“Moving from Spectators to Participants” (1 Corinthians 12:12-31)

It was great to have our former associate pastor Chris Wiles drop in on us last week, his final Sunday before beginning his new ministry at an Evangelical Free Church in Stamford, Connecticut. We are so pleased for this wonderful new direction in his life along with Erika, even as we miss his great wit and wonderfully clear communications. As we continue in 1 Corinthians 12, I recall this great post from Chris three years ago and will share it again with you here. He wrote …

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:

1 Corinthians 12:12 – Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 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!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 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, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

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?

This entry was posted in We Got Issues and tagged by Randy Buchman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed multiple hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and have been a sportswriter for various publications and online venues. My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

1 thought on ““Moving from Spectators to Participants” (1 Corinthians 12:12-31)

  1. This is a great setup to Chapter 13 which covers the preeminence of “agape” (the Greek word for the “love” that as I understand it) that is a strong determined love, which is different from “phileo” that I understand to be a Greek word for love that is more heavy in just the affection side (when phileo is coupled in scripture with other words like: wine as “lover of wine” or, money as “love of money (1 Timothy 6:10 Hebrews 13:5)) which seems to have an element of liking something because of what it means to us or can do for us.

    Interesting how this chapter deals with people wondering about their part or role in the body as depending on their gifts, whereas (whether Paul intended this contrast or not) 1 Corinthians 13 shows that no matter what gifts we have it would be the lack of love (Agape = the real concern for each other) that may make us nothing.

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s