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I am not needed. Paul argues that even if you are a part of the body that is not as prominent as you would like to be, and even if you think you are unnecessary, you are wrong. All the parts of the body are needed, functioning in a healthy way, for the body to do well. Maybe you want to be a hand, but you are a foot; does that mean you are irrelevant? Paul writes, “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired” (I Cor. 12:15-18). Once while I was speaking at a singles retreat, I met a young woman who was convinced that she had nothing to offer anybody. I reminded her of the principles of Scripture that each one has a gift and that each person is needed. I asked her several questions about herself and as a result suggested to her several ways she could contribute to other people’s lives. I am not sure she was convinced. But we need to be. You are an important, essential, and needed as part of the body of Christ, and the body will not thrive or be fully healthy without you. Even if you are in a less prominent role, others will be poorer unless your gift is used.
I have no need of you. On the other hand, there are those who in their self-sufficiency and arrogance think that they are superior to others and do not need them. Paul writes, “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary” (I Cor. 12:21-23). It is very easy to regard someone as lesser because of education, status, job, sex, race, socio-economic level, and appearance. Scripture smashes that kind of pretended superiority. We all have needs and we need to be open to the possibility that someone quite unlike us can meet them.
“But I don’t need the church; all I need is my fellowship group.” This is an often-heard claim, especially from those that are high school, college age, or young singles. Often these people are reacting to the deficiency of churches they have encountered in the past, and this deserves sympathy. Sometimes people leave churches not because they have lost their faith but in order to save it. New Zealand pastor Alan Jamieson has written the book, A Churchless Faith. He points out that more than nine-tenths of the people he interviewed (who are without churches) were leaders—deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, etc. About 40% were at one time in full-time ministry. Many said that they left the church not because they had lost their faith, but because they wanted to keep it. When you look at some churches that are dry—lacking in power and vitality—it is not surprising to see this happening. This phenomenon is not just isolated to the United States. David Barrett, author of the World Christian Encyclopedia, estimates that there are 112 million Christians worldwide that are outside the church (5% of the total who call themselves Christians). Raymond Brown says about those who “forsake …assembling together”:
It is because some people have not found within our churches the warmth, care, and concern for which they hoped that they turned away from the organized or institutional churches to religious communities and house churches, some of them vibrant with more intimate commitment to fellowship and caring.
Calvin comments about this tendency to leave the organized church:
There is so much peevishness in almost everyone that individuals, if they could, would gladly make their own churches for themselves….This warning is therefore more than needed by all of us that we should be encouraged to love rather than hate and that we should not separate ourselves from those… who are joined to us by a common faith.
German theologian Adolf Harnack speculates about why some were “forsaking” the assembly:
At first and indeed always there were naturally some people who imagined that one could secure the holy contents and blessings of Christianity as one did, those of Isis and the Magna Mater, and then withdraw. Or in cases where people were not so short-sighted, levity, laziness, or weariness were often enough to detach a person from the society. A vain-glorious sense of superiority and of being able to dispense with the spiritual aid of the society was also the means of inducing many to withdraw from fellowship and from the common worship. Many too were activated by fear of the authorities; they shunned attendance at public worship to avoid being recognized as Christians.
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