Great teams work together united under a common purpose and goal. Championship teams are not always comprised of the most talented players, but they always have collaborative unity and interdependence upon each other. They always put the best of the team ahead of themselves and the mission is their primary motivator. The US Army slogan; “An Army of One” illustrates this focused unity well.
In the epic novels by JRR Tolkien called the Lord of the Rings we find a curious band of unlikely heroes. The whole imagined world of Tolkien is in danger and the only thing that can change their fate is to destroy a ring with unbridled sinister power. The grave task of returning this emblem (the ring) of evil to the fires where it was forged to be destroyed falls to the short, chubby, child-like creature known as Frodo the Hobbit. Hobbits in Tolkien’s worlds are described as small, simple, quiet, adventureless creatures. They are the unlikeliest of heroes. In this quest Frodo the Hobbit is joined by a team made up of great warriors, a skilled archer Elf, Gandalf the great wizard, a dwarf and three Hobbit friends from home. At the end of the first book, The Fellowship of the Ring this team is disbanded in many ways, but one person sticks closely to Frodo and the mission ahead – the faithful Hobbit friend of Frodo Sam-wise Gamgee. Sam repeatedly throughout the book pledges himself and his devotion to helping Frodo accomplish this task. It is Sam in the end who goes with Frodo to the ends of their world to deposit this burdensome ring to be destroyed in the fires of the enflamed mountain of Mordor .
In Peter Jackson’s movie version of the books Sam and Frodo have this wonderful exchange about journeying together for a great cause this conversation takes place in one of the darker moments of their journey and is rich with hope in the midst of despair:
Sam: “It's like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going because they were holding on to something.”
Frodo: “What are we holding onto, Sam?”
Sam: “That there's some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for.”
Sam had a curious optimism. Together Sam and Frodo had been chased by wraiths and orcs, wizards and wild men – all manner of evil thing and yet Sam shares these encouraging words with Frodo spurring them to continue on for their dim vision of hope.
In the story the responsibility for the ring belonged to Frodo and it was clear that only he could carry that burden. But he could not have made this journey apart from the members of his team, “The Fellowship of the Ring”, and especially the shared partnership with His friend Sam. Near the end of their journey at one point the burden became too much for poor Frodo. Sam again supports his friend and this mission saying to Frodo,
"I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you."
Then Sam hoisted Frodo on His back and carried him on toward their destination.
Question: What can we learn about membership, partnership, teamwork and collaboration from the “Fellowship of the Ring”? Is Sam the kind of person you want to have on your team? Is Sam the kind of friend you are to the people in your life? Is Sam’s devotion similar to your devotion to your Church family? Why or why not?
1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (NASB95)
12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot says, "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.
16 And if the ear says, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
19 If they were all one member, where would the body be?
20 But now there are many members, but one body.
21 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."
22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;
23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable,
24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked,
25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it.
The word member here is the Greek word “melos” (Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary) which means literally a limb or part of a physical body. Here in this passage it is used metaphorically to describe the church. But the context of this passage takes this beyond just a metaphor and applies a mystical quality in defining unity within the church, in which each member is connected in a literal, spiritual sense. Ephesians 4:25 says of our membership; “…we belong to each other.”(NLT). Rooted in Christ’s salvation, Spirit and in His mission we become literally connected with one another in the Body of Christ. This wonderful connection occurs at the point of surrender when we place our hope and faith in the truth of Jesus words and in the power of His great sacrifice on our behalf. However salvation at the point of conversion is not the ultimate destination that God has planned on our behalf. The ultimate realization of God’s work in us and that His redemption is taking affect in our lives occurs as we begin to engage with others within the local Body of Christ, our Church Body and with its mission. When you receive the sacrifice of Jesus and the benefits of restored relationship with God through Him, you are immediately ushered into universal membership within the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Ephesians 2:12-22, 4:3-6, Colossians 1:13-22), but that does not mean that you have reached a place of fulfilled promise and potential. No, God has greater things in store for you than just this. After all what good is a part of the Body that does not function or is loosely connected or not connected at all. God’s ultimate desire is not that we would be a member of Jesus Body in name only but that we would become participating members (Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians 12:25-31, 14:12, 26, Hebrews 10:24-25, 1Timothy 3:14-15).
Let’s look at an analogy of this. Some people have devised a loophole in emigration. A foreigner will seek out someone to marry them in order to gain citizenship. They will make an arrangement with someone to be wed, but this ceremony is a mere formality in order to gain access to the privileges of citizenship. They share nothing with their “spouse” but a certificate. There is no real commitment. There is no intimacy. There is no vision for the marriage or plans for the future. The participants have no plan to grow their family. Once the contract has fulfilled its purpose in affording emigration status the union is discarded. In the same way our salvation experience in Christ secures our position in heaven and our place within the universal Body of Christ, but it is likened to a mere formality. Like that marriage certificate this work is incomplete without the consummation of the salvation experience which happens in commitment to participating in the local Body of Christ, where one can dream with others and work together with others and have a level of intimacy with others while growing the family of God. This is God’s plan for us.
Question: What is the difference between universal membership and participating membership? What does that imply about how we connect with others within the local Church? How important is it that we make a commitment to a local Church Body?
Becoming a member of a church requires a level of commitment and devotion to relationships with your church family and the vision that God has called your church to. The vision of Paragould First Assembly of God is to be a church that is Loving God, Loving Each other and Loving the People of Our World. To be a member of this Loving Church Body one must commit to these three things. The Bible prescribes several things which indicate ones willingness to commit to the vision of their church. Remember the example of the early church (Acts 2:42-47) .
Evidence of a Participating Member of A Loving Church
The following are evidences of a participating member. When someone begins to apply these to their lives they qualify themselves as a member of P1AG, but more importantly they take a big step closer to the fulfilled plans that God has for their lives. Let’s look at those evidences:
1. Regular participation in the Sunday Worship Gatherings – this is our opportunity to grow and be challenged in our relationship of Loving God.
Hebrews 10:25 (GW)
25 We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.
Question: How does gathering everyone together each week help us grow in the way that we Love God? In what ways do we Love God better because of our involvement in a weekly gathering?
2. Regular involvement in a Ministry/Service Groups/Teams – our opportunity to grow and be challenged in our relationships of Loving Each Other.
John 13:34-35 (NLT)
34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."
Galatians 5:13-14 (GW)
13 You were indeed called to be free, brothers and sisters. Don't turn this freedom into an excuse for your corrupt nature to express itself. Rather, serve each other through love.
14 All of Moses' Teachings are summarized in a single statement, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Galatians 6:1-2 (NIV)
1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Question: How does being a part of a Ministry in the church help us grow in the way that we Love Each Other? In what ways do we Love Each Other better because of our involvement in a ministry group/ team?
3. A commitment to Going and Giving – our opportunity to reach out in our relationships of Loving the People of Our World by personally going into our immediate community with Christ’s love and to support through our tithes/offerings the active work of God in and through P1AG locally and globally.
Ephesians 4:11-16 (NLT)
11 He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.
12 Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ,
13 until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth.
15 Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
16 Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, "I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth.
19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
In verse 19 when Jesus says “go” it means literally “as you go”. As you go through life make disciples. Going is actively living out the mission of Jesus Christ to make an impact on the people of your world. Think about how this could be fleshed out in your day to day life.
Romans 10:13-15 (TLB)
13 Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
14 But how shall they ask him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
15 And how will anyone go and tell them unless someone sends him? That is what the Scriptures are talking about when they say, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of peace with God and bring glad tidings of good things." In other words, how welcome are those who come preaching God's Good News!
Malachi 3:8-10 (NAB)
8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings . 9 "You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10 Bring the whole tithe [ma‘aśēr— “tenth” (Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary)] into the storehouse [ôṣār—“the temple treasury”(Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary)], That there may be food in my house, and try me in this, says the LORD of hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?
Luke 6:38 (NLT)
38 If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving—large or small—it will be used to measure what is given back to you."
Question: How does Going and Giving help us grow in the way that we Love the People of Our World? In what ways do we Love the People of Our World better because of our involvement in Going and Giving?