Ephesians 4:1-16
Speaking of church, Johnny’s mother looked out the window and noticed him “playing church” with their cat. The cat was sitting quietly and he was preaching to it. She smiled and went about her work. A while later she heard loud meowing and hissing and ran back to the window to see Johnny baptizing the cat in a tub of water.
She called out, “Johnny, stop that! The cat’s afraid of water!”
Johnny looked up at her and said, “He should have thought about that before he joined my church.”

In the second week of January, I went to see my physician for a physical. As usual, Dr. Jackson ordered a complete blood workup, which indicated that I have a little inflammation somewhere in my body. So she wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic that will eliminate the inflammation and restore my body to health.

In today’s text, Paul is giving us a prescription aimed at maintaining a healthy body, as he states in the last sentence: “so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (16).

The big picture of this passage is that for the body of Christ to be healthy there must be UNITY.

“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all” (Ephesians 4:3-6).

Now to be sure, theological unity already exists in the Spirit of Christ that binds us all together in love. That unity is an amazing gift of God to His Church. According to Paul it is our responsibility ‘to guard, to maintain and/or to preserve the unity’ that exists in the Spirit.

Unity has nothing to do with looking alike or wearing a uniform or thinking alike for as you know, we are, all of us, remarkably different.

So what does church unity look like? Look at how our country rose up to defeat the Germans and Japanese in four years. Our country was united; everybody got behind a common purpose. As the men were called to fight the battle, the women rose up at home and built the tanks and planes and ships that enabled the men to win the battle. Everybody on the home front rationed everything from gasoline, kerosene and oil to all kinds of rubber products and metals of all kinds; even food products: coffee, sugar, canned milk, and cheese. Everybody sacrificed and pitched in whatever they could because there was a great purpose at hand: to defeat the enemy at all costs. What a testament to our namesake: the United States of America!

Similarly, the church is united when all of its participants join together to accomplish a purpose.

Paul writes the Philippians “Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News” (Phil 1:7).

That’s it; standing together, fighting together for the faith. The more of us join the Lord’s army, the healthier this body of Christ will be.

So unity is fueled by PARTICIPATION which leads to health.

This entire passage bleeds ‘participation’ from beginning to end: where in the first verse Paul begins “Lead a life that is worthy of your calling because you have been called by God” (Eph 4:1) and the last verse he writes, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is (what) healthy and growing and full of love.”

Paul is affirming what we know to be true in any organization: that the more people participate in said organization the more healthy it is. The Lions Club would have never been able to pull off the Polar Bear without the participation of all the Lions.

Now don’t get me wrong; the church is not just any other organization. I may be prejudiced but the church is the most important thing happening on the planet! “Why?” you ask. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that the church of Jesus Christ our Lord is the only organization on earth that offers the human race an opportunity to enter eternity through God’s great grace gospel rather than human performance!

And the body of Christ is most efficient at getting out that message when all the people of said church are participating.

Participating in worship, where we not only express our allegiance to Christ, but where we are also spiritually edified, encouraged, challenged, and discipled. When we all participate in that aspect of worship we refer to as the offering, the more efficiently we are enabled to maintain this ministry.

And participating in ministry by giving our time and offering our special skills to help accomplish God’s purposes . . . as Paul says it here in verse 12: we are “to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” In this letter Paul lists the leadership gifts, but in I Corinthians 12:7 he reminds us “a spiritual gift has been given to each one of us so we can help each other” and then goes on to list a whole cornucopia of different kind of gifts.

I read the results of recent survey that indicated that only 15% of Christians know what their spiritual gifts are. And yet that’s the key in knowing how we are to serve the Lord. I promise you that I will be more intentional in this coming year about helping anyone who is interested in discovering their spiritual giftedness because it is my goal as the head honcho of this outfit to enlist all of you in the Lord’s Army!


But one wonders how do we maintain unity when there is so much diversity of giftedness? And the answer is we unite around a Biblical purpose that is focused.

Any church that attempts to be all things to all people or shoots from the hip when it comes to deciding on ministries or tries to have a foot in every ministry opportunity that comes along will not be a healthy church. To be healthy, a church needs a focused purpose so that its resources, both people and monetary, can be used most effectively.

I recall in my first stint as a student pastor sitting around a room of about 15 well-meaning people in an annual meeting – the purpose of which was to decide on what ministries we were going to attempt that year. Buzz was a farmer and was all about having our people go door to door selling part of his produce to make money for the church coffers. Buzz’s brother Corwin wanted to start a ministry to senior citizens whereby able people of the church would be willing to run errands for shut-ins. Bruce was the traditionalist and thought we shouldn’t try anything new, but do a repeat of the previous years’ ‘tried and true’ activities. Corwin’s granddaughter-in-law, who was new to the church, thought we should host parties at the church where we could play rock music to attract younger people. The meeting turned into a three-hour marathon where everybody championed their idea of what they thought the church should be doing.

What that church lacked was a mission or vision or purpose statement that would have enabled them to focus their efforts toward achieving one over-all goal.

A church without a focus is like a ship without a rudder. It either goes in circles or is blown in different directions, not by the wind, but the whim of the strongest personality lobbying for their cause.

Rick Warren in his The Purpose Driven Church writes:

As a pastor I have learned that everybody has their own agenda for the church. People are always saying, ‘The church ought to do this,’ or ‘The church ought to do that.’ Many of these suggestions are noble activities but that is not the real issue. The filter must always be: does this activity fulfill the purpose for which God established this church? If the activity meets that criterion then you must at least consider it. If it doesn’t pass the test, you must not let it distract you from God’s agenda for the church. 1

Thankfully that year in ministry was long ago and fortunately, we have a focus at CrossPointe: TO SHARE GOD’S GRACE WITH OUR COMMUNITY.

So when our leaders meet to discuss ministry ideas, all the ideas that come to the table are filtered through the lens of our purpose. Does this idea help us accomplish our purpose of sharing God’s grace with the people of this community who need to hear it? And if it does, we’ll consider it. And if it does not, well that might be a great idea for another church but not CrossPointe. We don’t have the luxury of having unlimited people and/or monetary resources, and we desire to use what we have effectively to accomplish our purpose.

In I Corinthians 1:10 Paul counsels, “Be of one mind, united in thought and PURPOSE.”

Our purpose is to SHARE GOD’S GRACE WITH OUR COMMUNITY, with those persons who live within our sphere of influence who need to hear and embrace the good news of Jesus. I love our purpose because it is Biblical, reflecting the last words of our Commanding Officer after His resurrection to go into all the world and make disciples, to preach the good news, to be witnesses to His grace.

I love our purpose because rather than serve us, it serves the needs of others. William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury, from 1942 to 1944 said, “The Church is the only institution that exists for those who are not yet its members.” 2

Years ago, the Salvation Army was holding an international convention in St. Louis. Their founder, Gen. William Booth, could not make the journey across the Atlantic to attend because he was ill. When it became apparent that he was not going to be able to make it he was asked to send a cable with a message they could read at the convention.

All the soldiers in the Salvation Army loved and respected General Booth and waited with bated breath as the chairman stepped to the podium and opened the cable to read it. He hesitated as he scanned that piece of paper and then said, “Ladies and gentlemen, our founder has seen fit to send us just one word, but oh what a word it is: “OTHERS.” 3

Prescription for health: Unity fueled by participation focused on a grand purpose!

I have some high hopes for CrossPointe church that flow from today’s text!

I have high hopes to continue our efforts with renewed vigor to train disciples of Christ; to offer Bible study opportunities that will not only increase our knowledge of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but will also assist us in becoming more (as Paul says it in Ephesians) “humble and gentle and patient and forgiving” (4:2) “growing in every way more and more like Christ” (4:15).

At the same time I have high hopes that we will celebrate our diversity by discovering the wonder of how our individual distinctiveness can work together to achieve unity of purpose. For as Paul says, “God makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (16).

Similarly, I have high hopes that we also celebrate our unity in Christ by focusing with laser like intensity on our purpose of sharing God’s grace with our community.

In that regard, I have high hopes that we will continue to evolve into the kind of church where the lost sheep of our community without a shepherd will find acceptance, compassion, encouragement, forgiveness, guidance and love.

In other words I have high hopes that as a result of our combined efforts CrossPointe Community Church will continue to be a beacon of light shining the good news of the gospel of Christ for people who still are living in darkness!

1 Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven Church. [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995], pages 87-88.

2 http://www.sermonillustrations.com/ under the heading ‘church’

3 Ibid. under the heading ‘service’