Sunday, January 25, 2009

Individually members of one another

The worldwide body of Christ is a body that is made up of many very diverse and unique individuals. Each member of the body is set apart for specific functions within the body. We're not all the same, and we don't all do the same things within the body. This is such a wonderful, beautiful thing to me! No part of Christ's body is unimportant; in fact each part is equally important, even if some parts have higher or lower visibility than others. Each part is gifted in its own way - in exactly the way that God wants it to be gifted. He has set you apart as a very special and important part of His body.

The practical applications that I want to make with all of this are very general. Depending upon who you are, the following will play out in your life in its own unique ways. First off, I think it's very important that you be who you are and that you don't try to be who anyone else is! In my earlier days in the church, I would see various people operating in various spiritual gifts and I so much wanted to be able to do the things I saw them doing. But it wasn't until later on, after I had discovered some of the unique things that God has set me apart to do within His body that I finally began to understand that it's quite all right that I can't and don't do what certain other people are doing. God has given me plenty to do within His body! I finally began enjoying the ways in which He had gifted me and I quit trying to be what I wasn't.

This lesson also taught me to stop trying to get others to be who they're not, but instead to help them find out who they are and to encourage them in who they are. I think there is a lot of manipulative "ministry" going on in the church because people simply aren't content to do what they're called to do and they're also not content when other people aren't doing what they think they should be doing!

Knowing who you are and being who you are is very freeing. When I used to wish I could do what others were doing, I really felt as if I was missing out. But I came to find out that what I was really missing out on was being who I was! Knowing and being who you are is also very beneficial to the body as a whole. God Himself has made you who you are and He has not made you to be someone else. When you are who you are, and everyone else is who they are, then Christ's body works exactly as it's intended to work! "The body is a unit," says the Apostle Paul (or "the body is one"). It's One Body that is made up of countless parts that God has strategically placed throughout the Body. The placement of the parts is God's doing! The functions that you walk in all come from God! He has done well placing you exactly where you are.

You are free to be who you are and not who anyone else thinks you should be. You are free to celebrate what God is doing in your life and in the lives of others, and to not be envious of others or fearful that God has left you out in the cold, even if He's not doing the same thing(s) in your life as He's doing in theirs. You might not be called to have the same type of unique, massive evangelistic call on your life that Billy Graham has had... but Billy Graham also hasn't had the same unique call on his life that you have on your life! You may say, "I'm no Billy Graham..." but on the same token, Billy Graham is no YOU! Whatever God does through individuals is good for the Body as a whole.

I know some people who are very grace-based that don't like to hear what I'm about to say, but I think it's simply the truth. All the members of the Body of Christ, while having a super abundance of grace in regards to all that God has called them to do individually, are also limited in the respect that God hasn't enabled them to do what He hasn't called them to do! In a certain context, Paul put it this way: "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?" (1 Cor 12:29-30). Of course not! This goes along with what Paul had just finished saying: "God has arranged 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" (1 Cor 12:18-20).

So don't be down on yourself, and don't feel like God has jilted you when you find you're not operating in the same gifts that others are operating in! And don't look down on others when they're not operating in the same gifts as you! "We being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another" (Rom 12:5). I love that phrase! Individually members of one another. The body doesn't work by having everyone doing the same things! It works when the individual members each do their individual things as part of the whole body.

And please don't think that the ways in which individuals are gifted and used by God within the Body are solely found listed in the Bible. Yes, Paul presents us with many of the diverse ways in which God gifts His body, but just think of all the ways in which God has made you a beneficial part of His body that aren't even listed in the scriptures! Your hobbies, your talents, your abilities, your desires, the things you do that give you and others great joy... are all a part of how God has fitted you into His wonderful worldwide body!

Remember too, we're all in this together. It's not as if it's a competition. That would be like saying that when a man is out for a walk, his heart is in competition with his legs. No! The heart and the legs and the lungs and the blood cells and the feet and the sweat glands and... every single part of the body... all work together for the good of the body as a whole, to get it where it's going!

I think we need recognize as well that some parts of the Body never "see" each other and don't even realize what the other members of the Body are doing. But yet each part affects the other parts, even in these unseen ways. I'm pretty sure my hands and fingers don't have a clue what function my liver plays in my body, but yet if my liver wasn't functioning correctly it would seriously affect my ability to sit here and type out this blog post! Christ, the Head of the Body, knows exactly what signals He's sending to each and every part of the Body for proper functioning, and He Himself makes His body work. So just relax and be who you are, and trust that the Head of the Body knows what He's doing with the rest of the Body!

A few related posts:
Let me be
Be yourself - You can't be what you're not
Why I blog - Part 1


  1. Joel,
    Again this is an excellent post...a good extension of your three previous! They are great encouragements for us to embrace our unique character/personality/gifts Papa has given us.

    ~Amy :)

  2. Joel, this is a wonderful post!! You’ve made so many good points.

    It’s true. To be healthy, the body needs for every part to be functioning as it was intended and we need to accept and allow other members of the body the freedom to be who they are. I just left an online group because many of the members can’t accept the other members’ journeys. Different members try to impose their will on other members. The result is a very dysfunctional group of believer. Many have left hurt and the group can’t move forward because of all the bickering.

    Accepting myself the way I am has been a major turning point in my life and has freed me to accept others the way they are. How I’m gifted is a benefit to the body of Christ and to the world. Yet, I would never be able to fulfill Billy Graham’s calling because I’m not gifted that way. There are some things that I am gifted for that I would like to be doing but for some reason I’m not. That causes me a bit of stress but, as you said, what I am doing is keeping me busy enough and right now I’m having some difficulty keeping up.

    Thanks for this post, Joel. It was excellent and very encouraging.

  3. Amy and Aida,

    As you can tell, all of this is really big in my heart. I really have seen so much dysfunction within the Body of Christ, including in my own life in the Body, and it's been my observation that a lot of it is due to people being pressured or manipulated into being who they're not, or simply not taught (or allowed) how to discover who they really are in the Body.

    The Church seems to have sort of a "template," and you're supposed to fit into that template somehow. But I know I don't fit into it, so it's been freeing to break out of it and discover who I truly am! At the same time, it's left other church people scratching their heads and even looking down on me because I'm not walking the line correctly, but I'm just not getting back into that cage (!), especially when I know that as my part in the body, I don't function correctly there!

  4. Joel, I think envy is the result of the system of hierarchy that has developed in the institutional church. They tell us that all gifts are important but it’s obvious that some gifts are considered to be on a higher level than others. The upfront gifts are given greater honor and others are made to feel less important because they’re not a pastor or a missionary. As long as that hierarchical system is in place, I believe people will struggle to accept themselves for who they are and they’ll continue to envy and desire what they feel are the greater gifts.

  5. Hey Joel,
    Well, it was alright, I guess... ;)

    Really, I don't think you and I have disagreement about this. These are good words, and while I am very happy to be whatever part He has made me uniquely to be, that doesn't negate my desire for more of Him.

    Well done, sir!

  6. Aida,

    I agree... there are different parts and different functions, but there was never meant to be a hierarchy. The church has created that hierarchy and has caused a lot of unnecessary envy and corporate ladder climbing. If we could only all simply be who we are, then the whole body would thrive.

    Free Spirit,

    Well, if we did disagree on this, we'd have to have a 30 or 40 comment thread to hash it all out! LOL. I do think we all have that desire to know God more and more and to experience Him in our lives in all the fullness that He intends for us.

  7. I like this Theme. Hope you keep em coming...

  8. Joel, Great job writing this post! One thing related to what Aida mentioned about the hierarchy (and the factor of envy associated with it), I think it happens when some people stand there and declare that they have 'something' which others don't have. For example, when a pastor claims that he has the perfect marriage life on earth, what is the congregants thinking, especially those who do not have a perfect marriage (who has it, anyways?)?

    I wish people (especially those in the leadership) speak truth in love! You know, just speak truth instead of setting people up for UNrealistic expectations! We can save a lot of heart ache.

  9. Leonard,

    No doubt this will be a recurring theme here. :)


    Yes! That's so true. I remember years ago, some evangelists (a married couple) in an old church that we used to go to who would preach about their wonderful love for each other and their excellent marriage. But a few times before and after church services (when they thought they weren't in the public view) I happened to see them interacting with each other in some not-so-excellent ways (bickering, fussing, etc). :)

    At that time in my life, this actually was a great help to me, because it's when I began to realize that the people who are up there preaching all this stuff are not as 'excellent' as they make themselves out to be, and it was the beginning of the process in which I began to realize that my faking of a holy lifestyle was unnecessary and was in vain.