By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
In every church – every local body of believers – you have apostles (the ones who are good at start-ups and new adventures), prophets (the ones who declare the word of God clearly), evangelists (the ones who share Jesus with others naturally in almost everything they do), the pastor-teachers (the ones who are gifted to lead other believers and to attend to the spiritual health of the body), and the saints (all believers, but including laypersons in the body of Christ). Most people reading this will find themselves in that last category – non-clergy who are members or attendees of a local church. I am thankful for you, and I want to encourage you today about your very important role in the body of Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 the Apostle Paul writes,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
Here, Paul refers to himself and Timothy as “ambassadors for Christ.” They are set apart as Jesus’s representatives; their actions and words are Jesus’s command to them lived out before the eyes of the people of Corinth, a plea to them to “be reconciled to God.” Clearly, Paul and Timothy were ambassadors of Christ actively involved in God’s plan of redemption. Does God’s plan of redemption dictate that all who believe are ambassadors of Christ, or is there an allowance for spectator Christians – laypersons who aren’t involved in ministry?
In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul wrote,
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (emphasis mine).
This suggests that everyone in the body of Christ – every believer – has a role to serve in the building up of the body of Christ. As “each part [of the body] is working properly,” the whole body becomes a healthier, clearer representation of God’s redeemed people. In Colossians 3:12-17, Paul instructs,
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (emphasis mine).
Not only should we be teaching, admonishing, encouraging, and building one another up toward mature faith in Jesus, but everything we do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus! That’s precisely what it means to be an ambassador, but here it is applied not to Paul and Timothy, but every believer in Colossae!
According to Paul, every believer has a responsibility to every other believer to encourage spiritual health and maturity (Eph. 4:11-16), but every believer also has a responsibility to those who are still strangers and aliens to God’s kingdom to represent Jesus Christ before them, imploring them to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:17-20; Col. 3:17).
Here’s what I want you to know: Paul didn’t present these instructions to the church as some radical new idea for God’s kingdom work. Rather, he presents the ambassadorship of every believer as the normal plan and expectation for members of God’s kingdom; there is no allowance for spectator Christianity. Such total missional involvement only seems radical because our churches have created and embraced a missional model that is far from God’s normal plan.
For many, many people who attend church, attendance is the spiritual equivalent of going to a concert. They experience the religious performance of ministry professionals, but they are not committed to the health of the church nor are they involved in its redemptive mission to the world. Their relationship with the church is self-serving (“This is the kind of church experience I want and the benefits it should offer”) and passive (“I’m thankful for the work the church staff and volunteers do”). That is far from God’s plan. God makes his invisible grace visible by sending his people (clergy and laypersons alike) – full of his grace – to reflect his grace to people who need it. And we know many in the rodeo community choose not to attend a traditional church for a host of reasons and excuses. But where you stand with church, Christ’s call on you is the same as everyone else.
If, indeed, you have been called by Christ, you have been called for this purpose. Your life no longer belongs to you, for you have been bought with a price. Everything you are, everything you possess, and all the time you have left belongs to God for his mission and his purpose. Run with me today to the throne of grace; be filled to overflowing, and then go serve as ambassadors for Christ wherever you find yourself. Thank you for serving with me in the kingdom of God!
Grace and peace be with you!