One of the things i'm looking forward to the most about next months trip to Bulgaria is the chance the team gets to do some teaching, to encourage and share ideas with the guys out there. The topic i've been given is 'encouragement for the Christian.' I'm looking at the ground for all our encouragement (the cross) the centre of mutual encouragement (the church) and the way of self encouragement (um...read your Bible and pray folks! Needs some work that one) I've spent most of the week in 1 Corinthians 12:11-29, which has so refreshed me for two main reasons.
Aside from the wonderful oneness which the indwelling of the Holy Spirit gives us, Jew or Greek, slave or free, verses 14-22 show us that the church needs everyone...everyone as we are. We need to be different. The body needs feet, eyes, ears and noses. The church needs preachers and singers and instrument types and deacons and set up people and set down people and pa/techie type people. It needs evangelists and councillors and cell leaders and people gifted in hospitality, introverts and extroverts. Imagine if the whole church was made up of PA people, or preachers, or turn up early and put chairs out. Imagine if one particularly ministry of the church had most of the people. The church would be lopsided at best.
So there is encouragement from Paul to those who feel that their gifts aren't needed, and a rebuke to those who are self sufficient and don't feel they need anyone. First the encouragement:
'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 has arranged each one of them in body, as He chose.'
Be encouraged Corinthians, if everyone had the same gift, where would the church be? We're one body, but we need many parts. What about the self sufficient? Those in Corinth who can prophecy and speak in tongues and don't feel the need for those who can't? Paul has words for them too:
'The eye can not 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 that seem to be weaker are indispensable'
There's no room for self sufficient individuals and factions in the church. One group can no more separate from another than the eye to the hand. We need each other. We all rejoice together, we all mourn together. We are all one body.
I love the church. I love that it is as much home for the CEO, the war veteran, the full time mum and the guy who can't find work. I love that in the best churches, Christians really are a family, that what binds us, the Holy Spirit, is so much bigger than what divides us. The Church at is best is the Gospel in action, the Gospel displayed, the Gospel magnified.
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