Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, charity in all things: As diversified as the Christian Church is, we are to make every effort to maintain unity in the essentials (which means adhering to the gospel), allow liberty (freedom of choice) in the non-essentials, and be charitable in all things, even when we passionately disagree! In other words, when we disagree we are not to be disagreeable. In the Church our unity in Christ means that our diversity does not become division. And our diversity means that our unity does not become uniformity.
Church attendance increases life expectancy: Yale University concluded a twenty-eight year survey which found that people who go to church are happier, enjoy better health, and live longer than those who don’t. Imagine that! The survey, involving 28,000 older church attendees, found that they have lower blood pressure, less depression, and stronger immunity to disease. Furthermore, the non-churchgoers had a shortened life span, roughly equal to that of smokers. An interviewer asked an eighty-year-old woman, running on a treadmill, what her secret was. She said, “When you walk with God you have purpose, so you live longer and you have peace, so you live better.”
Bob Gass, A Fresh The UCB Word For Today, 1998, New Jersey: Bridge Logos Publishers, p.95, devotion for April 5th
Let me challenge you and ask you this: Is the church there for you – to satisfy your needs, or are you also there for the church? Are you simply a consumer, or are you also a contributor? Sometimes we do need to come to church to receive, to just BE… to be a human being and not a human doing. There are seasons when we all need to do that but church is not just a place to attend; it’s not just a place to come and be ministered to. The living temple is meant to be an every man, every woman ministry. Church is not just a place to attend; it’s a community, a body to get involved with, to serve others, and help build this holy temple. We are the body of Christ; we need each other. You may recall these words written by St. Teresa of Ávila:
Christ has no body now but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes; you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
I love the way Andy Stanley recounts the history of the church… ‘The story of the church goes something like this: A small band of Jewish dissidents defied a superpower and a religious system that had been in place for a thousand years and, in the end, prevailed. At the centre of this grassroots movement, originally referred to as The Way, was a Jewish carpenter whose messages centred on a “kingdom” that wasn’t directly connected to the world. He spoke mostly in parables that few could understand. He insisted that those who followed him love the Romans and pay those onerous taxes. He alienated the influential and the powerful. He offended practically everybody. His family thought he had lost his mind. After only three years of public ministry, he was arrested, publicly humiliated, and executed.
Sounds like the perfect way to start a movement, doesn’t it? But it gets even stranger. After his execution, Jesus’ dispirited and desperate followers claimed that he rose from the dead and that they had seen him. Then within weeks of this alleged resurrection dozens and then hundreds of people within walking distance of where Jesus was buried believed this nonsense and began telling others. Before long, Jerusalem was filled to the brim with followers of The Way. When resistance from both Rome and the Jewish authorities broke out, several members of the original group were executed and the followers scattered.
Now if this uprising had been like the dozen or so similar messianic uprisings that occurred during the same slice of history, it would have passed as a mere footnote of history. But this one was different. Everywhere they went, followers of The Way insisted that God had done something unique in their generation; he had raised a man from the dead.
In a relatively short amount of time, this Jewish knockoff religion replaced the entire pagan pantheon of gods as the primary belief system of the Roman Empire, the same empire responsible for crucifying its central figure. The same empire that launched several vicious inquisitions with the intent of stamping it out completely.
Doesn’t really add up, does it? Not without an actual resurrection anyway. But the story of the church is not just unexplainable, it’s undeniable. Today over a third of the world’s population claims some kind of faith in Jesus. The Roman Empire is long gone. Ancient Judaism died with the destruction of the Jewish temple in AD 70. But today one third of the world’s population claims Jesus as the centrepiece of their religious experience. He taught for three years, and twenty centuries later, he is worshipped on every continent on the planet. That’s an amazing story.’
Source: Andy Stanley, Deep & Wide, 2012, Michigan USA, Zondervan, p.52-54
Too many Christians are M.I.A (missing in action), If Jesus willingly died for the Church, it won’t kill you and me to show up for the church.
John Stott reminds us, ‘many people mistakenly think the Day of Pentecost was the birthday of the church, but this is incorrect because the church, as the people of God, had already been around for at least four thousand years, going back to the time when God chose Abraham. The Day of Pentecost doesn’t describe the birth of the church but the continuation of the church after the revelation of Christ, that is, the remnant of God’s people became the Spirit-filled church or body of Christ.’
In fact, in many of our Bibles there’s one page that really shouldn’t be there, and that’s the blank page that separates the Old Testament from the New Testament. You see, there is no separation: It’s a continuation not a separation; it’s not an old religion and a new religion; it’s not an old church and a new church. The New Testament church is a continuation of the Old; it is part two, if you like. (What we call the Early Christian Church is the beginning of part two… the end of the story.)
In fact, the Bible reads a bit like a ‘who-done-it’ in two parts. The Old Testament sets the scene: The crime is committed, the evidence gathered, judgment passed and the penalty announced… but the Old Testament ends in a state of suspense, because there has been continuous talk, prophecy, of some kind of reprieve, of payment being made on behalf of the guilty; of a Messiah who would pay a ransom and rescue his people. But who… we are left in suspense! (Dun, Dun, Dun!) Cue: The New Testament, part two of the story, which tells us not only ‘who-done-it’ but who-done-it so incredibly well, all-sufficiently, that not only was the ransom paid, but also there is forgiveness, restoration, renewal and eternal life… if we accept and follow Him, Jesus, that is.
The theme of the whole Bible from Genesis 12 (with the call of Abraham) to Revelation 22 (and the renewal of all things) is ‘How lost people can be found’ and the main character in the story from beginning to end is the Lord Jesus Christ.
R. Ian Seymour
Do you know where the fastest growing churches in the world are? They are in countries like Nepal, China, Sudan and Iran – countries where Christians are oppressed.
By 1953 the Chinese communist government had expelled all foreign missionaries and incarcerated local church leaders. There were a few hundred thousand Christians, and the religion was illegal. Under opposition and persecution that number has risen in the past 70 years to perhaps 100 million. God’s kingdom advances under pressure!
Source: Explore Bible notes, 3/8/2019
William Arthur Ward said of the church and his own Christian faith:
“I will do more than belong; I will participate.
I will do more than care; I will help.
I will do more than believe; I will practice.
I will do more than be fair; I will be kind.
I will do more than forgive; I will forget.
I will do more than dream; I will work.
I will do more than teach; I will inspire.
I will do more than learn; I will enrich.
I will do more than give; I will serve.
I will do more than live; I will grow.
I will do more than suffer; I will triumph.”
Source: The UCB Word For Today, 28/4/2013
There should be no such thing as an isolated or independent Christian: As a believer you may survive apart from the church, but you can’t thrive. Your God-given potential will never be realised until you commit wholeheartedly to a local fellowship and invest yourself in serving God’s vision for the church.
Loving one another is what the Bible calls ‘fellowship’ – translated from the Greek word, ‘koinonia’. The primary meaning of koinonia is ‘fellowship; sharing in common; communion,’ and a powerful example of what fellowship should look like, can be found in a study of the phrase “one another” in the Bible. ‘Over and over in the New Testament we’re told as a church to be devoted to one another, submit to one another, forgive one another, bear one another’s burdens, honour one another, accept one another, teach one another, serve one another, encourage one another, pray for one another and love one another. You get the message. We are commanded to love one another.’
[Note: The UCB Word For Today, 10/7/2014]
It’s not always easy. You are not easy to love sometimes, are you? Neither am I. Oswald Chambers said: “God loves me not because I am lovable, but because it is His nature to do so. And now He says to me, ‘show the same love to others – love as I have loved you. I will bring any number of people about you whom you cannot respect, and you must show my love to them as I have shown it to you.”
[Note: Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, (2000 edition), Worcester: Oswald Chambers Publications, p.138 ]
Adapted from http://www.gotquestions.org/koinonia.html#.Vrzi3YfZ7mI.mailto - accessed 8/5/2019
A jeweller often places a diamond on a piece of black velvet. The brilliance of the gem is clearer against that background. So it is with the Church. The dark conditions of the world’s circumstances become the backdrop upon which He displays His glorious Church!
Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth, p.55
Years ago, Charles Spurgeon said this on the subject of church unity: “To remain divided is sinful! Did not our Lord pray: ‘That they may be one, even as we are one’? A chorus of voices keep harping on the unity tune: what they’re saying is, ‘Christians of all doctrinal shades and beliefs must [be tolerant and] come together in one visible organization, regardless… Unite, unite!’ Such teaching is false, reckless and dangerous. Truth alone must determine our alignments. Truth comes before unity. Unity without truth is hazardous. Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17 must be read in its full context because He also prayed (v17): ‘Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth’. Only those sanctified through the Word can be one in Christ. To teach otherwise is to betray the Gospel.
Charles H. Spurgeon, The Essence of Separation, quoted in The Berean Call, July, 1992, p.4
Ten Things You Never Hear Said In A Church:
- I love it when we sing hymns I’ve never heard before.
- I’m so excited about the 52-week sermon series on Leviticus.
- I don’t think the vicar ought to try ‘House of the Rising Sun’ at the Family Service again.
- It’s my turn to sit on the front pew.
- I was so enjoying the sermon I completely forgot I was due on the golf course at noon.
- Vicar, we’d like to send you on this month-long training course in the Bahamas.
- I volunteer to be a permanent teacher in the Sunday School.
- The Annual Church Meeting is the highlight of my year.
- I always feel better after I’ve doubled my annual stewardship pledge.
- Jesus who?
John Pritchard, Going to Church, 2009, London: SPCK, p.41
The church is not just a place to attend it’s a community, a body, to get involved with. Sometimes people shy away from getting involved… they think of church being like a giant helicopter. They don’t want to get too close in case the get sucked into the rotas! But it shouldn’t be like that. Many hands (or many parts) make light work. Going on a rota once a month or once every two months is an expression of love and commitment to the body (a body which we all know isn’t perfect)! Friends, don’t look for a perfect church… it doesn’t exist. And if a perfect church did exist and you joined it, well then it would no longer be perfect, would it? There is no perfect church this side of heaven… we are all flawed, imperfect and broken, which is why we need each other. Don’t be a spectator. You are needed. Get involved. Where can you serve, where is there a need you can fill?
(It’s important that we understand, however, that a need does not necessarily constitute a call or a calling. There is a need to take the gospel to the four corners of the earth but it’s not everyone’s calling).
R. Ian Seymour
The church needs you and it doesn’t function as it should without you. Get involved; put your spiritual gifts to work. As a working definition: a spiritual gift is any manifestation of the Holy Spirit that enables you to minister to the needs of Christ’s body, the church.
Get involved, play your part in the building project, willingly and gladly, not reluctantly… not because you must, but because you want to, as an act of worship, dedicated to the Lord. If a believer holds off or refuses to get involved, if they do not use their spiritual gifts to serve, then they are depriving the church if what it needs. Again, the church needs you and it doesn’t function as it should without you.
Benjamin Franklin said, ‘For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; for want of a horse the rider was lost; for want of a rider the battle was lost!’ And all for the sake of a nail! Use your “nail”; your gift, and see how God will multiply your offering to bless others and you.
R. Ian Seymour.
Source: Og Mandino, 1990, A Better Way To Live, New York: Bantam, p.103
Andy Stanley issues this challenge: ‘Suppose you had seven credit cards in your purse of wallet and you lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the six and go to search for the missing one until you found it? I lost a credit card recently and never once pulled out the one I hadn’t lost to obsess over it. I felt no urgency about my un-lost credit card. I didn’t call a single person to say that I still had my American Express Card. But I did start calling around to see if anyone had seen my lost MasterCard. When you lose something important, you obsess over it; you get preoccupied with it. It’s pretty much all you think about. Remember the last time you couldn’t find your phone? Remember the embarrassing, ashamed-to-admit-it panic that started to filter across your common sense? You took no comfort in all the other un-lost electronic gadgets lying around your house, did you? You were on a mission. Why? You lost something important.
What does your church obsess over? What is your church preoccupied with? – Churches for churched people obsess over the most frivolous, inconsequential things. It’s why you dread your board meetings, your elder meetings, and your committee meetings. You rarely talk about anything important. You’re managing found people. I know you care about unfound people in your heart. But do you care in your schedule, your programming, your preaching style, or your budget? Do you know how much difference the care you feel in your heart makes in the life of someone far from God? None. No difference. Your dad loved you in his heart. But it was the love in his schedule that made the difference, wasn’t it? Do you really want to spend the rest of your ministry years feeling something you don’t do anything about? I hope not. (…) Jesus said there is more rejoicing in heaven over newly found people than people who haven’t been lost for a long time. Would you like to know why there’s not all that much rejoicing in your church? It’s a church full of found people. Come on, do you really want to spend your life managing what was lost to the neglect of what’s still lost?
Source: Andy Stanley, Deep and Wide, 2012, Michigan USA, Zondervan, p.314-316
Remember those exhilarating early days of your Christian life when you couldn’t get enough of God’s Word, you couldn’t wait to be with God’s people, and you couldn’t find enough time to do all the praying and seeking God’s face that you wanted to? What happened? Work, bills, kids, chores, busyness… Life crowded out the Lord! It’s easy enough to diagnose the problem, but what’s the answer? Well, I think the answer is to fall in love with Jesus Christ all over again. If you do that, you’ll find time for Him. So instead of asking the Lord to give you more hours in the day, pray that He will give you more love in your heart for Him. That’s a prayer He will answer.
Adapted from Tony Evans, Time To Get Serious, p.201
The church is not made up of perfect people; it’s not a museum for masterpieces, it’s a hospital for those who have been hurt by life, even self-inflicted. Do you want to see the sort of people that God builds the church with? Prepare yourself for a shock. Colossians 3v5 says: ‘sexually immoral people, impure, lustful people with evil desires, greedy, idolaters’ and verse 7 says: ‘You used to walk in these ways in the life you once lived.’ These are the sorts of people God builds his church with. Now before we start getting offended and thinking that doesn’t apply to me, consider this:
- Three people who committed murder wrote most of the Bible: Moses, David and Paul were all guilty of murder… but because all three of them were repentant, God forgave them and used their lives in remarkable ways. How gracious is our God?
- The genealogy of Jesus himself, as recorded in Matthew chapter 1, includes five women, four of whom have very questionable credentials: Tamar committed incest with her father-in-law, Judah (Genesis 38:18); Rahab was a Gentile prostitute (Joshua 2v1); Ruth was an outcast Gentile, a Moabite (Ruth 1v4); and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, was an adulteress (2 Samuel 11:16). As one author wrote: “The shady ancestors of Christ show that He entered human history in the raw; as a willing descendant of its shame!” – That’s how much God loves us. – Shocking isn’t it? You just couldn’t make this stuff up! How wonderful that God should think of us so highly.
Adapted from The UCB Word For Today, 7/8/2010 and Explore Bible notes
Many in our society think Christianity is irrelevant and the church insignificant but at a recent Christian conference one the main speakers, Krish Kandiah, reminded us of some things…
- Do you know who provides half of the parent and toddler support groups in the United Kingdom? – Is it Sure Start? – No, it’s the church actually!
- Do you know who provides the biggest network of debt counselling across the United Kingdom with 190 drop in centres helping over 19,000 people last year alone? – Is it Martin-money-saving-expert-Lewis? – No, it’s the church actually!
- Do you know who will feed 100,000 hungry people this year in the UK? – Is it the Red Cross? – No, it’s the church actually!
- Do you know who brought hospitals, schools, universities and democracy into our country? – Was it the Vikings? – No, it’s the church actually!
- Who invented Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Queens Park Rangers, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur football clubs? – Was it the Football Association? – No, it’s the church actually!
- When the doctors, the police and the social workers move out of an area and go and live somewhere safe, who is it that moves in? – Is it Richard Dawkins and the militant atheists? – No, it’s the church actually!
- Who is it that is the hope of the world? – Is it the United Nations? – No, it’s the church actually!
Krish Kandiah, (day 1) Spring Harvest Minehead, Week 2, 2012
The difference between being a church attender and a church member is commitment. Attenders are consumers, members are contributors. Attenders want the benefits of a church without sharing the responsibility.
Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, Zondervan Publishing, p.136
The church has been likened to a football match, in which thousands of people desperately in need of exercise watch twenty-two people desperately in need of a rest!
There’s a story told about a vicar who was showing a small boy around his church. Standing before a war memorial he said: ‘These are the names of local people who died in the Services.’ The boy look horrified and asked, ‘Did they die in the morning services or the evening services?’
Nicky Gumbel, Alpha Questions of Life, 2007, Eastbourne: Kingsway Communications, p.203
Years ago Archbishop William Temple said, ‘The church is the only organisation that exists for the benefit of its non-members.’
Andy Stanley writes: “Read the Gospels and you will have a difficult time finding even one example of Jesus being fair. He chose twelve apostles from among hundreds of disciples. He gave preferential treatment to three of the twelve. He didn’t heal everyone. He didn’t feed every hungry crowd. He stopped in the middle of a virtual parade and invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house. Why him?
He ensured that strangers would live and allowed Lazarus to die. And what about the incident at the pool at Bethesda? John tells us that Jesus singled out a single man among “a great number of disabled people… the blind, the lame, the paralysed.” (John 5:3) I don’t mean to be crass, but you can’t help imagine him tiptoeing through the crowd saying, “Pardon me, excuse me, pardon me.” Then he finally reaches the one lucky guy. I say lucky. He had been there for thirty-eight years. Jesus leans down and whispers, “Do you want to get well?” Does he want to get well? Seriously? This must have actually happened. No one would fabricate that question and put it in Jesus’ mouth. The man assures Jesus he does. Jesus heals him. And only him. Then tiptoes back through the crowds of sick people, followed by the healed man carrying his mat. Can you imagine?
Talk about unfair. How about this one: He tells the fellow known as the rich young ruler that in order to gain eternal life, he has to sell everything and join his entourage. Then, a few months later he whispers to the criminal crucified next to him that on that very day they will meet in paradise! Seriously? One guy has to dedicate the rest of his life to Jesus; the other guy gets in with a minute left on the clock?
Somewhere in the midst of Jesus’ seeming lack of fairness and consistency is a clue for how the local church is meant to operate. [Some church leaders] hide behind, “If we do it for one, we will have to do it for everyone.” To which I can hear Jesus shouting, “No you don’t! I didn’t!” If we are not careful, we will end up doing for none because we can’t do for everyone. The better approach is to do for one what you wish you could do for everyone, knowing that everyone is not going to be treated the same way.”
Source: Andy Stanley, Deep and Wide, 2012, Michigan USA, Zondervan, p.76-78
Did you know there are more Christians in the world today than at any other time in history and the church is growing at a tremendous rate? In our own neighbourhoods it is very easy to lose sight of the big picture and so I want to take a moment to put the church on a larger map. The Church of England is very good at counting and collating figures. Bishop John Pritchard, in his book, Going to Church, reports that the church, worldwide is very alive and well. Listen to some of these statistics:
- 2.1 billion: the number of Christians in the world (a third of the world’s population, comprising Roman Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Pentecostals, and many others).
- 80 million: the number of Anglicans worldwide (17 million in Nigeria, which has had to double the number of dioceses in the last ten years to cope with the growth of the Church).
- 70,000: the net increase in the number of Christians every day worldwide.
- Western Europe is the only part of the world where the Christian faith is struggling. Everywhere else the Church is growing, especially in South America, Africa and South-East Asia. It is estimated there are 10,000 new Christians every day in China.
- While we are about it… 1.7 million: the number of people who attend a Church of England service each month, with about 1 million attending every Sunday.
- 23 million: the number of hours of voluntary service given by Church of England parishioners each month.
- 1 million (just over): the number of children educated in Church of England schools.
And what is really exciting… there are signs of revival and large-scale church growth here in England, chiefly in the charismatic evangelical churches – like Holy Trinity Brompton (founders of the Alpha course) and St Andrew’s Chorleywood; and also especially in the black Pentecostal churches in London. There have been over 500 new churches in the London boroughs in the last 10 years. One of the largest, Kingsway International, has 10,000 Christians meeting every Sunday.
In Narnia, it is said ‘Aslan is on the move’. In our own country, today, God is on the move. And He is especially moving in the Pentecostal/Charismatic churches. The Church of Christ is alive and well and busy, and the kingdom of God continues to grow just as Jesus said it would.
R. Ian Seymour
John Pritchard, Going to Church, 2009, London: SPCK, p.38-40
In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says, “I will build my church” not “go and build my church.”
Every church has a flock and a fringe. The secret to church growth is to feed the flock and foster the fringe, and seek to bring the two together as often as possible.
Mother Teresa said, ‘Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.’
Research shows that people become Christians because of a relationship with Christians; people like nurture courses – a staggering 95% said they found them helpful or very helpful; most people (69%) become Christians gradually – rather than having one dateable conversion experience of God (31%). For some the experience is like a capital V – a sudden change, while for others it is more gradual like a U; most people join a church and then find faith, rather than finding faith and then looking for a church to join. Belonging comes before believing – not the other way round (belonging does not necessarily mean attending Sunday services).
Source: EMMAUS the way of truth: Stage 1: Contact, CHP 2003, p.4,6,13
Pastor Mark Batterson writes: “The kingdom of God has survived every threat against it. And it has not just survived – it has thrived. It’s advancing faster than ever before. By the most conservative estimates, a hundred thousand people around the globe put their faith in Jesus Christ every single day. That’s more people than there are seconds in a day, which means there is rejoicing in heaven every single second or every single day!”
Mark Batterson, Play The Man, 2017, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, p.152
A sign seen outside a church read: CH??CH (what’s missing?)… do come and join us this Sunday.
A Sunday school teacher asked the children: “Why is it necessary to be quiet when you go into the church?” A little girl called replied, “Because the people are sleeping.”
It has to be said, many people think of church services as boring, sometimes dead-boring, and to be fair a lot of church services are… BUT they absolutely should not be!
Talking of unity, or lack of it, I heard a joke about Tonto and the Lone Range. They were riding through a canyon together when all of a sudden they were surrounded on all sides by Indians with war paint on, riding horseback and armed to the teeth! The Lone Ranger turned to Tonto and asked, “Yikes! What are we going to do?” Tonto replied, “What you mean we, Whiteman?” – So much for unity!
If you ever get bored going to church John Pritchard shares three tips to help make services more interesting:
- Practise sleeping with your eyes open. It’s not easy but it’s a useful transferable skill!
- Dedicate several minutes to reaching for a packet of sweets in your pocket, taking the wrapper off and getting it into your mouth, without making a noise and without anyone noticing. Score 2 points if you get your hand in your pocket, 5 for getting the wrapper off and 10 if you make it to your mouth. (If you succeed you’ll feel enormous satisfaction, but the points automatically transfer to the other person if they catch you!)
- For adults: Work out some congregational chants to liven up the service. Like this one for Anglican churches: ‘What do we want?’ ‘Gradual change!’ ‘When do we want it?’ ‘In due course!’ – Of course, it’s unwise to actually use the chants during the service but the fantasy will be eminently enjoyable!
John Pritchard, Going to Church, 2009, London: SPCK, p.29
Remember the parable of the fig tree that had plenty of leaves but no fruit. Jesus said to it: ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again’ (Mark 11v14). I love the way Joyce Meyer applies this parable: ‘If our lives revolve around the church but we have no fruit, we are not living out our faith. We can have Christian bumper stickers on our cars, wear Jesus pins, carry our Bibles around, spend the lunch-break sitting alone reading our Bibles, have plaques listing the fruits of the Spirit hanging on our walls, and listen to teaching tapes and say “Praise the Lord! Hallelujah” but if we do not have time to help anyone else or even show kindness, we are like the fig tree with leaves but no fruit… if we have leaves, we need to also have fruit.’
Cited by Nick Gumbel in Bible in One Year (accessed 2/3/2015)
Nothing makes God happier than when we use our God-given gifts to glorify Him. The word ‘glorify’ means to show off. We’re supposed to show God off.
If your church was to close; if it no longer existed, would the community notice?
A colleague went on holiday to Rome and while they were there they came across some members of a Christian group, called the Community of St. Egidio, who serve Christ on the streets of Rome by sharing their lives with the poor and marginalised. Years previously, they’d found a crude, life-sized wooden statue of Jesus in a skip. (Here’s a picture of it.) It had been thrown out because it had been damaged – both the arms had broken off. But they picked it up and kept it. They said we are going to be the arms of Jesus; we are going to be his hands and feet and eyes. They called the statue Cristo dell’impotenza (Christ of weakness). Their base is the Church of St. Egidio in Rome and the statue is housed there, as a symbolic reminder. Friends, that’s what we are called to do and to be: we are to be Christ’s arms and hands and feet, and his eyes and ears and mouth… we are to use our spiritual gifts to serve the body and grow the kingdom.
R. Ian Seymour
We are not to sit on our bums sucking our thumbs until Jesus comes!
We are one body with many parts. We need each other. Richard Blackaby shares the following illustration to make the point: Suppose the eye could say to the body, “Let’s walk down these train tracks. The way is clear. Not a train in sight.” So the body starts down the tracks. Then the ear says, “I hear a whistle coming from behind us.” The eye argues, “But there’s nothing on the track as far as I can see. Let’s keep on walking.” Supposing the body listens only to the eye and keeps on walking. Soon the ear says, “That whistle is getting louder and closer!” Then the feet say, “I feel the vibrations of a train coming. We’d better get our body off these tracks!” Now, if the body is going to function as God intended it to what needs to happen? If this were your body, what would you do?
- Would you try to ignore the conflict between the body parts and hope it just goes away?
- Would you take a vote of all your body members, and let the majority rule?
- Would you trust your eyes and keep on walking because sight is an extremely important gift/sense?
No! You’d get off the train tracks. God gave our bodies many different senses and parts. When each part does its job, and when each part pays proper attention and respect to the others, then the whole body works the way it should. Similarly, the church functions best when all of its members are involved using their gifts.
Source: Richard Blackaby, Experiencing God, 2008 edition, Nashville Tennessee: B&H Publishing, p.201
Responsibility has been defined as our response to God’s ability. One of the major problems in the church today, as a whole, is that so few are exercising their spiritual gifts. Church expert Eddie Gibbs once said, “The level of unemployment in the nation pales into insignificance in comparison with that which prevails in the church.”
Source: Nicky Gumbel, Alpha: Questions of Life, p.138
Max Lucado writes: “Accept God’s permission to be who he made you to be. A frog can flap its little legs and never fly. Some of you have been flapping a long time – too long. Your heroes are birds; your mentors are birds. You think you should fly and feel guilty that you can’t. Enough of this bird-brained thinking! Be a frog! It’s okay to jump. You have some strong thighs beneath you, so get hopping.”
Max Lucado, Cure for the Common Life, p.38