Last Sunday Benny preached on 1 Corinthians 3: 1-15 and 4:5. It’s the section that talks about those who followed Paul or Apollos, both of whom God used to plant and water — but “only God gives the growth.”
His point was that God uses ordinary people to make an inordinate (“disproportionately large” according to the dictionary) difference. While human effort is needed and valuable, only God can make something grow.
This was a timely word of encouragement for our new church. Those of you who have frequented my blog since it started this past January know that we started Redeemer Church that month. It’s hard to believe that was over 9 months ago!
A lot has happened since then. God has brought new friends to us; some have stayed to join with us while others haven’t. People are serving heroically each week — unloading sound equipment, chairs and children’s ministry supplies from a truck and quickly making a martial arts studio into a place of worship. And weekly small groups that started meeting just months ago are experiencing depths of biblical fellowship and mutual care that are an answer to our prayers for Him to build a community of grace among us.
Last night we tidied our home (where one of our Community Groups meet) and left to take our 18-year-old daughter out for her birthday. When we came home some of the group members were still munching on snacks. One of the ladies approached me with a hug and said, “This was a really good meeting.”
That could have meant many things. But what I later learned is that the recipient of the care, ministry, compassion, counsel and prayer that night was my oldest son: the group leader…and some of the most meaningful ministry came from his former employee, Tony.
You see, Tony left employment with Josh on not-so-good terms. Both men made mistakes and asked to get with their pastor to work it through. Benny wasn’t needed. They got together, asked forgiveness of one another, then resumed their loving friendship.
That’s the gospel at work in the lives of flawed and broken men who love truth.
The outworking of the gospel in their lives was that last night Josh was hurting. As the group leader, he humbled himself and admitted his need for help and care. And his former employee was there to respond with his own humble and gracious response. This group is learning that leaders are also weak and needy, and that every member of the group is a vessel through whom God can demonstrate His compassion and love.
At Redeemer Church we’re learning that God really does use ordinary people to do some pretty amazing things. Even bosses and employees who don’t handle their relationship well and end up parting ways professionally can forgive one another and extend grace during times of need.
Only God can do that.
Benny encouraged us on Sunday that what we’re doing as a young church is “not about our effectiveness to package the truth but our faithfulness to preach it.” I’m grateful that while we were out celebrating with our daughter, a group of folks were meeting at our house faithfully preaching the hope of the gospel to my son.
What joy to watch God doing His work. He’s causing our new church to grow — not primarily in numbers but in image-bearing, gospel-saturated love. He is answering our prayers to become a community of grace where really ordinary people are being used by God to do inordinate stuff.