There are some pretty major issues going on in our society concerning bullying and intimidation among our children and youth. There have been several stories in the media recently that probably bring back memories of our own school days. Being bullied is more than just a thing of fear, it leaves a person feeling isolated, alone, unwanted, and unloved. It is a horrible feeling and has led to some youth being pushed into depression which led to their death. Everyone desires to feel loved, accepted and wanted.
So would it surprise you to see the apostle Paul dealing with the issue of bullying in the Church? For the last couple of days we considered the attitude where we ourselves don't feel adequate to be active participants in the Body of Christ, but what about when we are made to feel unwelcomed by others?
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (1 Corinthians 12:21)
The problem with bullies is that they do not always recognize their behaviour. They do not realize that the actions they are taking or the words they are speaking are considered bullying. In our schools there is a move to educate the children about this behaviour, what is accepted and what is not. There is a lot of teaching that is happened concerning respect, tolerance and acceptance. As I have looked at this material and watched some of the videos I have been amazed by how much of it can be summed up in Jesus' words and Paul's teachings. Yet, the Church fails in this message.
There are a lot of people in the Church, especially our young people and the elderly, who are ignored and left to feel unwelcomed because no one has time for them. All the talented and "beautiful" people receive lots of attention and their value is reinforced constantly, but the socially awkward, the quiet, those whose giftings remain undiscovered or untapped are ignored or, worse, rejected. This is what is suppose to be taught and lived out in the Body of Christ:
On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. (1 Corinthians 12:22-24)
The Church is not the domain of the gifted speakers and the talented musicians. It is not about the professionalism of the staff and the decor of the church building. It is not about the "beautiful" people, the intelligent ones, or the "connected" few. It is about God's children, all of his children, working together with the tools the Spirit has provided to further the mission of Jesus Christ. It is about each member of the Body being appreciated, loved and accepted for who God has saved them to be, and recognized as a contributing member according to the manifestation of the Spirit in them. This is the Church, the Body of Christ:
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:24-26)
I am telling you, there needs to be a major shift in our understanding and operation of the Church. We have to stop growing "communities" and start acting like the incredible family God has called us to be. We need to stop managing and start growing together. We need to stop worrying about church attendance and start training our people. We have to start discovering the manifestation of the Spirit in each member of the Body, young and old alike, and enable them to function or at least be trained in that role. The Church is a powerhouse of the Holy Spirit and we treat her like some garden club we have to manage.
If you are one of those people who hasn't a clue what your function is in the Body and you feel useless and ignored let me encourage you to meet with your pastor and discuss the issue. If you can't do this then write to me and I will give you whatever support I can to help you get connected in your church. If you are a pastor reading this you know I speak the truth because the spirit in you is confirming what we plainly see in the Word of God. Let's together throw off the old conventions and ideas of church, the traditions of man, and let's discover God's design, even if it means becoming vulnerable to do so. Let's be the Church Jesus birthed in the Holy Spirit, if not for our own sake then for the sake of the world.