Grammar has not always been my favorite topic. One of my worst issues is that of punctuation. What makes a statement worthy of an exclamation point? How do you know whether to put a colon or a semi-colon (or just throw it in parentheses)? What even is an ellipsis?... Very few punctuation marks can cause more damage by being omitted than a comma. Carefully consider the following sentences: “Let’s eat grandma!” “Rachel Ray finds inspiration from cooking her family and her dog.” “Man bacon sure tastes good.” Hopefully, you can see how important a well-placed comma is. In Ephesians 4:11-13, we encounter some very important commas that may bring more clarity by disappearing.

Depending on the commas in your translation, these verses could mean that God has given specific gifts to leaders in the church so they can equip the saints, do the work of the ministry, and build up the body of Christ until everyone reaches maturity. Pastors, elders, and deacons do the ministry work, maybe occasionally getting some volunteers involved, and everyone else grows in maturity. Eventually, some may become pastors, elders, or deacons as well. Others may even become missionaries. Meanwhile, the rest of the church is expected to get older, bring their kids to church, and give more money to support the “workers” in their ministry.
However, if we look at the next few verses, we see Paul calling for the growth of the whole body, through the “proper working of each part.” (v:16) He clearly expects every member to use their gifts to benefit the growth of the whole body. Let us reconsider what happens when we take out some commas in the verses above. Could it be that Paul is saying the Spirit has equipped every saint with leadership gifts so they can all do the work of ministry that builds up the body of Christ?... And could it be that the process of reaching maturity must involve using your gifts to do the work of the kingdom?... If that is true, it might mean that more bible knowledge, money, and children in church are not the ultimate purpose of any Christian.

In my personal faith journey, I have personally experienced the growth that could only happen when I stepped out of my comfort zone and began serving in ministry. Long before I ever thought of being a pastor, I found fulfillment, maturation, and the power of what God can do through me when I began volunteering as a leader in the college group and with junior high students. Today, I get the opportunity to work alongside many incredible leaders who make student ministry what it is. I can confidently say that the work of this ministry would not happen at any meaningful level if not for the unpaid, non-staff, saints around me using their leadership gifts to serve others and build up the body.

My prayer for you today is that God will reveal to you how He has gifted you, and that you would seek involvement in ministry work. I promise you will grow more with each time you push beyond your fear and insecurity. I also know that our church body will benefit from your gifts, and we will all become more mature in our faith as we learn to work together, utilizing each other’s strengths. Let’s get to work, friends.

by Ben Urban, Pastor of Student Ministries

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