Moving from Spectators to Participants (1 Corinthians 12)

Having grown up in the age of the internet, it always amazes me how technology designed for communication so quickly becomes a vehicle for self-expression.  Social media, for example, was originally designed to connect college students to one another.  Now it’s become something of a deafening, online buffet of inane rants and pictures of cats.  One of the things I’ve seen pop up more and more are the little quizzes like, “Which Lord of the Rings character are you?” or those obnoxious “Free online IQ test” types of things.  Why do we bother wasting our time with stuff like this?  It’s simple, really: we like things that make us feel special.  The only thing more valuable than self-expression is self-discovery that leads to self-satisfaction.

Too often church becomes a little bit like this—maybe even a lot like this.  Since the days of the big tent revival meetings, we’ve come to think of church as a bit of a spectator sport.  We line the pews because we believe the church’s messages and programs will offer us a sense of affirmation and a chance at discovering our identity.  When our church fails to meet these expectations, we wring our hands a bit, mention something or other about “not being fed” and head for the church just down the street.  The end result is that people change churches just as casually as others change dry cleaners.

Not that American church culture doesn’t share some of the blame. In an age where people measure church success by personal affirmation, churches must compete for members with all the fervor of a fast food corporation.  Over time, this leads not to a culture of discipleship, but a culture of consumer wants and fancies.  All of which is predicated on the misunderstanding that church leadership is about “professionals” who do the work of the ministry so that church-goers can reap the benefits during a Sunday morning service.


In Paul’s day, the church in Corinth struggled with confusion over the role of the Holy Spirit and empowerment for ministry.  Even today, it’s tempting to think of spiritual “gifts” as the things that make us unique or special.  But that’s missing the essential purpose of the diverse gifts God’s people have.  Spiritual gifts aren’t a mark of personal identity—at least not primarily.  They are a way of understanding the question: How can I contribute? 

Paul tells his readers that though the church body is very diverse, there is equally an essential unity among its members:

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Corinthians 12:12-19)

The gospel removes any assumptions we might have of spiritual superiority or inferiority.  No gift—no person—is insignificant.  We may all contribute.


Let’s get real for a second.  Some of you have been coming to church most of your life but you come as a spectator, not a participant.  You might place some of your money in the offering plate, but your time and energies are spent elsewhere.

Granted, everyone has busy seasons of life that prevent their involvement in service roles.  And we get that.  But there are times and seasons in which you have the opportunity to throw in with us as an active participant in the body of Christ.

We need each other—perhaps now more than ever.  In an age of Netflix binges and touch screens, human interaction is at a premium.  We need the members of the body working together, serving together, loving together.

We invite you to consider how you might be a greater part of our body here at Tri-State Fellowship.  There are volunteers needed in such places as the children’s ministry and the High School youth group.

Could you prayerfully consider how you might become a part of church leadership by serving the body?  You may contact one of our staff, or contact the church at



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