Friday, May 07, 2010

R12: Where do you fit in God's family?

Knowing who you are is only a start. You need to know where you belong. As the book puts it, it's like getting all dressed up with nowhere to go. To follow an old adage, in order to know where you're going, you need to know where you've been. Another paraphrase that I've heard is where you are depends on where you started. So I pray you've been taking the lessons from earlier this week seriously and taking time for some hardcore spiritual introspection.

But now we're here. The past behind us, the future ahead. We need to know where we're going. The second of life's major questions, following "who am I?" is "where do I belong?" This is another question that the world has long deceived us. We join clubs for similar interests, we flock around people like us, we describe ourselves by what we do instead of where we belong. Our fast-paced online world has created virtual communities through Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Sometimes our best friend is the stranger that we only know by their user name on World of Warcraft. But we fool ourselves into believing that there we belong.

The world fails us in this relationship and sadly the church has too. We sit with best friends and seldom venture outside of our comfort zone, too many congregations are racially segregated, and small groups form around like hobbies instead of shared needs. Yet the answer to this question, "where do I belong" is answered by the church. The "where?" isn't so much as a "to what?" Where we belong is the same as to what we belong. The where isn't the address of your church, the what is the Body of Christ. Romans 12:4-5 reads:

"Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."
The Apostle Paul describes this in greater detail in 1 Corinthians 12, noting that some of us are like "hands" and others "eyes". We can't say to parts not like us that they do not belong, but recognize that they serve a different function. And we have to see the bigger picture, the Body needs both the eyes and the hands.

Think about this for a moment. The Body needs you! You are uniquely created by God (Psalm 139:13-14) for a purpose (Ephesians 2:10). There is no one else in the world like you. No one else has the same abilities, talents, and spiritual gifts. No one else has the unique wisdom from your personal experience. And the Body is not whole without you. (As an aside, this should stir our heart for evangelism as well. That stranger down the street is unique and Christ's Body is not complete without her.)

Besides being needed to make the Body whole, notice how Romans 12:5 ends, "each member belongs to all the others." This isn't possessive. I can't boss you around and treat you like I own you. Instead we need to look at one another as a mutually symbiotic relationship, where we rely on one another to survive, rather than a parasitic relationship where we suck the life out of those closest to us or vice versa. If you've ever served in a teen ministry or a recovery ministry, you can relate to that last one. At the same time, if you've ever been a teenager (and we all have) or have struggled through serious sin in your life (and we all have ), then you've sucked the spiritual life out of someone who cared, prayed, and fought for you. While we're human, and we suck, the truth is we need one another to survive.

I'm tempted to slam the church. In fact, I probably do that too often on this blog. So let me quote from the book for a moment.

But before we begin to blame the church- the institutional church- and take potshots at all that is wrong, I suggest that equal weight must fall upon our shoulders; individual Christians like you and me who have gladly bought
into the consumer mind-set of the contemporary church.

Sadly, the mantra of the average believer in the contemporary church is, "Ask not what you can do for your church, but ask what your church can do for you." Our consumer attitude shows up as parents shop churches for the best-themed children's program. ("I don't' think we'll go to this church- we're looking for a more Noah's Ark theme). We've run from program to program and to the hottest new-thing in the community to get our needs met and our kids helped with as little involvement as possible.

Becoming a Romans 12 Christian is not about slamming the pastor or taking potshots at sincere ministries' and churches' best efforts; it's seeing where we are today and putting into practice the raw and radical commands of Scripture in our own personal relational networks to become the kind of people Jesus called to be "salt and light".

So how do we flip the question? Ask not what the church can do for you, but what can you do for the church? The first step is to identify our strengths and weaknesses. We should contribute our strengths to the church and share our weaknesses so that our needs can be met. Mutually symbiotic-I give, you give, we both grow. I don't think it's coincidental that Living on the Edge just started their series Your Divine Design. This lesson series focuses on our spiritual gifts and using them to build up the church. I strongly encourage you to follow these lessons. Subscribe to the podcast, bookmark the site, whatever you need to do to identify what you have and why you need to contribute it to the Church.

Finally to close, I'm going to quote from Ephesians 4:7-13 with emphasis added:

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why
it says:
"When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
gave gifts to men." (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended
to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended
higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was he who
gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some
to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so
that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.


Think: What thought or concept was most important to you in this chapter [post]? Why?
Reflect: Do you know "where you belong"? What's good? What's missing?
Understand: Was it easier to list your strengths or weaknesses? Why do you think that was true for you?
Surrender: Sit queitly before the Lord and thank Him for your strengths and your weaknesses. Open your hands (palms up) to offer to God afresh your strengths to serve His Body and your weaknesses to receive grace from others.
Take Action: Fill out the three-strengths-and-weaknesses card in the book. [basically list your top three strengths and your top (or bottom, I guess) three weaknesses on a 3x5 card. Do this before Undersand and Surrender above]
Motivation: ask two or three friends what they think your top three strengths are and compare with what you wrote down.
Encourage Someone: Jot a handwritten note to someone whose strengths have been God's love expression to some need in your life. Thank them for using their strengths to make Christ known to you.

Today continues our "virtual small group" covering the book Living On The Edge. For how this group is going to work, read this entry. For an introduction with disclaimers, click here. For some numbers from Barna to motivate you to continue reading, go here. For the R12 videos, click the R12 button on the sidebar to the right. Finally, as we move forward through the book you can always catch up by clicking the R12 label at the end of each post.

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