There is something I have noticed in the bible. Over the past year I have been reading the works of Paul and focusing in on the wisdom that he had when it comes to a relationship with Christ. He is such a powerful writer, his letters went to each place where he addressed key aspects of their life that they needed to re-order. Each book is a letter, which caused me to stop and think, I love writing (I mean, why else would I do this each week!) and often I will analyze how another writer works because I want to grow my skills. My brain started thinking about Paul, and there is something that he does in each letter, each book that he authored in the bible, which have one common device. In each letter, he opens with a personal greeting to each of the churches, and ends with a final charge for that church. The content is different, but the opening and closing are always intentionally the same. He personally calls out to each church and ends with a prayer over them and gives them credit for the work that they are doing and continue to do. You see, I think Paul knew something very important, something that we as leaders in our communities need to understand and realize, the pieces make up the puzzle.
So, what exactly do I mean by that? Well, faithful reader, I think that Paul understood that the church is not made up of one, but of many. 1 Corinthians 12:12 straight up spells it out by saying, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” In the past I have written about this verse in regards to your individual talents and abilities, but one thing that I myself can forget is that the people around me make it happen. In our churches, jobs, schools; all have people helping you and making life happen. It can be easy to get caught up in only thinking about your special talents, but we often forget our brothers and sisters in Christ doing a great work themselves. Paul realized this, he knew he had a mission, but he also knew that the church was bigger than him. So he gave the credit and honored the church around him. The idea for this post actually didn’t originate from reading Paul’s letters, it was actually a video on Facebook. I love movies, the behind the scenes and the stories they tell make me so excited, and I follow several filmmakers on Facebook. Around Friday I saw a “Facebook live video” (I know, so futuristic) from filmmaker, James Gunn. He is the director for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and this sequel to the original blockbuster just wrapped shooting (meaning that the footage is done, now they edit and put the SFX). In the video James Gunn and lead actor Chris Pratt decided to celebrate by acknowledging the hard work from every single person that helped, giving them praise and saying things like, “Marvel hired you, because you are the best at what you do.” What a great visual! (You can still watch the video, I recommend it) This made me think about the people I come in contact with each day that make life happen, especially on Sunday mornings. God has placed people in the perfect spots because he says we are the best at what we do, because we are made in his own image. Reading Paul makes me think of this video, Paul was a great leader because he honored the people in the church and served them. I want to share a few key things that Paul set an example for us in his letters, things that we can all do each week and every day to support the people who have influenced out lives.
Honor the pieces in your life.
Each of us has a story. In each of our lives our stories involve pieces that worked to move us where God wanted us to be. The pieces are people, and people matter in each of our lives. We need to give them honor, to let them know just how special they are to you. These are the people who make up your family (see previous week’s post). We need to give credit where credit is due. God works through people to speak to each of us, so honor them. Let them know that they made a difference and continue to make a difference. These people can often go unnoticed or not always get the attention, most great leaders have mentors that many of us do not know. Especially in ministry, you are only as good as your team, so show them encouragement. Show anyone you work with grace, because we all have bad days, but the people around us make us who we are. I think of the people that impacted me. People like my old middle school pastor, Marshall, who was the only voice in the midst of terrible middle schoolers that said I was going to do great things. People like the professors that want me to do the best I can, because they believe in me. This is also the people that I lead, the students who serve each week and can often feel like they aren’t noticed. Students like Chris Carson and Ross Black whom I have been able to lead, these are the people that we need to always remember to honor. The pieces make it happen, so honor them.
Pray for the pieces.
This is something that Paul tells many of the churches he wrote to, he told them that he was with them in prayer. We all struggle, we are all fighting and enemy who seems impossible to face. We are fighting demons in our lives, and we need to band together. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” We were made for community, and in that community we can strengthen each other in times of weakness and heartache. I was in a small group with a man named Mike Stewart, and Mike is a prayer warrior. Anytime I or others were struggling, Mike battled alongside us. Right now Mike is battling a disease that is causing him a great deal of pain, and it would be easy for Mike to focus on himself, but each time I see him on Sunday, he asks me if there is anything I need prayer for. I’m praying for Mike. I pray for a lot of people, and many people pray for me. I want to be a warrior like Mike. There are people in your life that need you in their corner, they need you to stand and fight. So pray for the pieces in your life, because together we can stand against anything.
Exhort the pieces around you.
This is for the people in your life that have not yet stepped into all that God has for their life. The people who are lost and need a relationship with an all mighty savior. To exhort is to strongly encourage or urge someone to do something. We need to be aware that we have the opportunity all around us to be a witness, to serve others. In our workplace, our schools, and our communities; all of these places have people that need to be saved. They need someone like you to tell them they have a purpose that they weren’t some cosmic accident, but that they were placed exactly where they needed to be for an ultimate vision. We need to help others understand that they were made for more. Our culture is selfish and does not care about others, but God says he cares, because he made every person on the planet. Serve others, help them know that they don’t have to be slaves to sin, because they were made in the image of God, just like you. Exhort the pieces around you, because you might be the only voice that shares the gospel that they so desperately need.
We are all pieces. Each of us plays a part in the grand picture that God designed. We have out specific place and no other piece fits in another’s spot. Paul understood this, he saw that the church is made of people that do amazing things. He honored each person, he prayed for every one he met, and he preached the gospel to everyone around him. People have spoken life into each of our situations, guided us through the toughest times, and helped us learn to grow closer to Christ every day. We have a responsibility to honor the people in our life that makes it happen, we need to join the battle with each other in prayer, and exhort the lost to find relationship with a God who loves them. You were made in the image of God, and he made you a piece, go out and give back to the people that build you up.
The pieces are important and they are all around us, we need to celebrate their importance.