This was the message I preached at Grace Baptist Church in NC last Sunday. It was a wonderful experience....a family integrated church built from homeless missions. What great people! My task was to encourage them that no matter the circumstances, the Scriptures are Sufficient for life and ministry!
1 Corinthians 12:12-26 (ESV)
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. (13) For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (14) For the body does not consist of one member but of many. (15) If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. (16) And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. (17) If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? (18) But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. (19) If all were a single member, where would the body be? (20) As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (21) The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." (22) On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, (23) and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, (24) which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, (25) that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (26) If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Main Family Integration Challenges we've encountered at CRCC:
1. The perception that Family/Age Integrated churches are just for people with young children.
2. The perception that being single somehow excludes you from participation, or causes one to be looked at differently.
3. The perception that without programs that address stage of life/specific circumstances, personal needs won’t be met.
4. The perception among some senior saints that they are not needed; or some confusion as to where they “fit in.”
5. The inevitable clash with education paradigms and other societal norms.
Main Point Today: The Family Integrated model is the only model we see in Scripture. Therefore, without impugning or criticizing any other model, we in age-integrated churches can be biblically confident that EVERY member of the church, regardless of age, marital status, socio-economic conditions, race, children or no children, or any other condition, has a significant role to play in a healthy, biblically functioning church!
Thoughts on 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
- In the context of the much-debated spiritual gifts, the Apostle Paul encourages the sin-divided, somewhat arrogant, and slightly out of control church at Corinth that each and every one of them had role to play!
- In verse 12, he refers to the “many” being one body in Christ. Now surely he is referring to the diversity of the saints in number and gifting. But does anyone suppose that the “many” are exactly alike in terms of age, race, or life-stage? Surely not!
- In fact, his call for unity in Corinth was theological but with cultural issues sprinkled in as well.
- All this to say that regardless of all the individual backgrounds and stages of life that make up the Lord’s Church, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (1Co 12:13 ESV)”
- In fact, the Apostle Paul frames this diversity as a needed strength in the church. (vV14-17) He teaches that ALL parts of the Body are needed! A Body needs feet, hands, ears, eyes, and noses! We need them all! In fact, the body is disabled without each and every member! Dear friends, it is our Sovereign God who arranges His church in beauty and holiness, just the way He wants it! This is why you can be certain the YOU have a vital, needful, and eternally significant contribution to this local church! Yes…YOU!
- Verse 19 implies that if all were just alike, we wouldn’t be the kind of Body God designed us to be! Please understand that! No need for envy! No need for division! No need to cluster in your own “just like me” group!
- All are needed! Those that “seem” weaker are in fact, indispensable!!!! (vv20-22)
a. Every man and woman and child is indispensable!
b. Every age is indispensable!
c. Every gift is indispensable!
d. Every life experience, hurt, joy, pain, success is indispensable!
e. Every economic bracket is indispensable!
- Let’s read verses 23-25 again:
a. If anything, if anyone thinks they are less honored in the church (Corinth was a family integrated church as they all were), then in fact they have greater honor!
b. In other words, just as greater modesty and care is given to parts that require it on our physical bodies, so it should be in the church!
c. Why? That there be no division. The already honored honor the least honorable so that all are equally honored!!
- Friends according to verse 26, we all suffer together and rejoice together! The Lord’s Church is not a collection of programs designed to meet every need. The Lord’s Church is a family designed to meet every need, where every member is useful and the ministry is multigenerational!
Family Integration Specific Lessons:
• Again, all are needed…every gift (regardless of how your church views them), every child, every adult, every age, every single, every married, every retired, and every financial bracket.
• Having said that, here are a few suggestions I’m working on at CRCC that might be a blessing to you:
1. Developing the habit of encouraging singles in their God-given singleness.
- Scripture teaches that being married is good, but also being unmarried is good: “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. (1Co 7:8 ESV)”
2. Developing the habit of encouraging seniors in their CRITCAL Titus 2 functions.
- Age segregation deprives the younger of the ministry God means them to receive from the older. As an example, Titus 2:3-5 teaches older women to train younger women. Now more than ever, senior and mature saints are needed as mother and father figures. Now more than ever, these precious saints must open their hearts and homes to youth who are broken and aren’t being discipled and young mothers and fathers who need mentoring!
- Age segregation also deprives the older of the ministry God means them to receive from the younger. Young and old alike, if they are believers, have spiritual gifts, which God intends be used to bless one another. (1 Cor 12:1-27) Little ones model for those older what it is like to receive God’s kingdom (Matt 18:3; Ps 8:2) in the proper way. Those who are older must welcome little ones into fellowship, because Jesus taught that to welcome a little one in his name was to welcome him. (Mat 18:5) Jesus actually rebuked the disciples for trying to keep children away while the disciples were spending time in “adult” fellowship with him. (Mat 19:13-14)
3. Cultivating times of togetherness.
- In our church, we call them CARE Groups.
4. Cultivating age-integrated times of evangelism and community service.
- This is where families, friends, and CARE Groups serve and share the Gospel together...two paths, one purpose.
- Who said that only those JUST LIKE US can minister to us? That is not a biblical idea. :)
5. Repenting for getting it wrong sometimes. Lord knows I’ve done that.
- In this consumer age of brokenness, even the best of intentions can fall short and people can be hurt…even when one attempts to align with Scripture.
- Each pastor and each member must remember that we are all simply sinners saved by Christ’s magnificent grace, and that despite our flaws, we need each other.
To the wonderful members of Grace Baptist Church and your wonderful elders, may Christ bless this wonderful church, and may he bless the work of your hands. Stay together. You need one another.