A few days ago, our son started playing football. He has wanted to play football for several years now. This has been difficult because we homeschool, and the local schools do not allow homeschool students to take part in school sponsored athletic activities. Last Spring, we heard about a local Pop Warner league, so we registered our son to play.
On the first or second day of practice, the coach called all the boys together and started talking to them about positions. He asked the boys which position is the most important position on the team. Several of the boys said, “Quarterback”, but the coach corrected them. He said, “There is not ‘most important’ position on a football team. Every position is just as important as another position. If we have the most talented quarterback of any team in our league, but our other positions are not played well, then our team will not succeed.”
Wow… if only the church could understand this philosophy. We place so much emphasis on those “special positions” – those “up front positions” – like “ministers” and “staff” and “pastors” and “elders” – that we forget that every believer is just as important as any other for the proper functioning and growth of the body of Christ.
By the way, this is not just good teamwork philosophy; this is scriptural. For example, consider this passage from Ephesians:
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV)
Notice that, according to Paul, the church builds itself up in love when the whole body (that would be every follower of Christ) works together as they are equipped. In fact, Paul stresses the necessity for every believer to work together four times in verse 16: 1) whole body, 2) joined and held together, 3) every joint with which it is equipped, and 4) each part is working properly.
But, what about those unimportant believers – you know, those who never seem to “get with the program”, who never seem to “carry their fair share of the load”, who never seem to “get involved and get committed”. Does the growth of the body of Christ depend on “those people”? Yes! When we discount certain believers – when we give up on them – then we are hobbling the body of Christ – we are shackling the church.
Every believer is important. And, those believers who we consider less important – less gifted – less able – less anything – God gives greater honor:
On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 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, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:22-25 ESV)
It’s time for the church to stop honoring “Christian celebrities”, and recognize that each believer is important and necessary to the proper working of the church of God. God has placed the members in the church according to his will (1 Cor. 12:18). When we decide that one member is not as important or not necessary, then we are working against God. When we place one member above other in importance or necessity, then we are working against God.
For many, many years, the church has trained the quarterback and allowed him to run all the plays, while, for the most part, ignoring other members of the team. Meanwhile, the quarterbacks have basked in the accolades of the crowd, accepting the superior position offered by the church, hoping to be traded to the next Super Bowl team. A football team cannot succeed if every position is not played well. A church – the body of Christ – will not grow as God intends if every member is not recognized as important and necessary and if every member is not functioning as God has gifted him or her.
Perhaps it is time for a few quarterbacks to find their place on the line, helping the linemen in their responsibilities. Or perhaps they can split out wide and help the receivers run their routes. Or perhaps… just perhaps… they should sit out a few plays, and allow God to use others as he has equipped. Those people are part of the church for a reason.
What position do you play?