Work for ChristBy Tony Caffey
April 15, 2021
Someone once asked Bud Wilkinson, the old Oklahoma Football coach, what football had done for the physical health of everyday Americans. Wilkinson said that football had done nothing for the physical health of everyday Americans. Why? Because football is 40,000 people in a stadium, desperately in need of exercise, watching 22 boys on a field, desperately in need of rest.
Now that’s football. But that should not be the church. The church should never be a large group of people passively watching a smaller group do all the work. That mentality will exhaust the smaller group and rob the larger group of the goodness and joy found in serving the Lord. Paul says in Romans 12:11, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” Paul says in Romans 12:6, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” We all have gifts to be used for God’s work and God’s kingdom. Passivity causes God’s people to ignore three important aspects of our work for Christ: that every part of the body has a role, that the “work” we do has eternal value, and that each person is gifted for a purpose.
The Metaphor of Mutuality
One thing that gets uttered in my church often is the following: “Every member of our church should be shouldering regular, kingdom responsibilities.” This is an aspect of our worship for the Lord, but this is also an aspect of mutuality. We edify one another in the body of Christ by using our gifts for the benefit of others.
Paul’s great metaphor of this in Scripture is a human body (Rom 12:4-8; 1 Cor 12:1-31; Eph 4:4-16). Every body part does its duty. And every body part needs the other parts to do their duties. The church, unlike a corporation or the U.S. Government is not an organization; it’s an organism. It’s enlivened by the Holy Spirit for spiritual growth and disciple-making.
The beauty of this mutuality, and the beauty of this metaphor, is that it emphasizes both unity and diversity in the church. We are one body, but we have many members with different functions. If we all had the same function, the body wouldn’t work. If every body part that you had was a hand, you wouldn’t be a body, you’d be a monstrosity. If every body part that you had was a leg with no diversity at all, you’d be in a horror movie. God has built the human body with separate parts that have separate functions and they work in unison with one another. E Pluribus unum is the motto of the United States. “Out of the many, one.” That’s a motto for the church too: E Pluribus unum. Many gifts. One body.
The Value of Eternal Work
One of the duties of pastors is to emphasize the value of working for Christ in the local church. This is important, because there are a myriad of influences competing for the time and energy of church members (e.g. hobbies, sports leagues, work demands, extracurricular activities, television, and civic duties). Without diminishing other important commitments, a pastor must emphasize the role of kingdom work in the local church.
I heard a story once about the late Steve Jobs, the visionary pioneer of Apple Computers. Jobs was responsible for so much of the innovation that took place at Apple including the introduction of the iPod, iPad, and iPhone. Well Jobs was trying to recruit the CEO of Pepsi, John Sculley, to come work with him at Apple. But Sculley didn’t want to leave Pepsi. So Jobs offered him an absurd amount of money to come to Apple. Sculley still didn’t want to come to Apple. Finally Jobs said to him, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life making sugar water or do you want to change the world?” And that impassioned plea is what got Sculley to leave Pepsi and join Jobs at Apple. Because who wants to make sugar water, when you can change the world by making iPhones and other innovative, world-altering technology?
Well with all due respect to Apple and Pepsi, Christians have an opportunity to use their Holy-Spirit-given gifts to do more than make sugar water or even iPhones. We can use our gifts to glorify God, make disciples, and build up the body of Christ! Christians have an opportunity to be part of the life-changing, world-altering, Holy-Spirit-empowered work of the church. We’ve been given a mission by Jesus. We’ve been given the Great Commission, “[G]o make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:18-20). I want to invite my church regularly to come be part of that. I want to play the part of Steve Jobs for Christ-followers and call them to a noble task. I want to challenge them to prioritize eternal work and not let the other competing commitments of the world drown that out.
The Purpose of the Gifts
Some people in the church might say, “That’s a huge task—the Great Commission. How can I possibly do that! I’ve never baptized anyone. How do I do that?” Well actually they have done it! A church body baptizes and makes disciples. A church collectively does this, not the pastor or the elders. The Great Commission is not the pastor’s task, and it’s not the task of the elders. It’s the task of the church. It’s the mission of a church, a local body of believers. And we all have a corporate responsibility to do this, and there’s a corporate fulfillment of that mission.
So when people are baptized in a church, the whole church is part of that. We all have this mission and we all execute this mission by division of labor—by the exercising of multiple gifts within the body of Christ. This is our mission as the church, and our fulfillment of that mission literally impacts the world for eternity. Football is 40,000 people in a stadium, desperately in need of exercise, watching 22 boys on a field, desperately in need of rest. That’s football, but that’s not the church. We all have a gift to be used for God’s work and God’s kingdom in the local church. Use that gift. Work for Christ. Shoulder regular, kingdom responsibilities in the body of Christ.
 See Carmine Gallo, “How Steve Jobs And Bill Gates Inspired John Sculley To Pursue The ‘Noble Cause’.” See also, “Career strategy: Don’t sell sugar water” by Zat Rana.
 It’s true that all work, including work for a corporation, can be an act of worship (Col 3:23-24). Church members should be encouraged to work as “unto the Lord” in their places of employment. And these can be great places for ministry, influence, and even evangelism. But we do a disservice to our congregations if we don’t also emphasize work for Christ in the local body of Christ. The body metaphor used by Paul is a reference to the church, and each church member should consider their work and their role (i.e. their body part) in the local church in addition to the ways they work elsewhere.