Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just how important are the other members of the body of Christ to each of us?

“Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you're still one body. It's exactly the same with Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12 (The Message)

Recently … don’t know how, don’t know when … but I injured my lower back. It has created a painful situation – I could not stand, sit or lie down without pain … and let’s not talk about trying to get up after getting down. Saw the doc yesterday. He gave me three meds – one makes so loopy (I noticed the difference, but nobody else does) that all I want to do is sleep. If the pain is still around in 5 days then a MRI will be in my future to determine just how bad the lower back really is. Go figure … if it isn’t one thing it is another.

This got me thinking though about the church. According to my spouse of long standing, everything gets me thinking about the church – but that is another story.

If a small disc can cause so much pain and discomfort to my entire body how about just one small member of the church? Now, I know that there are no small, insignificant members of the church … but some people see themselves in that light. The reality is there are some individuals whose absence makes a huge difference – if the organist, song leader, soloist, reader of scripture, main usher, the candy man, the front row saint sitters, the ameners, the unofficial church greeter/hugger, etc. are not in attendance on Sunday morning everybody knows it and begins to ask where they are. They are missed, but the other 98% not so much.

In one church I had a laugher. Dave had one of those laughs, which just literally filled the sanctuary and got everybody else laughing. Dave sat in the balcony, last row, end sit. He use to say, “Preach, I try to get as far away from the pulpit as possible just in case lightening strikes.” When he wasn’t in worship everybody knew it. Each church has those dozen or so people that when they are not in worship everybody knows it, but what about everybody else?

Shouldn’t we hurt if one member hurts? Shouldn’t we all hurt if one person in the body of Christ hurts? Shouldn’t we notice if one person is not in attendance? When our family gathers around the dinner table nobody starts eating until everyone is present. Shouldn’t the church be the same way? When I get up in the morning every part of body has got to get up. The little toe cannot decide that it doesn’t feel like participating today and just stay in bed. I’m not really sure what the purpose of the little toe is. I normally do not think a lot about its purpose nor even remember that it is a part of my body until I stub it … and then the entire body takes notice!

So it is with each and every individual within the body of Christ. We can get so busy … too busy with the business of the church … that we take people for granted. If they are there, then they are there … if they are absent, then they are absent … and no one notices. That is a sad state of affairs. It is a reality, but still sad.

There other thing that causes me to pause and wonder how to fix it concerns visitors. Everybody desires visitors to stand and identify themselves or wear a special ribbon or, in one congregation they had the members stand and the visitors to remain seated (they didn’t want to make the visitors uncomfortable … yeah, right!) I have often thought … if a visitor walked into my house I would know it immediately. Shouldn’t the church be the same? Shouldn’t we know each other well enough to notice not only the absence of someone, but if a new body is present? If our body gets a transplant, a new organ, I can guarantee the rest of the body is going to take notice.

I heard a staff person from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s church speak to this reality. They had one individual who took it upon himself to know the congregation. He would stand at the bottom of the marble steps, rain or shine, and greeted everybody. After worship he would write down the names of every member who was absent, as well as the name of every visitor he had met that morning. My initially reaction was, “What a tremendous gift this gentleman had.” But the speaker went on to share that he had to teach himself this skill. How? By making it a priority. By making the body of Christ his number one priority. What started him on this special journey? Being absent for six weeks with the flu and having no one notice his absence. With that reality and memory well in hand he set his sights on making a change in his behavior after all the church is the body of Christ – though many still it is one body.

Shouldn’t we all be so committed in making the body of Christ our number one priority?

Quote for today: Remember putting your face above a headless frame painted to represent a muscle man, a clown, or even a bathing beauty? Many of us have had our pictures taken this way, and the photos are humorous because the head doesn't fit the body. If we could picture Christ as the head of our local body of believers, would the world laugh at the misfit? Or would they stand in awe of a human body so closely related to a divine head? ~Dan Bernard

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