- existent relationship with their father, so the day is not one to be celebrated, it may even be one that brings back feelings of pain or discomfort. The role of father can be described in a biological sense, or in a much truer sense as someone who is parental in their care for some else. It is that care and dedication that is the expressed life- long role of the father. It is a gift from God and inherently good, though humans at times have failed to make it a gift for others.

This morning we will be looking at the middle third of Ephesians chapter four, at something often called the five-fold ministry of the church. At five gifts, five roles that Christ bestows on the church. Gifts for the equipping of the body and for it’s building up. Gifts that in tandem with God the Spirit are designed to hold us together. Though simply having the gifts, much like simply being a father, does not mean that role will be used for the purpose God intended. This morning I hope you will leave with a notion of which role you play, and that you will pray on it for clarity. But more importantly beloved I prayer we leave here today with an appreciation of the gifts God has given the church specifically to keep us together and healthy.

Last week we talked about the turning point in Ephesians. Paul spent the first half of the letter talking about God’s divine plan and establishing the Trinity as the primary mover in the Gospel story. Then last week we got the “therefore” that shifts the letter toward our reaction in light of God’s grace and love. Last week was the beginning of the discussion on unity in the body of Christ. As Eugene Peterson put it “to travel on the same road and in the same direction.” That’s the goal, all of us heading down the same path together and staying as one, in a unified direction. This is accomplished by a communally lived out expression of Christianity we call the Church. When pour into each other and prioritize each other over ourselves things that seem unlikely in today’s culture become common place. Which brings us to today’s passage about how Christ has bestowed gifts and the Trinity have laid out a framework for how in light of what Christ has done, we can be equipped, built up and stay on the same road and heading in the same direction.

This is what the word of the Lord says:

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high,
                    he took many captives
                    and gave gifts to his people.”

9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Paul is telling the faithful in Ephesus that in being one, Christ as apportioned us grace or gifts to serve this goal of unity. This same divine plan that brought Jews and Gentiles together and for which Paul is in prison for, we have been given gifts to maintain. Given gifts by the one who has descended to the lower earthly regions, for us, and then ascended higher than all the heavens. Christ the physical drawing near of God in human form, has gifted the church with gifts and roles that He himself lived out perfected and now bestow upon us. The one who descended that we might be taken back up with him, has left us grace to advance His story of redemption until the day we perfectly reunited in New Heaven and New Earth.

            It is important beloved to remember that just as every part of Ephesians going forward is our response in light of what God has done and is doing. The same is true of these five folds gifts that we will talk about today. They are not just offices or titles for us to acquire and use at our discretion but rather divinely inspired roles that Christ himself has already lived out perfectly in his incarnation. Which brings us to our center focus for today, verses 11 and 12. “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

            On the charter for the Church of the Savior in Washington DC there is this phrase, “On the Ship of the church there are no passengers; all are members of the crew.” This beautiful thought brought on by a then seafaring community will be our metaphor we work off of today. We are the members of the crew on the ship of the church, no one is just along for the ride. There are no passengers, only crew. So, as we unpack the five gifts that Christ has given the church, we will discuss how each gift is meant for the equipping and building up of the body. How each serves a specific role, and how they all are designed to keep us moving in the same direction, together.

            I want to preface, that each gift will be explained in a couple ways one being an office someone would hold on a ship. If you are truly knowledgeable about sailing and ships pardon any blunders I may have made. I found the analogy to be helpful, but completely built off of internet research and not real-life sailing experiences. I will also be referencing how JR Woodward defines each gift in his book “Creating a Missional Culture”, the intro video for the book was included in our sermon prep on the churches website. Also, important to note that only Jesus has all five gifts, as much as we’d like to claim that ourselves, only He is worthy.

            The first gift Christ has given the church is the Apostles. This not Apostle in the living in the first century and having physically seen or worked with Jesus sense. It is a messenger that has been sent. It is like the office of Chief Mate on a merchant ship. The chief mate’s job is to oversee all the moving parts. From the manifest, to the ships stability and crew rotations. They can fix many things for they have held other positions on the ship, but their main focus is making sure every department is running smoothly. They are the big picture people. Woodward calls the Apostle the one who helps everyone else “live into their roles.” They want to make sure everyone is accomplishing their task. It can be a position that requires holding others accountable, but always for the sake of the body and so the individual is participating.

            Jesus as Apostle: “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.” (Heb. 3:1) Jesus as referred to as our apostle in Hebrews. Meaning that He is the one who was sent to us with a message; sent with purpose. He came to speak truth, that right perspective would be gained. If you are someone who sees the potential in others that they do not see in themselves, or you have a way of connecting tasks that need to be done, with the right person to it you may be an Apostle. A messenger sent, to oversee and help other live into their roles in the body.

            The next gift is that of prophet. The prophet is called to forthtell and sometimes to foretell. Meaning they are called to make known to the crew the message they have, and often that message is a warning, or caution of things to come. The prophet is like the office of Sailing Master on an old East India Trading Company ship (or a pirate ship). Tasked with navigating the boat, they would not only go over charts, and maps they would keep watch of what lied ahead. Their goal was not only arrival at the destination but to ensure the crew always knew what they were about to encounter. Like the prophets of the Old Testament the prophet of the church has a message for a specific people, the information a Sailing Master would gather on tides, directions and weather were intended for their crew. Always for the equipping and building up, their efforts would be wasted if they tried to tell other ships where to go. Woodward describes the prophet as the one who helps connect people to God, they have a way of pointing them toward the message that needs to be delivered.

Jesus as Prophet - I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.(Duet. 18:18) Jesus served as the long-awaited messenger. The one who came with a message the people needed to hear. A message of the kingdom of heaven being at hand and that they needed to open their eyes and pay attention. Jesus is the one who calls out our sin and our need for Him. If you are someone who is gifted in discerning if something is of God or not. Or if you are someone who can see where the path of certain decisions or actions will eventually lead and feel the need to voice a message of caution of corrective course you may be a Prophet.

The next gift is evangelist. The evangelist is the counterbalance to the Prophet. Their focus is on delivering the message to those not on the crew and also relaying outside information to the crew. They are similar to the Communications Officer on a cargo ship. They are in constant communication with the ship's surroundings. Making sure they know when other ships are in the area and communicating the port authorities. Woodward calls the evangelist the one who helps make sense of the “out there”, so the crew can connect in meaningful ways to the outside world.  While the prophet may see something coming and advise caution the evangelist seeks the information to clarify what the upcoming problem may be. A ships Communications Officer is tasks not only with being the ships voice to outside forces but also with funneling in outside information for the enlightenment of the crew.

Christ as evangelist- “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Mark 2:17. Christ was the bringer of good news to the people who needed it. He not only conveyed information to the marginalized, he often made the Jews aware of the people near by that they had disregarded. He made sure the good news was for everyone. If you are the type of person who is inclined to remind the body of those out in our community that need to hear the gospel. Or if you are one who desires to speak for those outside of the church, that they may not be misunderstood and that we might be informed, you may be an Evangelist.

The next gift is Teacher. The teacher is similar to the office of Chief Steward on merchant ship. The Chief Steward can wear many hats including planning the menu, inventory management and cost control, but the primary focus is on instructing and equipping each crew person to do their job well. It is the goal of the Chief Steward to make sure each person feels educated on their role. While the Chief Steward may not know how to do every job, they do know how to pair mentors and provide helpful information to inform the crews path forward. Woodward calls the teacher the one who helps others grasp clarity. On a busy ship with lots of things going on, the Chief Steward is the one who notices if someone doesn’t quite know what to do and seeks to help them figure it out.

Jesus as teacher - He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes (Matt. 8:29) Jesus was the perfection of being a teacher, unlike other teachers He did know everything and taught with authority. He instructed many on what the scriptures truly meant not settling for overly simplistic or surface level understandings. He taught with authority because He taught the true message of the Gospel, not just dos and don’ts. If you are someone who desires to help others figure out something there are wrestling with. Or if you are someone who is inclined to push the conversation for the deeper, life changing message you may be a Teacher.

The last gift is Pastor. This is a job title in many churches and while there is overlap, between the two the giftedness of being a Pastor and the job of Pastor are not entirely the same. The git of Pastor is like that of Quarter Master sometimes called First Mate on a pirate ship. This position is elected by the crew, they are expected to advocate for the crew, and prioritize the living conditions, safety and well being of the crew. The Quarter Master is always seeking to represent the interests of the crew. Woodward calls the Pastor the one who seeks to cultivate family within the church. They are concerned with how everyone is doing. Much like the Quarter Master the Pastor will often times speak up for those who feel unable to speak or themselves.

Jesus as Pastor - When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36) Jesus is the good shepherd, the one who tends to the sheep. This language is all throughout the Ne Testament, he leaves the 99 to seek and find the one lost sheep. He desires for the flock to be together and safe. Jesus like every gift before that He gives pastors in perfection. Completely selfless, serving as the advocate for his beloved. If genuinely want to know how someone’s week was or have the inclination to call and check in on people. When things get chaotic if you want to simply stop for a moment and make sure everyone is ok, then you may be a Pastor.

But the Pastor is not the captain of the ship. Jesus is! He is the only one qualified, for he has mastered every role. He is the only one qualified for he always makes the right decision. He is the only one qualified for knows each person of the crew intimately and the world around them. He has suffered every hardship of human life, he can sympathize and identify with anything and everything you are going through. He is the only one qualified for he laid down his life for the crew.  He is the only one qualified for the advocate he has sent God the Spirit is the very thing holding the entire ship together.

But on a merchant or pirate ship the crew can vote to make the Quarter Master, the Pastor the man at the wheel. Which is why I feel the analogy is so fitting. Beloved, we must fight the temptation to place any man or women, regardless of experience, wisdom, or gifting at the wheel of where the body of Christ is heading. We set out to further explore what the Lordship of Jesus looks like when we started this series. He gives us clarity here. He has given us gifts, roles that we get the privilege of filling. But the NIV calls it grace for a reason, we don’t deserve the position. We are empowered by God the Father, held together by God the Spirit and lead by God the Son.

The sermon title for today is Pneumatrocracy. Which is likely an unfamiliar term since its basically made up. But it is the way we are called to head in the same direction at the same time. It is how we are called to interact with each other and it how we are called to equip and build each other up.  Here is a quote from David Fitch, one of my professors at Northern Seminary.

“The church is neither an autocracy - officials employing authority over people by virtue of their office, nor a democracy - where everybody has equal voice. It is a pneumatocracy - where authority is exercised in "the gifts" of the Holy Spirit as recognized by the church in mutuality and facilitated by the structure.”

Pneuma is the root word for describing the Holy Spirit, it means breath or wind. What a Pneumatocracy is submitting to each other according to gifts. It means listening to our prophets if they suggest caution. Listening to our apostles if they think there is a disconnect. Listening to our evangelists if they think we have what’s going on out there all wrong. Listening to our teachers when we can’t quite figure something out. Listening to our pastors when they tell us to rest or to apologize. Not because they are a deacon, trustee, outreach board member, CE board member but because God has given them a gift for the equipping and building up of the body. And since only Christ has all the gifts, this will require us to do more listening than talking. For more often than not someone else is gifted in a more helpful way. And as always we all put our faith in the holding and giver of all gifts, Jesus for he alone is worthy to lead.