Dr. Larry Gilbert

Sooner or later, almost everyone has a craving for pizza. When that happens, nothing else will satisfy the appetite but pizza. A person will not go to the ice cream parlor or the hamburger stand to take care of that craving. Those places don’t meet the need of the hour—pizza. The finest steak dinner in an exclusive restaurant or the largest and finest lobster will not do the job. They simply do not satisfy the need for pizza. Only the pizza parlor will be able to meet the need for pizza.

Likewise, only the spiritually gifted people in the church can be the vehicle God uses to meet the needs of a lost and dying generation. People will support the church that meets the needs in their lives, or touches the lives and needs of their loved ones. Not only must the church meet the need, but it must also meet the need when it occurs. The church that can meet a person’s need when it occurs will have the best chance of reaching and keeping that person for Christ.

There are two kinds of needs: felt needs and real needs. Sometimes the felt needs are not real needs and a person does not feel the real needs. The church must meet both kinds of needs. Sometimes pointing out the real need in the person’s life so that it becomes a felt need. Sometimes the felt need must be met first in order to discover the real need. In other words, the church must meet both felt and real needs.

How can that best be done? By using the Team Spiritual Gifts in the lives of the members to reach out to the needs of the lost in the community.

For every need in the life of the lost person, there is a spiritual gift that helps reach that person for Christ. When  the lost receive Christ, they still have needs that must be met. Again, the Team comes to the rescue, meeting those needs through the spiritual gifts God gave for that purpose.

What I really wish to discuss here is how the balanced church meets all the needs that exist in the body. But before I do that, I must first address the purpose of the church.

For only a church that is effectively fulfilling its God-given purpose can effectively minister to the needs of its community and membership.


The church’s Great Commission is given by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20,

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.

Take note that the word “teach” appears twice the Great Commission. Going back to the original language you’ll find the first “teach,” matheteuo (Greek), in verse 19. “Teach all nations” does not mean teach as we think of teaching. That word literally means, “to make disciples.” Making disciples of someone in Bible times was not what we consider making disciples today. We seem to think that when a person gets saved she becomes a Christian, and only later, when she devotes her life to the Lord and really starts serving God, do we call her a disciple.

Believers were never called Christians until Antioch, when the believers began imitating Christ (see Acts 11:25-26). They acted so much like Christ that the people could see Christ in them. So the people started to call them “Christ-ones” or Christians.

We have it backwards: we think that when a person gets saved, he or she becomes a Christian. Actually at the time of the new birth, the person becomes a disciple. When he or she matures and starts acting like Christ, that’s when he or she becomes a Christian.

In Matthew 28:20, the word “teaching” is another Greek word, didasko, which means “to teach.” Therefore, if we are to teach all nations, and to teach them to observe all things, we are given a two-part commission to present the Gospel to people and to train them—to reach and to teach.

The Great Commission was given to the church; it was given to you and me as a cooperating part of a local body. It is to be fulfilled by a group of Christians working together with one common goal: to reach and teach the world. (At the same time, we support people who are reaching and teaching to meet all the needs in the church so we can have a unit that continues reaching and teaching.)


Since we understand that the purpose for the church is to reach and to teach, we must also understand that the Bible was also given to us for the same purpose. Reaching and teaching simply means getting a person converted: training, teaching, instructing, and helping him mature into the image of Christ.

Second Timothy 3:15-17 says,

And how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

This passage gives us the full purpose of the Bible. Verse 15 says the Scriptures are “able to make you wise for salvation” (that’s reaching). Verses 16 and 17 tell us how to train a Christian. The Scriptures are to be used for teaching (what to believe), rebuking (what not to do, pointing out sin), correcting (how to change) and training in righteousness (how to live right). In other words, the Bible is for reaching a lost person, then teaching him or her into full maturity.

Many churches would say, “We’re doing that, but something is still wrong. We’re winning them, but they’re not sticking around. They’re going out the back door as fast as others come in the front door. Also, we can’t seem to get people involved.”

Many of these churches are having problems because they are not meeting the needs of their people. That is where spiritual gifts come in—equipping the saints for service so they receive maximum fulfillment with minimum frustration themselves as they minister through those spiritual gifts to meet needs in other people’s lives (see Ephesians 4:12).

This article was excerpted from the book Team Ministry: Gifted to Serve.

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Larry Gilbert, The Bible, The Church, Why God Gave Us His Church and His Book
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