A Part of the Body
Christians acknowledge quickly enough that they are part of the body of Christ; the question many of us face is, ‘What part of the body am I?’
When Paul writes to the Ephesians he says that ‘grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift’ (Eph 4.7). He then goes on to explain how Christ’s incarnation, perfect life, death, resurrection, and ascension have given him the right to sovereignly distribute gifts as he sees fit. He can give what he wants to whom he wants. He purchased that right.
Some of the examples that Paul gives are the more obvious gifts: ‘apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and teachers’ (Eph 4.11). Those are gifts that stand out, right?
But what if I’m not an apostle or prophet or evangelist or shepherd-teacher? How do I know what part of the body I am? I know that I’m supposed to serve the body, but where?
The sad truth is that sometimes we get stuck in seasons where we are not using our gifts or serving our church, not because we don’t want to, but because we just don’t know how to. We don’t know where we belong.
Two Balancing Questions to Find Your Place
Question 1: What gifts does this body part have?
Sometimes people end up getting placed in ministry programs and roles that need to be filled simply because ‘this is what the church does.’ This can lead to bad places. People who aren’t fit, gifted, or qualified to serve in specific roles are placed there to simply ‘fill a gap.’ In the end it doesn’t build up the body, it wears out the person serving, and the ministry is in a worse spot than when the person started.
Two weeks ago today, I was frustrated. The Christian twitter / facebook / blog world was in an uproar over a controversial conference that seemed to be all-consuming to many. I let it get to me too.
So on that particular day, I gave in to my frustration, and I posted a controversial blog post. Whether or not it was right, it was emotionally charged and reactionary. And a couple of my friends reminded me that that’s not who I am, so I deleted the post.
Since then I’ve been thinking a little bit about that little ‘foray’ into reactionary / controversy-stirring kind of blogging. Here are some of my thoughts as I’ve reflected.
1. Things rarely need to be said so fast
I rarely say anything best when I think of it quickly. As I said some time ago, one of the temptations to sin in a social media world is instant publication for instant gratification and instant vindication rather than long-term and wide-ranging edification. I gave in to that by speaking quickly.
It seems that with the rise in numbers of young, broadly-reformed Christians and pastors in recent years, there has also been a large increase in the seeming importance of conferences. Here you have people who love theology, love good preaching, love fellowship across denominational lines, and love the overall experience of getting away and being blessed through deep study of the word for a few days.
What could be wrong with that? Right?
Many of the dangers of conferences (celebrity-ism, seeking life in emotional highs, finding identity in being a ‘conference person’, etc.) have been well-chronicled already. I’ve considered those potential pitfalls, and seen the danger in them. But yet, I’ve still remained largely in favour of conferences.
But recently I’ve been thinking about another problem with conferences — one that is in large part bound up with the celebrity-pastor and church-by-podcast Christian culture of 21st century North American evangelicalism.
The problem is bound up with our ecclesiology (our theology of the church):
Unchecked, conferences can both reflect bad ecclesiology and lead to still worse ecclesiology.
A Leave It to the Experts Mentality
Our culture is a culture of experts. Multiple post-secondary and even graduate degrees are required for just about everything. Specialists, rather than generalists rule the day. If we are not careful, our broader church culture will reflect the same thinking. The voice of the local pastor is drowned out by the thunderous boom of the voice amplified to thousands of conference attendees and broadcast live across the web to many more.
There are few things that grieve the heart of a parent more than watching the children they love quarrel with each other. When your children are fighting, it doesn’t even really matter (in one sense) who is right and who is wrong. Just the fact that they are quarelling is enough to make the whole situation seem like a loss.
By way of contrast, there is very little that pleases the heart of a parent more than when their children agree with one another and even help one another. Honestly, even if our girls are just nice to each other, it thrills me.
And I know the same is true of God the Father’s heart:
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore. (Psalm 133.1-3)
The heart of our Father longs for his children to get along. And our hearts, like the hearts of little children, long to please our Father. So if we put these things together, we come up with a very simple, practical way for you to please your Father’s heart today.
Are you ready for it?
Be nice to other Christians.
Simple, right? Just be nice. Think nice thoughts about them. Speak nicely to them (including blog posts and comments). Do something nice for one of them. It will bless them, it will give you joy, and you know what? It will even please the heart of your Father who loves you both.