Ministering in the local church, to bring every believer in the church to Christian Maturity (Colossians 1:28-29) so that they live to the glory of God, is one of the most important aspects of shepherding in the Body of Christ. As a result, it is our first priority to cultivate a high view of God, presenting Him in all His fullness, and in this process we desire to give Him glory. This means we hope to instill a biblical fear of God, recognizing that Scripture says He is holy, righteous, and just. Since God is holy, each individual is commanded to pursue holiness (1Peter 1:13-16), and godliness (1Timothy 4:7-8). The priority of cultivating a high view of God must be established before we can properly understand and pursue practical or progressive sanctification – the process of changing and growing toward Christ-likeness.
How do we know what it means to have a high view of God, or a proper view of man, sin, and holiness? The conviction of Grace Bible Sanctuary is that those truths must be grounded in the sole authority of the Word of God (‘Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.’ (John 17:17). The Word of God defines what it means to have a right relationship with God (salvation), and what it means to be ‘set apart’ to mature and grow as a child of God (sanctification).
The Bible also describes in many places the characteristics of a God-honoring New Testament church. In Ephesians 4:12-13, the apostle Paul reminds us that spiritual gifts are given to the church for ‘the equipping of the saints for the work of service to the building up of the Body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ’. In keeping with this text, another important priority for Grace Bible Sanctuary adult ministry is that we provide opportunity for both equipping of the saints and the work of service.
Scripture also makes it clear that a biblically driven ministry cultivates fellowship with one another in the Body of Christ. John tells us, ‘but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:3-7). Because we want to grow an adult ministry that is both strategic and thoroughly biblical, we will regularly highlight the following broad elements in the process of edifying the body of Christ in this local expression. These elements include but are not limited to:
1. Spiritual Giftedness – We believe that every believer has been given special capacity to minister to others in the Body of Christ – that ability is called a spiritual gift (1 Peter 4:10, Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthian 12; Ephesians 4:11). William McRae defines a spiritual gift saying ‘as to essence, a spiritual gift is an ability. It is an ability to function effectively and significantly in a particular service as a member of Christ’s body, the church’ (William McRae, The Dynamics of Spiritual Gifts; Zondervan Publishing House, 1976, p.18). As a result, we will both teach and encourage all believers to use their giftedness and be an active part of the Body of Christ in this local expression.
2. Equipping – We agree with John MacArthur, Jr., Pastor-Teacher of Grace Community Church, when he states, ‘the church’s most important function is to proclaim the Word of God in an understandable, direct, authoritative way. . . . Paul told Timothy that if he reminded the brethren of the truth he would be ‘a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine’ ( 1 Timothy 4:6). He adds in verse 11, ‘These things command and teach.’ In other words, ‘Teach with authority’.’ (John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Master’s Plan for the Church, Moody Press, 1991, p. 57-58). We believe that gifted men in the church are to equip adults for ministry, using the Bible as their primary textbook. As a result, we will offer opportunities for adult instruction each week both on Sunday morning and during the week for men and women of all ages and stages. As we noted previously in Ephesians 4:11-12, equipping the saints is a prerequisite for biblical work of service.
3. Service – According to James, we are to ‘become doers of the Word and not only hearers’ (James 1:22-25). Moreover, according to Ephesians 4:12, the saints are equipped in order that they might build up the Body via works of service. This is a service that is accomplished for the benefit of others both in the church and outside the church. Service inside the church is characterized by using one’s giftedness to ‘care for one another’ (1 Corinthians 12:1-25), and thus build up one other. Service outside the church includes being ‘salt’ and ‘light’ (Matthew 5:13-16), and in the process, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world (Matthew 25:32-45).
4. Fellowship – As believers are equipped, and we use our giftedness to serve others, the body is ‘built up’ (Acts 2:42). Fellowship is the community context of being ‘built up,’ and occurs as each one does his/her part in the Body of Christ. Once again, John MacArthur, Jr. has said it well, ‘Fellowship could be described as ‘a common life together.’ In a way, it sums up the other functions we have talked about. Fellowship involves being together, loving each other, and communing together. Fellowship includes listening to someone who has a concern, praying with someone who has a need, visiting someone in a hospital, sitting in a class or a Bible study, and even singing a hymn with someone you have never met. Fellowship also involves sharing prayer requests’ (John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Master’s Plan for the Church, Moody Press, 1991, pp. 68-69).
5. Shepherding – Another critical aspect of our adult ministry is oversight by biblical shepherds. Jesus commanded Peter in John 21:15-19 to ‘Shepherd My sheep.’ The Bible makes it clear that in the thinking of the apostles there was the closest possible relationship between the words ‘to shepherd’ (poimaino), ‘a shepherd’ (poimen), ‘an elder’ (presbuteros), ‘an overseer’ (episkopos) and ‘to oversee’ (episkopeo). Jay Adams puts it this way, ‘to carry on the work of an overseer (episkopos, ‘bishop’) does not mean to do the work of any sort of overseer in general, but in the New Testament it always carries the idea of overseeing as a shepherd. It involves the all-embracing oversight required by the descriptions of such work in Psalm 23, John 10 and elsewhere. . . . As overseers, their function and duty was ‘to shepherd’ (poimainein) the church of God. That poimaino here does not refer to the more restricted idea of ‘feeding’ alone, but rather to the complete care of the congregation (including feeding) is plain from the duties delineated, one of which is shepherdly protection from false teachers’ (Jay E. Adams, Jr., Shepherding God’s Flock, Zondervan Publishing House, 1975, p. 8).