God's Recipe For Making Discoples

by Ed de la Cour on May 26, 2015

Ephesians 4: 11 – 16                                           

May 10, 2015



            What’s amazing to me about God’s Word is that the Lord has provided the means by which we are brought into fellowship and into peace with Him and with each other.  The shed blood of Jesus is the means by which the called-out men and women of God, people who would never speak to each other, or love one another normally, become the Church, the Body of Christ.   


            That’s lofty language and it soars above the head of most of us who are just trying to make ends meet at the end of the week.  We have wandered far off the reservation and have become used to our fleshly natures being satisfied in the church, but God speaks His Word against the fleshly nature of man.  My fleshly nature seeks nothing more out of life than a recliner, a cold beverage, and a sunny day to enjoy life.  The Word of God comes against that notion of mine – or whatever its equivalent might be in your life.  The heart of flesh in every one of us is unalterably opposed to the things of God.  That’s why it is the job of every follower of Jesus to make whatever decisions are necessary to aim our hearts toward His heart.  We are not here for fun and games.  We are here to be disciples of Jesus and to invite other people to become His disciples, too.  Now that you know what’s coming, I also want to preface the message by echoing what Charles Spurgeon preached; “Christ is the hope of the Church so the Church is the hope of the world.”  


            This morning my topic is God’s recipe for making disciples.  The recipe is found in the text before us in Ephesians 4: 11 – 16.   The foundation upon which the text is built is none other than Jesus Christ Himself.  When we sing, “The Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ Her Lord,” we are declaring something far greater and far more important than just making some poetic statement.  Our natural view of the church is that the church is a club or a social organization, but the Church is not that at all.  The Church is supernatural organism and the Son of God, Jesus, is Lord over His Church. 


In the church and in life itself, Jesus stands out before every single thing.  Jesus is Lord over every single thing.  Jesus rightfully commands every fiber of our lives.  He is to be pre-eminent over every thought of our minds and every aspiration of our hearts.  If you are a Christian, if you have decided to follow Jesus, then every belief you hold, every neural pathway, every response to life at work or at home or at play, the way we raise our kids, the way we relate to our spouses – everything is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.


            This letter of Paul to the church in Ephesus contains serious theology about our relationship to God in Jesus Christ in chapters 1 – 3.  That is followed by a practical theology about the everyday issues of the Christian life in the last three chapters.  You have been reading the Bible through over the last year or more, so by now you may have read Ephesians twice through in its entirety.  I encourage you to live in this epistle for a while and to listen to God speak and to gain the heart of Jesus for His Church.


            Because we are trying to follow Jesus, we also need to agree with the way Jesus wants to build His Church.  Some years ago, we inspected the beams in this building and found evidence of termite and powder post beetle infestation in some of the oldest beams that date back to the 19th century.  The problem was serious, as the building could have collapsed if were left untreated.  So we called in a pest control company and they did what was necessary to save the building.  To look at the church you would never know that there was a problem because the trouble was not cosmetic or on the surface.  The infestation was deep inside the structure.  The threat lay deep within the frame of the building and was hidden from view.  


            The lesson is that if you want your life to last, if you want your church to last, care must be taken to ensure that the foundation on which the church is built is strong.  We don’t want our church to be weakened by pests that eat away from within its core.  That’s why God has a recipe for the making of disciples.  It’s His recipe.  Jesus gets to provide His recipe because He is Lord of the Church.  He wrote the cookbook!  It is His right to rule over us, to direct us, even to plan our lives, and then to interrupt our plans.  It is His right to call us home to heaven whenever He chooses to do so.  After all, Jesus is our Sovereign.  Jesus is our King and He is our Lord.


            In every local expression of the church, Jesus has gifted His church with some people who have specific functional ministry roles that are given here, beginning in verse 11: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor/shepherds, and teachers.  Every Christian is given by the Holy Spirit the gifts of the Holy Spirit and they are outlined in 1 Corinthians 12 – 14, in Romans 12: 3 - 8, and also in 1 Peter 4: 10 – 11.  Today we want to look closely at the five functional roles of ministry Jesus has given to the church in Ephesians 4.  First of all, Paul says, “It was He who gave some to” have each of these roles.  You see in verse 12 that each role has as its primary job description “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the whole body of Christ may be built up.”  Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, not only do the job those roles imply, but they also train the people of the church to work in those areas of ministry as well.   


            Throughout history, church people have organized the church so that one man does it all.  One man reaches the lost.  One man visits the sick.  One man disciples the newly saved.  One man does the teaching and leading.  That one man chairs all the committees, and in his spare time he prays, he seeks God, and he casts vision for the future.  Now that may be good for you, but it kills that one man, and it is not what Jesus says He has provided for His Church.  


            Paul says Jesus has called some people to fill each one of those roles.  And, you’ll be quick to notice they are not the ones doing the work of ministry.  Instead, they are using their roles to prepare all of God’s people for doing the works of service. 


            In at least one way, these ministry roles are similar to spiritual gifts.  If you have a spiritual gift, you need to practice your gift in order to excel at it.  With the roles of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and so forth, the roles must be lived out and regularly practiced so you can have confidence in the role God assigned you.  No one emerges from the womb as a fully formed adult.  We all have to practice our gifts.  We grow in skill and ability, as we see the anointing and the empowering of the Holy Spirit flowing through our ministry.


Because Paul was writing to one church and because there were many churches around the Roman world, we must assume that what was true for this church in Ephesus, was also true for the churches in Rome, Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth.  Every church had someone in it who would answer God’s call and rise up to be an apostle.  Every church would have several people would become prophets.  Others would be evangelists, and a number of people would be pastors and teachers.  These ministry roles can be found in every church that seeks to be a New Testament church, no matter the size of the church.  If we are convinced that somehow our church was skipped over and left out of the equation, then our job is to seek the Lord until He answers and until He provides the people who will take up those mantles.


It is our responsibility to identify those who have been given these roles, train them, and release them into ministry.  We are looking for a few good people to be used by God to prepare God’s people for ministry, “so that the body of Christ may be built up.”  


Someone in our church has already been given the heart to share Jesus is another place.  That other place may be around the corner or in a different culture in the world.  The apostle is someone who is sent, who is seeking to go, who has said to God what Isaiah said to God, “Here I am; send me.”  When that person talks about his role, he excites others.  His calling is contagious and it’s rooted in his relationships.  He encourages, he fathers, and he empowers people to take the Good News of Jesus out of the box and to make it known.  Are you a person who has a heart to take Jesus with you anywhere and everywhere?


The prophet is God’s messenger.  He doesn’t necessarily wear a hair shirt and eat grasshoppers, but he or she is sensitive to the heart of God.  That person communicates what God is saying to the church.  The prophet speaks truth to power, and not just to presidents and corporations, but to churches and pastors and members of churches.  He or she will say what needs to be said in order that we may hear clearly how far away from God we have fallen.  It’s the prophet who encourages the church to return to her first love and to help Christians hear from God.


The evangelist is not just a person who wins people to God, but who also trains disciples and leads them to be able to share the love of God contagiously.  In fact, contagious is the best word to describe the way all these ministry roles work.  British cricket player C. T. Studd, was used by God to reach the Congo.  He once said, “Some wish to stay within the sound of the church or chapel bell.  I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”  C. T. Studd had the heart of an evangelist.  Is that your heart?  Is it your passion to see lost people find the love God has for them?  The evangelist is driven by love for Jesus and by love for people.  It’s not so much that the evangelist leads people to Jesus by himself, as it is that person helps Christians who love Jesus to become contagious sharers of the Good News.


The person who is a pastor or a shepherd is not necessarily the one who does the preaching.  It was the church that took this whole passage and boiled Gospel ministry down to just preaching.  Shepherds may or may not preach, but what they do is lead the sheep to where the pastures are green and the waters are still.  It’s not just about feeding the sheep.  Sheep will eat and drink best when they learn how to feed themselves.  Shepherds create a thirst for the things of God.  They teach the flock how to feed, how to study God’s Word for themselves.  Shepherds help sheep learn how to build community and how to work as a team.  It is safe to say, the more shepherds a church can have, the better!  Shepherds love to care for others.  Their love for the flock of God is genuinely contagious.  We need to identify, develop and release shepherds into our church.  The more true and godly shepherds there are in the local church, the more sheep we can care for.


Teachers have had the bulk of the attention in the church over the last two thousand years.  But, although there’s been a lot of teaching in the church, there hasn’t been a great deal of actual learning or applying the truth to the lives of the sheep.  A teacher is at home in God’s Word, possesses a deep love for the truth, loves to study, loves to communicate and to help others apply the Word to life.  Learning, for the teacher is a contagious commodity.  The sheep of God will hunger for the truth of God to be spoken into their lives.  God’s sheep love to be fed God’s truth.  In that way, the sheep are built up, their lives are changed for the better, and the church grows as a result.


When those functions are working together in unity, the whole church is blessed.  Paul says unity in faith results.  Maturity comes to fruition and we all get to know Jesus so much better.  All five of these ministry functions work together to prepare the whole church to serve the whole community and to reach the whole world.  The size of the church doesn’t matter.   When the body of Christ is built up, the community around the church is blessed and people who never thought they would begin to seek after God.


If any of this has stirred your heart, I would encourage you to read Neil Cole’s book, Primal Fire, as he has written succinctly on this topic.


God has a recipe for making disciples and it involves identifying, developing, and releasing the people who will be the trainers and the encouragers of the whole body of Christ.  Many of you will find yourselves desiring to be among that number.  The task of the local church is to build disciples of Jesus, people who want to follow Jesus, who are trained and released to follow Jesus.  Truly, it takes a village to build a disciple!  Once disciples are built, they are no longer infants; they’re grown up and are no longer tripping over the same temptations they tripped over last week.  They are not confused about the basic truths of the Bible and the basic truths of how to live the Christian life.  Their character is becoming more and more godly every day and they are growing in strength and in humility at the same time.


Our goal, according to Colossians 1: 28, is to present every person perfect, mature, and complete in Christ.  Our goal is for every person to become a follower of Jesus.  Our goal is for every follower of Jesus to become a disciple of Jesus.  Furthermore, our goal is for every disciple of Jesus to become a disciple maker.

Edmund C. de la Cour, Jr.
First Baptist Church of Pocasset
298 Barlows Landing Road
Post Office Box 1080
Pocasset, MA 02559