We've been citing Ephesians 4:12 often. It says that Jesus gave His people gifts--"Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers"--for the purpose of "equipping the saints for the work of ministry."
What is that work of ministry? Here I'd like to tie together a few strands of Scripture, Theology, and life.
First, this "work of ministry" involves the "good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:10) We are "created in Christ Jesus" for them (Eph 2:10 still). Now, we talk today about fulfillment, about satisfaction, about "finding ourselves," about being free to "be me." What is that? Inside the biblical worldview, it's nothing less than what God has made you uniquely to be and do, and what Christ has redeemed you to uniquely be and do. So, putting this together: when the local church does it's job, we aren't shackled to the oppressive regime of religion, but unleashed into "that which is truly life" (1 Tim 6:19), into life had "abundantly" (John 10:10). The Local Church is not a leash governing disobedient pets, but a cleaver loosing the hunting dogs.
Second, this "work of ministry" is also what Christ calls us to do. Ephesians 4:1, "I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called." The first point speaks of our nature--we will not be free till we receive the transformation the Holy Spirit is working in us through the gifts of the church--and this second point speaks to our purpose. No more existential angst! No more Haagen Dazs fueled depression because..."like, why even?" No more scraping the burnt oatmeal crusted bottom of the pans of philosophy and speculative theology! Here, at last, is bone of your bone! The work of ministry isn't just the glove that we fit in, it's the labor the gloved hand aches to work. So if someone were feeling underwhelmed by their life, it would seem that the local church is custom made to assist.
Third, this "work of ministry" is the "aha!" at the end of the detective story. Why do YOU live HERE, NOW? To work there, then, for the glory of Jesus and the satisfaction of the thirsty souls surrounding you. Your life is a mess? My life is a mess? A pinball circus of disappointments, near misses, lucky breaks, and bad breaks? Nope. The strategic movement across the board of history and geography of a master architect. Where you are is where you're needed. Who you're among are who needs you-shaped Jesus ("the work of [your] ministry"). Christ didn't not fill the local church with goodies just to create jobs in a down-turned economy. Christ filled it with gifts so that the Father's Will will be done on earth, the Kingdom of the Great King will rise like dough, and the Name of the Father will be known as glorious and hallowed appropriately. And the yeast of the Kingdom is sown already across every network, in nearly every people, in nearly every tribe. And that's us. You and me. Yeast. The Local Church is not the restricting, squashing, smashing of ambition and distracting away from life, but the warm water and patient processes changing the lump into which it's been placed. (Hungry yet?!)
The local church working isn't a side of honey mustard, it's the secret herbs and spices that make the crisped batter so delicious. Now, the local church isn't the anwer to every problem. But Jesus is. And Jesus shares His gifts through the local church. So please, be a part of it, help it work better, and let it help you work better too.
"The world's biggest problem...is that not enough people are working on the world's biggest problem." (M. Marmer) "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." (F. Buechner) What is the world's biggest problem? That we all have not opened our lives to Jesus. How can we work on that problem? By opening our own lives to Jesus and to the work He desires to work through us where we are. There is no more strategic location than where the God of all strategists has us put. Till He moves us, crank those levers. Who knows but that in the "work of ministry" we do, at home, at the office, with clients and with employees, among our neighbors and family, the All-Mighty Arm of the Father won't be shifting the course of the future in innumerable, untold, unimaginable ways? There's a reason that "in His temple all cry, 'GLORY!'" (Ps 29:9)