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.