Recently I read the story of Stephen in Acts chapter 7. I’ve read this many times over and heard multiple sermons on this passage, but I was struck in a new way this morning. God is like that. Just when you think you’ve got him figured out, or begin to take things for granted, He will change it up on you quickly or let you see a brand new side of Him that you’ve never seen, despite looking in the same place for years!
We don’t know much about Stephen except that he was one of the seven men chosen to aid the disciples in the distribution of food and other support in the early church because as the early church grew, that responsibility became more than the disciples could handle and still preach the Gospel as they had been called and enabled. This picture is one of the Body of Christ operating as it should. The disciples had their calling and responsibility, and now these seven new men had theirs. They were chosen because they were “full of the Spirit and wisdom” — God’s enablement for that task. We are all equipped by God specifically for the tasks He has called us to. Stephen and these other six men being faithful in administration (their gift), helped lead to what we as THE church should all want to see and hear happen. “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
This picture also reminds me of I Corinthians 12, where Paul is discussing the parts of the body and how we all have a job and no one is more important than the other. I have always played and loved team sports. I enjoy golf, but I enjoy it even more when playing in a scramble. I can trick myself into thinking that the other three guys need me. The truth is usually that they don’t need my help at all. I am usually the D- player! Just thinking that they are counting on me motivates me even more. I think it was Aristotle that first said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” I love this picture…”We” will always have greater potential than just “you” and “me”. Teams that buy into their coach’s philosophy, guys that are willing to give up their own goals to accomplish more collectively are those teams that are the most successful. The one college basketball coach with more national titles than any other, John Wooden, said this, “The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.”
In I Corinthians 12:18-20, Paul says, “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” When we as the body of Christ grasp this concept, and the importance of all roles, we will see more “success”. One very real example of this for me was during my junior and senior years in college, I suffered an injury to the little toe on my left foot. I know, I know. That doesn’t sound very manly, but as insignificant as it may seem, there were several times during that 15-month ordeal that it hurt so much, I couldn’t play. It hurt to even stand. I would take weeks off at a time because of this injury. I saw several doctors during this time for different types of treatment, and it ultimately concluded with surgery after my senior season. I realized, in a very real way, just how important every part of the body was.
Another example of the roles in the body of Christ that constantly comes to mind is “Uncle Jack”. Since 2006, every spring break and a few summers, we have taken a team to play basketball in a mega-city in East Asia. “Uncle Jack” as he has affectionately become known as, has been on 6 of those trips. Uncle Jack is a little past his athletic prime…he will turn 74 in May. He never led our team to victory on the court, but victory after individual victory were taking place on the sidelines because of his obedience and willingness to play his “role”. There are dozens of people in this city, most who had never heard the Gospel before they met Uncle Jack, who now have freedom in Christ! He has continued to disciple many through email, Skype and Facebook, and they have even begun to share their faith to their countrymen!
Knowing your role and passionately fulfilling it is how the Body of Christ was designed to be most effective. What is your role? What is your divine equipping? Who needs you to be what God has enabled you to be? Who needs you to know your role?