EPHESIANS 4: The Greatest Cause on Earth (1:18-23)

This is a timely repost from 2011 when MainStreet was just getting launched. It was during a local election season where people were passionately campaigning for and against a school referendum. You sense my urgency and deep burden for this community.  -JB

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Eph. 1:18-23)

We’re moving closer and closer to another general election season. As I write this, our community is in heated debate over the school referendum vote only a couple days away. I’m amazed to see the passion people have toward both national and local political parties and their agendas.

The local paper is glad to fill their pages with impassioned letters to the editor, urging citizens to make their vote count, and stand up for what’s best for our community and schools. There are signs in every yard as I drive through town. People are glad to go door to door, leaving a pamphlets and doorknob hangers. Thousands of dollars are spent on mass mailings.  Websites are created to champion their agenda, and chain emails are spread widely. Rhetorically savvy YouTube videos are circulated to rally support.

The bottom line is this: people care and are committed to championing their cause — especially when their kids’ education and/or property taxes are at stake!

I’m grateful to live in a democratic state. I encourage people to exercise their civic right and go vote. But as a Christian trying to “seek first the Kingdom” and a church planting pastor trying to rally a community around a far greater cause than a school levy, I keep asking myself the question: What if we were as passionate about pushing God’s agenda forward in our community as we are about passing a referendum vote or electing our favorite school board candidate?  

  • What if Christians were so passionate about the gospel message that we created special websites, spent thousands of dollars on tv ads and mailings, sent mass email appeals and and made Christ’s cause known through YouTube testimonials, etc?
  • What if we organized special rallies and found more creative ways to spread our message across our local network?
  • What if the local newspaper was flooded weekly with letters to the editor from Christians urging fellow citizens to get more involved in their local church, to love their neighbors more selflessly, to join a local mission project, or give more generously to the food shelf and other charities?
  • What if we were just as willing to fill our lawns with signs and banners promoting Jesus Christ and his message and cause as we are willing to put up a political candidate?
  • What if we had the same commitment to go door to door telling people about our Savior as those representatives going door to door sharing about their candidate?
  • What if we were just as committed to getting our neighbors to worship on Easter as others are about getting their neighbors to the polls on election day?
In this passage above, the Apostle Paul is making an explosive claim. He says that the church (both local churches and God’s global family of believers) is God’s chosen instrument through whom Christ is carrying forward his Kingdom work in the world.  Local churches are quite literally the hands and feet of Christ — his Body.

God’s healing, restoring, saving, transforming agenda in our world, our communities, our schools, our neighborhoods is, to a large degree, dependent upon whether or not Christians are faithful to the task they’ve been given. In Barclay’s words:

The Church is quite literally hands to do Christ’s work, feet to run upon his errands, a voice to speak his words. . . . Just a the ideas of the mind cannot become effective without the work of the body, the tremendous glory which Christ brought to this world cannot be made effective without the work of the Church.

What’s our role?  Again, Paul says something so mind-blowingly outrageous that it should cause us to simultaneously drop to our knees in humble disbelief, while also igniting a fire in our bellies so hot that we’ll never grow cold in our passion to pursue this high call. Are you ready for this? Paul says that the church is to be the place, the domain, the sphere of activity and influence through whom Christ is filling every corner of this broken world with his restoring, saving presence. Again, Barclay:

Jesus is bit by bit filling all things in all places; and that filling is being worked out by the Church. This is one of the most tremendous thoughts in all Christianity. It means nothing less than that God’s plan for one world is in the hands of the Church.

Thus, it should be abundantly clear that all other human organizations, political causes, civic institutions and school board decisions all pale in importance and ultimate impact compared to the divine task the church has been given in the world.  (This should not be a controversial statement among believers, but, sadly, it probably is.)

The church’s grand purpose is far greater than any human political cause. Governments rise and fall, but the church is the sphere of God’s eternal kingdom that will someday be all in all.

A church’s long-term community impact should far outweigh any school board decision or referendum. Repairing leaky roofs is important in the short-term, but nothing compared to impacting lives for eternity.

But again I ask: What if people in the community were just as passionate about furthering God’s agenda via the church as they are about this referendum?

This is not a hypothetical question for me.  Over a year ago, Keri and I, much like grassroots activists for Jesus, began sharing the vision of MainStreet Covenant Church with everyone we know in Mound. We began inviting people in the Westonka community help launch the first new church in Mound proper since 1948, a church committed to transforming this town from the inside out, a church with fresh vision and commitment to especially reach the next generation.

We’ve held multiple rallies at the high school. We’ve posted signs and banners around town. We’ve built a website casting our full vision. We’ve produced over three dozen unique YouTube videos for MainStreet, and plastered them all over Facebook. We’ve submitted articles for the local paper. We’ve held dinner after dinner with local contacts. We’ve networked with other local churches, business and organizations. We’ve raised $150,000 in start-up funds, found a partner church across the lake, and gathered a supportive core team of ministry leaders and volunteers.

We’ve sought creative ways to bless and serve our community. We’ve ministered to local teens, started a college ministry and launched LifeGroups in various homes in the community. All of this in an attempt to invite people in this community to be part of the most powerful force on earth — a new, vibrant, healthy local church-in-the-making. It’s exciting.  Much progress has been made. Momentum is building and a combined 270 people attended our first two monthly services.

But many days I feel like a lone voice crying out in the wilderness, and nobody is listening. The average person just doesn’t see the same church Paul describes here.  They can only see the old building with a steeple on the corner.  They don’t see the need for a new church. They don’t see the need for a renewed church. The eyes of many hearts are still closed to the majestic tasks set before the church.

Perhaps Paul felt the same way, and that’s why I detect a sense of urgency in his words that begin this section.  He prays passionately that these believers’ hearts would be enlightened, that they would wake up to realize the full weight of their blessings and responsibilities in Christ. The church is God’s only plan for accomplishing His remaining work on earth. There is no plan B. So, Paul writes:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead.

Similarly, I believe the church today can go through the motions and never grasp the hope, the riches, the glorious inheritance, and the great power God longs to give to us to accomplish His work in our lives and in our world.  So long as we don’t fully grasp the full potential of the church in the world, we’ll always find lesser causes to champion — as important as those may also be.

So, again, let’s celebrate the freedoms we share in this great nation by going to the poll, letting our voices be heard, participating in local government, and other civic institutions. Let’s give our kids the best education we can, and maintain our school facilities. Yes, all of this and more.

But let us who claim to follow Christ, those who are called to be His Body on earth, NEVER let these other causes distract us from our primary call: to be the church, “which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Eph. 1:23).

After you’ve gone to the polls this Tuesday, I hope you’ll find a local church this Sunday and go worship and get involved with God’s Kingdom work being carried out there.  If you’re looking for a new church, we hope you will check out MainStreet!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Dave Abernethy says:

    Our souls are one here, my friend. I say that as a person with a couple of referendum signs in my front yard. Let’s vote today, but everyday – every minute of every day – let’s celebrate, demonstrate, and communicate the good news of Jesus Christ among all people. All prayer, praise – and strategic, grassroots, missional effort – toward our King. You’re not alone, brother. Keep preaching!

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