Flamingo at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Gifts are for helping each other

What would you do if you saw a giant eyeball rolling around downtown? Or a tongue hopping its way down the street? I would be pretty disturbed. That sounds like something out of a horror show.

But actually that’s something that comes out of the Bible in 1 Corinthians 12, specifically verses 14-17. Actually, the whole chapter is pretty amazing, talking about the different parts of a body and how everything works together and how one part isn’t more important than another part.

Flamingo at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Flamingo at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 12:7.

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.

As Paul talks about in the rest of 1 Corinthians 12, the Church is called the Body of Christ, and we are all members of that Body. If you believe in Christ, you are a part of something bigger than yourself. As it says in 1 Corinthians 12:19 (The Message), “But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of.”

Every part of the Body is important. Every part of the Body is necessary. And if one part isn’t functioning the way it’s supposed to, the whole Body suffers or the whole Body isn’t as effective as it could be.

The first part of 1 Corinthians 12 talks about gifts. If you have accepted Christ, the Holy Spirit has given you a gift. It could understanding. It could be communication. It could be compassion. Or any of the gifts mentioned (and maybe some of the ones that aren’t). But no matter what your gift is, you are expected to use it to help the rest of the Body function. That’s why the Spirit gave it to you.

But like any expectation of a Christ-follower, it’s not required. You can sit on that gift all your life and no do anything with it, and nothing bad will happen. Nothing good will happen either, but you’ll be perfectly safe.

But then why did God give you that gift to begin with?

We are here to help each other. The Church is here to spread the Good News to the farthest reaches of the world and the closest corners of our home and also to encourage fellow believers. But if the Church isn’t functioning like it should, how can it do the job Christ has asked of it?

Just like a body made up of just an eyeball would be distressing, a body that doesn’t have an eyeball will be less effective. A body that doesn’t have a tongue has to learn a new way to communicate. A body without hearing has to find a new way to listen. A body is supposed to have all of these parts, and if we’re talking about a real person, yes, they can find a way around it. But this Body shouldn’t have to.

So why are Christians afraid to use their gifts?

I’ll tell you why I am. I’m a perfectionist. And it’s very difficult for me to share my gifts with anyone because I’m terrified that if I don’t get it 100% right, I’ll not only make a fool of myself but I will also make a fool of Christ. So in my mind, it’s safer to just sit quietly in the corner.

Maybe it is safer. But how much of my fear is really valid? And how much of it is our enemy telling me I can’t do it?

Check out verses 4 through 6:

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

If you’ve got a gift and that gift allows you to worship God and lead others to worship God, it comes from the Spirit. And if you keep yourself out of it and if you keep your heart set on bringing God glory, it doesn’t matter if your performance is flawless. It doesn’t matter if your grammar is perfect. It doesn’t matter if your song is pitch perfect. God will be glorified. He’ll be glorified in your perfection (if you can ever achieve it); He’ll be glorified in your lack of it. And that’s what matters.

If other people don’t appreciate your gift and you are obviously using it for God, ignore them. Remember who it’s about. It’s not about you. It’s not about them. It’s about the Church as a whole (which doesn’t mean the grouchy person who always sits in the same pew). It’s about helping the Church function the way it was meant to.

We don’t have a lot of time left, and the Church needs every part working together in harmony if we’re going to reach the rest of the world before Christ comes back for us. If you’ve got a gift and you’re scared to use it, buck up. Get busy. Just do it, like that old Nike commercial used to say. Don’t be afraid and don’t be a perfectionist; both of those things are about you. Do your best, but keep your eye on the target and remember who your gift is about — helping each other.

 

 

A crowd in San Miguel Alto Uno - Peten, Guatemala

Marketing Jesus

What attracts people? I work in marketing, so it’s part of my job to know what will attract a customer to my company’s message. I think it’s ironic that I work in marketing because marketing has no effect on me whatsoever, but it’s fascinating to study. And it’s been interesting over the past two years to see what works and what doesn’t.

I didn’t originally go into marketing. My degree is in journalism, and that’s really the style I prefer. Direct. To the point. Honest (supposedly). Just the facts, ma’am. That’s my kind of writing. You get what you need, and you can trust it because it’s true. Marketing isn’t really like that. I mean, you have to be truthful, but you’re supposed to leave out facts that could be construed negatively. You’re supposed to spin writing so that it presents the most positive image of your product possible.

I never really understood marketing until I started working at my current job, and I won’t say I understand it now. But I grasp it a little better than I did. And the more I grasp it, the more I have begun to notice it in other aspects of life. Specifically in the Church.

Christians are all about marketing.

I’m not talking the old school Christians, though. The old school Christians I know really have no interest in growing the numbers of their congregations. They don’t really don’t care whether the message is spread to its full extent (or if they do care, they put prerequisites on new believers so that they will dress/act/look/speak the same way the rest of the church does when they walk in the doors).

But more new-fangled Christians? Well, marketing is something they do well. They start playing the numbers game, and the more people who start coming, the more new people they need to keep coming. It’s all about appearances. It’s all about getting as many butts in those pews (or stadium seats) as possible. And there’s nothing really wrong with that, but there is a perception among believers that the Bible and Jesus isn’t enough to draw people. So they have market Him. They have to make the Bible relevant to our modern lives.

They think getting the Bible to mean something to our culture is like jamming a square peg in a round hole. It can’t be done. So they change it. They spin it. They leave out facts that could be construed negatively. They only focus on the things that don’t challenge people. And the result is churches with tens of thousands of people, yes. But it’s tens of thousands of people who don’t know anything about Jesus other than that He was a good man and a great teacher. Or they think the Bible can be picked apart and that parts of it aren’t true.

And the irony is that it’s unnecessary. Because the Bible and Jesus are relevant to our world and our culture already. They don’t need our help.

A crowd in San Miguel Alto Uno - Peten, Guatemala

People who gathered to watch puppets - San Miguel Alto Uno, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is John 12:32.

And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.

This is from a passage where Jesus is predicting His death, but it’s a concept that’s applicable in other situations too. This statement is in regard to Christ being lifted up on the cross. That’s what it means literally. But one of the awesome things about Jesus is that just about everything He said has both a literal meaning and a figurative meaning. And figuratively, this statement is just as true.

If Jesus is the focus of your church, He will attract people.

In our modern churches with our weak-willed faith, we think we have to draw people with extravagant buildings and fancy coffee and hip music, and we forget that Jesus should be the focus. Christ doesn’t say that if you lift up your church’s mission’s ministry, people will come. He doesn’t say if you exalt your worship ministry, people will come. This says if you exalt Christ, He will do the rest.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Obviously, I don’t speak Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic so I’m thankful for those who do who can translate Scripture. And it’s good to note that I like nice buildings and fancy coffee and hip music just as much as the next person. And I think there is extreme value in creating an environment where people are welcome and where people feel comfortable. But it’s so easy — so terribly easy — to get caught up in that comfort and that style and to focus on those environments. And it’s easy to use those things to draw people to church. But those things shouldn’t be our focus. Those things don’t attract people.

Jesus does.

And if you try to spin Him, if you try to present an image of Him that you think is more palatable, that’s not exalting Him. That’s exalting your opinion.

I’m talking to myself more than anyone else because I’m pretty timid when it comes to sharing my faith face to face. And it’s so much easier to invite someone to church when I tell them that we build awesome sets or that we have great, cheap coffee or that our music rocks hardcore. And, again, there’s nothing wrong with that. If that is something of interest to the person I’m inviting, then yes, I’m going to use it. But I need to be upfront about what my church is about. I’m fortunate, because my rockin’ awesome church is about Jesus. But I’m just as guilty of focusing on the tools we use to attract people rather than the reason we’re trying to attract people.

We don’t have to market Jesus. We just need to worship Him. Jesus will sell Himself.

Living in peace within the Church … easier said than done

Have you ever thought about what life would be like if your body tried to destroy itself? I’ve met some people with diseases that do that, where one part of their body tries to destroy another part of their body. Their whole body is basically at war with itself. It’s a terrible way to live, knowing your own body is incapable of living in harmony with itself.

That’s what I thought about when I read today’s verse, Colossians 3:15.

15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

As members of one body, we are called to live in peace. Read that again.

The Church is often called the Body of Christ, and all of us who are believers are a part of the Church. That makes all of us who believe in Christ part of the Body of Christ. One body. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

But oftentimes we live as though we are one of the people with a body-killing disease, where one member of the body is trying to destroy another member of the body. And that’s not healthy. It’s not helpful either.

Churches seem dead set on tearing each other down in today’s world. One church is bigger and better than another one. Another church is smaller and better. Another church is less ornate. Another church is more ornate. Another church has better music. Another church has no music. And it goes on and on and on, and we become consumed with judging each other.

That’s not what we’re here to do.

As members of one body, we are called to live in peace.

But anyone who is a believer knows that there is nothing harder than learning to agree to disagree with another Christian. There’s something grating about having to leave the minor issues to God and focus on the major issues, because it’s the tiny rocks in your shoes that are more annoying than the big one that hits your head. But many times, that’s what we have to do. Because God deals with different people in different ways. No one is in the same place as everyone else.

Obviously, God saves us all the same way. But we are all in different places in our individual walks, and no one will agree completely on every single subject in Scripture. And at that point when you reach a disagreement with a fellow believer, what do you do?

Do you tear each other down? Do you break your friendship? Do you walk away?

You can. But what good will that do either of you?

At that point, you have a choice. You can choose to walk away or you can choose to peacefully coexist.

One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is peace. Peace isn’t something that just happens, though. It’s something that comes from God, and we have to let it. We have to allow God’s peace to “rule in our hearts.” It’s a choice. To keep our mouths shut.

It’s the same with a church. Churches who preach the truth of the Scripture are supposed to support each other, not tear each other down. There are so many churches — just in Wichita — that preach the Truth, but because they disagree on minor issues, they hate each other. The whole denomination fiasco has done more harm within the church than almost anything else. People define themselves by their denomination instead of by Scripture. There are no Baptists, Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists or any other -ists or -ics in the Bible. There are just people who follow Christ and people who don’t.

Now am I saying that the Church (and I mean those who believe in Christ and the Bible) need to support other churches that don’t? No.

Church means the people who follow Christ. So that doesn’t mean that the Church needs to go out and support other “churches” that are proliferating error and falsehoods about Scripture.

However, the Church does need to seek them and welcome them.

But I’m not talking about churches that don’t preach Truth. There’s enough conflict between the members of the actual Church. And there shouldn’t be. As members of one body, we are called to live in peace, and as followers of Christ, we all have access to God’s peace. We just have to allow it to rule in our hearts, which means we listen and obey the Spirit’s leading instead of our own pride.

Whenever I hear other Christians speaking badly of another Bible-preaching church, I always think of Luke 9:50. Where the Disciples saw someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name and told him to stop. Why? Because he was doing it wrong? Because he wasn’t being successful? Or because he was taking credit for it?

No. The Disciples told him to stop because “he wasn’t part of their group.”

And Jesus’ response has always fascinated me.

 50 But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you.”

Fellow members of the Body of Christ, remember this. If you have a problem with another Bible-preaching church and they are reaching their community in a way that no one else can, stop speaking ill of them. Don’t try to stop them, and don’t try to discourage them.

If they’re not against us, they’re for us. We’re all on the same side. Especially now as the night is nearly over and the day is coming when Christ will return, we need all the help we can get to reach a world that still doesn’t believe. And you never know if some other church may be positioned better to reach the people you can’t.

Let God’s peace rule in your life. Live at peace with other believers. And don’t let the minor issues between you cause the Body of Christ to fail.