There was a man who had three sons. He decided that instead of leaving all his wealth to them in his will, he would give them something to help them while they were young. He bought three lots of land; good sized lots, with ocean frontage, and gave one to each son. Then he had the building supply trucks come in with everything necessary to put up a substantial home on each lot.

The first son got right to work. He poured the footings and started on the slab foundation and very soon he had his house going. The second son had a thing against the material things, so he covered the whole thing with a tarp, brought out a couple of lawn chairs and a beach umbrella and just sat there and looked out over the ocean, deep in meditation.  The third son took a shovel and started to dig.

A few weeks went by and soon the first son had his house studded in. The roof was on and he was going along like a pro. The second son was still sitting there under his beach umbrella meditating as he looked out over the sea. He was rather embarrassed when his friends came to explain about this pile of building materials on the lot; because they didn't believe in the material things either. The third son was still busy digging his hole. By this time the hole was so big he had to put a rope around it so people wouldn't fall in.

Three months later the first son had his house finished. It was beautiful. And now he was busy with the wheel-barrow bringing in the fill, topsoil, so he could landscape his masterpiece. The second son had decided to get rid of his beach umbrella and lawn chairs, (because he was against the material things), and he was just sitting on the grass with his legs crossed meditating. The third son had finally come down to rock. He was now beginning to lay the foundation for his house on solid rock.

A year went by. The first son's house was absolutely beautiful. People came from miles around to look at it. ABC television was planning to do a special on it. Second son was still meditating. The third son had his house finished.            But oh, what a pitiful house! It was so squat and ugly that the first son was quite embarrassed to admit that it was his brother's.

Then came the hurricane.  It lasted only one night and a day. But when it was over, the first son's house was gone, and he with it. The second son with all his materials was scattered over the ocean, and was never seen again. The third son was still alive and well in his house, which stood the storm.

The Body of Christ will, one day, appear to her Lord as a beautiful city, a beautiful building, a structure, like the new Jerusalem. Better still she will be like a magnificent woman, dressed in garments which are spotless as a bride adorned for her husband. But now, in the eyes of the world, the Body of Christ, which is His bride doesn't look very beautiful. And this doesn't bother her because her only concern right now is that she get down to the rock-bottom and that she build a foundation on that rock of reality which is Christ. Believing that if she does that everything else will follow.

According to the commission of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we become anxious when things in our fellowships just aren't taking shape fast enough. Or perhaps we feel that things aren't even taking shape at all. We look around and we see fellowships that are just mushrooming.... numbers doubling and tripling in a year's time. They' seem to have worship which is heavenly. They have an order which is scriptural right down to a tee, and the power of the Spirit seems to be moving with tremendous force and manifesting God's grace.

And what are we doing here? All we're doing is digging. How long are we going to go on with this digging? Is that all we're ever going to do, dig, dig, dig?

We become especially nervous when we look next door and see our brother putting up a house that's elaborate and very impressive. We wonder if we're ever going to come into an authentic and effective body ministry. Well, be sure of this:  we're going to come into a body ministry far more effective than what now is happening among us, when we  get down to the rock!

When we get down, as a fellowship and as individuals, to the rock, which is Christ, in fact and in truth, then suddenly, the metaphor  changes and we find that we are no longer building anything, but that this building is beginning to rise by itself, The rock where we've put the footing is not something dead but is a living thing. It has become a living vine.             

The best description in the entire Bible of what a body ministry is, is John 15. When we talk about the body ministry as described in Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and 5, we must see these descriptions of the body ministry in the light of John 15.

In John 15, Jesus describes to us what a body ministry is. And He shows us that a body ministry is nothing but individual branches that are truly grounded and rooted, established in a single vine.

Consider this in terms of a body ministry into which we have been called.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.          If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.

Many branches, one vine, and each branch is responsible for its relationship to the Vine. Nobody is responsible for your relationship to Jesus but you.      And where we have even one branch that is truly abiding in that vine, there you have the beginning of a body ministry. Just take one branch and let it truly abide in the vine and you will have, emerging from that simple miracle, in time, a body ministry.

But sometimes we begin to think that our relationship with the vine Jesus is healthy when it's not. What does it mean to abide in the vine? It simply  means to live in Him, to dwell in Him.

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

And the secret place of the Most High is Jesus. And to dwell in Jesus obviously means that

- we live in Him,

- we draw our strength from Him,

- we are satisfied in Him,

- we eat and sleep and think Him. Breathe Him.

- And we move in His will.

It's not enough to just say, "I got saved at such-and-such a time two years ago," or "I have my doctrines together." I have to be alive, alive in Jesus.

If any man be in Christ he is a new creation. Old things are passed away, behold all things have become new.

Anything less than this won't do it. Don't ever allow  your relationship with brothers and sisters to become a substitute for your relationship with Jesus. Granted; if I'm not relating rightly to my brothers and sisters my relationship with Jesus will die. But unless I have a relationship with Jesus first I will never rightly relate to my brothers and sisters.

No one was ever used by God as was Paul, in the building of the Body by the power of the Spirit. And yet Paul's concern and Paul's satisfaction was not how many churches he established, how many members they had, how things were going. His primary concern was Jesus.

I count all things but loss that I might win Christ and be found in him.

Also, if we're going to have an effective body ministry, we have to get into prayer in a serious way, far more serious than many of us have been up to now.

If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.

It is obvious, by the way we actually live, that many of us are not yet convinced that prayer is the basic work. We pray when we're in trouble. And when we get together we often pray sermons back and forth to each other. "O Lord," ….and I'm telling the Lord what that guy needs to hear. And he gets over here and he's telling the Lord what I need to hear. That's not prayer. 

That prayer is the basic thing that needs to happen in our lives, corporately and individually, many of us are not yet convinced. But our Lord was convinced.

His entire life was rooted in prayer. His ministry was prayer first, above everything else he did. And he taught prayer as the essential thing. And the apostle Paul followed our Lord in this. And he did the same. Prayer was number one for him.

If we abide in the vine and He abides in us, then we're going to know what to ask for and we're going to want what we need to want. And we will be given whatever we will, whatever we ask for. And there will be much fruit, God will receive much glory, and it will be then evident that we are Jesus' disciples.

Where you have a praying people you will always have a body ministry. It may not be by somebody's definition of what a body ministry should be, but you'll have a body ministry. We need to get into prayer, first of all, in our private life. Don't try to pray corporately if you never pray individually. Which means we have to make a time for it and we have to concentrate the mind on it. There's nothing that we need more desperately, in our relationship with Jesus than a prayer life.

After we have come into an individual discipline of prayer where we find ourselves before God's throne daily, in a serious way, then we also learn to pray corporately. We need to let Him teach us how to pray together. So that we're not just praying sermons to each other but really opening our hearts and up through the Body rises a prayer that none of us could ever come up with alone.

The next step toward an effective body ministry is that we love one another.

As the Father has loved me so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love just as 1 have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things have I spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.

Don't even try to do this if you are not, first of all, rooted in the Vine, or committed totally to the life of prayer. But if your life is based on a relationship with Jesus and if you have indeed begun to let God teach you how to pray, then you begin to love your brothers and sisters. And how do we love our brothers and sisters but the way He loves us? And how does He love us, but by showing us mercy, to the point of laying down His life?

The primary quality of the love that our Lord talks about is mercy. Mercy is love in action. And what often happens with us is that we manifest an intense love to this brother over here, and at the same time hold a hardness and a bitterness and an unforgiving attitude toward that brother over there.  This belies our love for the first brother. It is impossible to have the love that our Lord is talking about toward one and not another. If I don't have mercy in my heart toward all, I don't have love in my heart.

It begins with mercy. You start with the person you're having the hardest time to accept. And you pray down blessing for that person. You desire nothing but that person's good. Our Lord Jesus teaches nothing less.

We are to desire that the Spirit of God will shower every needful thing on that person's life. You start to pray that way and you begin to think that way, and you start to live that way. Love for one another is not measured in how much time we spend with each other, or how many secrets we share with each other, or whether we exchange our underwear. Love toward each other, love for the brothers and sisters is measured by the kind of mercy we practice toward our enemy, toward our neighbor and then toward our brothers and sisters.

The final step toward a body ministry is that we go out and bear fruit. That goes for every single one of us. No exceptions.

You did not chose me, but I choose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.

Notice it's a body ministry, a body serving, not just a body lying there, cleaning its fingernails endlessly. A ministry of serving. And the fruit that we are to bear is the kind of fruit that we have been appointed to bear.

Not some nice thing we think the Lord would appreciate,

not the kind of fruit that we particularly like, some nice thing we think the Lord would like,

not something that we think would be a marvelous addition to the Kingdom of God,

And the basic ingredient of this is that souls are to be brought from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. That's our basic desire, and everything must move toward that end.

Just as surely as Jesus called you into the Kingdom, you in a particular place in the body - some fellowship somewhere, so surely Jesus has also sent you forth, equipped you, given you every needful thing to bring others from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to Himself.

We all know that in each of our fellowships, we have a long way to go. We have much to learn, and we have much to accomplish; But we'll get there. We will come into a body ministry that may not look like very much to the world but it will get the job done and it will also survive the storm if each of us make sure of four things:

1. That our relationship with the vine Jesus is alive.

2. That we have come into serious prayer.

3. That we are practicing mercy toward all people, particularly the brothers and sisters, but to all people.

4. That every one of us, in obedience to the command of the Lord, is going out and bearing fruit.

If you haven't truly found the Vine, dig down until you know you've found Him. Then concentrate on John 15, and you will find yourself in a body ministry that will survive every storm and stand with joy when He appears.


Lord Jesus, lead me out of the shadows of half-belief, and lift me into the light of your burning presence.  I repent of myself and aim my heart, soul, strength and mind to follow in your steps.  Amen