Diversity that creates an Environment for Mutual Growth & Service
The catch with all these different things we do is that there are different types of people who offer different types of service for each.
Service is most fulfilling when our passions, our skills and opportunities to serve all align with one another. It can seem so natural and worthwhile that it can be hard to understand why others don’t also think it is the best thing in the world…
A group of people who are passionate about different things is a recipe for misunderstanding and conflict…
Ephesians 4:7 GNB
7 Each one of us has received a special gift in proportion to what Christ has given.
Ephesians 4:11 GNB
11 It was he who “gave gifts”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers.
In this passage today we hear Paul reminding this new community that each of us has a part to play in being the Church. He goes on to describe different roles that different sorts of people would do, thou this isn’t an exhaustive list. Even if we just look at Evangelists, those who shared the good news of Jesus, Pastors, those who cared for those under their care and teachers to help people learn the faith. We can imagine that Evangelists, Pastors and teachers were probably very different types of people, with very different priorities and very different ways of doing things.
So as we read through the book of Ephesians, we realize that not only are we all invited from our diverse backgrounds to be part of one family, one church, but we will all have different ways that we serve, different aspects of the mission that we get passionate about, different ways to doing and seeing things. The key thing is that this diversity is only healthy within the broader unity that we find in Jesus.
We read that we don’t have diversity simply for its own sake, not simply that we can work together and stay the same doing our separate things, but that in being church together, in using our diverse gifts, we learn from one another and become more like Jesus.
Ephesians 4:12–16 GNB
12 He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ.
13 And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature.
14 Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent.
15 Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head.
16 Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love.
When we read passages like this, we remind ourselves that the goal of our faith community isn’t to make everyone else the same as us, but rather to help them to become more like Jesus. We are reminded that we need one another and the process of helping people to find a place in the community and learning to share their gifts is an important part of how we grow to maturity together.
This doesn’t just apply for what we do within Cleveland UC, or what we do within the Uniting Church. This unity that we have in Jesus is something that we share with our sisters and brothers in across the road at Start of the Sea Catholic Church, a St Paul’s Anglican Church, at Cleveland Baptist and at the St James Lutheran. This is a unity that we share with all those who acknowledge Jesus as our Lord, God and head of the church, all around the world and throughout all time. We might have particular ways of doing things, or emphasize particular approaches to discipleship, but we are still all part of one family of God’s people. This is part of why we will often say particular statements of faith every time we do a baptism or confirmation, as a way of reminding ourselves of that connection with followers of Jesus in all places and in all times.
The challenge is can be tempting to simply become fixated on our own little patch, on our own area of interest. It can be tempting to see what we do as the only area of importance, where the real ministry happens and to dismiss those who don’t agree. But to do so trades diversity for division, hinders the wider work of the church and stifles our own growth as disciples.
We are reminded that as a community, we need those who are passionate about sharing faith through evangelism, we need those who are passionate about helping people to study the scriptures, pray and reflect to grow in faith and we need those who are passionate about serving our community. As a community, we need those who give voice to those who suffer injustice, we need those who seek to welcome those our society casts out, we need those who are prepared to show love and compassion to those who are hurting, grieving and alone. We are reminded that we also need those who pay attention to finances, property and administration, so everyone else doesn’t have to… We are reminded that in all of these things, our identity and unity is found first and foremost in the person of Jesus.
It is in serving together that we can see and learn more about what it means to be disciples, it is in seeking to show love, forgiveness and grace to one another that we are reminded of what God has made possible through the cross. It is in having the humility to understand that all of us have something to learn from our sisters and brothers in Christ, that we can better celebrate the gifts and capacities of those around us, rather than being threatened by them.
Perhaps most importantly, we need to be reminded why do any of us do any of it at all? We need to be reminded that all we do is about seeing the Kingdom of God made real in our world, that through every single church service, bible study, act of community service or social group, we are aiming to see more people more like Jesus.