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God's Plan in the Service
By H.G. Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

The idea of having preparation classes for the servants is Biblical. We read in Ephesians "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph 4:11-12).

The churchís role is to change the non-believer to a believer, the believer into a saint, and a saint into a servant. Servants should be chosen from among the saints.

What is the difference between the believer and the saint?
The saint is a spiritually mature believer. Servants must be spiritually mature.
Saints who are to be servants become equipped by:
1)Teaching them through sermons and lectures
2)Teaching them through example
3)Participating in the service under direct supervision
4)Participating in the service under indirect supervision
5)Spiritual Retreats to help them growing more in the spiritual life

The church has three main missions:
1)Ministry of the lost sheep
2)Spiritual care

People in the world are either believers or non-believers.
There are two kinds of believers:
1)Active: those who are inside the church
2)Non-active: those who are outside the church

Those inside the church need spiritual care to grow in their spiritual life with the Lord Jesus Christ and to prevent them from going astray
For those outside the church, the mission of the church is to bring them back to the church then start with them the ministry of healing
For the non-believers, the church should evangelize to them through missionary work to be converted into believers.

The plan of God in the ministry is to build His church to edify the Body of Christ. God gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
Each one of us has received a gift to use in the ministry. This gift could be
A gift of encouraging other
Praying for others
Teaching etc.

Every gift is needed in the body of Christ. St. Paul talked about five gifts in the church of Christ. These five categories or gifts are used for the three missions of the church:
1) Apostles (actual meaning) - the condition to be an apostle is to be an eyewitness to the Lord (Acts 1:21). St. Paul is called an Apostle because our Lord Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus (1 Cor 9:1).
2)Prophets - the ones who carry the message of God to the people
    The work of the prophet is different from the work of the priest who takes the request of the people and offers them to God.
     In the Old Testament, God spoke to the people through mediators, which were the prophets because of the enmity between God and man (Heb 1:1).
     After the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ there are no prophets (in the actual meaning of the word) because God is speaking to us by His Son (Heb 1:2).
The apostles and the prophets’ role in the first century was to establish the church on the foundation of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:20).
3)The Evangelists - those who carry the good news of the gospel to everyone in the world.
God gave some to be evangelists to fulfill the mission of the church to be evangelical. If the church is not evangelizing there is something missing in it because evangelism should be one third of the church's ministry. Everyone of us could be an evangelist in charge of preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the whole world (Mark 16:15).
4)Pastors Ė are the shepherds who nurture their flock. Their ministry is devoted to the spiritual care of the flock and to bring back the lost sheep. In (Ezek 34:4) we read about five categories of the Lost Sheep, (the weak, the sick, the broken, the strayed, and the lost).
5)Teachers - to keep the doctrine true and sound, in order to edify and build the church of God in sound faith (1 Tim 3:15) and to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
Many people are evangelizing bringing lost sheep and taking care of their people but if they do not have the right doctrine they are not true teachers, they are not building the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Church of God (Eph 4:13-16)
St. Paul gave us six characteristics of the church of God. As servants we should put these six characteristics in front of us to examine ourselves, are we building the right church?
These characteristics are:
1)The unity of faith
2)Knowledge of the Son of God
3)Spiritual maturity/full growth
5)Balance between truth and love
6)Organic cooperation (e.g. the body) vs. mechanical cooperation (e.g., the car)

1) The unity of faith (Ephesians 4:13)
   Church must have the right foundation, the sound teachings, and the sound doctrines with the same mind; the mind of the Lord Jesus Christ.
   If the members of the church have different doctrines and beliefs, then the church lost the unity of faith and cannot be called a church.
    Can we call the non-denominationalists, who accept people from different denominations with different beliefs and dogmas, a church? Or it is the denomination of the non-denominational.
2) Knowledge of the Son of God (Ephesians 4:13)
   To be one with Christ is the knowledge of Him
   We need to understand our relationship with the Holy Trinity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
   In order to inherit the kingdom of God we have to be the Fatherís children. The Father has only One Son, Jesus Christ. So in order to be His children, we have to be one with the Only Begotten Son (the Knowledge of the Son of God).
   We can be one with the Son through the action of the Holy Spirit who is working in the church and uniting us with the Son.
   "We are children of God the Father, in His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ, through the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church and the Sacraments"
3) Spiritual Maturity- to be perfect (Ephesians 4:13)
   If you are one with Christ you need to be Christ-like
   We are created in Godís image having the free will, the thinking, and the virtue of discernment.
   God let us grow to be Christ-like when in the fullness of time we will have the likeness of Christ.
4) Stable: Stability about the doctrine (Ephesians 4:14)
   Those who move back and forth from one denomination to another are unstable. The members of the Church of God are stable and confirmed in the Orthodox Faith.
5) Balance between truth and love (Ephesians 4:15)
   Truth without love is brutality and cruelty
   Love without truth is hypocrisy
   The truth is not your own personal opinion
   The truth is the truth of the Gospel. The Lord Jesus Christ said, "I am the truth" (John 14:6).
   Speaking the truth should be done in a loving spirit.
6) The Organic Cooperation (Ephesians 4:16)
   Every memberís growth and survival depend on their unity in the body. Organic cooperation means a member that cannot function on its own. I cannot have a relationship with God if I am not in one body with the church.

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