Nobody is supposed to follow Jesus alone. You need the church body and the church body needs you. The Body of Christ needs each part working properly. When each of us is doing our part, the whole body grows. You grow spiritually. We grow stronger as a church. Together we make a greater impact for our Head, Jesus Christ.
Body of Christ
Have you ever tried to do something by yourself when it was clearly meant to be a two-person job? With some jobs on the farm, a second set of hands would make a HUGE difference, although you seldom have that luxury. A few weeks ago I put up the projector screen in the fellowship hall. By myself. It weighs at least 40 pounds, and I had to put it 16 feet in the air while climbing a wobbly 12-foot ladder. I won’t lie – I probably shouldn’t have done it alone. It wasn’t overly safe. It would have been much easier with a partner.
OR – maybe you have had to do a job that totally wasn’t made for you. Perhaps you had to give a speech when you absolutely hate being in front of people. Maybe you were asked to keep track of a bunch of small details and you are terrible at that sort of thing. A couple of months ago I tried to lead the final hymn after preaching, and I messed it up. On the drive home Michelle reminded me that God didn’t make me to be a singer.
In these moments of feeling short-handed or ill-equipped, we are reminded that often it’s better to have a partner join us or to give the job over completely to someone who is better suited to do the task. And that’s OK. We’ve been taught to believe we can do anything we put our minds to. Sometimes we can, but it doesn’t mean we should. The fact that I could put up the screen by myself didn’t mean I should have done it alone. And the fact that I was already standing up front with the mic didn’t mean I was the right person to sing the final song.
That’s the point of today’s message: Who has God called us to be as His church?
Last week we talked about how the Bible describes the church as the Family of God. Today we will see how the Bible provides another important analogy for the church: that of a body with multiple parts all working together to support one another.
Thinking of the church as a body of parts all working together for one singular purpose forces us to understand that we are better together. An unfortunately popular idea among Christians today is “I can have my own relationship with Jesus and I don’t need to be a part of a church.” We discussed this a couple of weeks ago. Now, using the analogy of the church as a body, I want to show you HOW we are better in Christian community – how we, as a church, are better together.
You, Me and We
Here’s a brief grammar lesson on the word “We.” “We” is a plural first-person pronoun. Since it is first-person, it includes “Me.” And since it’s plural, it includes a bunch of “Me’s”. Here’s how I define it; and – believe it or not – this is all-important to my message today.
You + Me = We.
And since this is a plural “you” I’m going to pretend to be southern and adjust my equation.
Y’all + Me = We.
When I say WE are better together, I’m really making two additional statements:
1. Y’all are better with Me
2. I am better as a part of Y’all.
Think about those two statements. They mean two different things, but both are critical for who we are called to be as the church. Our whole church is better when YOU are connected and involved, and YOU are better off being a part of this church.
Paul Describes the Body of Christ
We go to the book of First Corinthians to find the grounds for these statements. This book is a letter the Apostle Paul sent to one of the churches he established on his missionary journeys, but at the time of his writing the church was a bit of a mess. They were growing and were passionate about Jesus, but they didn’t fully understand how to be in relationship with one another as a church. So Paul wrote to them:
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 – 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Paul is setting up what will become a lengthy comparison of the family of God to a body, the Body of Christ. What stands out in these two verses is that the Body of Christ is made up of lots of different parts – Jews AND Gentiles, Slaves AND Free – together. This was unheard of during Paul’s day.
It’s as crazy as us here at First Baptist having Republicans and Democrats – together. Builders, Boomers, Gen-X, Millennials, and even Gen-Z – all together. Paul says the Body of Christ is SUPPOSED to be full of diversity, of people who might not otherwise come together coming together in Christ as we all share the same Spirit – the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:14-17 – Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
Paul continues his argument about the body being made of many parts by focusing on how different parts serve different purposes in the body. His point is that the Body of Christ requires many different people with different wirings and different skill sets and different interests to serve in different ways and different ministries. A healthy body can’t be just eyes – because then it couldn’t hear. It requires hands and feet, eyes and ears.
Here at First Baptist we need people who are great at being organized to keep the kitchen tidy, and we need people who are fun and disorganized to work with the kids. We need analytic people to help with the finances and artists who play music and cook. We need people who love studying the Bible and people who prefer to visit those in the hospital. We need all kinds and sizes to be our best!
In fact, we are at our best when each part is doing specifically what it is best at. It’s a small church, so yes, we sometimes have to do things we aren’t especially gifted for or interested in. When you are able to serve in a way that matches your wiring and gifts, you feel empowered! The opposite is true when you feel you have to do something that goes against how God made you. In those cases, we need somebody else who is wired for that job to say YES. My job as the pastor is to take this truth and try to help every person in this church find their job, their role, and put them in that specific position.
That could sound like a pretty big challenge! Fortunately for me, I have some help:
1 Corinthians 12:18-21 – But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
Do you see that? God has put each part just where He wants it. Translation: If you are a part of First Baptist it’s because God has put you right where He wants you. Whether you have been here for a lifetime or you just showed up, He has you here for a reason.
- If ever you feel like you don’t fit, maybe it doesn’t mean you should look elsewhere but that God has a special purpose for you to fulfill – something that you and only you can do!
- If you see how you clearly fit in with the whole but see somebody else who sticks out and doesn’t seem to fit, it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with them. You can’t say you don’t need them. And you can’t assume they need to change to assimilate and be more like the rest of us.
- In our awkward differences, we have to remind ourselves that ALL of us are here by God’s intentional plan! Let’s all find our roles and our ministries and carry our loads.
Let’s keep reading:
1 Corinthians 12:22-24 – On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it.
I’m sure more than a few of you have at times felt like your role in the church was not very important. While trying to manage a group of screaming kids running in circles, you have wondered, “Does it even matter that I do this?”
Or perhaps you don’t serve in any of the ministries in the church. Your name never appears on a schedule in the newsletter. You feel that sermons like this one are an attempt to guilt you into volunteering for nursery duty. But every day during your devotional time, you pray for the church.
These verses are for you. They a reminder that sometimes your part in the body might not be a glamorous one. Maybe you feel like a gallbladder, filling a role that nobody knows you do. But the fact that it’s not seen doesn’t mean it’s not important. Every part of the body serves a necessary role. In fact, these verses say that extra honor and care should be provided to those of you who feel forgotten or unimportant.
Point 1: Up to this verse, Paul is really trying to drive home the point that the Body of Christ is better with each person functioning as God has gifted them. The church – our church – will excel when each one of you, in your diversity of backgrounds and with your variety of gifts, all get involved in our mission to be a family of faith for the next generation right here in Chariton. His point is that Y’all are better with Me, with You. We are better together.
Point 2: In the last three verses of our passage, Paul will describe the second statement I made earlier – that “I am better as part of Y’all.”
1 Corinthians 12:25-27 – so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
There is something powerful in being a part of a group, a body of people who care for one another and love one another the way the church is supposed to. This is why every person who puts their faith in Jesus is expected to join into the body, a local church congregation.
Just as Paul describes, there have been moments in life when I went through difficult situations, some of the most memorable occurring when we were foster parents. Even this weekend we had another tough moment tied to our time of fostering. Our church family had our back. Many times in our trials we had our pain eased by members of our church who came alongside Michelle and me and helped carry us, pray with us, and support us through our challenges. While these incredible people couldn’t actually change the situation for us, it was better for us to suffer with them beside us than for us to suffer alone.
Likewise, when it’s time to celebrate, I love to celebrate with my church family! I loved our Thanks Dinner last November when we filled the new Fellowship Hall to celebrate all that God had been doing in our church. We shared the wins, the excitement, and some delicious food. That’s a lot more fun than me sitting in my office alone looking at a report that shows our attendance increases.
You see, when I am a part of Y’all at First Baptist, my highs are higher and my lows aren’t quite so low. I am better as a part of Y’all. We are better together.
Christ is the Head
One final and very important piece of this biblical metaphor for the church as a body comes to us in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus:
Ephesians 4:15-16 – 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
We, the church, all grow together. (Notice that this growing together is a process of maturity.) We are joined and held together to do the job the Head wants us to do. The mind is what dictates what the body does, and the church is called the Body of Christ because (as this passage tells us) Jesus Christ is the Head. He is the one who decides what the church should be doing and who we should be reaching.
Sometimes people think the pastor is the head, making all the decisions however he chooses. Even worse, sometimes the pastor wrongly thinks he is the head and has total control. Scripture is clear on this point, however. Yes, I have a responsibility to lead us forward, but I do that by discerning where the Spirit of God – the One Spirit who unites us all into One Body – is leading us. I often have discussions with people about what I’m thinking and where I believe God is leading us, essentially checking that where I believe the Spirit is leading us lines up with what others are feeling.
If I said I thought we should buy a new building so we could install fog machines and strobe lights for worship, I bet some of you might challenge me on that. You would wonder whether that was the leading of the Spirit or a terrible idea I had all on my own. That’s how we, as a body, move forward together in alignment with where God wants our church to go and whom He wants us to reach. Jesus is our leader. I am called to help people find their place in the body and join in the mission for us all to accomplish together.
We have two very simple ways to apply this message to each of us:
- Some of you need to get connected. We are doing our thing as a church and you are doing your own thing, kind of connected, attending on Sundays, but very much on your own. That is not the best place for you. You are better when you are connected to us.
When you get that call from the doctor’s office with bad news, it is better for you to have a church to support you in prayer and suffer with you through the trial.
When you fall into a pattern of sin that starts causing damage to relationships in your life, it is better for you to have strong relationships with people in this church who love you enough to challenge you and help you change.
Even when everything in life is going your way, when it appears to be all rainbows and lollipops, and connecting with people in church is actually the one challenging thing in your life – even then it is better for you to be stretched, challenged, forced to grow in love and patience for the imperfect people who are also parts of the Body of Christ.
If this is you, the best way to start connecting with others is to simply show up. If you are retired, come to Senior Adult Lunch. If you are a Young Adult, make it a priority to show up at those events. Come to our movie nights. Come at 9 o’clock on Sunday mornings and try out a Sunday school class. Invite somebody who sits in the pew by you to join you for lunch after church. Take a step and begin to build relationships with the rest of the body.
- Others of you need to get involved. You are connected; you are receiving the care, support and encouragement of the body. You are enjoying all the benefits of being part of a Christian community but aren’t using the gifts God Himself put inside you to help us be the church we are called to be. WE are better when you are helping us with your gifts! We need you to help serve with kids, help prepare meals for funeral dinners, be a Cross-Gen partner with a teen, or serve in one of many other ways.
To this end, out in the foyer we have Team Signup sheets with a list of all sorts of ministry teams we have in our church. Many of you filled out these cards a year ago, and I still have your information. I plan to do a better job of asking you for help based on your responses. We have a lot of new faces here since last March. If you weren’t here a year ago, or if you don’t remember filling out a sheet, grab a sheet, look it over, fill it out, and get it back to me. We need you! Tell me where I can fit you into the ministry because I want to make sure you are serving exactly where your interests, gifts and experience fit best.
After going through this sheet, some of you may think, “Ryan, none of these really line up with my gifts and passions.” If that’s the case, then I want to know what you are passionate about. Maybe God has wired you to do a ministry we don’t yet have and brought you here because He wants YOU to start it. I would love to have that conversation with you! Reach out to me and let’s schedule a time to meet.
The message is simple: You need us and we need you. The Body of Christ needs each part working properly. When each of us is doing our part, the whole body grows. You grow spiritually. We grow stronger as a church. Together we make a greater impact for our Head, Jesus Christ.