Two turtles at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Working together

I used to hate projects at school when I had to team up with a group. Group projects made me cringe inside, usually because I ended up carrying the project. There were a few times when I didn’t, when everyone worked hard and carried their own load, but those times were few and far between.

Have you ever worked together with someone and felt frustrated because they finished first? Or because it was like they got their work done and got to move on to something else? Or they completed their part first and got their grade or their bonus or their positive feedback before you did because the part you’re working on is more complicated?

Two turtles at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Two turtles at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 3:8

The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.

It’s easy to lose focus when you’re working in pairs or in a group because you start to compare your work with someone else’s work. But you shouldn’t do that, especially in ministry.

I work in a marketing department as a copywriter, so I am involved in just about every single project that my group puts out. We do magazines. We do brochures. We do web content. We do pamphlets, press releases, news articles, trade show booths. You name it; if it’s got any sort of writing on it, I touch it. The ones I don’t look at are the technical documents, but that’s about it.

My part in these projects is usually long and drawn out because I have to get everyone to agree on the way phrase specific product descriptions. The graphic designers have to design it. The coordinator has to make sure everyone signs off. But we don’t all work on it together, kind of like planting and watering mentioned in today’s verse. If you try to water a field before the seeds are planted, you’re wasting your time. But if you plant your seeds, they need to be watered. You can’t move on to the second part until the first part is complete. Kind of like building a brochure in my marketing group; the designers can’t place photos until I write the copy; the coordinator can’t get signoffs until the photos and the copy are in place.

And when each of us finish our part of the project, we can take it easy (theoretically speaking). When each of us finish our part to the best of our ability, we receive our own individual reward.

The same is true in ministry. My church is gearing up for a huge outreach drama that we do every year called Judgement House, and there will be a lot of people working together on my church’s property. I think this verse is important to remember for ministry especially because in ministry it’s very very easy to compare roles. Judgement House is a great example because there are so many facets to it.

There are actors. There are directors. There are tour guides. There are concession workers. There are greeters. There are prayer walkers and security and cleaners and parking lot people. There are the awesome ladies who prepare food for the cast to eat. And every single person is essential. Not one person is more important than the other because we can’t do Judgement House without every person being involved.

But it’s easy for a tour guide (for example) to start thinking that they’re hot stuff. Because they’re visible. Because they’re obvious. Because people see them and notice them. … But I guarantee that Mr. Hot Stuff Tour Guide wouldn’t be able to be a tour guide if the invisible woman in the kitchen didn’t come in early from work to prepare a hot meal for the Tour Guide to eat. And Mr. Hot Stuff Tour Guide wouldn’t be nearly so hot if the invisible prayer walker wasn’t interceded for him, or if the security guard wasn’t helping to hold doors and keep the groups calm, or if the cleaners weren’t helping keep the bathrooms in shape.

See what I’m saying?

No role is more important than another. Everyone works together, or we should. We shouldn’t compare. We are all working for the same purpose, like two farmers working in a field. One is planting; one is watering. Maybe the farmer who plants gets finished first; maybe he gets paid first. But the whole harvest won’t come in until the crops get water. So maybe the farmer who does the watering gets paid later. But both of their roles are essential, and if they focus on the fact that they’re both out in the field for the same reason, maybe they won’t compare each other.

So if you’re at work or you’re in a ministry (like Judgement House) and you’re tempted to compare your job with someone elses? Don’t.

You are positioned where you are for a reason. You have gifts and skill sets that mean only you can do your job right now at this moment. Don’t be jealous of someone else. Don’t be defensive or protective. Just do your job the best you can, and let God sort out the rest.

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Splinter in the toe? Just chop off your foot, right?

4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Romans 12:4-5.

Today’s verse is one of those that is used over and over again in the church, always focusing on how every member of a church has different skills and gifts. Some of this concept is continued in 1 Corinthians 12, talking about spiritual gifts.

For instance, one person may be very good speaker. He would represent the mouth. Others might be very strong at skilled labor or outdoor work–that could be the back or shoulders. Others might be compassionate and kind in serving others by doing housework for the elderly or making meals for the sick; they would be the hands.

Every person in a church has a different set of skills or a gift that God has given them, and no one should look down on someone else’s gift. Because they’re all important. One of the best lines in the King James version of the Bible comes out of the passage in 1 Corinthians 12:

 17If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?  

(Sorry. That verse just makes me giggle.)

I love thinking about the church as being a unified Body. I think that’s one of the reasons I love the Judgement House ministry at NewSpring so much. It uses every gift a church body possesses, whether it’s acting or praying or standing all night long or organizing or counseling or being able to ladle chili and cheese over fritos. It doesn’t matter what your gift is, there’s a place for you in Judgement House. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Body of Christ more engaged than in this crazy, awesome ministry. And I don’t think it’s ever been more obvious how important even the “small” roles are; because Judgement House doesn’t work if one of its parts is missing.

But as I was reading this very this morning, a part stuck out to me that I hadn’t thought about before.

“. . . we all belong to each other.”

It’s true, of course. I mean, look at a body. How could I say that my hands belong to someone else? Or that someone else’s feet are mine? Granted, in American idiom we say that we have our mother’s eyes or our father’s hair, but those are figures of speech. I mean, I know people who have organs who were donated (right, Gramps?), but even if those aren’t the organs we were born with, we still consider them ours, don’t we?

It should be the same in a church. If we’re all called to work together to accomplish something for God, we can’t be divided. God left us all here for a reason, and we have to work together with Him to get it done.

There may be people in the church who you don’t get along with, but they are still a part of the body of Christ . . . and they belong to you just like you belong to them. We need to get our heads around this concept because Satan is ever trying to divide us. He makes us focus on our differences and on how much we disagree with each other or what we disapprove of in others–but if we all believe and follow Jesus Christ, we are called to unity.

We need to keep the main thing, the main thing. Jesus is Who is important. Not our pasts. Not our preferences. Not our appearances.

Now am I saying that we need to make allowances for the sins of other believers? Absolutely not. Sin is sin and should be treated as such, but how do you treat a believer who has sinned? Do you shun them? No. You confront them lovingly, realizing that but for the grace of God go you. No one down here is immune from sin, and the only reason you aren’t in their place is the grace of God. So don’t cut them off or think badly of them. You aren’t in their shoes. So how do you know where they are in their walk with God? If they say they believe in Christ, treat them like your brother or your sister and pick them up and help them get back on the path.

If your hand is wounded, do you chop it off? No. You put a bandaid on it. You stitch it up. You put oitments and salves on it so it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Wouldn’t the same thing be true for a fellow believer?

And this is getting more and more important the further time goes on, the longer we’re here. We can’t afford to keep lopping off parts of our body and expecting that we will be able to accomplish the same amount of work. That’s psychotic. If you chop off your leg, you won’t be able to walk well. It’s the same with the church. The church–meaning Christians–can’t alienate people just because they don’t agree on a simple irrelevant point. It would be like cutting off your own thumb or your big toe; they may be small parts but try picking stuff up or walking without them and you’ll see how important they are.

We’re all in this together. And we belong together. And we belong to each other. And if we can wrap our heads around that, imagine what God could do! Imagine what God can do with a truly unified Body of Christ, not divided by denomination or preferences, but united in Christ, the one Person who really matters.

My pants smell like coffee . . .

. . . and that’s why I’m in jeans at work today, hiding in the corner and hoping that nobody notices. Well . . . actually . . . noticing would be fine . . . because then I could explain how it happened.

Since I stay at Jugement House so late, I’ve been spending the night with my folks. That’s great, but I have to think and plan my wardrobe ahead a couple of days. I brought my jeans and one pair of pants with me, so when I got coffee spilled all down my pants last night at Judgement House and didn’t have time to do laundry when I got to my parents’ house, I just decided to wear jeans to work.

Judgement House has been great this year but very different from other years . . . . The whole thing feels different. I’m not sure how to explain it. And last night was odd. It just felt weird–slow or sluggish or just draggy . . . . I don’t think I have words for it. It was still awesome, but it was like trying to run in mud.

It was comforting to know, though, that everyone else felt the same way. I mean, I know what my issues are and what crap Satan is throwing at me to get me discouraged (it’s not working, by the way) but it was good to know that all the other tour guides felt it too.

Isn’t it amazing how well Satan knows us? How he knows exactly what it will take to hurt us and get us to stop focusing on what matters? He is such a student of our weaknesses . . . . which is nice, in a way, becuase the attacks are easy to recognize . . . . especially when they won’t stop coming. I just started laughing this morning when I woke up. My sciatic nerve hasn’t bothered me for two years and I woke up this morning and could barely walk . . . . and I didn’t do anything to even irritate it. Things like that make me laugh. What else can you do?

I’m excited about getting back to Judgement House tonight. I think it’ll be awesome!

Craziness

So . . . Life is crazy. I just thought I’d share that.

Work is great but really nuts. So much to do. I’ve been pulling 12 hour shifts with no real break for lunch, and now I’m going to have to start working from home on some weekends too. But it’s all good. =) Once November 1 hits, all the deadlines will pass and things will slow down.

Judgement House is getting ready to start too!

So exciting! I will try to post more when I have a moment . . . but no guarantees! =D