“. . .God has arranged the members, each individual one of them, as He willed. If everything were one member where would the Body be? But as it is there are many members but one Body. . .
“. . .But that the members should all have the same care. So, if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; and if one member is glorified all the members share its joy” I Cor. 12:18, 19, 26
It is apparent that “the members” are those of us in His church, and it is also evident that the Lord’s wish is for us to truly belong to one another. It clearly states that He “arranged” it that way. But the way church is conducted in America, and in much of the world these days, that rarely happens. I attend a megachurch part of the time, and shaking hands with a few folks during the “fellowship” part of the carefully orchestrated program is, for me, beyond meaningless. That may sound a bit harsh, but I do not share in their sorrow or their joy during the millisecond when our hands meet. I know almost none of them, although I may have seen a few before because people tend to sit in the same spots. It also becomes quite apparent that any Body of more than a few dozen members is unwieldy as far as sharing and real community.
If the megachurch was my only source of Christian community and worship I would be missing out on a lot. I would be missing the rich experience of how church was done in the time of Peter, Paul and James. However, I have two other times of fellowship and worship during the week with groups that have become family. These groups echo First Century churches in terms of size and format. On Thursday evenings I attend a three and a half hour Celebrate Recovery (CR) meeting that is truly a celebration. And then on Saturday night or Sunday morning I attend a home church (sometimes called “organic” church or “simple” church). This collection of parts of the Body of Jesus is usually around 12-15 adults, plus a few kids. At first glance it might appear that we in the “organic” church are merely spare parts in the Body, but trust me (and scripture), it’s all been arranged–and I believe with supernatural perfection.
Both CR and home church start with an informal time of food and socialization. CR is limited to an hour due to time constraints. However, the home church’s eating while sharing fellowship will sometimes last two hours. The time of fellowship in both groups is followed by worship and then a teaching or a discussion of scripture. The CR big group meeting has about 35 folks. However, after the big meeting we adjourn to small groups based on our issues. The one I attend for men with anger and codependency issues usually has about 6 or 7 guys present. There is often very intense sharing during that hour, and because of that intensity you start to think of its members as you would family. You look forward to sharing in their triumphs and sorrows of the week.
The intense sharing of the CR small groups is often mirrored in my house church. I have been a part of this church for about four years and they have pretty much become my family. Some week’s themes are about trials, frustrations, conflicts, illness and mourning, but at other times our meetings are light and joyous. Of course, prayer and affirmation is integral. The Apostle Paul describes how church should work in I Cor. 14:26: “Whenever you meet together, let each have his psalm, let each have his teaching, let each have his tongue, let each have his interpretation. Let all things be done for the spiritual upbuilding of the congregation.” Both CR and the organic church are very participatory per Paul’s instructions, as opposed to most larger institutional churches that feature a sermon given by one man and worship conducted by a well-rehearsed team.
The Motivational Gifts
In Romans 12, Paul describes seven spiritual gifts that work together in the Body of Christ. These gifts are sometimes described as the motivational gifts (as opposed to the gifts of ministry and manifestation found in I Cor. 12). They are referred to as motivational because in them are the skill-sets and personality traits that motivate and energize us as Christians. They are the channels in our personality thru which the Holy Spirit pours energy. It’s this Holy Spirit energy that melds us together as integral, smoothly functioning members of His Body. This is apparent in the fruit of the groups pleasing to the Spirit. The seven gifts: Prophecy, Serving, Teaching, Encouraging, Giving, Leadership, Mercy
A detailed description of the seven gifts and how they work together is beyond the scope of this blog. However, I want to mention how I was I was introduced to the motivational gifts and what a difference that knowledge made in my life. One Sunday evening in 1995, a lady named Teresa Lee taught about these special gifts to a meeting of the megachurch’s singles group. Prior to then I had no clear idea of how I fit into Christ’s Body. I knew God wanted me there, but I had no clue as to why beyond my own salvation. The thought of any ministry or of how I could be service was way beyond me. However, the Holy Spirit lightbulb over my noggin’ went on in an instant, and for the past 18 years I’ve observed the Body and its members thru the light of seven gifts. The teaching also explained why I had the gift of mercy. Even though I’m a professional counselor, I’d often felt rather ashamed of being soft-hearted. That quality is both one of the strengths and drawbacks of that particular gift. But suddenly, where I fit into the body and my life’s work made sense. Interestingly enough, Teresa saw my thirst for knowledge and said that by the way I asked questions that teaching was likely my gift. She was probably right. A seed was planted. A few years later I began teaching a class at the church on coping with depression and I subsequently wrote four books. Those are the kind of things teachers do.
As members of the Body each of us has at least one of those gifts in spades. Some folks may display more than one, but usually one is their primary gift. It has been my observation that viable Christian groups have most of the gifts in their leadership and membership. It also points out to me the folly of allowing one gift (the pastor’s) to totally dominate a Body. Balance and shared leadership is certainly the case in both the house church and CR meetings I attend. The balance of the gifts is evidence for me that the members were arranged together thru “holy” and perfect introductions.
We Belong to Each Another
A happy development in the four years since the first incarnation of this blog is an initiative by my megachurch’s (Northland, A Church Distributed) pastor, Dr. Joel Hunter. Over the past year he’s focused on Northland birthing many “distributed” churches which are basically home churches of 10 to 20 members. He recognizes that in and of itself the megachurch has serious drawbacks in terms of intimacy. Real spiritual growth will happen best in an environment of close family-like sharing. And it is in that intimate atmosphere where our spiritual gifts will be most apparent and useful.
In a sense, Jesus had his home church in the twelve apostles and the others in his party that followed him from house to house in town to town–but He also worshiped at The Temple several times a year, and Dr. Hunter likens the megachurch to the Temple.
Dr. Hunter makes the point that all the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit are all given for the common good (I Cor 12:7). They are not imparted solely for our own private enjoyment. I’ve been worshiping at the megachurch, as well as CR and the home church for nearly six years. Things I’ve learned in one setting I’ve carried to another. In that regard I’m kind of a Cross-pollinator–and btw displaying the gift of teaching that Teresa Lee saw in my 20 years ago.