Having just finished writing the 27-part small group Bible Study series, Building A Covenant Community, many of us have now come to realise just how important the concept of Christian community is. Each of the 27 imperatives (an imperative is something you must do) in Romans 12:9-21 are given by the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul as the gold standard for Christian maturity. From the outset of the first imperative, “Let love be genuine”, it becomes immediate (and perhaps, uncomfortably) obvious that Christ does not tolerate the nonsense of those who say they love God, yet do not belong to a local church. Not one of the 27 imperatives can be done in isolation. Not one! Each of them require a commitment to a New Covenant community. Belonging to such a community is somewhat like belonging to a big family. It requires accepting people as they are, yet challenging them to be what they should be. It requires humbling asking for forgiveness when mistakes are made, yet holding each other to account when wrongs have been committed. As I consider each of these growth imperatives, I realise afresh why I need you in my life.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18
YOU ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU THINK
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10
In First Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul told his Greek audience that every member of the church was placed there by God to fulfil a function necessary for the health of the church. He used the analogy of a human body. Sometimes we might feel like an ear and lament that we are not a hand. After all, hands get a lot of attention whereas ears seem to do nothing. They just hitch a ride with the head and hang around. I think this ingenious analogy by Paul highlights how we often mistake value for visibility. Unless you’re an ophthalmologist, I doubt whether you really appreciate the true value of ears. That is, of course, unless you’ve ever been in the situation where you went through a tough season in your life and someone with ears used them well to help you through it.
One of the constant topics at our weekly Pastoral Staff meeting is to check on how well we’re doing in caring for those in our church who, like ears, are incredibly valuable; perform an enormously important function; are always there; are often not highly visible; and just like ears, don’t make a lot of noise. These people are one of the main reasons our church is as healthy and attractive as it is!
I don’t want the ‘hands’ in our church to feel unappreciated though. These are the people who open doors; greet people; show people to seats; distribute the communion elements; play musical instruments; sing; bring encouragement from the pulpit over the communion, the offering, and the preached Word. I often think that it demands greater humility to fulfil these highly visible tasks, not less.
¶ 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? First Corinthians 12:14-17
Our church is, as Paul says, like a human body. Like that body, we need all our ‘body parts’. We need you. I need you.
¶ 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.” First Corinthians 12:21
NO ONE LEFT BEHIND
One of the frequent comments we receive about our church is just how remarkable it is to people of all ages worshiping together in our church. In the United States, from our experience, it was very common to see that the only time families were together on the day they went to church was when they were in the car on the way to church! We were very surprised to see that upon arrival, children were immediately checked into children’s church; teens went to youth church (where they often just played games together); and we oldies went into ‘big church’. I like that we have a facility that enables us to all worship together. Don’t misunderstood me. I believe in age-appropriate ministry. (I hope we can start our Young Adults ministry soon). And because I believe in families worshiping together – and – in age-appropriate ministry, those who serve in our Kids ministry and Youth Ministry, are helping to make our church effective.
But I don’t want anyone to think that we only particularly focus on the young and very young. This year we are launching ministries designed to minister men, and a new ministry designed for women: Thrive. We are also exploring commencing a new daytime outreach for older folk in our community who may be experiencing isolation. We really do want to be a church for all the family – however that family is comprised (singles/single parents/parents with children/widows/young marrieds/never marrieds). We don’t want to exclude anyone. We don’t want to leave anyone behind. To do this effectively, I need you.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.Never be wise in your own sight. Romans 12:16
YOU ARE NEEDED
I remember when Kim and I came home with a new addition to our family that Tyrone, our first-born, was a little put out that a) his mother had neglected him for a few days, and, b) there was another little person in our home who got some of the attention he used to get. Even though he was very young, he was a little stand-offish from Kim for sometime. I think I’ve seen this same sort of thing in churches over the years. I recall coming to Legana in 1995 when there was a very small band of dedicated members who were praying weekly for people from our community to be saved and added to our church. The odd thing was though, that whenever such a person ventured into our little church they were treated with some suspicion and the existing members seemed to have felt neglected. It wasn’t odd, it was very odd. If you join us in weekly congregational prayer meeting each Sunday night, you will now hear people praying for the hurting, lost, lonely, confused, and broken to come to Christ and into His church – our church. But more impressively, as we are now experiencing God answer these prayers week-by-week we are also seeing these same pray-ers welcoming these people into our church family. I have a very strong sense that these two things (praying and a willingness to be an answer to these prayers) are thedetermining factor for our church’s future. This is why I am being encouraged by the growing numbers of people who are coming back to our Sunday night service to join us in these prayers. I need you to pray in this twofold manner.
I need you because Christ has given you something we need. I need you because I don’t have what you have from Christ. I need you because God has made you in a way that adds beauty to our church. I need you because your contribution into the lives of others is invaluable. I need you because God connects you with people I would never come across. In fact, not only do I need you, I think we need each other.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8