Involving members in ministry is a powerful tool for assimilation of people into the body of Christ. However, simply involving people in ministry does not necessarily bring about the process of maturing or discipling.’ In the past I often oversimplified Paul’s observations in Ephesians 4 to mean matching up people’s talents with specific tasks or, as Paul terms it, “works of service” (Eph. 4:11-13).
To do this without an awareness of the context of the admonition within the book of Ephesians runs the risk of rendering a spiritual service into busy work. Any given task may be a good thing to do and it may be something someone is gifted to do but that does not mean, automatically, that they are growing spiritually in the process of doing what they were gifted to do. Context is everything.
In fact, when we consider the primary involvement passages of Romans 12:1-8, 1 Corinthians 12-13, Ephesians 4:1-16 and 1 Peter 4:7-11 they are set in a context that goes way beyond busywork as a path to spiritual maturity. To the Roman community it was in a setting where Roman Jews were attempting to reconcile with their Gentile brothers and sisters who had filled the leadership vacuum when Claudius evicted the Jews from Rome. In Corinth the tension was between classes in a stratified society populated by people from benefactors to slaves.
To the church in Ephesus Paul is writing within the context of understanding how we should behave after having been recipients of so great a gift as God has given to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. To the church in Rome towards the end of the first century, Peter is challenging the Lord’s people to care for each other in times of intense persecution.
In other words, involvement in the body of Christ is more than simply taking on tasks for the sake of staying busy. The task must be rooted in what the church is trying to do, the spiritually developmental task of the individual who is involved and the contribution the work of service makes to the body of Christ and the kingdom.
One of the most used tools today seems to be in the realm of small groups in churches and in the organic church movement. Indeed, many of our people are looking for personal, human connections, intimacy, accountability and so much more. But being a part of small groups just to be a part of a small group, once again, risks missing the point of the process of discipleship; i.e., hungering and thirsting for a righteousness that transforms us into the image of Christ.
This is not to diminish the value of gift assessments and small groups. My intention is to stress the need for giving greater attention to the context in which those gifts and small groups make sense so that those points of involvement and assimilation into the body of Christ become more than glorified busywork.