Responding to the Plan of God – Week 5

Image Bearers Steward the Body of Christ!

Key Verses:  Romans 8:14-16 & Ephesians 4:11-16)

Written and delivered by Pastor Jerry Ingalls to the First Baptist Church of New Castle, Indiana.


I am praying for our congregation. We are God’s family because He has adopted us as His children. The heart of God is for His children to be fully alive in Christ and reflecting His love, care, and stewardship of the world so that the world can see His glory in and through His family. Because God uses all things for His glory and the good of those who love Him and are called according to His glory, God is using this time to bring about a great awakening in His Family. He wants us to see ourselves the way God sees us: as His dearly beloved children!


Last week we learned that Image Bearers of God steward their families to the glory of God! It always starts at home—your family is your first ministry because the family is God’s building block of not only the church, but of the New Heaven and New Earth that we are invited to proclaim with our love, care, and stewardship of creation, beginning around our kitchen tables. God reminded us of His plan and where and with whom it starts.


I share that with you again because while God has ordained the family as the place where biblical discipline and instruction primarily happens (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 & Ephesians 6:1-4), the church as God’s adoptive family has an essential part to play in keeping family members on plan for their lives. We are each easily distracted. As we have talked about numerous times recently, the reason for our gathering is found in Hebrews 10:23-25,


Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.


Many churches have had to relearn this during the COVID-19 pandemic because we have made the Sunday gathering the main event of the church instead of the supporting event of the people of God being the Church of Jesus Christ. We forgot that we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit and made our buildings into holy places, though they are made of brick and mortar and we are made in the Image of God. We forgot that Jesus tore the veil and filled us with His Holy Spirit, making us the holy of holies of God’s presence in the world. Listen to this amazing quote that summarizes our sacred status as taught in the New Testament,


We don’t need a tabernacle or temple to mark sacred space. Our bodies are sacred space. Paul calls our earthly bodies a “tent” (2 Cor. 5:4) because we are indwelt by the same divine presence that filled the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and the temple (Rom. 8:9–11). Eventually our body, the earthly home of our spirit, will die, only to be replaced by a “house not made with hands” (2 Cor. 5:1–3), a heavenly dwelling—the new Eden, heaven returned to earth (Rev. 22:1–3). Since God indwells believers today through his Spirit, each church​—​each gathering of believers​—​is holy ground. This is why Paul, when sadly telling the Corinthians to expel an unrepentant Christian who was living in sin, instructed them to “deliver this man to Satan” (1 Cor. 5:5). The church was holy ground. Outside the fellowship of believers was the domain of Satan. That was where sin and its self-destruction belonged. It’s time we looked at ourselves through supernatural eyes. You are a child of God, fit for sacred space, not because of what you do or don’t do, but because you are in Christ, adopted by God (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5). You’ve been extracted from the realm of darkness and “transferred … to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). We must never, not for a moment, forget who we are in Christ—and what that means to the world.”[1] [emphasis added]


The Church, before we are anything, we are the adopted family of God—we are sons and daughters of God. We are the body of Christ. And if you ask families with adopted children, they will wholeheartedly tell you that “these are my children.” Listen to Paul describe us in Romans 8:14-16,


For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.


You see—we are children of God called to mature in Christ to reflect the glory of God in how we love, care, and steward what God has entrusted to us (our talents). For us to live this way, we must see ourselves this way.


Listen to a historical example of what happens when the family of God forgets who they are or gets distracted from doing the work of God’s agents.


Decades before the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana of Wales occurred, the country had experienced a tremendous spiritual revival in 1904. Wales soon became a launching pad for missionaries who preached to every land of the globe. One missionary ended up in Argentina where he converted a young boy named Luis Palau, who became known as the “Billy Graham” of Latin America. Mr. Palau was so inspired by the spiritual outreach from Wales that he decided to visit the country in the early 1970s. He was saddened by what he found. Less than [“one half of one percent”] of the Wales population faithfully attended church services. The divorce rate had jumped dramatically to an all-time high. The police force now had to take their weapons with them as crime had increased. The sport rugby was now the national religion with families driving miles to faithfully attend tournaments while skipping out on the worship of God. Disappointed by what he saw, Mr. Palau created a documentary called “God Has No Grandchildren”.[2]


Howard Dayton concluded about Luis Palau’s documentary, “In Wales, despite tremendous spiritual vitality, the impact of Christianity had all but disappeared in 70 years. Parents had failed to pass their faith to their children. Each generation is responsible for passing on to its children the gospel and the truths of Scripture.”


What a sobering story from recent church history. The truth is that God has no grandchildren, but every generation must rise up and take on the mantle of spiritual leadership for the sake of the next generation. Great awakening need to happen in every generation because society can shift that quickly, within 70 years! We have seen the same in the United States of America—from the WWII generation massively building the church in America upon their return from the war and into the 1950s as the Baby Boomers were born and raised, and then passed it on to the third and fourth generations (Generation X and the Millennials), and here we are with churches closing all around communities in our country and organizations like Barna Research Group doing massive research to understand the state of the church in 2020, literally 70 years later.[3]


What can American churches learn from the historical lesson of the 70-year spiritual decline of Wales?


Here is a learning point: The FAMILY OF GOD exists to empower and equip OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS to transform the world by being THE FAMILY OF GOD on mission for OUR FATHER as HIS ADOPTED CHILDREN. We are not an institution or civic organization—we are God’s Plan A because we are His family. We are agents of God’s Kingdom—on a rescue mission to seek and to save that which is lost (Luke 19:10). Not to bring them into conformity with us, but with Christ! As someone who was not raised in the subculture of the church, but was chosen by God to receive faith while serving in the US Army, here is what I know many a church goer needs to learn and is often blind to because of their own church experience: The church does not exist to meet the needs of its members, but to empower and equip the members to transform the world by being God’s restored Image Bearers, the stewards of the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Have we simply lost focus and are distracted, or have we forgotten who we are and what we are supposed to be doing? It’s one or the other, because the historical witness of Wales is right here staring at us in America.


Maybe the problem is that we are having a hard time accepting one another as real brothers and real sisters. We have forgotten Jesus’s words from Matthew 12:50, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (cf. Luke 8:21).


The church is a multigenerational family built on individual members and their families. The purpose of the church is to respond to the plan of God in such a way that we reflect God as one united family with God as our adopting Father. Paul visualizes this united family using body imagery as all of us being one mature body (“man”), as opposed to many independent children. Listen to Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 4:11-16,


And he gave the [leaders of the church] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ [italics added], so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 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.


Every multigenerational family has infants, toddlers, pre-teens, teenagers, twenty somethings, middle agers, seniors. Everyone has room to grow, and we all don’t need to be in the same place growth-wise … but we DO need to be growing regardless of our age because in the Kingdom of God your church experience and your age don’t determine maturity in Christ. We are to never stop equipping our fellow family members on who they are as adopted sons and daughters, and how they are to be as a member of God’s adopted family.


This is one of the reasons why we see the church dying in America, following the same death cycle as the church in Wales: we forgot that the family is only as healthy as the individual members. We sold our family birthright for larger and more efficient organizations and we hired professionals to the do the work for us, all in the name of Jesus, but we forgot who we are in Jesus along the way and we started managing what we had built instead of stewarding the gospel He gave us to share with the world God created.


What a severe mercy for God to use this time to remind us that He is not about our buildings, our programs, and our notability. It is a sad thing to watch pastors and churches vying for visibility in today’s marketplace-driven culture and lose favor with God. May Jesus once again be preeminent in the church! May we cast down our idols and return to God. God is bringing revival to His people—to awaken us for His glory! The church in America has been consumed by the economic-driven cultural progress of the second half of the 20th century. Now, we look and act more like a corporation with stake holders than a movement of disciples united on mission for Jesus. Why do we still wonder why the surrounding culture is not attracted nor interested in joining us?[4]


As Jesus said in Matthew 5:13,

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”


We must remember, once again, that revival of the members of the family is what makes the family healthy and effective. This happens at a personal and household level and those individual members who make up families living in neighborhoods are the ones who change their neighborhoods and then together, those neighborhoods transform communities… cities… states… nations… to the ends of the earth! This is the plan of God and you are Plan A because you are a son or daughter of God!


The COVID-19 pandemic has become an opportunity for the revival of the members of the church; or it is the death knell for many a church that has lost its way over the last 70 years in America.


Every crisis is an opportunity! Each branch needs pruning to bear even more fruit (John 15:2)! Every child needs discipline to bear the fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11)! The Lord knows, the churches in America need revival. We’ve been praying for it for decades… Why not now? Why not each of us?
This last week, in my morning devotion times, I finished the book of Joshua and entered into the book of Judges. What a crisis time for the Israelites. Joshua put a choice before God’s people in Joshua 24:14-15,
Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
A great awakening is a personal thing, a family unit thing, a congregation thing, a neighborhood (regional) thing. It is a decision that God puts before His people by leaders who love them. I love you!
Revival, as we have come to know it as a programed event, doesn’t do an individual or family any good if there are exciting and glorious moments in a church service or worship conference, but the people as individuals don’t carry revival home with them to impact their families and neighborhoods, their schools or workplaces… Revival was never intended to be compartmentalized or institutionalized, it was meant to radically transform culture—to bring thriving to communities. To be what awakens God’s children to their true identity & mission!
Just last week, I listened to an influential leader in the American Church say that the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to do for the church what years’ worth of hundreds of mission conferences could never accomplish.
The image we have been using for this sermon series is that of the life preserver because we have been saved to be a part of God’s rescue mission to seek and to save the lost. What if God’s revival was not even for us, but for our participation in His rescue mission of all those who are in slavery to sin and captivity to the world?
We have been blessed to be a blessing, not to horde what was given to us so freely. We are not owners of what God has entrusted to us; rather, we are stewards of the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ.

Listen to the Message here:


To watch the video click HERE




[1] Michael Heiser, Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World—And Why It Matters (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 83-85.

[2] I first learned of this story from Howard Dayton, but I grabbed a synopsis of it from a newspaper article: Accessed May 11, 2020. Dayton’s quote, immediately following, is from the Stewardship Study Bible.


[3] A friend of mine reminded me of this famous Ronald Reagan quote, which speaks to the geopolitical realm of life, but the principle is strikingly the same. “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

[4] A friend wrote to me, “Yes. We may no longer be selling indulgences for absolution of sin on the front steps of the church, but there are too many ways the church in America as a whole tends to run like a Ponzi scheme. “Put in this much effort/money/time, and then we’ll start to take care of you.” No one wants to be part of that.”