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Lesson 11: Brothers and Sisters in the Faith *

Introduction: How do we deal with differences among members in the church? I recall being a member of a church constitution and bylaws committee and being told that our job was to decide on the qualifications of members of an administrative committee. The suggestions were that we needed a certain number of people who lived in various geographical areas, we needed a certain number of people of a certain gender, we needed a certain number of people of a certain race, we needed a certain number of people who were employees of the church and a certain number of people who were not. This made me scratch my head and wonder about our goal. Was our goal to bring a diverse group of people together? Or, was it to bring together a group of people who knew something about the task at hand - which was administration? What should be our goal? Does the Bible speak to the issue of diversity? Let's dive in and find out!

  1. Body Language

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-6. What is the common element in all our spiritual work? (God. God is behind all of our genuine spiritual efforts.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 12:7. If someone said that the Holy Spirit was giving them personal insight in finding gold, what would you think? (You should have some questions. The "gifts of the Spirit" are given for the common good of the church. They are to be a blessing to all.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. Who is in charge of giving these various gifts to the church? (God. God is in charge of deciding who gets what gift.)

      1. Let's go back to my committee assignment of finding persons with a specific gender, race, age, employment status or geographical location to serve on the committee. How does that fit what we just read about spiritual gifts? (What is described in the verses we have just read is much different than the criteria given to me.)

        1. Should we be selecting people based on their spiritual gifts, and not on these other criteria?

        2. Are the two sets of criteria mutually exclusive?

      2. Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. What level of importance are race, social status and job status given in determining the composition of the church? (Considerations of race, social and employment status are irrelevant according to this text.)

        1. Look again at verse 12. What is the goal of all of these diverse spiritual gifts? (Unity. One body.)

    4. Read Galatians 3:26-29. From time to time I see the slogan, "Seek diversity." That certainly was my committee assignment. Is that slogan consistent or inconsistent with this text? (Diversity with unity in the church is a result, not a goal. Almost 30 years ago I got "in hot water" in a church because I cast the deciding vote for a dark-skinned man to be the Lay Pastor. I voted that way because I felt strongly impressed by the Holy Spirit. These days the pressure comes in the opposite direction - to select elders because they have a dark skin. All those years ago I refused to vote based on skin color; and I still feel reluctant to do that today.)

      1. If you intend to select people of a certain race, gender or job status to hold positions in the church, are you then discriminating on that basis? (I think so. Galatians 3:28 teaches us that those distinctions should not make any difference in the church. Our slogan should be "seek all." If you seek and welcome all, without reference to race, gender or job status, then you will have diversity. My local church is very diverse. Although I know that is partially a product of its location, I like to think that it is primarily because there is a consensus among our members that we seek all because we do not discriminate against any.)

    5. Let's go back to 1 Corinthians 12. Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-16. What spiritual problem do you think exists with this foot and this ear? (They are either jealous of the spiritual gifts given to others, or they are ashamed of their own gift.)

      1. Do you have feet and ears in your church?

      2. How do you cure "foot and ear" disease? (Read 1 Corinthians 12:17-20. Paul provides two reasons why feet and ears should get over their unhappiness with their gifts: your gift is important and your gift is given to you by God.)

    6. Read 1 Corinthians 12:21-22. Now we have the problem that the feet and hands are told they are not needed. What is the cause of this disease of the body? (This is pride. People who have certain spiritual gifts are swelled up with pride of position.)

      1. What does the Bible say about the "weaker" gifts? (They are indispensable.)

    7. Read 1 Corinthians 12:23-25. What is Paul teaching us here? How can we give "special honor" to the "less honorable" parts? (When I'm preaching, the people operating the sound system and running the computer slide show are "indispensable" to the sermon. If I do a good job, I automatically get "honored," but they do not. Paul seems to say, "Be sure they get honored too.)

      1. Let's revisit the "diversity" issue just a moment. From time to time I am told that we should make leadership decisions with an eye to age, gender or race to show the importance of a specific group in our church. Do verses 23-25 speak to this issue? (The general tenor of 1 Corinthians 12 is to avoid making decisions based on criteria other than spiritual gifts. But verses 23-25 seem to add a new consideration. If some part of the body feels "dishonored" this suggests that "special honor" may be appropriate.)

  2. Body Power

    1. Read Matthew 20:20-21. When you are looking for a promotion at work, would you like help from "mom?"

      1. What is "mom" requesting of Jesus? (To give her sons the top two positions in His coming kingdom.)

      2. Why would mom ask for that?

    2. Read Matthew 20:22. Who is the "we" that answers Jesus? (The sons! The story now reveals that the "boys" (James and John - Mark 1:19) were standing around while "mom" made her request for them.)

      1. If you were Jesus, how would you react to the boys letting "mom" ask for their promotion?

      2. Jesus says the top leaders in His kingdom have to be good drinkers. What is Jesus talking about? (In Matthew 26 we read of Jesus' struggle the night before His crucifixion. In Matthew 26:39-42 Jesus asks that this "cup" be taken from Him if that is possible. The cup is Jesus' suffering and death.)

        1. Did mom and the boys understand the "cup" that they were so willing to drink?

    3. Read Matthew 20:23. Who is in charge of selecting leaders in Jesus' kingdom?

      1. Is that also true in your church? (This shows the problem. Mom and the boys want to lead. Jesus says the Father in Heaven will choose the leaders. This fits perfectly with our prior discussion about how God also decides on our spiritual gifts.)

    4. Read Matthew 20:24. How did the rest react to this "power grab" by James, John and mom? Is part of their reaction due to the fact they did not think of this first? (They all displayed the same attitude - they wanted to lead. They wanted the honor.)

      1. Is that your attitude?

    5. Read Matthew 20:25-28. What is the proper role of a leader?

      1. Should this cool our desire to lead?

      2. What lesson does this teach us about selecting leaders? (This reinforces the lesson we learned earlier: leaders should be selected based on spiritual gifts. This is not about power, it is about service. Real leaders use those gifts to serve. We are not to be "decorating" our leadership posts based on gender, race, age, location, etc. The church is not some sort of power showcase, it is a place of service.)

    6. Friend, examine your attitude. Do you seek a leadership position because you seek power and honor? Do you think you are entitled to lead because of your job, your race or your gender? Do you get upset when you lose your "power?" The Bible teaches that leadership and "offices" are about our spiritual gifts and using them to build up the church. In this building, all positions are important and all are to reflect God's choice.

  3. Next week: Supporting Our Leaders.
* Copr. 2004, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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