One of my favorite professors at RTS Charlotte once quipped, “They are the ordinary means of grace…not the only means of grace.”
His point was that while the ministry word, prayer, and sacrament (is fellowship a means of grace?) are central to corporate worship and growing in grace, that doesn’t mean that is all there is to do in the Christian life or in the ministry of the church.
This comment in 2009 has stayed with me and has, I believe, balanced me on the discussion over the means of grace.
I think churches should have missional liberty as to how they intend to reach the lost, disciple their people, and be a light in their neighborhoods. The Bible should provide the boundaries for any creativity and intentional ministry, but since the Christian life goes beyond Sunday, it should be acknowledged that God works his grace in our lives through tough conversations (hopefully undergirded by the Word), acts of service, fellowship, etc. We grow in Christlikeness when we imitate Jesus. So, even an evangelistic encounter may be a means by which God strengthens our spiritual gifts and grows us in grace.
Now, the response of some might be, “Yes, but only the Word, sacraments, and prayer have an objective promise attached to them.”
I am not sure if the word objective is being clearly defined, since it is the subjective faith of the believer that is necessary for such grace to be efficacious (Calvin’s ‘offer-reception’ model).
The confessional teaching about the ordinary means of grace are important to safeguard our Sabbath rhythm as a church, but let’s not have Sabbath monopolize the Christian life or the church’s ministry.