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Discipleship is a Team Sport

Discipling is a team sport. Being a Christian is not primarily an individualistic thing. Just as you would never try to win a soccer match or a football game by yourself, ultimately being built up into the likeness of Christ is not something you can do by yourself. Of course you need God the Father to work in you by the Spirit applying the work of Christ to you. However, He has chosen to use other Christians in your life and to use you in their lives to accomplish that work. We see that in Ephesians 4:15–16:

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”Ephesians 4:15–16 (ESV)

Each follower of Christ is meant to be part of a local church body where he or she has a vital function in the building up of the other followers of Christ in that body. Just as none of my organs or body parts could survive on their own and I could not flourish and grow physically without my body working together, each of us as Christ followers can only flourish and grow in Christ as we minister to one another. That is what we see in Ephesians 4:12–16, and especially here in verse 16. Each part needs to work properly, connected to Christ, the Head, and building up others by working properly.

What does this proper working look like? It looks like each of us speaking the truth of Christ to each other from His Word. It looks like each of us living the truth of Christ together, seeking to put off sin, renew our minds and put on Christlikeness. It looks like each of us serving each other in the power that Christ provides.

Where does this ministry happen? It happens in God’s design as we gather together on Sunday morning. God has ordained that the church, the assembly, would gather together each week. The tradition and practice of the church has been to gather on Sunday morning because of the wonderful reality that Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday morning. The most important thing is not the exact time we gather, however. Your church could meet on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. The important thing is that you gather together with your church family when they meet.

Each of us as Christ followers can only flourish and grow in Christ as we minister to one another.Nathan Thiry

Where else can we sing to each other as Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 tell us to do? Where else can we hear the Word preached to us by our elders whom God has entrusted to shepherd us? Where else can you take the Lord’s Supper with the others who are part of the one body that the bread symbolizes? Where else can you use your gifts, give your gifts, and receive the blessing of the gifts of others with whom you have covenanted in membership? God uses the Sunday gathering of the local church in a unique way to facilitate our ministry to one another. Even our gatherings in smaller groups throughout the week, be they formal or informal, flow out of that Sunday gathering and are shaped by it.

Some of you have been absent from the Sunday gathering for a long time because of different factors related to COVID-19. Much discussion could happen regarding the legitimacy of that absence, but that is not the purpose of this article. I do want to say, regardless of why you have been absent, that your church family needs you to be present, and you need to be present with your church family. We need to gather to minister to one another. That gathering may be more or less pleasant, it may be more or less safe, but the need to be the family of God, the church, the body of Christ together is an even greater need. Online church and Zoom meetings may be better than nothing, but we need to gather together physically in order to fulfill what God has called us to be and do together!

The Goal

Another implication of the reality of how Christianity is a “team sport” is that your individual, personal spiritual disciplines are not the ultimate goal. Your best fellowship with God, your most meaningful times in the Word or in prayer, may not happen as you spend time by yourself. In fact, God’s design is that when we read and hear the Word of God together He ministers to us powerfully. When we discuss His Word together and pray in response to His Word or about our burdens, He ministers to us powerfully. You may have wonderful times with God one on one, and that is something to be thankful for and to pursue. However, His main design and main tool for our growth is that we would hear His Word together and then think about it and meditate on it day and night. Your time reading the Word with your brother or sister in Christ, with your family, with your roommates, with your growth group and especially with the church gathered on Sunday morning is meant to nourish your soul and theirs in a rich way.

God uses the Sunday gathering of the local church in a unique way to facilitate our ministry to one another.Nathan Thiry

So, how are you doing with “working properly,” building up the body of Christ through being at the Sunday gathering? Your very presence and participation is a powerful ministry to others. How are you doing with “working properly” at all aspects of your Christian life by partnering together with your brothers and sisters? How can you be more involved in someone else’s life today and allow them to be more involved in your life? Is there someone you want to start meeting together with, or maybe even a small group of people? Is there a way you want to be more intentional in your involvement with people in your growth group or Bible study group? God has made us the body of Christ, and He is working mightily to transform us into the image of Christ through our “one-another ministry”. You are a minister of Christ!