Earlier I wrote about the relationship between the church and the individual believer, and discussed a Biblical view of that relationship. I realized that discussion, although good, didn’t sufficiently discuss how I should be interacting with my church, hence this post. If you haven’t already, please read that post before continuing, it will provide better context for you.
Individual and Group Purpose
The church has a purpose, designed to help it meet the Great Commission we find in Matthew 28 as Jesus Christ instructs His disciples:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
That purpose is for each of us individually, and together as a community. If the Church has a mission to the world, so does the believer have a mission. The church is merely the community of believers, working to become more mature and make more disciples.
Paul, when writing to the believers in Ephesus, told them:
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:11-14 ESV)
A big part of that mission of the church is by the individuals of that community of believers to work together, developing each member of the community into a more mature believer, so that we will be sure, and not distracted from what is true and right according to God (rather than mere men). Alone, one man can only do so much. But an army of men can change the world – drastically. God knows this better than we ourselves, and so designed the church to take advantage of that in us.
Historians tell us that the reason why groups of people first banded together was so that the group could do things individuals could not. It would be very hard for one person to thrive if he tried to do everything. Think of your family as a microcosm of this – what if each person had to do every job, alone without help. It doesn’t work… We distribute the workload; one person doesn’t do everything, but we share the workload of cooking, cleaning, getting food, getting clothes, getting paychecks… This list goes on.
It’s the same way in a town. You have a retailer. You have a grocer. You have a farmer. You have school teachers. You have…. You have…. You have….
The church is a community – each member doesn’t have to do every job, but ideally just like a family or a town, within the community of the church everyone should contribute in some way meaningful to the community and its goals. This is a big part of what Paul is trying to tell us! To try to do everything yourself would be wrong, but so is doing nothing.
Everyone has their part!
Kind of a longer read, but please take the here… The community of believers in Corinth had a similar problem about understanding this. Paul wrote to them, saying:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-26 ESV)
When looking at your church… How does this fit together?
Each person within the church – the ἐκκλησία, the community of believers – has a place, a purpose and part in the efforts of the whole. Each is needed and necessary for the community to operate as Good intended.
Ask yourself, “am I fulfilling my mission appropriately to this community of believers?” If you’re not, maybe you need to get that right. Are you called to be an evangelist? A Shepherd? A teacher? If you feel that calling – if you even suspect that may be the case, you need to pray and consult with your current church leadership. It may be your are feeling out of place because you are not exercising the spiritual gifts God has provided you!
God calls us to exercise our spiritual gifts, not hide them or ignore them. When God called each of His disciples, each of His apostles, they responded. Paul, a man most earnest in persecuting the followers of Christ due to the danger he believed they represented to his Jewish brethren, did an immediate about-face from his former ways. He recognized his calling (albeit a bit more clear than ours!), and acted accordingly with all due haste, not delaying or reconsidering.
What about you? What about me?
How much have you individually sought to be led by the Holy Spirit to understand and embrace the particular part of the body – the community of believers – you are called to be? It is clear we each have a part to play!