For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 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. 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. 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? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Cor. 12:14–20)
Pastors are among the few people who get to see fully the truth of these words that St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians. As a pastor, I am at almost every worship service of our church. I attend all of the leadership meetings. I’m on campus nearly every day of the week. I get to witness the way in which all the parts of the Body come together like an intricate mosaic in a world class gallery.
The Lord most certainly creates, molds, enlivens and sustains the members of His Body in the local church in much the same way he does a baby in the womb. It’s an amazing thing to be a firsthand witness to the way he carefully configures each part of the Body to do its job and to create a viable, living, moving breathing organism. With what great love and care Jesus forms His Body, the Church, a holy people called together for the purpose of glorifying Him and serving a dying world.
A pastor’s-eye view
Want to see this miracle in action? Here’s my pastor’s-eye view of the Body at work in our local church.
(Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)
- Earl is the custodian who goes above and beyond expectation to keep things maintained and clean. He does anything asked of him with a ready smile on his face.
- Jeff holds a doctorate and has studied post-graduate theology so that he can teach the Bible in a winsome way to eager students.
- Rachel works two jobs but comes in once a week after her shift to fold the Sunday bulletins.
- Irma is retired and finds a special joy in organizing and running the Altar Guild.
- John taught himself how to use Photoshop so that he could weekly create visually stunning bulletins and social media posts.
- Evelyn found her way back to church after her husband died and now helps count the offering every week and pitches in to beautify the church grounds with her gardening skills.
- Vicky is a teacher at a local day school who brings her creative and energetic teaching skills to the Sunday School classroom every week.
- Nicole volunteers in the church office one day a week, oversees VBS every year and says yes to most every volunteer opportunity that comes her way.
- Carolyn is the church’s business manager. Without seeking any kind of recognition, she also does things behind the scenes most people never know about.
- Fred is a recent college graduate who plays the organ every weekend with skill and grace.
- Mitchell works a corporate job and still finds the time to be president of the congregation (a position he’s held for four years), play bass for the worship team, lead Bible studies and mentor young people in the congregation.
- Jennifer has a passion for prayer. She sends emails to the prayer chain almost daily and intentionally prays for and with people following worship on Sunday mornings.
- Abigail is a young mom who leads the youth and family ministry of the church while seeing to it that her own children are brought up in the faith.
Where are you?
This list — thanks be to God! — represents just a tiny cross section of the people and gifts who make up our church. I could easily write a sentence like this for every person there. Some people do things that are never seen by anyone. Other people do things that the whole church can’t help but notice. But neither is more important than the other. The Lord put His Church together so that each member is an important part of the Body. We are incomplete when even one of our members is missing from our fellowship.
You are where you are, in whatever church you find yourself, for a very special and specific purpose. No one has the gifts and talents you do. Like a puzzle piece, you fit perfectly into the body of your local congregation. Without you, your church is incomplete.
Christ is the Head of the Church
When we neglect worship or fail to use our gifts for the good of the church, it is as if a part of a physical body has simply stopped working or fallen off. Think about what life would be like without one of your eyes — or a toe — or even (gasp!) your spleen. No part of the body is dispensable. Even so-called “vestigial” organs cannot be removed without causing pain, impairment and a reduced quality of life. What do we do, then, when members of the Body — perhaps including ourselves — fail to do their part?
In good times and bad, we look to our Head. Without a brain the body is dead. But with a living and active head the body thrives. Jesus — the Head of the Church — shed blood from his human body so that broken and sinful people are forgiven and put together to be his physical body wherever Word and Sacrament are given and delivered.
The Body called the Church is an intricate and incredible organism. It loves and serves. It cares and prays. It is made up of people who empty the trash and people who serve the Sacrament. Each and every one of them is a redeemed child of God and an important part of His Body on earth.
As a pastor I am privileged to have a unique vantage point on my congregation. But the Lord himself gets an even better view of the universal Church. I can imagine him sitting on his throne and beaming with joy as He sees the members of His body around the world — all individuals, all connected to local churches and all bound up together in the universal Church — carrying out what each is called and redeemed to be and to do.
It matters not whether you are an eye, a little toe or a spleen. The Lord Jesus uses you, right where you are, for His holy purpose of loving and serving. Rejoice in the gifts God gives your church, represented in all its various people. Then rejoice that He chooses you, too, to be an integral, loved and forgiven part of his Body, the Church.
Tom Eggebrecht is senior pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church in Casselberry, Fla., where he loves to watch the way Jesus puts His Body, the Church, together to bring life to a dying world. Follow his personal blog at www.tomeggebrecht.com.