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Oct 07, 2018

The Hands of a Beautiful Church

Passage: 1 Corinthians 12:15-15:20

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Beautiful Church

Keywords: hands, helping, ministers, ministry, service, volunteers

Summary:

Hands are an amazing appendage! They can do such good...or great evil. This message looks at the good EVERY member of Christ's body can do through service.

Detail:

The Hands of a Beautiful Church

#5 in The Anatomy of a Beautiful Church series

October 6, 2018

Get Acquainted!
What task or regular responsibility do you wish you had someone to help you with?

Q:  What appendage do bats, cats, elephants, frogs and humans have in common?  

A:  Hands!  But human hands are set apart from the rest. The dexterity of human hands has long been believed to be one of the more important anatomical characteristics that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.  

Top 12 Facts on Human Hands:

  1. The thumb alone is controlled by nine separate muscles
  2. The hand has been used as a symbol of protection since ancient times
  3. The human hand is different to the hands or paws of other animals, because it has fingers and an opposable thumb that can work together.
  4. Each finger has 3 bones while the thumb has only two bones
  5. Approximately ¼ of our entire body’s bones are found in human hands.
  6. There are 17,000 touch receptors and free nerve endings found in the palm of human hands for passing on sensations of pressure, vibration and movement
  7. The hand is quite vulnerable since bones, nerve fibers, blood vessels and tendons are only protected by a very thin layer of fat and muscle
  8. Only the palm is protected by a strong pad of tendons (aponeurosis) for a powerful grip
  9. The left and right hand are both controlled by the opposite hemisphere of the brain
  10. The skin on your fingertips are extra sensitive to touch
  11. Each finger is supplied by four bundles of nerves and blood vessels
  12. The wrinkles found on the back of fingers are the mark of where the skin is attached to the tendon

What does this have to do with today’s Scripture and teaching?  As some of you have noticed, I’ve entitled today’s message, “The Hands of a Beautiful Church.”  We’re in the last Sunday of this short series on “Beautiful Church.”  All of us naturally are drawn to beauty.  That is why I’ve had us spend the last 5 weeks considering what makes for a beautiful church today. I believe that if we, the people of God and followers of Jesus Christ are actually being the visible presence of Jesus Himself in our world, people will react and engage with us just as they did with Jesus. 

That doesn’t mean everyone will like us. In fact, Jesus promised that the same kind of people who hated Him will most likely hate us if we are living out His life in our world.  But it also meant that people who loved to hang out with Jesus, to dialogue with him and to interact with Him will probably love to hang out, dialogue and interact with us. 

Today I’m asking us to consider the function of human hands as they represent the function of the body of Christ in this world. 

Q:  WHAT kinds of actions are hands particularly useful for?

  • Grasping, gripping, holding (babies, tools, paper, baseballs, etc.)
  • Protecting (when the body falls, something comes flying at you, etc.)
  • Feeling, sensing, discovering
  • Communicating (typing, hand signals, etc.)
  • Fighting (combat, defense, etc.)
  • Helping and hurting
  • Creating and destroying
  • Building or tearing down
  • Serving or being selfish

Technically when the N.T. uses the term “hands” as applying to the body of Christ, the author is actually making reference to the fact that different people have different gifts within “the body of Christ.” It isn’t talking so much about the particular function of “hands” (or “eyes”) for the whole body (or by analogy certain people in the church).  It is talking about the general reality that we all have different functions in the church. 

            I Corinthians 12:15, 18-20 specifically illustrates that when it says, 15“Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.”  18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

Paul goes on to state under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,

21 “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 

23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

So let’s engage in making some universal principles from this passage.  What general statements can we make about differing people and gifts in the church from this passage?  Here are some rules for good principles:

  • Your principle must come directly from the teaching of the text.
  • Your principle must be true for all Christ-followers or all parts of the world in every century of the church.
  • Your principle must not violate other clear teachings of the Bible.

[Work in groups for 2-3 minutes on this.  WHY?  Because when you read a passage like this, I want all of us to learn the process of drawing applicable principles from any passage of the Bible.

POSSIBLE obvious PRINCIPLES:

  • God made us different for a reason.

We may not see or understand the reasons!  But He has His plans and purposes with diversity that can only be achieved with that diversity.  [Brainstorm advantages to diversity.]

  • God loves diversity but with unity in His family.

Diversity without unity breeds??? (Division, hatred, power struggles, wars, murder, gossip, quarreling, etc.) 

  • Every believer matters to God in the Body of Christ.

What does that practically mean for brothers/sisters you don’t naturally enjoy/like…are “HMP” (High Maintenance People), etc?

  • We really need everyone in the church/body!

What do we lose when we show preference, discriminate based on non-biblical/non-godly criteria, consider some of God’s kids unimportant, etc.?

  • We should not depreciate anybody’s contributions to or place in the church…including our own.

We need to think truthfully or “with sober judgmentwhen it comes to our gifts, abilities and place in the Body of Christ.  Romans 12:3-6“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”

  • Caring for each other in the church/body of Christ is our calling as Christians.

Scripture is very clear that there is a hierarchy of responsibility when it comes to care of people around us. 

  • #1. One’s own family (spouse, parents, children—1 Tim. 5:4, 8, 16)
  • #2. One’s own church (brothers, sisters, victims of impoverishing life circumstances—“widows indeed” [1 Tim. 5], those who have given us the Gospel [Rm. 15:27—Gentile believers sharing with Jewish believers] and taught & led us well in the faith [1 Tim. 5:17—elders who “direct the affairs of the church well,” especially those whose “work is teaching and preaching,” are worthy of “double honor,” i.e. financial support.]
  • #3. Those outside the church, like government taxes (Rm. 13:6) and other recipients of our good deeds (Gal. 6:10).

Now let’s go to our last major passage for today, Ephesians 4:7, 11-16.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it….

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 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.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 

15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in loveas each part does its work.

            For this passage, I have a different little group exerciseWHY does God give different gifts to different people in the body of Christ?

  1. To equip all of us for “works of service.”
  2. To build up the body of Christ.
  3. To lead us to unity (in faith and knowledge of Jesus)
  4. To help us become mature in Christ (“attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”!).

HOW does this passage say these things are supposed to happen?

  1. Through apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers equipping all the people of the church.
  2. Through everyone in the church doing “works of service.”
  3. Through “speaking the truth in love” to one another.
  4. Through all being “joined and held together” by each other, i.e. “every supporting ligament.”
  5. Through everyone doing their part of the “work.”
  6. Through everyone growing and building each other up “in love.”

God seems quite interested in the health and vitality of His church in every place in every century.  He’s not interesting in his body getting weak and sick through inaction OR strained and pained through a few people/muscles being over-taxed while others atrophy through lack of exercise. 

  • How long does it take a human body to atrophy or get weak? Ever been sick in bed for a week or two?  Just to return to normal activity takes real effort. 
  • What about working out? (My experience with running or doing pushups—it simply takes a couple of weeks off.)  ILL:  conversation with Jesse this week about “sober October.”  J 
  • The 80/20 principle of most churches: 20% of the people do 80% of the work…be it giving, serving, teaching, helping, discipling, evangelizing, etc. Mosaic significantly beats that statistic!  I think it’s more like 50/100 around here. But imagine if 90% of us did 110% of the work!  How different would our city be?  How different would YOUR spiritual life be?  How different would your family’s experience of Christ be?  Your experience of Him? 

APPSo here is what I want us all to do right now. 

1.)  Stop and write down in 45 seconds as many different ways YOU are presently involved building up the body of Christ, the church (maybe not just Mosaic) on an average month?  For example:

  • It may be as simple as getting to church weekly and looking for 1 person to encourage.
  • It might be as involved as teaching/facilitating a Bible study each week or cooking a full meal each week for a community group.
  • It might be monthly serving a meal to YFC kids… or coffee once a month on morning to all of us…or loving on kids in the nursery 1/mo.

2.)  Ministry Opportunity Sheet:  [work through each category, explaining it and answering questions.]

3.)  Personal Appeal:  There are things I as lead pastor here am currently doing that I probably shouldn’t be doing.  Why would I say that?  Don’t you pay me a salary to do everything?  NOPE!  I know there are some things I do to keep ministry moving forward at Mosaic and in this part of town simply because I haven’t found enough others to step up and into these ministries.  (That may be largely my failure to be a good volunteer recruiter.)  But there are some things I’ve been doing for several months now that I probably shouldn’t.  Why is that?  Because…

a.) they aren’t my gifting.

b.) they take away from things I uniquely may be able to do for the Body of Christ in Spokane.

c.)  by doing them I am robbing some of you from the opportunity as well as obscuring the real need for you to engage in serving the Body.

BTW, I’m sure every other staff person here could say the same thing about what they are doing.  But here are a few examples I can see in my own life:

  • Serving meals at YFC (something many of you could do and some definitely should do) keeps me from a.) recruiting more mentors/disciplers/adult leaders, and b.) keeps me from building other important ties/bridges with YFC and their youth.
  • Arranging Food-a-ship food, servers, details weekly.

These types of ministry involvements distract/detract me from some other unique and important opportunities/tasks for a.) Mosaic and b.) our city.

  1. Mosaic:
  • grant writing proposals and connections with Whitworth University
  • developing the Mosaic Preaching Team
  • the Mosaic Ordination Training
  • making connections with suburban churches that can and want to help us in the work downtown
  1. City-or Region-wide leadership in…
  • THS Academy launch
  • Networking other pastors and ministries in Washington State and Spokane for community-wide ministries like…
    • SaturateSpokane,
    • Leadership Prayer Summits
    • Church Awakening—WA State
    • Spokane Prayer Initiative (brochure)
    • Spokane Racial Reconciliation groups
    • Spokane Church Planting Network [looking to develop 400 church planters in 10 years]
    • Spokane Public Schools Sex-Ed curriculum battle

As you can tell, I’m probably over-committed!!!  L

ILL:  I had to face that this week when I tried to get away for a few days of an annual Ministry Leaders’ Prayer Summit in Post Falls.  I arrived late Monday, had to miss all of Tuesday afternoon and evening and only got to enjoy the last morning on Wed. 

At one point in one of the prayer times, the team asked me to sit in the middle of the circle to be prayed over for the various community leadership functions I’m responsible for.  They instructed me to raise my arms to the Lord, somewhat like Moses did in the battle with the Amalekites in Exodus 17 where the Israelites prevailed in the battle as long as Moses kept his hands lifted to heaven.  When he grew weary and dropped his arms, the Israelites would start losing the battle.  So Aaron and Hur had Moses sit down and then they held his arms up.  (NOTE:  I think it is emblematic of the need for leaders to prayerfully cry out to God in the battle.) 

Something interesting happened as they prayed over me.  I found my arms getting tired!  Mind you, they were “holding up” my arms…but I wasn’t really resting in that.  I was still the one raising my arms rather than trusting them to hold them up. 

The Lord seemed to whisper to me at that moment, “John, you need to a.) ask others to carry some of the burden, then b.) let go and really rest in their work.

So here I am today—getting older, working harder, and asking for help!  FYI—For your information, I plan to be in the ministry of God’s kingdom until the day God calls me home.  (Mind you, I also plan to retire in the next 7-10 years from paid ministry.  But I never plan to stop spending most of my day doing kingdom work.)  I’d rather be over-involved than under-committed or under-utilized.  I’ll have all eternity to recover, recoup, rest and regroup for battle.  I have only this one lifetime to contribute what I can to the growth, health and development of the Bride of Christ and to help as many people as possible be reconciled to God and spend this life and eternity with Him!

But I don’t want any of you to miss one bit of the joy and growth that comes only be being passionately engaged in kingdom ministry building up the body of Christ. 

Q & A: 

  • Does this sheet of opportunities help?
  • What do you think we are missing that God has put on your heart to do?
  • How can we (Mosaic & Staff) help?