This past week Henk and I attended the Vine Project at the RTC Melbourne campus. Colin Marshall presented a one-day course on how to set up structures that may help in assisting churches in making disciples and hence fulfilling the Great Commission. He mentioned four ‘P’s, “Preaching, prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit, people – engaging all of God’s people, and patiently persevering” and four ‘E’s, “engaging, evangelising, establishing and equipping.” One church who has started the Vine Project anticipates that it would be a twenty-one-year project. They have changed the name of their small bible study groups to ‘gospel’ groups so that the people attending are continually reminded of their purpose. Colin’s presentation was a timely reminder that churches need to be involved in reaching the lost for Christ. In some ways, Colin’s presentation was like the CRCA’s four-fold-task, set down by Synod some years ago, which also has to reach the lost in mind.
Thankfully, the ‘making of disciples’ is happening to some extent in our fellowship. Yes, it could always be better but that is true of every aspect of ministry. One of the things that perhaps slows our progress with the ‘P’s and ‘E’s and the four-fold-task is the reluctance to embrace another ‘P’, namely the “priesthood of all believers.” Paul reminds us that because of Christ’s once and for all time sacrifice, we have now become “living sacrifices” offering ourselves to the service of our Lord and King (Romans 12:1ff).
It seems we are pretty good at the ‘living’ part, but not always that good at being ‘sacrificial’ which Scripture calls on us to be. The role of being ‘priestly’ (serving sacrificially) is often left up to so few in so many churches. It has become the habit of some to just expect the elders, deacons or even the care-group to do the ‘priestly’ tasks. Sometimes, people will call the minister and ask him to do the ‘priestly’ task when someone is in spiritual or physical need. Of course, the elders, deacons, care-group nor the minister mind being asked to help serve someone in need. But hang on a minute, where has the ‘priesthood of all believers’ just disappeared to?
Just imagine, if each of us just set one hour aside a fortnight to be ‘priestly’ towards a fellow Christian or unbeliever. Be ‘priestly’ and visit someone who needs some encouragement or prayer. Be ‘priestly’ and offer a young couple to babysit for one night so that they can go out as a couple and enjoy dinner together. Be ‘priestly’ and get together with a few other young people and offer to cut the lawns for someone who is struggling. Be ‘priestly’ and go visit someone who is all alone and ask how you could serve them? Yes, it may take some ‘sacrifice’ on your part and it may even cost a dollar or two but that is what “living sacrifices” are called to do.
What does this have to do with the Vine Project? I dare say if Christians were a little more “priestly” it would have a positive impact on the spiritual and physical welfare of a Christian fellowship and our society. It may be used by God to ‘make disciples’ yes, may it be, even for our neighbours. JZ