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ur Shared Mission: Building Up the Body of Christ Jesus said, "And I tell you, . . . whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19). And “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among you" (Matthew 18:20).

Saint Paul best expressed the great expectations that church builders have (Philippians 1:3-6, 9-11):

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. . . And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Building up the church worships and glorifies God.

Worship is all of our efforts in life to love God and to know God better. St. Paul tells us in Romans 12:1 and 2 to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God and says that true worship is being dedicated to pleasing God. Worship is doing all that we can with our lives to express our love for God by offering ourselves to God. Worship needs to envelope our whole lives and building up the church can be a terrific form of worship.

Building up the church is the best way of loving other people.

The most loving action we can take is to draw someone into a deeper relationship with God. The way that Jesus showed his greatest love for people was by helping them become his disciples. "Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up" (II Corinthians 12:19).

Building up the church helps us grow spiritually.

The gifts God gives each of us are for building up the body of Christ and our faith matures as we use our gifts (Ephesians 4:11-13). We grow more than we could ever imagine and we are blessed with a greater awareness of God's presence as we work to build up the church. "Because you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church" (I Corinthians 14:12).

Building up the church helps us experience joy.

We share in the joy of sharing the gospel. Building up the church is not just a moral responsibility; it is an opportunity to discover great blessings. The blessing of our church community is that we find God through it and in it. "We are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in the faith" (II Corinthians 24).

We are with one another to listen and to encourage and to share in this task of building up the church. "For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you - or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine" (Romans 1:11-12). As church leaders, God leaves us the responsibility to "determine what is best" for our particular church community. And we can be confident in our work because God is with us. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12).

Every Christian church community is a blessing from God and each can become an even greater blessing to us and to others. There is more for each of us to receive from and give to the community if we bring ourselves closer to Jesus so that we can help bring others closer to Jesus. Jesus asks us to spend our days learning and serving, giving and praying, worshiping with others, and inviting and encouraging friends along the way. If we respond by serving in our church community, we discover the joy of God's presence with us and hear God calling us into closer relationship.

We each have gifts for building up the church and the church is the place for each of us to use and grow our spiritual gifts. But how? What is this work of building up the church for which we are brought together as a community? How do we do we help our churches grow and develop? How do we support our congregations in carrying out their mission and ministries? Some of this work is discernment and planning, some is leadership, guiding, coaching and spiritual direction, some is education and training, and some is coordination of resources. But it all depends on turning to God.

Jesus helped his closest followers grow into leaders who could help others become disciples, who in turn would serve others and help others become disciples too. We have leaders in the church, but how do they truly become disciples who help Jesus make new and stronger disciples? This happens when we become more centered in Christ and focused on loving God and loving one another (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27) and bringing others to Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8).

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