There is only one kind of Christian life.
Every Christian shares the same calling as every other Christian because we all share one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Eph 4.1-6). God calls each of us into a particular sort of life — the Trinitarian life of humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, unity, and peace.
In a word, the Trinitarian life of love.
A life of holy community wherein each Christ-bought member is equally honorable, valuable, and worthy. And yet each member of the community serves the honor and glory of the others (Phil 2.1-11). Each member equally important while considering everyone else more important than themselves. A community where each person saves their own life by losing it for and to others. It’s an impossibly beautiful community except for a Trinitarian God.
There is only one kind of Christian calling because there is only one kind of Christian God who creates only kind of people for, or better yet like, himself. As the Body of Christ, the church is the fullness of the imago Dei. She is the fullness of Christ (Eph 1.23) in the way Christ is the fullness of God (Col 1.19). Incarnation.
It is for the purposes of this Trinitarian community that God has given “each one of us grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph 4.7). Whatever gift God has given each of us is not ultimately for our personal fulfillment or development. It is primarily and ultimately to serve the one calling we all share.
We all have a cross to bear, but it’s the same cross. Christ’s cross weighted with the Father’s holiness and Spirit’s power.
The “work of service” (Eph 4.12) for which our leaders equip us isn’t nursery duty, kitchen clean-up, choir membership, parking lot attending, or youth group chaperone. None of us is “called” to those ministries. Each of us stands ready to help in those areas when needed.
The work of service (διακονίας) for which we’re equipped is “the building up of the body of Christ,” the Trinitarian community (Eph 4.11-12). That’s you’re calling. That’s my calling.
Every Christian shares the responsibility to build up the body of Christ. The life to which God calls and for which God equips every saint is one devoted to congregational unity and maturity (v13). God calls each Christian to help the church grow up into Christlikeness (v15), or mature into Trinitarian love:
“…but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph 4.15-16).
God fits every “joint” and “individual part” together so that they “cause the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (v16). The church isn’t a playground for my gifts. It’s not a sandbox for my sanctified leisure. It’s not the arena for my personal development. It is the Trinitarian community into which I’ve been called so we can all know love as Jesus himself knows love (Jn 17.22-26).
Maybe we’ve assumed “work of service” is gospel busyness. That the church is fundamentally a doing community with as many people doing as many things as possible. We plead, we beg, we equip, we cajole, we bless. Pastors attend leadership conferences to get more people rowing the boat.
Before long I get bored and restless when the church isn’t busy enough (especially about my interests). I assume the church isn’t doing anything. And my actual calling to congregational maturity isn’t enough to hold my interest. I need more to do!
But the church isn’t fundamentally a doing community wherein more people need more equipping to do more things. Perhaps churches feel thinly spread because we’ve been spreading the wrong message. We’ve confused busyness with building. We can love busyness without being busy about love.
Jesus never creates busy work. The church is first and foremost a loving community wherein we help one another enjoy Trinitarian love. She is a community forged by a common Spirit. We’re not responsible to keep the church busy. We are called to help one another toward humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, unity, and peace. Concerning ourselves with each other’s gospel maturity will keep us busy enough!
It’s easy to know what any given person does in your church. But we’re called to know how we’re becoming the church. How are we promoting and contributing to congregational maturity and love?
From one weak joint to another, I desperately need your help to know God’s love. Let’s grab a toilet brush and take out the trash. But once we’re done helping the church building, let’s get back to our true and shared calling — building the church.
Elect from ev’ry nation,
yet one o’er all the earth,
her charter of salvation
one Lord, one faith, one birth;
one holy name she blesses,
partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses,
with ev’ry grace endued.