As I spend more time in ministry, I have realized how easy it is to look at and get lost in the immediate details of the work I've been given. Numbers or lack thereof, unity or disunity, growth or change–its easy to be occupied with the day-to-day, rather than the eternal. I confess that at times "numbers" seem like my purpose. I often fall into the trap of seeing the church as a tool by which those proverbial figures can be attained, and then I'm discouraged when I don't see growth. And even more, it is painfully easy to lose sight of the global Church's fantastic, ceaseless, and communal service to one God.
These things are prevalent tendencies because I am sinful and because Satan is best suited when disrupting my views about how good things should be used and honored in a God glorifying manner. The primary role of ministry is not to build up numbers, baptisms, or events. It is to share the Gospel, to seek and save the lost. That is our mission, our goal, and our plea to God in ministry. But God has convicted me of a fourth reason through the reading of Paul's letter to the Ephesians.
"To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places." Ephesians 3: 8-10
After coming to understand this passage through God's grace, I was greatly humbled by the mission and the meaning of the Church that Paul is revealing to the Ephesians. I understood that the Church is eternal, that we are co-heirs with Christ, children of God, a family, a body. I understood that the church is to live out the Great Commission, to seek and save the lost, to bear witness to those we meet, and to disciple those who come to salvation in Jesus. But what I was completely oblivious to was that there's more to whom we bear witness than neighbors, coworkers, and family; the Church is to testify to more than what meets our finite eyes.
Ephesians 6:12 says this, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."
And Ephesians 2:2 mentions the "ruler of the power of the air," being Satan, who is working in the "disobedient." All three of these verses point toward these authorities as being leagues from Satan, who are actively and disruptively working in the world, be it through earthly kings, pestilence, famine, or disease. And part of God's plan for the church is a conviction and calling to bear witness of God's manifold wisdom to these cosmic hosts.
Now, we know these beings are not powerless, nor are they ignorant. They know and understand the reasons for which Christ bled on the cross and they hate the reason that He rose again. They are aware of the grand revelation of Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Our purpose as the Body of Christ is not to preach these things to them, but is to testify to God's multi-faceted wisdom through worshiping our Savior and serving His church. As believers we are under an obligation to live in such a way that our actions demonstrate to hosts of Hell that God is good and wise and supreme. Can you feel the weight of that statement? Our service to God must be earnest enough that demons tremble. Our conduct to one another must be such that they shudder. Our prayers and songs to God must be so steadfast, loud, and faith-filled that Hell itself quakes.
Earlier in Paul's letter he reveals what this mysterious wisdom is (2:11-3:6): that Jews and Gentiles are united through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the Glory of God and because of the mercy He displays toward us. When we pursue peace with one another, we proclaim that the Gospel is restorative. When we pursue wisdom through understanding God's Word, we proclaim that the knowledge of Jesus Christ is sufficient. When we pursue joy in the midst of suffering, we proclaim that the Gospel is enough for our delight. This is the message we proclaim to the hosts of Hell: that God's mercy is so glorious, so great that it transcends division and creates a united body through which we share in praising God for His splendid character.
Christian, these hosts of Hell likely know what your shortcomings and weaknesses are better than you do. They surely know how to dismember the church with efficiency. They absolutely rejoice when you fall back into quarreling with fellow believers. They categorically delight when you choose to forsake regular meetings with your local church. I urge us all to battle against these things, to walk in all humility and mercy, and to testify to Hell's soldiers that God's grace and glory is enough to keep us united in His name.
Sarah Morrison is a staff writer for The Daily Grace Co.