Women’s Fellowship Annual Address 2011

Women’s Ministry In Christ’s Strength for the Church

Thank you for allowing me to come and share with you this afternoon. As Paul reminds us in Romans 1, we are mutually blessed by each other, and as I’ve been so blessed and strengthened and encouraged by so many of you, I hope that what we look at today from God’s Word will be a blessing you and our Women’s Fellowship as well.

At our last meeting, it was suggested that I speak a bit about how Women’s Fellowship fits into the overall ministry of the church, its role, etc. As I prayerfully reflected on this concept, I thought it might be best for us to first remind ourselves about what Jesus’ ministry, how His ministry instructs the Church’s ministry, and then lastly how our Women’s Fellowship and you as women in our congregation might live and serve for His glory from these truths. When we do that, I think we see that Christ is really our strength and our life for empowering all of our ministry in His Church.

Jesus’ Ministry
Well let’s start then by first reminding ourselves about the distinctives of Jesus’ ministry for what He was sent to do by the Father. You know, I’m working with our 9th grade catechism students, and this year it just happens that all of them are girls, and their mentors are moms and women here at the church. So I’m the only guy in there! And there are times when I think I’m going to have to leave the class; too much estrogen! But one of the things these girls have been struck by time and time again as we’ve worked through the Gospel of Luke is how Jesus’s actions are so completely against what the world expects, but also so contrary to what “good,” religious people expect as well.

For example, Jesus’ puts the priority of His ministry on teaching and preaching rather than on miracles.

Luke 4:42-43 he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

We can understand why the people were so desperate to keep Jesus around; the previous context shows Jesus performing miracles at every turn: healings, restoring health, and casting out demons. We would think that this is the good life, to be rid of the evils of living in a fallen world, but Jesus has his sights set on proclaiming the Good News.

We can see a similarly surprising aspect of Christ’s ministry in serving others vs being served. We would think that, if anyone deserved to be served and pampered, it would be the Son of God who comes as King of Kings. But again, that wasn’t Jesus’ attitude.

Mark 10:42-45 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave1 of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Our default setting is to think that we should serve God, but the amazing thing is that God wants to serve us!

Lastly, Jesus shows us just how counter-intuitive His ministry is by how He constantly chooses suffering now for glory later. Before Aidan was born, my wife and I were at the birthing classes in the hospital, and they polled the moms as to when they wanted an epidural. I know many of you had all of your children without any help from modern medicine, and there were a lot of moms in that class who would have taken the epidural before they even left for the hospital! But Jesus embraced suffering, and his harshest rebukes were for those who looked for glory without suffering.

Matthew 16:21-26 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord!1 This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance1 to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?

Peter was displaying a theology of glory, which we are all prone to, but Jesus kept his eyes fixed on Jerusalem because of His theology of the cross. As Philippians 1:29 reminds us, Jesus embraced suffering en route to glory, and if we are His true disciples, so shall we.

Church’s Ministry
Jesus’ ministry turned the social norm on its head by embracing ordinary teaching/preaching instead of flashy miracles, service instead of indulgence, and suffering for glory. But this isn’t only for Christ’s ministry, it is directly connected to the Church as well. Some have lamented the ministry of the church; in fact, one theologian once noted “Jesus came preaching a Kingdom and all He left us was this church.”[1] But the Church wasn’t an accidental by-product of Christ’s work; rather, it is His work that He promised to use to fulfill His own ministry on earth.

For example, after Peter acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah of God, He said, “and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19). The Church is the institution and organism that Christ Himself is building indestructible.

But Jesus also determines the Church’s mission:

John 20:20-23 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”

So there is a direct connection between Jesus’ ministry and the Church’s. As the Father sent Jesus into the world, so now Jesus sends us on His mission.

Now, it wouldn’t make much sense if a leader abandoned his people at a crucial moment, but that is exactly what Jesus seems to do. You remember that after the resurrection, Jesus remained with the disciples only a few weeks before His ascension (Acts 1). The world looks at this and thinks, “What terrible leadership! He abandons them just when He’s getting some momentum going!” But that isn’t how Jesus saw it:

John 16:7, 13 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you… When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

It is as if Jesus is the 5 Star General, He’s left the front lines to return to HQ where He can marshal and govern the troops from the vantage point of the Father’s right hand. And the way the risen Savior communicates with His soldiers is through the Spirit as the Spirit speaks to us through the Word.

But He’s also left us field officers in our spiritual battle.

Ephesians 4:11-12, 15 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, for equipping the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ

We follow our ordained servants (including elders and deacons; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1) as Christ leads us forward in a triumphant victory of love.

So if Jesus’ ministry is continued in the Church’s ministry, what does that look like for our congregation? You remember that on Pentecost, Peter preached a sermon and three thousand were saved (the envy of every preacher thereafter!). Look how this new congregation conducted themselves:

Acts 2:42-47 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe1 came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

This is a picture of a congregation firing on all cylinders. They aren’t starting coffee shops or art galleries; they aren’t necessarily stopping the various social evils that plagued their society, but they are being faithful to the characteristics and marks of the Church.

So then what might this say to our Women’s Fellowship here at Zion?

Part 2 coming next week…
Here’s part 2!
____________________________
Notes
[1] Apparently Alfred Loisy actually said “Jesus came preaching the Kingdom, and what arrived was the Church” (“Jésus annonçait le Royaume et c’est l’Église qui est venue”: Loisy 1902).

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