Here’s a question: What’s the difference between going to the cinema each week, and going to church each week? Both involve sitting with other people, watching and responding. Both can be memorable, emotional, life-transforming. Both can, and try to, shape our world view. So is there really a difference?
Words for the Week
1 Corinthians 12:12-18, and 27
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.
All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.
Of course we know that cinema and church not the same. For a start, you might on one occasion choose a cinema because you like the seats or there’s parking, but most of us don’t get up on Sunday and pick a church because the parking is better. If we did, Woodies would be a lot emptier!
We come to church to meet with the living God, which would be true in any church, and we come to our church to connect with the people, our church family, and that’s what keeps us at our particular church – we belong.
But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:13
So what does it mean to belong?
When we belong it’s like being part of a body; the body allows each part to fulfil the role it was created for. We each can grow and flourish into all that God had in mind for us when he created us.
I praise you that I am fearfully and wonderfully made
As part of a body of flourishing parts, we contribute to a bigger whole which has a collective purpose beyond the sum of its parts. That’s something which we all want, isn’t it – for our lives to have a purpose, and to see how that purpose fits into a bigger picture. For me, I find it encouraging that we don’t each have to be good at everything. We are supposed to live in our strengths and gifts, and be depending on other people to cover the things we’re not designed for – our goal is interdependence, not independence.
Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.
With our roles come relationships, and that’s where we get noticed for who we are and not just what we do. It’s in those close relationships of shared life that we find the family feel within a large church. Jesus’ relationships followed the same pattern; he was with a crowd a lot of the time, and within that he had smaller, closer groups of 72 and 12. Then smaller still there were the four of them; himself, Peter, James and John, a small group to notice, encourage and support each other, journeying together in a significant and life-shaping way.
Which relationships in church bring you that sense of belonging?
For myself… I go to my pastorate because the spirit of God is there as we pursue God and share stories in a gentle and genuine way. I have a role in mass catering for church; I love the challenge of producing a lot of food on time, hot and delicious! But it would be hard work if it wasn’t for the chat which happens in the team whilst we chop and stir. And I work with a friend in church organising a ministry area whilst we also, together, seek to make sense of life, death, God and people.
It’s appealing to see a church with its people flourishing in their roles and connected together in life-giving, meaningful relationships. It’s an expression of the Kingdom of God and it’s a powerful invitation:
Come and belong! You too can share what we have and be a part of this body.
Own it personally…
Q. Are you in a role somewhere where you can use your gifts and strengths; where you can flourish as the person you are made to be?
Q. When you think about your sense of ‘belonging’ in church, which relationships spring to mind? Are you well connected?
Perhaps as this academic year gets underway, there is an opportunity for you to step into more of what it means to belong to this family of God, both large and small.
Here are some ideas. As you consider your gifts, your capacity and your stage of life, what appeals to you? Can you resolve either to try something new, or to invest afresh in the roles and relationships which you have already?
Small groups and pastorates:
– Geographical, age or stage related, ministry specific, work related
– Come to a Newcomers’ Presentation (2nd Sunday) at Church and Newcomers’ Tea (4th Sunday) at ADH
Join a team with community:
– Alpha, choir, welcome, worship, children’s church, prayer ministry, cake and flake, Wild Goose, food bank, lots more…
Be where people mix and meet:
– 8am breakfast, Venue 2, pre/post-service refreshments, men’s and women’s events, prayer events, training events
Do life together:
– Study the Bible, pray in pairs/threes, mentoring, accountability
Check out these short videos about getting involved..
Speak it Out – Pray and Prophesy
Paul used these words to pray for his friends from the church in Ephesus. Let’s stand with our friends in the church where we belong and pray this same, beautiful prayer for them and for ourselves:
We come before you, our Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
We pray that out of your glorious riches you may strengthen us with power through your Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith.
We pray that we each, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all your holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to you who are able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to your power that is at work within us, to you be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!