On Saturday, January 12, 2013, we will have a Leadership Retreat for all of the leaders in our church (staff, team leaders, team members, Sunday School teachers—anyone in a leadership position or serving on any team). My desire is to go through a book by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester called Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community.
At the beginning of one of the chapters, they bring up a case study of a young lady who brings a significant issue to their attention. She told them she was a perpetual self-harmer and even in her 20s it was an established pattern—she even showed them the scars on her arm. How does one deal with this issue as a follower of Christ? One man who listened to this ended up taking some time trying to process why someone would do such a thing? In this, he felt repulsed and protective of her all at the same time. The wife went over to put her arm around her, while he began to pray quietly.
The point of this scenario was to present to us as believers and belongers to a local church, and to explore what the next steps should be.
One scenario is to say that he was not equipped to deal with the problem, since they had no training in the matter. Finding a professional psychologist would be the best—they would even go to the appointment and support as much as possible.
Another scenario would be the following: to admit to being overwhelmed by her story and to admit as well the inadequacy felt. Yet, he is convinced that the best place for this to be worked out is in the church! She could be surrounded by people who love her, who are going through their own struggles, but who could sit under and submit to the power and sufficiency of God’s Word. Then (I love how this is put), “He knows it is not going to be easy. There is no magic wand to wave. But there seems to be no better place to start than with the Word of God skillfully applied by the Spirit of God among the people of God.”
This morning, during our third part of our Visioneering series, we once again revisit our mission statement:
Arapahoe Road Baptist Church exists to worship God; evangelize our family, city, state, nation and world; disciple God’s people, minister to the physical and spiritual needs of others; and fellowship with one another.
And so we explore this aspect. In looking to how to put feet to this, we need to understand that the word ‘minister’ is the word from which we get deacon (diakonia). In Acts 6, there were those who served the people spiritually (the apostles and pastors) and others who served the physical needs (deacons). But in this area, we are all as believers called to minister the gospel in spiritual and physical ways.
It is here that I wish for us to turn to Galatians 6:1-4.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load (Galatians 6:1-4, ESV).
Don Whitney rightly says that there is a hurt in every heart. And those who occupy the pews and the roles of our churches are no different! The key verse is found in Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” What burdens? Verse 1 refers to “transgressions,” and that spiritual believers should aim to gently and carefully restore them. The burden of one’s sin is a terrible burden. In Psalm 38:1-4, we read:
O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
Nor discipline me in your wrath!
For your arrows have sunk into me,
And your hand has come down on me.
There is no soundness in my flesh
Because of your indignation;
There is no health in my bones
Because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
Like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
Our sin affects us more than we recognize—and this is why we sit under the Word, so we would recognize our Savior and thus our sin. We may wonder why our hearts are so heavy, why we struggle. Could there be lingering sin that has yet to be dealt with? We are called to bear one another’s burdens “to fulfill the law of Christ.” What is the law of Christ? “They will know you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:34). Loving our brothers and sisters in Christ does not simply entail a sentimental love—it is about rolling up our sleeves and investing and getting involved in their journey!
At this point, let’s take a look at the types of burdens we are to help bear. These burdens found in us are not comprehensive—but they are the type of burdens and sins with which many Christians struggle. Maybe this is a burden with which you struggle.
Bear one another’s burdens. What types of burdens are we talking about?
Before we talk about others, let’s talk about ourselves as believers for a moment! We know from Scripture that God has supplied each of us with gifts. Ephesians 4:11-12 says that he has given the church the gifted leaders to “equip us to do the work of the ministry” so we will all grow toward maturity and unity!
In Romans 12:3-8, we see another truth come to the fore:
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
These gifts we are given are intended to build up the body of Christ, and can all be boiled down into either speaking gifts or serving gifts. And the body needs everyone functioning as God created it so that the rest of the body can move forward!
After the men’s conference yesterday, I went in the backyard of the youth house and started throwing football with Steven and Mark Horton! Had a great time—until I went to get a thrown ball in my tractionless dress shoes. That little slip affected things just enough to where the ball jammed my thumb. I was done! Put some ice on it, wrapped it up. But you don’t realize how much you need your thumb until it’s injured. Buttons, opening a bottle, tying shoes, writing—it doesn’t go smoothly. Other parts of the body have to compensate until the injured part is healed.
This, friend, is ministry! Equipping and encouraging the saints to unity and maturity! We rejoice in the victories and as they grow in maturity, but we also come along to bear one another’s burdens! And do we ever have sinful burdens that we deal with! Ever We rejoice in the victories and as they grow in maturity, but we also come along to bear one another’s burdens! And do we ever have sinful burdens that we deal with! Every burden we have is an issue of worship—do we worship ourselves and our desires, or will we worship Christ who rescued us from the penalty of those desires?
Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 127-28.