Thursday, September 20, 2018

Church Parasites

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body - whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.  

Now if the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.  

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, " I don't need you!"  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.  And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.  But God has put the body together, giving great honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27

I've always connected to the description of the functioning church as a body. I think it is such a wonderful metaphor that explains so many things about how the church is supposed to operate and how individual members find their place in it.  Just from the passage above alone, we see that:
  1. every member has their own role,
  2. God put us in our role,
  3. there are many roles within the body,
  4. no one member of the body should be jealous of another's role,
  5. all roles are necessary and important,
  6. the different roles need each other, and
  7. the health of the body (the whole) depends on each of us doing our part.
The metaphor also carries a lot of useful instruction in regarding how church members can function together for a healthy church body.   The American Association of Anatomists lists 7,500 named unique parts of the body.  Some are large (skin) and some are small (stapedius muscle in the ear).  Many have related functionality or inter-dependent functionality (like the musculatory and skeletory systems).  Some have very well-defined functions (like the eye) and there are some we are still perplexed as to what they do (the appendix).   Some are very visible and prominently displayed (the face), some are very hidden (the pancreas), and others are kept very private, though externally visible.  And for the body to be healthy, everything most be in working order.

Likewise, there are a lot of different roles in the church body, probably more than anyone realizes or recognizes as a in existence.  There are the visible roles like pastor, worship leader, and minister.  Then there are the "invisible" roles, the sound team, the church secretary, the janitor.  There is a place for everyone to serve in the body of Christ, in ways that play to the unique creation that God has created us to be and the unique role that God has for us to fulfill.

And the church, the body of Christ, is only functioning at its best when everyone is fulfilling the role that God has appointed for them to serve in, whatever it may be.  Waste disposal may not sound like a glamorous job, but when it is not working, whether in the human body or the church body, people get sick.  Further, you may think your role is not well defined, like the appendix.  But sickness in the appendix can bring a person close to death.   And even small parts are important.  Even if you are a pinky toe or a bone or muscle in the inner ear, when those roles are not functioning properly, the body loses its balance, literally and figuratively.

Yesterday, though, I came across a role that I had not previously considered.  And its not a healthy role for the church.  It's what we become when we do not engage in the function that we were created to have within the body.

Jamie and I in our study together are reading Dr. Tony Evans' Life Under God: The Kingdom Agenda, devotional.  And in the reading for last night, he discussed those that are not fulfilling a role in the body.

"The body of Christ already has too many people who come to church and say, 'Preach to me. Sing to me.  Serve me.  If I'm sick, visit me.  If I'm hurting, comfort me.  If I need encouragement, encourage me.  But don't expect me to give any of my time, talents, or resources to this work.'
Such a member is not acting as a vital church member, but rather sucking the lifeblood of the church's ministry without making any meaningful contribution.  That's a sin and an insult to the Father who has invited us into His family."
September 19, Every Member is Vital

Parasites in the body.  He does not use the exact language, but he is indicating that Christians who come to church and continue to receive from the church without contributing back into it, without fulfilling the role God has created them to serve in, are acting as a drain, a parasite on the church body and the body of Christ.

Please note, this is not talking about the seasons of life or periods where we need to be filled so that we can then in turn fill others.  Those periods where we may have been broken and need to be built back up to continue in the battle.  He's referring to those whose continual pattern is not to serve.

To the viewpoint that church is some place I come to sing songs, hear an uplifting message, and then go about my week.  The idea of church as a day spa or country club. Something that uplifts its members, pampers them spiritually for the week, and then sends them on their way.  Which is in direction opposition to the reality of what the Church is.

The Church is not a building, not a place.  It is the people of God.  It is the Body of Christ, where everyone is serving each other and the world.  It is a living, functioning organism, that needs each part to be in working order and contributing to the whole.

So the question then is, am I a working part of the body or am I a parasite?

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