So, the other night I was flipping through the channels on the TV, and I came across a theological masterpiece. It was about a clownfish who wanders away from the Reef and gets captured and taken to a fish tank in Sydney, Australia. Finding Nemo is a must-see for those who are serious about their doctrine.
Anyway, Nemo’s father Marlin is heartbroken. And he goes looking for Nemo. And as he does, he runs into someone very special. A Royal Blue Tang fish named Dory. Dory is very different than Marlin. She is fun and adventuresome. She is happy. And she is forgetful. Marlin on the other hand is serious. Marlin is a deep thinker. And Marlin is focused. They are very different. And yet they are a part of the same ocean. And when they come together, they overcome sharks and jellyfish and a whale and eventually find Nemo. Together they are stronger, greater, more capable than alone. They build up and add to the other.
The same is true for us. We are each unique. And yet, we belong to the same human family. We have different interests and different talents. But we are a part of the same body. We are stronger, greater, more capable than alone. And when realize that, really cool stuff happens!
I think this is the premise behind Paul’s writing to the church at Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 12:12 he writes, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”
Paul goes on to say that God has even placed the parts in the body just as God wanted them to be. And therefore, we cannot say to one another – you are not wanted. We don’t need you. In fact, Paul says that those parts of the body that seem weaker are actually indispensable (1 Cor 12:22).
Where am I going with this? Well, one of the things we are going to be talking about over the next month is lay-led ministry. You may have heard that term before. It’s not new. It’s used a good bit in church circles. And yet, it’s rarely defined.
When I talk about lay-led ministry, I mean a shared leadership of the church by both church staff and laypeople. Specifically, its lay people and staff people working together collaboratively to live out the calling God has given to us as a church family. Each having a different part to play in the body. But each being necessary.
It starts with the premise that church isn’t something we DO. It’s a way of BEING. Paul says we are each a PART of one body. In other words, we are not just participants in church programs. We are not just attendees at the church services. We are part of the owners. In other words, it’s not about what I want the church family to do for me. It’s about how will I be a part of the church family.
This is Scriptural. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given – for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7). We tend to stop at the first part of that verse. Each is given a manifestation of the Spirit. We think for our own personal relationship. But Paul says that the reason we are given the Spirit is for the greater good! It’s scriptural. And it’s counter-cultural to our consumer-oriented society. Because it calls for a different set of values. If Paul is telling the truth – being a follower of Christ comes with a huge relationship responsibility. Part and parcel of being a disciple of Jesus is being a part of one body of Christ. A body with many parts.
And this has implications. For one – personally. Rather than trying to figure out how to fit the church into my schedule, I need to figure out how my schedule facilitates life together. And this has implications for leadership. If we are all a part. If we are all necessary. If we are all given the one Spirit for the common good, then leadership doesn’t belong to only one group. In lay lead ministry, the lay people don’t work for the staff leaders. And the staff don’t work for the lay leaders. It’s a shared collaboration.
We are going to talk about this more next week. For now, as we celebrate this Juneteenth holiday 2020, ask yourself – how can we do life together better? If we are greater and more capable together. If we strengthen and build up each other. If in the Body of Christ, we are all necessary and all placed as God wants. How can we better recognize the indispensable nature of each other?
I suppose Marlin could have kept looking for Nemo on his own. But I doubt it. He needed the gifts and presence of Dory to experience the fullness of joy in finding Nemo. I suppose we could have faith individually. But I doubt it. We need each other’s strengths and presence to fully experience the joy of life with God. IN the name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.