Formations lesson for June 24: The Diverse Giftedness for Missions
June 8 2001 by F. Calvin Parker , Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13

Formations lesson for June 24: The Diverse Giftedness for Missions | Friday, June 8, 2001

Friday, June 8, 2001

Formations lesson for June 24: The Diverse Giftedness for Missions

By F. Calvin Parker Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13 During his first furlough as a missionary, E. Luther Copeland was invited to speak at the Sunday morning service of a small-town church. The pastor, when introducing the missionary speaker, turned to him and said, "Luther, I envy you your calling. It is a higher calling than mine. It is the highest calling there is." Copeland was not surprised to hear these sentiments expressed. "The necessity of arousing missionary interest and support," he wrote, "plus the obvious fact of missionary heroism and hardship, made the elevation of the missionary calling almost inevitable." But he urged a return to the biblical view: "The highest calling known to the New Testament is the Christian calling." It is the divine summons to follow Christ as Lord.

Unity and peace (Eph. 4:1-7) Paul urges us to lead a life worthy of this calling. Such a life is characterized by humility, gentleness, patience and love. These virtues are essential for maintaining spiritual unity, the unity which the Holy Spirit creates in the church. Since Christian unity has been breached and shattered repeatedly for 2,000 years, there doesn't seem to be much of it left for us to maintain. The denominations go their separate ways, and we Baptists, like numerous other groups, seem to be fragmented beyond repair. Even local churches are too often split into factions. But the Christian calling requires us to guard what unity is left and strive for what is lacking.

Paul speaks of seven unities that undergird the church. They fall into three groups; each associated with one of the three Persons of the Godhead. The one body, the church, derives from one Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and moves toward the one goal of hope. The one Lord, Jesus Christ, is the object of the one faith, which is expressed in the one baptism. The one God and Father is the supreme source of unity. As believers in this Triune God, we are challenged to fulfill Christ's prayer "that they may be one, as we are one" (John 17:22).

Diverse gifts and functions (Eph. 4:11-13) To help us achieve this unity, God has given us a variety of gifts and assigned us different functions. Paul names several types of church leaders, each gifted for a particular ministry. It is not entirely clear whether "pastors and teachers" should be understood as two offices and functions or as one. The Greek may be rendered "pastor-teacher." Suffice it to say that pastors need to teach and teachers ought to show a pastoral concern for their pupils. We who are Sunday School teachers are among the leaders who equip the saints for ministry. We help them attain maturity in Christ as we reach for it ourselves. Not only pastors and teachers, but all Christians should use their individual gifts in the service of Christian unity.

One of the greatest religious events of the past half-century was the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), which opened a new era in Roman Catholic-Protestant relations. I saw Catholic missionaries who had always kept to themselves suddenly become friendly with their Protestant counterparts. For the first time I was invited to receive Catholic communion, asked to write for a Catholic journal and hugged by a Catholic nun.

In this new climate I gained a host of precious friends. One was Victor Schneider, or Father Bernadin Schneider, who belonged to the Order of Friars Minor. "Call me Bernie," he said. The slender Franciscan grew up in Kentucky as the oldest of eleven children, seven of them boys. All seven were Eagle Scouts - perhaps a record for one family in scouting. Bernie studied in Rome, earned his doctorate in Jerusalem and became a leading Bible translator. He helped produce the joint Protestant-Catholic version of the Bible used in many Japanese Baptist churches. My life would have been much poorer without Bernie and others of various denominations with whom I met regularly for fellowship and study.

Church unity is not uniformity. It is diversity within the faith that acknowledges Jesus Christ as Lord. It is an inclusive partnership in the sharing of His message in word and deed.

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6/8/2001 12:00:00 AM by F. Calvin Parker , Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13 | with 0 comments
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