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Church should be a we thing — not a me thing
Bible Speaks
Rev. L. Althouse

July 23, 2006
Background Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:1-13
Devotional Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:27-31

I spent much of the summer between fifth and sixth grades at a local playground that offered a wide variety of activities. One of these was a baseball team that played other playground teams in the township. Baseball was not my game, but I went to watch all of the games played on our home field and had keen interest in our team. One day, I was listening to several of our team members talk about an opposing team that had a vaunted reputation.

At one point, I interjected, “When will we be playing them?”

To this day I can remember the look of disdain on the face of one of them who turned and said, “Where did you get this ‘we’ thing?”

I remember feeling humiliated to learn that our team was a them, not a we. Some people have told me that they had much the same experience in a church.

Although officially listed as members, included in the church directory and the Every Member Canvass, they never were made to feel a part of the we thing.

I also remember, having explained my plans to reach out into the community to seek new members in a particular parish, a woman whose family had ruled the church for decades told me, “This has always been a small, family, country church and that’s the way we will keep it.”

Church walls
Perhaps the congregation in Corinth was like that for Paul. Having already spoken out against the factions in the church, he went on to proclaim, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and all were made to drink of the one Spirit.” (I Cor. 12:12, 13)

We cannot be of “one Spirit” and be indifferent to one another. A church that is not a we enterprise is not a Christian church. So, maybe your church is a true Christian fellowship and you recognize each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. But what about outside the walls of your church?

Do you regard other Christians of a different name brand as brothers and sisters in Christ?

As a boy, I attended a Lutheran church in Laureldale, Pa., a town with two other congregations in addition to ours - a Reformed Church (now U.C.C.) and a Roman Catholic parish.

Theoretically, I might have acknowledged that they, too, were Christians, but practically I thought of them as representing two other religions.

Later, even though I became more ecumenical in my thinking, I noticed that in traveling around the world that there are myriads of people who bear the name Christian that I scarcely thought of as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Yet, I realized; if they are not fellow disciples of Jesus Christ with me, then in truth I am not in Christ. God gives gifts to all of us so that we will share them with each other.

Variations on one theme
I may not be aware of other congregational and denominational stories, the way they worship, the music that they use or don’t use, the manner in which they live out their Christian discipleship, but Paul tells me that, if I want to be a part of Jesus, I have to also be a part of them and see them as part of me.

All that God gives to the followers of Jesus Christ comes from but one Lord. Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine reminds us that “God is not a Democrat or Republican” and neither is God a Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Episcopal, Amish or Mennonite.

Neither is God a Roman Catholic, Orthodox or even Protestant. Still, all of us - and so many more than I have listed - are one in Christ.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit,” said Paul. “And there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one.” (vs. 4-6)

Being a Christian is definitely a we thing.

This farm news was published in the July 19, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

7/19/2006