The Church Needs Us All
What is the most important role in the church? Is it the preacher? While I hope my preaching is helpful, I could call in sick right before a service and you could still have an inspiring and God-honouring worship service. Is it the musicians? Some churches don’t use musicians at all. What if we had great preaching and music but didn’t have any friendly people to welcome visitors? What if we didn’t have any people who were able to give financially so that we can use this building and run programs in this community? What if I showed up on a Sunday morning but none of you came? It wouldn’t matter how much work I put into my sermon.
We tend to create a hierarchy of roles, seeing some as more important than others. We may even compare ourselves, seeing our selves as less than other. Or perhaps seeing ourselves as better. The truth is that we all have a role to play in the church. The question is never whether our role is important, it is always about how serious we take that role.
Of course, this could all be just my opinion. Maybe I’m just trying to motivate people to get more involved. What we really need is to do is look at the Scriptures to understand what Jesus has to say about this.
Jesus and His Followers
We are told that Jesus was proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. Of course he was. He was the Messiah and the Son of God. He came to see the kingdom of God break into the world. Jesus could do anything and he could do it by himself. But he didn’t.
We are told two things in this passage. Jesus was assisted in his ministry by two groups. There was the twelve (male) apostles and a group of women. We may instantly fall into the pattern of creating that hierarchy of roles. We have the twelve who are doing real ministry and then we have the women who are there as helpers.
But please notice some things. The twelve are unnamed in this passage, not even Peter is identified. But when it comes to the women, Mary, Joanna and Susanna, are all mentioned by name. That doesn’t mean that the men are unimportant, but it does mean that the women are just as important.
This is actually an ongoing theme for Luke both in the Gospel and in Acts. Luke tends to pair men and women. If you see an event with men, you will see close to that, a similar story featuring women. Luke goes out of his way to be inclusive, reminding us, even in the face of societal pressure, that the kingdom of God is for everyone.
We actually have more information about these women than we have for many of the apostles. Mary Magdalene was an important figure in the early church. Despite popular opinion, she was not a prostitute. The early church combined a number of women in the Gospels to create a composite character that they call Mary Magdalene. Joanna’s husband was the steward of Herod and thus in an important position. Joanna, and likely the others, had financial resources that they used to support Jesus in the ministry. We think of the apostles as so important but when you look at what they actually accomplished during Jesus’ ministry, the women were definitely not second rate.
We have among Jesus’ followers both men and women, both rich and poor. Jesus chose to use all of them and none were more important than the others. They were just different. That is exactly the kingdom of God that Jesus was preaching.
The Church and Our people
What does a successful church look like? Is it about a certain number of people in the pews? Is it about a certain amount of money in the offering plate? Those things are not unimportant but they are not what defines a successful church.
If we follow Jesus’ example, and I think we should, it is about people using what God gave them in the way God calls them. Are there different roles? Yes there are, we cannot all do the same thing. If every person in our congregation had the same gifts and served in the same way, we would be a very unhealthy church.
I look at the rest of the staff at our church and I’m thankful they are gifted in ways that I am not. I cannot do what they do and I don’t need to. But this is not for paid staff. It is for everyone who is part of this congregation. We need preaching and worship music. But we need projection of the lyrics and people to run the sound board. We need people to greet and people to sit on committees. And it is not just formal positions. Some of the most influential people are people who are not officially recognized but are constantly responding to the Spirit’s guidance and doing and saying exactly what they need to do.
I am not here to demand more, more, more. There are some people here who are doing more than they should be doing. What I am saying is that everyone has a role. If you call this your church home, you are essential to the health and effectiveness of this church. I want you to think about what God has given you and how you are using those gifts. If you haven’t been given musical ability, I’m not going to guilt you into joining the worship team. Perhaps you have certain skills. Perhaps you have financial resources. Perhaps you have loads of time that you are trying to fill up. Perhaps you just have a heart for other people. We need you. Jesus need both the poor fisherman and the rich woman. They were equally important and so are you. Don’t spend your time envying other people or denigrating your own gifts.
We understand this in every other area of life. Sports teams are based on people having different roles. Can you imagine a hockey team firing their goalie because they haven’t scored enough goals? Businesses have different roles. I used to work for a warehouse and we need the marketing department and the receiving department and the shipping department, as well as the people picking orders. None were more important than others. We needed to work together as a team.
The same is absolutely true about the church. We all have a role. Not a collection of important and unimportant roles but a diversity of equally important roles. We need to work together to be the church God’s wants us to be.
Jesus is the greater leader that ever lived. We would be foolish to not try and learn from the way he lead. Jesus gathered a group of twelve men from different backgrounds and he used them in a specific way. But he didn’t limit himself to the twelve. Not only were there various other disciples, he also had as his followers a group of women, some of them quite wealthy. Together they support Jesus and his ministry. I believe this is a model for how the church should operate.
The church needs you. All of you. Some of you are volunteering way beyond your time and energy. Thank you. This is not about guilting people into doing more and more. The only question I have to ask you is how are you using the gifts that God has given you for the work he is doing in this church? Do not compare to another, simply look at what you are gifted for. There is a place for you and if you are not participating, we are not the church that we could be.