Summary: Sermon eleven in a fourteen sermon series based on the popular Bible study by Henry Blackaby.
One of the problems many evangelical churches face today is that they have so emphasized the doctrine of the priesthood of believers they have lost their sense of corporate identity. Too many Christians think they stand alone before God and that they are not accountable to the church. It is true that
Christians do have direct access to God. They only need to go through Christ as their Mediator. I can, through the work of the Holy Spirit, understand the Word of God for myself. However, God created the church as His redemptive agent in the world. He has a purpose for the church. God places every member in a church to accomplish His redemptive purposes through that church. So, though each believer has direct access to God and is personally accountable for himself to God; we each, nevertheless, have a connection to one another and a responsibility for one another in the body of Christ. Rather than being independent, God has made us mutually interdependent.
Therefore, what God is doing in and through the church is essential to my knowing how to respond to Him. Where I see Him working in the church, I need to adjust and put my life there.
In our passage for today, Paul speaks of the church as being the body of Christ. In so doing, he tells us how the church is supposed to function. He shares with us what we might call, "Four Laws of Function" whereby we can each relate to one another so that we can all know and do God’s will.
Law #1: We must each accept our responsibility - vs. 15-16
Each of us has a responsibility within the life of the church. We are to do more than simply come on Sunday and "punch our spiritual time card." We each have a place of responsibility to fulfill and a contribution we can make. Yes, there are certain things all of us are expected to participate in: prayer, worship, evangelism, attendance, giving, etc.; but there are also things that God expects of us that are unique to whom we are. The degree to which we refuse to accept our responsibility within our church will determine the degree to which our church is less than what God can use to carry out His purposes.
’Sez I to myself, as I grumbled and growled, ’I’m sick of my church’, and then how I scowled. ’The members unfriendly, the sermons too long; In fact, it seems that everything’s wrong. I don’t like the singing; the church - a disgrace, For signs of neglect are all over the place. I’ll quit going there, and won’t give a dime: I can make better use of my money and time. Then my conscience sez to me, sez he, "The trouble with you is, you’re too blind to see That your church reflects you, whatever it be. Now come, pray, and serve cheerfully; Stop all your faultfinding and boost it up strong; You’ll find you’ll be happy and proud to belong. Be friendly, be willing, and sing as you work, For churches are not built by members who shirk."
Law #2: We must each accept our limitations - vs. 17-18
While we must each accept our responsibility within the life of the church, at the same time, we must each accept the fact that God did not intend nor equip us to do everything.
One pastor said that his church was filled with willing members - 20% were willing to work, and 80% were willing to let them.
Too often, the church suffers from members who will not do their part; but also, they can also suffer from members who will not let others do their part.
As members of the body of Christ, we can be compared to pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece has protrusions and indentations. The protrusions represent our strengths (gifts, talents, abilities), and the indentations represent our weaknesses (limitations, shortcomings, undeveloped areas). But the neat thing is that the pieces complement one another and produce a beautiful whole. Just as each piece of a puzzle is important, so each member of the body of Christ is important. Just as, when one piece is missing from the puzzle, its absence is very obvious and damages the picture, so also is the whole weakened when we are absent from the body of Christ.
Just as, when each piece of a puzzle is in place, any one piece is not conspicuous but blends in to form the whole picture, so it should be in the body of Christ.
One of the things that can hinder the health and halt the growth of a church is for there to be an unwillingness to open up opportunities for folks to get involved in service. That’s why the most important statistic in the life of a church is not necessarily the "nickels & noses" but the "new folks involved in ministry." When a church gives priority to leading people to become meaningfully involved in the life of their church, the "nickels & noses" will take care of themselves. Therefore, those who are already involved must recognize their limitations and allow for the involvement of others.