At Ashworth, we value connection. It is one of our core values we base all that we do on. Stated another way, we believe we are better together!
Do you believe that? Have you ever tried to carry a long board through a self-closing door? I tried carrying an 8’ long board out of our church and had to go through two self-closing doors. Total pain in the butt. Until somebody came and held the door for me. We were better together than me trying to do it on my own.
Or have you ever tried to come up with a creative idea for something only to feel like nothing was coming to you. And then as soon as you talked it over with others who offered different ideas and thoughts, you came up with a great idea. As a staff, we do that every week before we preach a sermon – because we know that our ideas and messages are better when we come together to talk about them.
And the same holds true for our church. We can only make an impact at Oakridge with 50 kids when we come together with a team of energetic youth who are willing to play gagaball, basketball, and board games for 3 hours! Amy may be our missions pastor, but she couldn’t make nearly the impact on her own as we did with a team coming together.
If you’ve ever struggled trying to do something on your own and finally had somebody join you and help, you know the relief you feel of having the helping hand, the person to hold the door for you, kick start your creative juices, or walk through a difficult time in life with you . You can totally relate to those situations where it is very clear that doing life in connection with others is better than doing life alone.
And this is because like we have said in previous messages – God created us to be in community. We are at our best in community because that was God’s plan all along for us. And today I want to build on that idea and explain HOW we are better in Christian community. How are we, as a church, better together?
Who is Better Together?
Now before we answer that question, I’m going to teach a brief grammar lesson on the word “We”. We is a plural 1st person pronoun. Since it’s 1st person, it includes “Me”. And since it’s plural, it includes a bunch of Me’s – so here’s how I define it. And believe it or not, this is all important to my message today.
You + Me + We
And since it’s really a plural you, I’m going to pretend to be southern and adjust my equation
Y’all + Me = We
Now when I say WE are better together, I’m really making two statements.
- Y’all are better with me
- I am better as a part of Y’all
Now think about those 2 statements. They are big statements implied in our core value of Connection. They are basically saying, our whole church is better when YOU are connected and involved in the life of this church. AND you are better off, being a part of this church.
How the Body of Christ Works
Now let’s open our Bibles to 1 Corinthians 12 to find the Biblical grounds for us to make these statements.
1 Corinthians is a letter the Apostle Paul sent to one of the churches he established, but at the time of his writing they were a bit of a mess. They were growing, and were passionate about Jesus, but they didn’t fully understand how to be in relationship with one another as a church.
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (NLT):
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 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.
Paul is setting up what will become a lengthy analogy comparing the family of God to a body, the Body of Christ.
What stands out in these first 2 verses is that the body of Christ is made up of lots of different parts: JEWS AND GENTILES – together. Slaves and Free – together. This was unheard of during Paul’s day. It’s as crazy as us here at Ashworth Road having Republicans and Democrats – together. Builders, Boomers, Busters, and Millenials – all together. Africans, Indians, Mexicans – together. Paul says the body of Christ is SUPPOSED to be full of diversity, of people who might not otherwise come together, coming together in Christ as we all share the same Spirit – the Holy Spirit.
And that’s exactly what we are so excited is happening here at Ashworth Road – as we see so many different faces, from different backgrounds, with different opinions on life all connecting together as WE.
Let’s continue reading: 1 Corinthians 12:14-17 (NLT).
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 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? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
Paul is continuing his argument about how the body is made of lots of parts, but he focuses here on how the various parts serve different functions in the body. His point here is that the Body of Christ requires diversity of people who serve in different functions. A healthy body can’t be one of just eyes – because then it couldn’t hear. It requires hands and feet, eyes and ears.
The funny thing as this point is how sometimes people walk away from a church because they feel like they just don’t fit in right. The look at the church and say to themselves, “They all make too much money for me, or they are too young for me or they don’t care about (you name it) the way I do.” And they essentially walk away because they feel like a foot at a church of all hands. Do you see the irony in that? God want’s that variety in his church. If you don’t fit in exactly, perhaps its because you have something to offer that they need?
And that’s exactly what we’re going to read in the following verses: 1 Corinthians 12:18-21.
18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
Do you see that? “God has put each part just where he wants it.” Translation: If you are a part of Ashworth Road Baptist Church, it’s because God has put you right where he wants you. If ever you feel like you don’t fit, maybe it doesn’t mean you should look elsewhere, but that God has put you here for a specific reason!
Lets keep reading: 1 Corinthians 12:22-24.
22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity.
I’m sure more than a few of you have at times felt like your role in the church was not very important. While trying to manage a room or 8 screaming 3 year olds running in circles, you have wondered, “Does it even matter that I do this?”
Or perhaps you don’t serve in any of the ministries in the church – your name never appears on a schedule in the bulletin – and you feel like sermons like this one are an attempt to guilt you into volunteering for nursery duty. But every day during your devotional time, you pray for the church…
These verses are for you. They are a reminder that sometimes, your part in the body might not be a glamorous one. In fact, it might be a role that nobody knows you do. But just because it’s not seen doesn’t mean it’s not important. In fact, it says that extra honor and care should be provided to you.
Up to this verse, Paul is really trying to drive home the point that the Body of Christ is better with each person functioning as God has gifted them. The church, our church, will excel when each one of you, in your diversity of backgrounds, with your variety of gifts, get involved in our mission to be the presence of Jesus. His point is that Y’all are better with me. We are better together.
Now in these last 2 verses we are going to see Paul describe the second point I made above – that “I am better as part of Y’all.” Read 1 Corinthians 12:25-26.
25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
There is something powerful in being a part of a group, a body of people who cares for one another and loves one another the way the church is supposed to.
Just like Paul describes, I have recently gone through difficult situations as a foster parent and had my pain eased as some of you suffered alongside of Michelle and me in our trials. And while you couldn’t actually change the situation for us, it was better for us to suffer with you beside us than for us to suffer alone.
Likewise, celebrating our son, Wilson’s adoption with your support and love all around us this past summer made the celebration that much sweeter.
When I am a part of y’all at Ashworth Road, my highs are higher and my lows aren’t quite so low. I am better as a part of Y’all. We are better together.
What Does Better Mean?
At this junction, we run into one problem, however. Personal Experience. Some of you right now recognize that what I have said seems correct, but you remember that small group you were a part of – and it was awkward. You didn’t feel like your life was better for having been a part of the group. In fact, the group was challenging, no fun, and tested your patience. So you are wondering now, how I can make a blanket statement that We are better together.
This question though, isn’t, “Am I really better as a part of y’all?” The real question is, “What does BETTER mean?”
Up to this point, I haven’t really talked about what it means for you to be better. Better what? A better life? A better person? Does better mean easier, happier, more fulfilling?
This is really where lots of people get tripped up today. They want to be better as a result of being part of a church or part of a small group or Sunday School class. But they define better in consumeristic terms. So they want the small group to meet their needs, to be fun, to be comfortable, to be easy. And I understand that. But if that’s your expectation of everything in the church, then you are going to be let down. And eventually, you are not going to believe that you are better for being a part of the church.
So – what does it mean to be better? How am I better for being a part of the church?
Following the body analogy, we know that bodies grow. So for a body to be better, it means it is growing and is healthy. When you invest your gifts into the church, it makes the church better – it helps the church to grow spiritually and be healthy, to have a greater impact. In the same way, when you connect to the church, it helps you to grow spiritually, to deepen your faith and become more like Jesus.
So, that difficult, uncomfortable small group might not have made you feel better off for being a part of it, but if you stuck it out, prayed about it, and grew in patience and kindness, then Jesus made you a better person for having been a part. Do you see what I mean?
What does this mean for me?
We have 3 ways to apply this message to each one of us:
Some of you need to get connected. We are doing our thing as a church and you are doing your own thing, kind of connected, but very much on your own. And that is not the best place for you – You are better when you are connected to us.
- When you get that call from the doctor’s office with bad news, it is better for you to have a church support you in prayer and suffer with you through the trial.
- When you fall into a pattern of sin that starts causing damage to relationships in your life, it is better for you to have a church love you enough to show you your error and help you change.
- And even when everything in life is going your way, when it appears to be all rainbows and lollipops, and connecting with people in church is actually the one difficult and irritating thing in your life… even then, it is better for you to be stretched, to be challenged, to be forced to grow in love and patience for the imperfect people who are also parts of the body of Christ.
- We have a few ways for you to get connected with us
- First Steps – if you are newer and haven’t ever met with the pastors, you should attend this class the next time we offer it.
- Discipleship Groups – we are doing a trial run with groups of 3-4 people who want to grow in their faith by being challenged to really examine their life and follow Jesus.
- Small groups & Sunday School classes – these are our best way to quickly connect with other Christians who will care for you during the trials of life and walk with you as you journey toward becoming more like Jesus.
Others of you need to get involved. You are connected; you are receiving the care, support, and encouragement of the body. You are enjoying all the benefits of being part of a Christian community but aren’t using the gifts GOD himself put inside you to help us be the church we are called to be. WE are better when you are helping us with your gifts!
- An easy example of this is the recent addition of the Drake students into our body. We have a guitar adding so much to our worship in first service, a beautiful voice leading the hymns in second service, and an influx of new energy into our ministry. We are better as a church because of their involvement
- For those of you who are not currently involved or serving anywhere, we may be to blame as a staff. One of our faults is that we have a tendency to only look to place people where we have open gaps we need filled. Perhaps you are gifted and passionate to do something we don’t currently do. Rather than let you feel frustrated for trying to serve in an area we need but doesn’t fit you, we need to be more creative in finding ways for each of you to serve with the gifts God has given to you. To do that, let’s meet and hear what you are passionate about, what would you like to do? If you have something burning inside you that you feel like you can help us with, call us and let’s talk. Maybe we are a body without any ears yet, and that is what God put you here to be for us.
And of course, some of you are connected with us, you are using your gifts to support our impact in the community, and you exemplify this value we hold of Connection. You are living examples that we – you and us – are all better when we’re together! Keep up your amazing work within the body of Christ.
This message really is a simple one. You need us. And we need you. The body of Christ needs each part working properly. And when each of us is doing our part, the whole body grows. You grow spiritually. We grow stronger as a church. And together we make a greater impact for our King, the head of this body, Jesus Christ.