God made you as an individual in a certain way to play a role in his body of believers.
David G. Scharf
Maybe you’ve heard this one. What does a professional football game have in common with many churches? At a football game, there are 22 men on the field in desperate need of rest and thousands on the sidelines in desperate need of exercise. In the church, it often seems like there is a small group who need a break doing most of the work and a seemingly much larger number sitting on the sidelines.
There is a grain of truth in the illustration. However, I don’t love it. It doesn’t take into account that God has blessed us all with vocations or “callings.” We all have them. Does a mother of six serve her Savior any less by tucking her kids into bed with a bedtime devotion and prayer rather than by participating in a church meeting? By no means! Both are ways to serve Jesus. The balance between “life service” and “church service” will be different depending on your vocations.
But the question still remains when it comes to service in the church:
Who’s going to do it?
Perhaps we think, “Well, that’s why we call our pastors and teachers!” There is a grain of truth in that sentiment. Pastors and teachers are so wonderfully equipped for service by the fantastic education they receive in the Word of God through our synodical schools. However, what have they been equipped to do?
Listen to how the apostle Paul expresses it: “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13). Pastors and teachers have been equipped to equip others for works of service. They equip by training us with the Word of God. They unite us around the truth of God’s Word and the exciting mission God gives us. They encourage us to carry out works of service both in the church and in our everyday lives.
What does that look like? A pastor preaches and teaches, and his members carry that message into their daily lives. A pastor builds the body of Christ by equipping and training his members to live as Christian husbands, wives, parents, citizens, and employees. He also encourages them to witness to others. Each member has a role to play in their families, their communities, and their church.
The apostle Paul calls us the “body of Christ.” He goes on to explain: “From [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16, emphasis added). What a remarkable picture! When God worked faith in your heart, he built you into his body. He gave you gifts and a role to play in his body.
While every part of the body has a different role, every role is important! We tend to downplay our gifts and abilities. Maybe we like to think that we’re the appendix in the body of Christ and serve no purpose, but God makes every part of the body important. Even the pinky toenail serves a valuable purpose. Can you imagine the pain if you didn’t have that right now? Ouch!
The blessing of being part of the body of Christ doesn’t stop there. You have gifts and abilities unique to you. There is no one else in this world with the same gift set as you. There is no one who has exactly the same personality as you. Even better, of the billions of people who have existed on this earth, there has never been anyone with exactly the same gift and personality match as you. Each one of us can say with the psalmist, “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; . . . I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13,14). Every hand-knit sweater is unique. God does not mass produce us. He knits us individually.
And here’s the mind-blowing part: God knit you together in that unique way for a purpose. Even better, he knit you and made you for his purpose. God made you as an individual in a certain way to play a role in his body of believers. Even better, he made you to play your role—the one he created just for you in his body.
So with your unique personality and gift blend, what does service in the body of Christ look like for you? We have many options with our time. Next month we’re going to explore how our unique gift sets and personalities mesh together for service.
But for now, let’s answer one more incredibly important question:
Why will we want to look for all the ways that we can serve Jesus both in our everyday lives as well as in the church? Let’s listen to the apostle Paul again: “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14,15).
Can you see the “why”? We’re compelled, but not in a forced way. We’re compelled in the sense that it’s the only thing we feel like doing. By what are we compelled? Christ’s love. I will respond in proportion to the love and sacrifice someone shows to me. If you buy me a cup of coffee, I will shake your hand. If you pay off the mortgage on my house, I will kiss your feet! (Well, that may be an exaggeration.) But if you suffer hell for me? Wow! There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you. And that’s what Jesus did—suffered hell for us. That’s Christ’s love. Isn’t it compelling? I want to live for him not because I have to, but because I’ve never experienced any love greater than his!
And you have all you need to live for him. God equips you by his Word through the called workers he has given. God has knit you together in the perfect way for his service and made you part of his body. God compels you to use those gifts, not by force, but by his infinite love. Through all of that God turns our questions of “Who’s going to do it?” or “Who me?” or “Why me?” into a statement: “Here am I. Send me!”
David Scharf is a professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota.
This is part one in a two-part series on serving Christ and his church.
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Author: David G. Scharf
Volume 103, Number 6
Issue: June 2016
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